Written in 1995
U.S. State Department Policy Planning Study #23,
Many of the world's most repressive dictators have been friends of America.
Tyrants, torturers, killers, and sundry dictators and corrupt
puppet-presidents have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely
for their loyalty to US interests. Traditional dictators seize control
through force, while constitutional dictators hold office through voting
fraud or severely restricted elections, and are frequently puppets and
apologists for the military juntas which control the ballot boxes. In
any case, none have been democratically elected by the majority of their
people in fair and open elections.
GENERAL SANI ABACHA
President of Nigeria
General Sani Abacha is a corrupt and repressive dictator in the oil-rich country of Nigeria. Supported by oil wealth, Abacha has tried to cover his repression under a mantle of democracy by allowing fraudulent elections which only serve to guarantee his continued control. During elections in 1994, Chief Moshood Abiola, considered to be the likely winner, was arrested and placed in prison before the rigged results were announced; Abacha retained control. More than 100 government executions occurred in 1994, and numerous pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by police. Shell Oil provides most of the country's wealth by extracting oil from the Ogoniland region, while in the process causing severe environmental destruction and devastating the local economy. More than 700 Ogoni environmentalists protesting the destruction of their way of life, were executed in recent years. The greatest travesty occurred in November 1995, when environmental leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 associates, were hanged despite an international outcry. Shell supported Abacha's policies by its silence. Despite an outcry that Nigerian oil be boycotted, the US government refused to do so.
General of Uganda
Amin was one of the most notorious of Africa's post-independence dictators. A former heavyweight boxing champion in Uganda and a non-commissioned officer in the British Army there, Amin caught the attention of his superiors because of his efficient management of concentration camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s, where he earned the title of "The Strangler". Because of his loyalty to Britain and his strongly anti-communist stance, Amin was picked by the British to replace the elected Ugandan government in a 1971 coup. While in power, he earned a reputation as a "clown" in some circles in the West, but he was no joke at home. Amin brutalized his people with British and US military aid and with Israeli and CIA training of his troops. The body count of his friends, the clergy, soldiers, and ordinary Ugandans rose daily, but the West ignored his cruelty. As he continued to demand more aid and sophisticated weapons, he finally lost support. In 1979, his quest for more power lead him to invade Tanzania. In retaliation, he was overthrown by an invading Tanzanian / Ugandan army. Amin fled to Saudi Arabia, where he now lives a quiet life in a modest villa outside Jeddah, looking after his goats and chickens and cultivating his vegetable garden. Traditional Arab garb has replaced the bemedalled Field Marshal's uniform of his heyday.
President of Bolivia
In 1970, in Bolivia, when then-President Juan Jose Torres nationalized Gulf Oil properties and tin mines owned by US interests, and tried to establish friendly relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union, he was playing with fire. The coup to overthrow Torres, led by US-trained officer and Gulf Oil beneficiary Hugo Banzer, had direct support from Washington. When Banzer's forces had a breakdown in radio communications, US Air Force radio was placed at their disposal. Once in power, Banzer began a reign of terror. Schools were shut down as hotbeds of political subversive activity. Within two years, 2,000 people were arrested and tortured without trial. As in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, the native Indians were ordered off their land and deprived of tribal identity. Tens-of-thousands of white South Africans were enticed to immigrate with promises of the land stolen from the Indians, with a goal of creating a white Bolivia. When Catholic clergy tried to aid the Indians, the regime, with CIA help, launched terrorist attacks against them, and this "Banzer Plan" became a model for similar anti-Catholic actions throughout Latin America.
President of Cuba
Cuban Army Sergeant Fulgencio Batista first seized power in a 1932 coup. He was President Roosevelt's handpicked dictator to counteract leftists who had overthrown strongman Cerardo Machado. Batista ruled or several years, then left for Miami, returning in 1952 just in time for another coup, against elected president Carlos Prio Socorras. His new regime was quickly recognized by President Eisenhower. Under Batista, U.S. interests flourished and little was said about democracy. With the loyal support of Batista, Mafioso boss Meyer Lansky developed Havana into an international drug port. Cabinet offices were bought and sold and military officials made huge sums on smuggling and vice rackets. Havana became a fashionable hot spot where America's rich and famous drank and gambled with mobsters. As the gap between the rich and poor grew wider, the poor grew impatient. In 1953, Fidel Castro led an armed group of rebels in a failed uprising on the Moncada army barracks. Castro temporarily fled the country and Batista struck back with a vengeance. Freedom of speech was curtailed and subversive teachers, lawyers and public officials were fired from their jobs. Death squads tortured and killed thousands of "communists". Batista was assisted in his crackdown by Lansky and other members of organized crime who believed Castro would jeopardize their gambling and drug trade. Despite this, Batista remained a friend to Eisenhower and the US until he was finally overthrown by Castro in 1959.
SIR HASSANAL BOLKIAH
The Sultan of Brunei
To illegally fund what they referred to as the "Democratic Resistance" in Nicaragua, Oliver North and Former Assistant Secretary d State Elliot Abrams solicited funds from several authoritarian regimes, including Taiwan, South Korea and the more obscure Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam. Sir Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, the world's richest monarch, was indeed generous to the Contras -- to the tune of $10 million. But, this generosity was not because of any commitment to democracy in Nicaragua or anywhere else, for Brunei is a monarchical dictatorship, under a State of Emergency since 1982. The Sultan also allows Brunei to be the ClA's ears on the explosive Malaysian-lndonesian border. His Royal Highness was also involved with the infamous Nugan Hand Bank of Australia, a 1960s-70s CIA front for South East Asian drug operations and money laundering. In fact, according to a secret 1978 memo, Nugan Hand submitted a proposal to provide His Highness the Sultan with a bank structure and depository system which he alone can control should any change of government take place. The Sultan lives in a new palace that may have cost as much as a billion dollars, while over 90% of his subjects live in abject poverty. Those who protest such inequalities don't fare well with the authorities. According to Amnesty International, Brunei's jails hold "at least five prisoners of conscience who have spent 25 years in detention without having been convicted of any crime."
