Tuesday, February 13, 2007

America's Favorite Tyrant (part 3)

Last year, Fidel Castro (Hollywood's favorite tyrant) made some headlines when he appeared on Forbes Magazine's list of wealthy rulers with an estimated $900 million worth of riches. Forbes reports that their estimate is based on assumptions of Fidel's economic control over state-owned companies, former Cuban officials, and "rumors of large stashes in Swiss bank accounts." Clearly the estimate is not based on hard facts, but nevertheless it is worthwhile to assume.

But, there was another dictator that year on the Forbes list that got little attention, and whose vast riches and corruption are based on hard facts and respectable sources: America's favorite tyrant - Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

According to the Forbes article, "Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his government deposited up to $700 million in U.S.' Riggs Bank." And this all came to light when "[a] U.S. Senate subcommittee's 2004 investigation criticized Riggs for failing to report potential money laundering in the Equatorial Guinea accounts." The article quotes a director from Human Rights Watch who says that "[u]nder Obiang, the country's wealth is basically a presidential ATM."

Ken Silverstein, investigative journalist writing for Harper's last year, quoted a member of the House Subcommittee on Africa suggesting the clear corruption of Obiang and his family's wealth in the US, saying "[e]ither that [he's corrupt]…or he's an assiduous saver." In his blog, Wallechinsky quotes a former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, John Bennett, saying that Obiang's regime "is not really a government," but rather "an ongoing family criminal conspiracy."

Also last year, Forbes magazine reported that the son of America's favorite tyrant "dropped $35 million [in cash] on an eight-bedroom ocean front mansion [in Malibu] despite a job in his father's government with an on the books salary of $5,000 a month." It's a story that will surely result in another Senate investigation.

The corruption of Equatorial Guinea goes on and on. And, similar to Cuba's plans for a succession of power, Equatorial Guinea is preparing for its own. It has been speculated that America's favorite tyrant is suffering from prostate cancer, and is preparing to hand powers over to his son, Teodorin'.

Will the US allow THIS succession?

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