Somebody: Developing countries have this effect twice over, as Ravi suggested. They're susceptible to their own rich and powerful and to the rich and powerful of the U.S. and Europe. Say the people vote in a party that stakes a relatively autonomous position towards the West. Washington will then fund the other party so that when it eventually wins elections, as it inevitably will in a democracy, it will reorient the country back towards the West and financial capitalism. This is why Chavez, Morales, and Correa all have instituted semi-autocracies already. As soon as they're voted out of office, it's game over. Can you think of one country that alternates between pro-imperialist and anti-imperialist parties? It never happens. One side or the other creates institutions that prevent fundamental change to the status quo.
Moreover, who says the choice is only between strongmen and democracies? This is the false dichotomy presented by American propaganda. In reality, there are other alternatives - for example, rule by bureaucracy such as in China, Vietnam. The record suggests that bureaucratic state capitalism is the most successful route to industrial development.
For all the talk about gays and minorities, what most advances their interests in developing nations, along with the majority of the population, is industrial development. Who's better off? A gay rights activist in Mumbai or one in Shanghai? It's not even close. If that's vulgar economism or whatever, so be it.