President of South Africa
During P.W. Botha's first term as President, the former Secretary of Defense altered the structure of government, giving the military and police unprecedented power. To justify this, he pointed to increasingly vocal discontent among South Africa's disenfranchised blacks, the large number of black states In Africa, and a so-called "growing Marxist" threat in the region. South Africa, he said, was engaged in a "total war' and must develop a "total strategy" to fight the battle. South Africa's apartheid regime was quietly supported by the US government, despite a UN boycott and Congressional efforts to reduce US investment there, Ronald Reagan significantly increased military expenditures in the country. But few Americans realized that Botha's total strategy against blacks had turned his nation into a ruthless aggressor. When Portugal withdrew from its colonies in Mozambique and Angola, Botha, claiming he wanted to strengthen capitalism on the continent, financed the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR) against the country's popular government. The MNR, who receive direct training from South Africa, cut off the ears, noses, and limbs of civilians. After killing their parents and raping young women in front of 10 year old boys, they recruited these boys to fight. In 1989, P.W. Botha suffered a stroke and later resigned. In early 1990 his successor, F.W. De Klerk, watching as international sanctions ruined S. Africa's economy, legalized political opposition parties and freed several important black political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela who had been imprisoned for 27 years for political activities against apartheid. Apartheid finally fell when Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa.
President of Brazil
In 1961, Brazilian President Jaao Goulart sought to trade with communist nations, supported the labor movement, and had limited the profits multi-nationals could take out of the country. These policies were clearly unacceptable to the American business interests. In 1964, the US took part in the overthrow of Goulart by General Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco, although US government officials have denied involvement. As an example of US support for Branco, just prior to the coup, US officials cabled Washington a request for oil for Branco's soldiers in case Goulart's troops blew up the refineries. Brancos regime was short but brutal. Labor unions were banned, criticism of the President became unlawful, and thousands of suspected communists (including children) were arrested and tortured. As in Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia, land was stolen from native Indians and their culture was destroyed. Drug dealers, many of them government officials, were given protection because they maintained national security interests. Brazil formed ties with the World Anti-communist League and assisted General Videla in his takeover of Argentina. When Branco stepped down in 1967, he left behind a constitution with greatly increased military and executive powers, crippling Brazil's efforts to restore democracy.
General of Haiti
General Cedras seized power in Haiti in 1991 after the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He ruled with the rod of iron associated with Haiti's infamous former dictators, the Duvaliers -- there were at least 4.000 political assassinations and more than 40,000 fled the country in boats for the US. He fled into exile in September 1994 when the US sent an invasion force under the banner of the UN.
Cedras is now in Panama, the only rival to France as the favorite haven for former dictators -- Juan Domingo Peron of Argentina and the Shah of Iran once took refuge there, and Guatemala's Jorge Serrano is a great success as a racehorse owner. Cedras has a penthouse suite in Panama City's wealthy Punta Paitilla area. He is not short of cash -- the US State Department alone pays him $5,000 a month in rent for his properties in Haiti. Panama University Professor Miguel Antonio Bernal complains: 'Our country is being used as a wastebasket for the political toxic waste of the world.'
President of Guatemala
According to Amnesty International, arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and political killings were everyday realities for Guatemalans during decades of US financed military dictatorship. In January 1986, Christian Democrat leader Vinicio Cerezo was elected President and said he had "the political will to respect the rights of man", but it didn't take long to find out that his political will was irrelevant in the face of Guatemala's well-oiled military machine. Hopes for change were dashed when Cerezo announced that Guatemala would continue to provide amnesty for all past military offenses committed from General Elrain Rios Montt's coup in 1982 through the 1986 elections. Although Ronald Reagan's State Department asserted "there has not been a single clear-cut case of political killing, within months of Cerezo's inauguration, opposition leaders attributed 56 murders to security forces and death squads, while Americas Watch claimed that "throughout 1986, violent killings were reported in the Guatemalan press at the rate of 100 per month". Altogether, Americas Watch says, tens-of-thousands were killed and 400 rural villages were destroyed by government death squads during Reagan's term in office. Colonel D'Jalma Dominguez, former army spokesman, explains "For convenience sake a civilian government is preferable, such as the one we have now. If anything goes wrong, only the Christian Democrats will get the blame. It's better to remain outside. The real power will not be lost." Today, the real power still resides with the military.
President of Taiwan
The Chinese civil war pitted Mao Tse-Tung's Communists against Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists. The US-backed Chiang, but when he couldn't do the job they also supported Japanese troops fighting the Communists, even before WWll had ended. Hated for his wanton cruelty, corruption, and decadence, Chiang did not enjoy the support of the Chinese people; entire divisions of the Nationalist army defected and fled to the island of Formosa (Taiwan). A presidential commission appointed by Harry Truman reported after Chiang's arrival there that his forces "ruthlessly, corruptly, and avariciously imposed their regime on the population. Under Nationalist rule, 85% of the population was disenfranchised, but the onset of the Korean War and the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era led the US to declare that the tiny island represented the real government of China. The US was crucial in keeping mainland China out of the UN until 1971. Chiang gave the World Anti-Communist League (an international organization with links to Nazis, drug smugglers, and the CIA) its first home, permitting WACL members to use a military academy there to train troops for Latin American military coups. President Carter tried to cut US ties to WACL, but Ronald Reagan received campaign funds from the group, and WACL became involved with training and supplying contras in Argentina and Taiwan. Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975, but many of his policies continue in Taiwan.
