Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who's Hot, and Who's Not

Like any other international celebrities, dictators find themselves victims of the vicissitudes of fortune. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. Let's examine the cases of the dictators pictured above in a fraternal, socialist hug: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

HOT: Hugo Chavez

The standard bearer of the "Bolivarian revolution" is standing tall. After starting his career in politics by launching an unsuccessful coup d'etat, Chavez was elected President in 1999 by popular vote, and since then, has survived an attempted coup d'etat to remove him in 2002. His coffers filled to bursting by sky high oil prices, Chavez has circled the globe wooing the international left, from his hero Fidel Castro to celebrity admirers in the United States. While Chavez has been fêted abroad, he's been cracking down on his political enemies and potential rivals at home. Even his paranoid anti-semtism - a potential liability - has been ignored as long as Chavez styles himself as America's #1 enemy. Chavez is red hot.

NOT HOT: Robert Mugabe

At the opposite end of the thermostat lies Zimbabwe's 82 year old dictator, Robert Mugabe. Like Chavez today, Mugabe once found himself as the darling of the international, socialist left. After leading the military and political opposition to the racist, breakaway British colony of Rhodesia, Mugabe won the first free and ostensibly fair election in the newly christened nation of Zimbabwe. An avowed Marxist who publically pledged himself to instituting single party rule in Rhodesida, Mugabe at first reached out to foreign leaders, and even his old foes, to present himself as a cautious and pragmatic democrat.

The honeymoon was very short lived. Almost immediately after taking power Mugabe has used North Korean trained state security services to brutalize his political enemies, and has gone on to completely destroy the nation's economy, hold multiple rigged elections, harass his political opposition, and even declare war on homosexuals at home and abroad. In the 26 years he has led Zimbabwe, Mugabe has shown more interest in rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies than he has in solving Zimbabwe's intractable social and economic problems.

Having directly caused the economic and social collapse of what was the once of the most economically and politically successful nations on the continent *, the only thing left for Mugabe to do is desperately try to cling to the top of the dung heap has transformed the Zimbabwe into until he dies.

* "You have inherited a jewel. Keep it this way" - Mozambique's Samora Machel to Robert Mugabe, 1980