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Monday, February 14, 2011

Ten Other Despots Who Need to Go

Posted By on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM

​Now that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak has finally given in to the masses of brave demonstrators (and military leaders) demanding his resignation, we couldn't help but fantasize about who should follow his example.

There are, after all, a ton of terrible dictators out there -- and the world would be much better off if they decided to pull a Mubarak and stepped down.

Our list of the dudes we'd most like to see hit the road after the jump.

10. Silvio Berlusconi

Yes, there are technically much, more worse leaders out there than this prime minister -- who was, in fact, democratically elected. But c'mon -- this is Italy. The people who gave us one of the greatest empires in world history can do better than a buffoon who allegedly hired an underage hooker and generally seems convinced that the only women worth paying attention to (even as cabinet ministers!) are topless models and hot playthings. Time for this out-of-touch media mogul to quit.

9. Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, Gabon
People of the central west African nation of Gabon surely hoped for change when the country's long-running dictator, Omar Bongo, breathed his last in June 2009. Instead, somehow, they got stuck with his son, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba. Like his father, Ali Ben seems much more interested in looting the country to increase his personal fortune than bettering the lives of its citizens: Soon after taking office, he purchased a 48,000-square-feet mansion in the heart of Paris, complete with a swimming pool. As the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports, the average resident of Gabon gets by on $12 per day -- Ali Ben Bongo's palace cost $136 million.

8. Paul Biya, Cameroon
Paul Biya has run Cameroon for 28 years -- after an uncontested "election" put him into office. (Must be nice.) He has the backing of the U.S., apparently, but this is not a guy we should be proud to be in bed with: According to a recent report from Amnesty International, when protestors in Cameroon dared to protest against a constitutional amendment that would allow Biya to stay in office even longer, his security forces came down hard -- killing more than 100 citizens.

This is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Trying saying that sober. - IMAGE VIA
  • Image via
  • This is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Trying saying that sober.

7. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan
No, we did not include this guy (heretofore to be referred to as "this guy") simply because his name cracks us up. We included him because he earned the gig mainly because he the longtime dentist of this former Soviet Republic's President for Life, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov was the head of a serious cult of personality, going so far as to rename days of the week and months after himself and his family -- and banning things like gold teeth and beards, just because he didn't like them. The government also restricted numerous freedoms, including those of "movement, speech, press, and assembly," according to the State Department.

Observers say the dentist Niyazov hand-picked to take over after his 2006 death has not improved matters much, if any. A memo recently released through WikiLeaks noted that Berdimuhamedov "does not like people who are smarter than he is. Since he's not a very bright guy, our source offered, he is suspicious of a lot of people." Observers report that repression has continued unabated, with Christians a particular target.

6. King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia
How is there even a "king" ruling a country in 2011? Isn't that so ... Middle Ages? Shouldn't world leaders at least feint toward democracy (e.g. "dictator for life"?)

And yes, Saudi Arabia is an ally of this country, but it's also ludicrously oppressive, especially toward women. The State Department notes that women have no right to come or go without their husbands' permission. Dancing, playing music and screening movies are forbidden in public areas, while pork, alcohol, and even some reading materials are banned outright. No bacon and no booze? It's amazing the Saudis aren't rioting in the streets.

5. Raul Castro, Cuba
Even lefties who couldn't admit that Fidel Castro's Glorious Revolution was a dismal failure for the Cuban people had to do a little reassessment when Fidel handed over the reins to his brother Raul in 2008.

Yes, Fidel had been a sexy, beisbol-playing revolutionary, but he became a dictator and a megalomaniac, and hundreds of thousands of Cubans chose to drown attempting to get to Miami rather than live in the "workers' paradise" he created. Even today, Cubans lack basic freedoms. (Any unauthorized gathering of three or more people is technically illegal.) It's been time for regime change for decades; that only becomes more clear with the thuggish Raul Castro running the show.

4. Than Shwe, Burma
This guy is such a control freak, he chose to let an untold number of his people die after 2008's Cyclone Nargis rather than allow in humanitarian aid workers. That's unforgivable.

3. Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, Sudan

Al-Bashir seized power in a 1983 coup, but it's only in, oh, the last decades or so that things have been truly horrible for Sudan's citizens. Ever heard of Darfur? That blood is on Al-Bashir's hands; he basically unleashed the janjaweed on the southern half of his country, funding the murderous militia group as it unleashed a reign of terror on citizens.

The result? Rape, genocide and a civil war that raged for years. Al-Bashir was charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court last year, but he remains in power.

2. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
Like Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe was once a revolutionary (and a Western darling), overthrowing the white-backed Rhodesian government to establish the Republic of Zimbabwe. But something has changed in recent decades -- the guy who crusaded to give the people power has instead become a repressive dictator. His nation's economy is in ruins (inflation is in the multi -million percent), dissent is not tolerated, and the poorest of the poor suffer along with the once-prosperous middle class. A Mugabe-sponsored program to "drive out the trash" saw the homes of at least 300,000 slum dwellers destroyed -- basically leaving them as homeless refugees in their own country.

1. Kim Jong Il, North Korea

Kim Jong Il has been in power since 1994, and in that time, North Korea has only gotten progressively more hellish for its citizens. More than 200,000 languish in prison camps. And while the people are starving, dictator Kim Jong Il still wastes millions on a nuclear program.

Since the dictator is apparently a film buff, some Americans hoped he might catch his pathetic portrayal in Team America: World Police and be humiliated enough to quit on the spot. Didn't happen. But if the embarrassment of being parodied by the South Park guys couldn't do the trick, we can only hope that the prospect of being run out of town on a rail, Egypt-style, will get him pondering abdication.

Yes, we can dream.

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