President of Honduras
Honduras was the original "Banana Republic" -- its history inextricably intertwined with that of the US-based United Fruit Company, but in 1979, when Anastasio Somoza was overthrown in Nicaragua, Honduras got a new nickname -- "The Pentagon Republic". In 1978 Honduras received $16.2 million in US aid. By 1985, it was getting $231 million, primarily because President Suazo Cordova, working with the US Ambassador and the Honduran military, allowed Honduras to become a training center for U.S. funded Nicaraguan contras. General Alvarez assisted in training programs and founded a special "hit squad", the Cobras. Victims of the Cobras were stripped, bound, thrown into pits, and tortured. The Reagan Administration claimed ignorance of these human rights violations, but US advisors have admitted knowledge. Alvarez who made enemies among his troops because he pocketed U.S. aid and because he belonged to the "Moonies", a far-right South Korean religious cult, was overthrown by the military in 1984. Suazo's ties to Alvarez cost him his bid in the next election, but death squad activity and US aid to Honduras continued. Many high ranking government and military personnel during and after Suazo's term were drug traffickers, and although the US government denies knowledge of this, there is evidence to the contrary. In fact, the US embassy was renting space from known drug dealers.
President of El Salvador
General Hernandez Martinez's 1932 anti-communist purge, was carried out on behalf of El Salvador's rich coffee oligarchy, the so-called "Fourteen Families". New president Alfredo Cristiani is a member of those same " Fourteen Families", and his ARENA party is linked to brutalities surpassing Hernandez Martinez's. Cristiani is moderate-sounding, schooled in Washington D. C., and indebted to the military for power. As puppet - president, he yielded to ARENA founder Roberto D'Aubuisson, whom a former US Ambassador called a "pathological killer". D'Aubuisson, a former Army Major with ties to Jesse Helms and the US right, studied unconventional warfare in the U S and Taiwan. According to D'Aubuisson, "the Christian Democrats (Ex-President Jose Napoleon Duarte's party) are communists, but Jesuit priests are "the worst scum of all". US State Department cables indicate D'Aubuisson "planned and ordered the assassination of the late Archbishop Oscar Amulfoo Romero". It's believed he was behind the White Warriors Union (UGB), whose slogan was "Be patriotic-kill a priest". In 1989 six priests were slain and Cristiani soon admitted his US trained soldiers had committed the murders. Yet, although assassinations of priests are notable, 70,000 other civilians were killed by the Salvadoran military and the death squads since 1980.
President of South Vietnam
Ngo Dinh Diem oppressed the Vietnamese people so badly that many of them turned to the communists for protection from his ruthless rule. Even President Eisenhower admitted that "had elections been held, possibly 80% of the population would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader". Yet Diem, who had once lived in the US, had connections, in Washington, who liked his anti-communism. He founded the Can Lao Party (CLP), a secret police force overseen by his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and Nhu's wife, Madame Nhu. The three were notorious for their ineptitude and cruelty. The CLP was not even their idea, it was originally promoted by the US State Department to rid the country of communists. Diem alienated urban professionals by suppressing all opposition to his regime. He alienated peasants by canceling their age-old local elections, forcing them off their land, and moving them into "agrovilles" surrounded by barbed wire, which even US officials conceded bore a striking resemblance to concentration camps. Ultimately, he angered his own military officers because he promoted on the basis of loyalty, not merit. In an effort to keep Diem in power, the US tried to persuade him to make political reforms. He refused, so they persuaded him to make military reforms. But when Diem was finally overthrown and assassinated in 1963, none of his generals rose to defend him. Nor did the US, which, after 8 years, had finally realized that Diem wasn't popular.
President of Liberia
Samuel Doe came to power in a bloody 1980 coup, a Master Sergeant in military gear. Today, he is a self-made General in a suit, living on US aid and corporate kickbacks. But while Doe and his cronies live in luxury, the rest of Liberia dwells in squalor. Under his regime, the gross domestic product has decreased by 13%, the country's health statistics are among the world's worst, 80% of the population is illiterate, all opposition parties but one were forbidden to participate in the 1985 national elections, and those who protest these inequities are jailed or killed. Doe, a pro-American anti-communist, received $500 million in U.S. aid between 1980 and 1985. When Congress threatened to cut off funds because of Liberia's human rights abuses, Doe requested "American financial advice" as a show of good will. The U.S. sent 17 accountants, bank examiners, and economists to help Doe balance his budget, but they realized a difficult task lay ahead when they learned that Doe had purchased over sixty $60,000 Mercedes Benz cars for his government ministers and had given the Liberian soccer team $1 million for winning a match against rival Ghana. Ultimately Doe refused to allow access to records concerning 40% of Liberia's funds, for this "second budget", revenues from gasoline and lodging taxes, goes directly into the President's bank account. The American advisors returned home in 1989, mission not accomplished, and Samuel Doe remains in office, despite early 1990 rumblings of rebel plots against him.
Presidents of Haiti
In 1957 Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier became Haiti's President-For-Life, establishing a strategic relationship with the US that lasted until 1971, when he was succeeded by his son Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. During the 30 years that they ruled with an iron hand, 60,000 Haitians were killed and countless more were tortured by the Duvaliers' Tonton Macoutes death squads. While Haiti became the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the Duvaliers enriched themselves by stealing foreign aid money. In 1980, for instance, the International Monetary Fund granted Haiti a $22 million budget supplement. Within weeks, $16 million was "unaccounted for". Baby Doc made Haiti into a trans-shipment point for Colombian cocaine. Nevertheless, as long as Papa and Baby Doc were anti-communists, they could do no wrong in the US government's eyes. Their regime finally ended in 1986, when Baby Doc fled angry mobs of Haitians for asylum in France, with a fortune estimated at $400 million. It has been estimated that under Baby Doc's rule 40,000 Haitians were murdered.
King of Saudi Arabia
King Fahd bin 'Abdul -'Aziz is the absolute monarch of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fahd and 2000 related royals rule with an iron grip of medieval feudalism. Control over the lives of their citizens is total and arbitrary. Torture is common, and amputation is frequently ordered by the courts. Women have few rights, and adultery by women is punished by death by stoning. Executions by hanging are public -- there were at least 60 such executions in 1994. The main opposition is from Sunni Islamists, and hundreds are in prison. Saudi Arabia is supported by the United States and other western democracies because of the enormous oil wealth that lies below the country's desert sands, its pro-West stance, and the royal family's staunch anti-fundamentalist position. The irony of American policy in Saudi Arabia is that the US, the world's most vocal advocate for democracy, supports one of the most undemocratic regimes in the world.
President of Spain
General Francisco Bahamonde Franco was not the most popular leader in Spain during the early 1930s. A man of humble origins, he had worked his way up the military ladder fighting colonial wars in Africa. Franco, a staunch conservative, was infuriated when a Republican alliance of socialists, Marxists, and liberals won Spain's first free elections in 1936. So the General decided to restore order by force. Franco's Nationalists were losing the civil war, but military support from Hitler, Mussolini, and the US corporations that backed Hitler, turned the tide in his favor. Italy and Germany sent 6,060 trucks to Franco's fascists, but 12,000 were supplied by Ford, General Motors and Studebaker. The US claimed neutrality but didn't stop these companies from aiding Franco. The failure of the US and other democratic nations to assist Spain's democratic government was ultimately responsible for Franco's victory in 1939, and sadly, American volunteers who fought for the Republic were relentlessly persecuted during the US anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s. Under Franco, all political parties and labor unions were banned, books were burned, and dissenters were tortured and executed. Spain was ostracized by the international community, but the US considered Franco a Cold War ally and sank millions into the country. After Franco's death in 1975, Spain became a democratic republic once again. (Note: Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, with a Constitution since 1978 and democratic representative elections. Franco was not a President of Spain, but a "Generalísimo" supreme military commander).
Chancellor of Germany
As German bombs fell on London and Nazi tanks rolled over US troops, Sosthenes Behn president and founder of the US based ITT corporation, met with his German representative to discuss improving German communication systems. ITT was designing and building Nazi phone and radio systems as well as supplying crucial parts for German bombs. Our government knew all about this, for under a presidential order, US companies were licensed to trade with the Nazis. The choice of who would be licensed was odd, though. While the Secretary of State gave the Ford Motor Company permission to make Nazi tanks, he simultaneously blocked aid to German-Jewish refugees because the US wasn't supposed to be trading with the enemy. Other US companies trading with the Third Reich were General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Davis Oil Co., and the Chase National Bank. President Roosevelt did not stop them, fearing a scandal might lead to another stock market crash or lower US moral. Besides, the same companies that traded with Hitler were supplying the US with its armaments, and some corporate leaders threatened to withdraw their support if Roosevelt exposed them. Henry Ford was a good friend of Hitler's. His book -- The International Jew -- had Inspired Hltler's Mein Kampf. The Fuhrer kept Ford's picture in his office, and Ford was one of only four foreigners to receive Germany's highest civilian award. As for Sosthenes Behn, at the end of the war, he received the highest civilian award for service to his country -- the United States of America.
King of Morocco
Like his former ally, the Shah of Iran, King Hassan ll of Morocco spares himself no earthly delight. He has seven principal palaces, keeps 260 horses in just one of his many stables, boards most of his camels, ostriches, and zebras with his 945 head of cattle at his 1500 acre dairy farm, and he's got a couple of harems. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Morocco is over 20%, and 95% of the population lives in abject poverty, sheltering in makeshift huts in the country's increasingly swollen cities. Citing dubious historical ties, in 1975, Hassan took his nation into a war in the Western Sahara that is costing the country over $l million a day. Although the International Court of Justice ruled that Morocco has no historical claims to the territory, the US continues to back Hassan diplomatically and financially in his war to annex the area. The US also takes an active role in stopping coup attempts against the King. According to one dissident, the CIA gave Hassan a video tape that enabled him to catch the plotters in the act. The favor was returned when Hassan visited Washington in 1982 -- he and President Reagan agreed that the US could use Morocco as an emergency base for its planes. Although Hassan has been less repressive in recent years, members of the opposition are still arrested and tortured. But as his people start to make connections between the rising cost of living and the war in the Sahara, criticism grows, and even the CIA has admitted that Hassan may not be able to keep the lid on dissent much longer.
President of the Philippines
Ferdinand Marcos began his career with a bang. At age 21, convicted of gunning down Julio Nalundasan, his father's victorious opponent in the Philippines first national elections, he went to prison. He was later release by a Supreme Court Justice who, like Marcos and his father, was a Nazi collaborator. Despite Marcos's record as murderer, fake WWll hero and Nazi agent, he was elected Philippine President in 1965. Under Marcos, the Philippine national debt grew from $2 billion to $30 billion, but US corporations in the Philippines prospered, perhaps explaining why the US didn't protest Marcos's imposition of martial law in 1972. The Marcoses enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, and they salted away billions of dollars in the course of their US-backed rule between 1965 and 1986.
The Carter Administration engineered an $88 million World Bank loan to Marcos, increased military aid to him by 300%, and called him a "soft dictator". But a 1976 Amnesty International report identified 88 government torturers, and stated that alleged subversives had their heads slammed into walls, their genitals and pubic hair torched, and were beaten with clubs, fists, bottles, and rifle butts. By 1977, the armed forces had quadrupled and over 60,000 Filipinos had been arrested for political reasons. Yet, in 1981, Vice President George Bush praised Marcos for his "adherence to democratic principals and to the democratic processes". Marcos was overthrown in 1986 by followers of Corazon Aquino, widow of an assassinated opposition leader.
Ferdinand and Imelda fled to Hawaii, only to be indicted in 1988 for fraud and tax evasion. Marcos died in 1989. Imelda returned to the Philippines in 1991 and stood unsuccessfully in the Presidential elections of 1992. In 1993 she was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for criminal graft and to other long sentences for corruption. She is still free while she appeals. She was elected to Congress in May 1995. Meanwhile, in it attempts to recover the lost Marcos billions from Swiss bank accounts and other shadier locations the Philippines Government has, after paying its US lawyers, recovered the princely sum of $2,000.
General of El Salvador
Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez seized power El Salvador in a 1931 coup. His philosophy with regard to human rights was clear -- "It is a greater crime to kill an ant than a man," said the General.
Hernandez Martinez initiated an anti-communist purge in 1932 in El Salvador. Subsequent massacres left 40,000 peasants dead and wiped out the country's Indian culture. An uprising, six weeks later, organized by El Salvador's Communist Party founder, Farabundo Marti, failed, and was followed by the crackdown on "communists". Roadways and drainage ditches were littered with bodies. Hotels were raided, individuals with blond hair were dragged out and killed as suspected Russians. Many were executed and then shoved into mass graves they had first been forced to dig. U.S. warships were stationed off-shore, ready to send in Marines to aid the General in case he ran into serious opposition. Hernandez Martinez was run out of the country in 1944, but his memory was celebrated as recently as 1980, when the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade carried out a series of death-squad assassinations of prominent Salvadoran leftists. Farabundo Marti, killed during the purge, has also left a legacy -- the rebels who fought the U.S. backed government of El Salvador during the 1980s, call themselves the FMLN, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front.
President of Zaire
When Zaire's first elected President, Patrice Lumumba, appeared to be getting too close to socialism, US companies feared they might lose control of Zaire's precious cobalt, copper, and diamonds. So the CIA stepped in, assassinated Lumumba, and replaced him with Mobutu Sese Seko. Since 1965, Mobutu has been the US's main man in Central Africa. Mobutu has amassed an estimated $5 billion personal fortune at his nation's expense. He is perhaps the only world leader who could pay his national debt from his own bank account. In fact, there seems to be no division between his pocket and the national treasury. In 1974, when the US sent $1.4 million to assist troops fighting a civil war, Mobutu pocketed the entire sum. And no foreign company sets itself up in Zaire without a tribute to Mobutu. Although Zaire has more resources than most other countries in the region, it is the fifth poorest. Malnutrition takes the lives of one-third of Zaire's children, and one child out of two dies before age five. But Mobutu has vowed to keep the world safe for democracy and according to Amnesty International, in the name of anti-communism, he imprisons and tortures, often without trial, anyone who threatens his power base. While some members of Congress grumble about giving assistance to Mobutu, they continue to reward his work against communism and his warm reception of American corporations.
President of Guatemala
"A Christian has to walk around with his Bible and his machine gun", said born-again General Efrain Rios Montt, military ruler of Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983. Rios Montt was one in a long series of dictators who ran Guatemala after the Dulles brothers and United Fruit, backed by the CIA, decided that democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz was too reform-minded. And so, they overthrew the country's constitutional democracy in 1954. The succession of corrupt military dictators ruled Guatemala for over 30 years, one anti-communist tyrant after another receiving U.S. support, aid, and training. After the 1982 coup that brought Rios Montt to power, the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala said "Guatemala has come out of the darkness and into the light". President Reagan claimed Rios Montt was given "a bum rap" by human rights groups, and that he was cleaning up problems inherited from his predecessor, General Romeo Lucas Garcia. Ironically, Garcia had given $500,000 to Reagan's 1980 campaign, and his henchman, Mario Sandoval Alarcon, the 'Godfather' of Central American death squads, was a guest at Reagan's first inaugural celebration. Sandoval proudly calls his National Liberation Movement " the party of organized violence". Montt simply moved Garcia's dirty war from urban centers to the countryside where "the spirit of the lord" guided him against "communist subversives', mostly indigenous Indians. As many as 10,000 Indians were killed and over 100,000 fled to Mexico as a result of Rios Montt's "Christian" campaign.
Chief of Defense Forces, Panama
The US command post for covert Latin American operations is located in the Canal Zone where a series of figurehead presidents, some backed by General Manuel Noriega, had involved Panama in US intelligence operations. General Noriega became commander-in-chief of the National Guard in Panama in 1983, and for the next six years was more powerful than the President. He was the kind of ruthless leader the US favored in the rest of Central America. Noriega first met with then CIA Director George Bush in 1976, while Noriega was collecting $100 thousand a year as a CIA asset. Their friendly relationship persisted even after Noriega's drug dealing was revealed by a 1975 DEA investigation. During the Reagan era, Noriega collaborated with Oliver North on covert actions against Nicaragua, training contras and providing a transshipment point for CIA supported operations that flew weapons to the contras and cocaine into the US.
But he fell foul of the US when he failed to support their plan to invade Nicaragua -- they withdrew aid and imposed sanctions. In 1987, a Miami grand jury indicted him for drug-trafficking, and the CIA tried to destabilize his regime. Noriega warned Bush that he had information which could change the course of the 1988 US elections and the CIA backed off. When Noriega annulled Panama's 1989 elections, citing CIA interference, Bush renewed attempts to unseat his one-time ally. Critics called Bush's failure to support an abortive 1989 coup "indecisive", but his response to that criticism, the December 1989 invasion of Panama, led to world condemnation. Noriega eventually surrendered to face US drug charges. The invasion of 26,000 American troops led to over 4,000 Panamanian deaths and installed a regime with similar close links to drugs, plus a willingness to alter Panama Canal treaties to serve US interests.
Noriega was taken prisoner and stood trial in Miami on charges of drug trafficking and was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment. He is still in a Florida jail contemplating the irony that he was once also the protégé of the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Meanwhile the legal office of the President the US installed in his place was discovered to have connections with 14 companies that had laundered drug money.
Prime Minister of Turkey
Turgut Ozal was elected prime minister of Turkey in 1983, after several years of harsh military rule. But while free expression in Turkey has opened up somewhat in recent years, torture and long prison terms for political opponents and government critics have remained a way of life. In 1988, according to Amnesty International, "thousands of people were imprisoned for political reasons...and the use of torture continued to be widespread and systematic". Turkey's torturers are ruthless. Says one victim: " I loosened the blindfold and looked around. The scene was horrific. People were piled up in the corridor waiting their turn to be tortured. Ten people were being led, blindfolded and naked, up and down the corridor and were being beaten to force them to sing reactionary marches. Others, incapable of standing, were tied to hot radiator pipes. A man was forced to watch while his children were tortured." Regardless of the repression that a succession of governments have subjected the country to, US-Turkish relations remain cordial. In the past, US officials have even attributed the torture problem to "the violent nature of the Turkish people." Retired Turkish General Turgut Sunalp explains it a different way. "There has been, still is, and will be torture in Turkey because there is torture everywhere in the world," he said. But despite its human rights abuses, Turkey can do no wrong in US eyes, for it is one of the CIA's key listening posts on the Soviet border. Not surprisingly, in 1987, Turkey was the third largest recipient of U.S. aid.
Shah of Iran
1953 was a busy year for Allen Dulles. Even as he readied the CIA for a coup in Guatemala, his agents were toppling the liberal left government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq and paving the way for the Shah of Iran. With Dulles' encouragement, the Shah made the Iranian people an offer they couldn't refuse -- join his party or go to jail. Thousands who refused to yield were imprisoned or murdered. During regional elections in 1954, the Shah's agents raided a religious school and hurled hundreds of students to their deaths from the roof. His regime received 100% of the vote that year, in an election which registered more votes than there were voters.
The Shah's subsequent solidification of power led to an iron fisted rule enforced by fear and torture. His secret police agency, SAVAK, was created in 1957 and managed by the CIA at all levels of daily operation, including the choice and organization of personnel, selection and operation of equipment, and the running of agents. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Iran under the Shah became a devoted US ally and a base for spy operations on the border of the Soviet Union. But eventually, the Shah was overthrown in 1978 by an indigenous people's revolution that held sway until fundamentalist religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile and reasserted his power during the 1979 US hostage crisis.
Prlme Minister of Greece
When President Lyndon Johnson offered a solution to the Greek Ambassador for the dispute between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, the Ambassador protested, saying the solution was unacceptable to the Greek parliament and constitution. Three years later, in 1967, a military coup overthrew the freely elected government of Andreas Papandreou. The coup was headed by CIA employee and ex-Nazi George Papadopoulolis. He had been on the CIA payroll for 15 years when he came to power, and during WW ll he was a captain in the Nazi Security Battalions, whose main purpose was to catch members of the Greek Resistance. Almost anyone who even said the word "communist" was jailed. During Papadopoulos's first month in power, 8,000 so-called "leftist" were imprisoned and tortured. Greece was expelled from the European Commission on Human Rights, but continued to receive US aid. In return, Greece kept the world safe for democracy by housing US military bases. Papadopoulos was ousted in 1973 after falling from grace with the inner clique that helped him rule. When the entire government fell in 1974, he and his comrades were tried for human rights abuses.
President of South Korea
Free and open expression has not come easily to South Koreans. Beatings, torture, and execution of the regimes' political opponents have been a way of life since the Korean War. The tenure of former President Park Chung Hee, who came to power in a 1961 military coup, exemplifies the kind of leader South Koreans have been forced to endure. Park's virulent anti-communism won him U.S. support. The water torture, which leaves no physical marks on the victim, was a favored technique of Park's security forces. Cold water was forced up the nostrils through a tube, while a cloth was placed in the victim's mouth to prevent breathing. Many anti-communist interrogations were run by the KCIA, a US creation modeled after the American CIA. One victim told Amnesty International, " I was taken to KCIA headquarters, my hands tied together, and I was tied to a chair. I was not allowed to have any sleep. At night, they would drag me to the basement where they would beat me with a long, heavy stick, and jump on me. They were trying to make me confess that I was a spy. Despite such brutal behavior, the US has maintained a first-rate strategic relationship with South Korea, providing successive repressive regimes with extensive US aid. Park Chung Hee was assassinated by the KCIA in 1979, but South Korea is still a nation troubled by lack of human rights.
President of Chile
Augusto Pinochet deposed democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, and buried Chile's 150 year old democracy. "Democracy is the breeding ground of communism", says Pinochet. The bloody coup, in which Allende was assassinated, was carefully managed by the CIA and ITT. Tens of thousands of Chileans have been tortured, killed, and exiled since then, according to Amnesty International. A U.S. congressional delegation was told by inmates at San Miguel Prison that they had been tortured by "the application of electric shock, simultaneous blows to the ears, cigarette burns, and simulated executions by firing squads." Despite Chile's bad human rights record, the U.S. government continued to support Pinochet with international loans. Even the state-sponsored car-bomb assassination of Chile's former Ambassador to the U.S., Orlando Letelier, did not convince the U.S. to break with Pinochet. In 1988 a plebiscite refused to extend Pinochet's rule, so he altered the constitution to reduce the powers of the incoming elected President, and left himself head of the armed forces. All the other South American dictators are gone but Pinochet has found the perfect solution: Chile now has the squeaky-clean sheen of democracy yet he still has his finger on the trigger.
Commander of the Khmer Rouge
The bombing of Cambodia by the US from 1969 to 1972, left 600,000 civilians dead, millions of refugees, tens-of-thousands dying from disease and starvation, and the Cambodian economy and culture in ruins. Cambodians blamed the US and the puppet regime of Lon Nol for the country's destruction, and gradually sided with the guerrilla army of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, which finally defeated Lon Nol, and took power in April, 1975. Once in power, Pol Pot emptied the cities, forcing the people into the countryside. Virtually all educated people were killed and more than 1.5 million people perished in this "holocaust". Only when the Khmer Rouge was ousted by Vietnam in 1979, did the terror stop. Washington took steps to preserve the Khmer Rouge as a counter force to the Vietnamese. International relief agencies were pressured by the US to provide food and humanitarian assistance to the Khmer Rouge, which had fled to Thailand, and the US sent military aid as well. In 1982, in an effort to isolate the Vietnamese, the US forced together the three contending anti-Vietnamese groups, insisting that the Khmer Rouge be part of the negotiations. Cambodia continues to suffer from the devastation produced by both the US bombing and the Khmer Rouge atrocities. Pol Pot is considered to still be the power behind the Khmer Rouge, which has a strong presence in Cambodia today, thanks to the US.
Commander, Armed Forces of Fiji
On May, 1987, General Sitiveni Rabuka stormed the Fijian Parliament and arrested the newly elected Prime Minister, Dr. Timoci Bavadra. Bavadra's fledgling Labor Party had just defeated Fiji's pro-US puppet Prime Minister, Ratu Slr Kamese Mara, and although Bavadra's support for a nuclear free South Pacific was welcomed by the regional populace, a nuclear free zone was be unacceptable to the US. Thirty-two days after his electoral victory, Dr. Bavadra was overthrown by the pro-nuclear General Rabuka, with the help of the US. Once in control, General Rabuka quickly allied himself with some of the most brutal regimes in the world. "Military dictators seem to like other military dictators", says deposed Fijian Prime Minister Bavadra. "It did not take long for our illegal rulers to establish strong ties with Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea". Under General Rabuka's US supported police state, Amnesty International has reported, for the first time in Fijian history, cases of illegal detention and torture -- the beginning of the Latinization of the Pacific.
ANTONIO DE OLIVEIRA SALAZAR
Prlme Minister of Portugal
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar worshipped Hitler and Mussolini, but after they lost, he joined the Allies and became a card-carrying member of NATO. However, he always kept a piece of fascism alive in Portugal. His secret police, the PIDE, were much like the Gastapo; concentration camps were set up for "enemies of the state", news organizations were merely propaganda machines, and all schools had their lesson plans carefully monitored by "Big Brother". Salazar also kept a little piece of the Dark Ages alive in Western Europe. In 1970, 30% of the population was illiterate, and the infant mortality rate was the second worst in Europe. The Portugese economy stagnated. Most of the land was held by 5% of the population, the vast majority of Portuguese worked in agriculture, and all union activities were forbidden. Portugal was the last stronghold of European colonialism. Salazar refused to give up colonies in East Timor, Portuguese Guiana, Mozambique, and Angola. He believed the "white man" must bring higher civilization to the " black man". The U.S. openly backed Portugal's colonial claims, due to the strategic importance of military bases such as the one in the Portugese Azores. Salazar died in 1968, after 40 years in power. His regime fell in 1974, at which point Portugal left Angola, but the US continued to back South African efforts there.
Emperor of Ethiopla
Emperor Halie Selassie may have been a better king to the animals of Ethiopia than to its people. In 1973, during the height of a drought in which 200,000 Ethiopians died of starvation, Salassie fed beef to his Great Danes. Selassie was a fairer ruler than many of those around him. For example, as a young provincial governor, he only took 50% of his peasants crops while other governors were taking 90%, and in the 1950s as few as 100 political prisoners were tortured in his jails at one time. But, under his long rule, Ethiopia remained in the dark ages. Just after his overthrow in 1974, the annual per capita income was $90, the literacy rate was 7% and Ethiopia was the poorest nation in Africa. Under Selassie, Ethiopia received more US aid than any other African country and Washington purchased a $2 million yacht for the Emperor. When Selassie faced an uprising in the province of Eritrea, the US sent advisors and arms to help him smash the revolt. In return for our support, Selassie provided the United States with a naval oasis in the Red Sea and a place for a strategic communications station. Selassie's kindness to his animals was his downfall; he was overthrown when photos of him feeding his dogs during the 1973 famine were circulated among his outraged troops.
Prime Minister of Rhodesia
lan Smith promised the whites who elected him Prime Minister of Rhodesia in 1982 that he would keep Rhodesia white, at any cost. To stop the black guerrilla fighters trying to overthrow his regime, Smith rationed food for Africans whom he believed were feeding the guerrillas. This cruel measure only served to starve the already undernourished black population. Studies found that over 90% of Rhodesia's black children were malnourished and nutritional deficiencies were the major cause of infant death. Smith rounded up blacks into concentration camps he called "protective" villages. Believing that ignorant people were less likely to revolt, he cut funding for black education, spending $5 on each black child compared to $80 on each white child. His all white Parliament passed a law protecting officials who took actions for the suppression of "terrorism", enabling the police and military to commit atrocities. An international trade boycott against Rhodesia arose, but while the US publicly condemned the government, it continued to do business there. In 1971, President Nixon lifted the chrome embargo against Rhodesia at a time when there was a surplus of chrome in the US. Blacks were eventually given the right to vote for some officials, but the opposition to Smith's government grew so strong that he was ultimately forced to give up some power to blacks. In 1979, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, a country primarily ruled by blacks.
Presidents of Nicaragua
The Marines invaded Nicaragua in 1912, and stayed until 1933, fighting but never defeating the revolutionary Augusto Sandino. They created the Nicaraguan National Guard and installed Anastasio Somoza Garcia in power. Then Sandino, who had signed a truce and put down his arms, was assassinated by Somoza. A general who led the Marines into Nicaragua, explained, " I was a high class muscle-man for big business, for Wall Street and for the banks. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. l helped purify Nicaragua for an International banking house." President Franklin Roosevelt put it another way. "Somoza may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch." Corruption, torture, and wholesale murder of dissidents continued for 45 years under two generations of Somozas, for after Somoza Garcia was gunned down in the streets in 1956, his son Anastasio Somoza Debayle took control. The Somozas plundered Nicaragua and became millionaires. The younger Somoza, made $12 million a year buying the blood of his people and selling it abroad at a 300% mark-up. In 1972 after an earthquake killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans, Somoza had his National Guard seize $30 million in international relief supplies and sold them to the highest bidder. Near the end of his reign, he aerially bombed his own capital to stay in power, but he was overthrown in 1979 by a rebel group who called themselves the Sandinistas, after the revolutionary hero his father had slain.
President of Paraguay
Alfredo Stroessner seized power in Paraguay in 1954. European correspondents who visited Paraguay during his rule used the term the "poor man's Nazi regime" to describe the Paraguayan government. Of German descent, Stroessner was a great admirer of Nazism, and this showed not only in the refuge he offered to many Nazi war criminals, such as Joseph Mengele, but also in his ruthless methods.
From the Nazis the Paraguayan military learned the art of genocide. The native Ache Indians were in the way of progress, progress represented by American and European corporations who planned to exploit the nation's forests, mines, and grazing lands. The Indians were hunted down, parents killed, and children sold into slavery. Survivors were herded into reservations headed by American fundamentalist missionaries, some of whom had participated in the hunts.
Between 1962 and 1975, Paraguay received $146 million in U.S. aid. Paraguayan officials seemingly wanted more, however, for in 1971, high ranking members of the regime were implicated in the Marseilles drug ring, with Paraguay their transfer point for shipments from France to the US. In the 1980s, America finally condemned Paraguayan civil rights abuses and drug trafficking. Stroessner still looked as if he'd be dictator for life, but in 1988 one of his closest generals, Andres Rodriguez, a known drug dealer, took over after a coup. Rodriguez promised to restore democracy, and President Bush called the 1989 elections a democratic opening, but opponents declared them a massive fraud. Rodriguez's Colorado party won 74% of the vote. Stroessner took refuge in Brasilia, Brazil. He still lives there, in comfort.
President of Indonesia
Indonesia is a totalitarian state and its uncontested ruler for over 20 years, General Suharto, is one of the most brutal dictators in history. After a CIA organized coup brought him to power in 1965, Suharto, decided to purge every communist subversive from Indonesian soil. General Nasution, a close associate of Suharto, called for the extermination of three million Indonesian communist party members, and with the CIA supervised the murderous purge.
Paratroopers would arrive in a region with a list of "subversives" and provide it to local vigilante groups. Using machetes and other crude weapons, the vigilantes would hack the alleged subversives to death. Entire populations of towns and villages were herded to central locations and massacred. Children would be asked to identify communists who would then be executed on the spot. In addition to the half million people who were killed outright after the coup, another 750,000 were arrested and tortured. Ultimately, one million people died in one of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history. The US continues to this day to train and arm the Indonesian military with the latest high-tech equipment. (Suharto resigned in 1999 after mass public protest)
RAFAEL LEONIDAS TRUJILLO
President of the Dominican Republic
The US occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916 and created the National Guard to put Rafael Leonidas Trujillo into power. The fact that Trujillo was court-martialed for kidnapping and rape in 1920 did not impede his rise to power or taint his relationship with the US. As dictator of the Dominican Republic for 30 years, Trujillo had a penchant for self-adulation, and put his personal stamp on everything, including the capital, village water pumps, and homes for the aged. Trujillo won the 1930 presidential election with more votes than there were registered voters, but because he was anti-communist, Washington was happy. He invoked anti-communism to justify mass deportations, torture and summary executions. Workers who asked for wage increases were labeled communists, and shot on the spot, as were farmers who tried to stop Trujillo from confiscating their land. He eventually controlled over 80% of the country's sugar plantations, using slave labor provided by neighboring Haiti to keep profits high. In 1937, he decided to blame depressed sugar prices on the Haitian workers, and massacred 20,000 them. Trujillo was finally assassinated by the CIA in 1961 after he attempted to have President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela murdered because of his criticism of Trujillo's brutal regime. It was only then that the Marine Corps made public the fact that our ally Trujillo was a convicted rapist.
GENERAL JORGE RAFAEL VIDELA
President of Argentina
Soon after the coup that brought him to power in 1976 General Jorge Rafael Videla began Argentina's dirty war. All political and union activities were suspended, wages were reduced by 60%, and dissidents were tortured by Nazi and US-trained military and police. Survivors say the torture rooms contained swastikas and pictures of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. One year after Videla's coup, Amnesty International estimated 15,000 people had disappeared and many were in secret detention camps, but although the U.S. press admitted human rights abuses occurred in Argentina, Videla was often described as a "moderate' who revitalized his nation's troubled economy. Videla had a good public relations firm in the U.S., Deaver and Hannaford, the same firm used by Ronald Reagan, Taiwan, and Guatemala. Videla also received aid from the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), through its affiliate, CAL (Confederation AntiCommunists Latinoamericana). CAL sent millions of dollars to Argentina from the US, including old anti-communist organizations with alliances with the Italian drug mafia. As part of its WACL affiliation, Argentina trained Nicaraguan contras for the US. Videla left office in 1981, and after the Falklands Crisis of 1982, he and his cohorts were tried for human rights abuses by the new government.
MOHAMMED ZIA UL-HAQ
Presldent of Pakistan
In 1979, when General Mohammod Zia Ul-Haq executed his elected predecessor, Zulfigar Ali Bhutto, and declared martial law, drugs were unknown in Pakistan, but by 1984 Pakistan was furnishing 70% of the world's high grade heroin. That same year, George Bush addressed a group of Pakistani officials and praised the government of President Zia for its anti-narcotics program. However, among the guests listening to Vice-President Bush were many high ranking officials with links to one of the most lucrative heroin syndicates in the world. Although the US government had some very capable drug enforcement agents in Pakistan, they did not break even one narcotics case there. A senior Pakstani narcotics officer said he had concluded the US was unwilling to press for arrests that might embarrass a government so closely tied to Washington. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called Pakistan a "frontline state" defending "free people everywhere'. That may explain why despite its unsavory record of jailing and torturing dissidents, Pakistan under Zia was the largest recipient of US. aid, receiving over $3 billion in 1982, of which over half was for weapons. Zia eventually lifted martial law and called for general elections in 1985. However, many of his outspoken opponents were jailed during the elections and for several days afterward. Zia died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988, and the political party of his predecessor then formed a government behind the late President Bhutto's daughter Benazir Bhutto.
Most of this information is from:
authors - Dennis Bernstein and Laura Sydell
Eclipse Enterprises, 1995
PO Box 1099, Forestville, CA 95436
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