There are three dictatorships rising in the world (one’s rather old, but it’s worth a look) that are “new” to a degree but still consolidate power under one central source, and I thought it would be worthwhile to look at how they came to power.
1) Venezuela and Hugo Chavez: All democracy shams aside, Chavez is putting his Populist posterior in for life, and he’s getting there through a very familiar source: demonization of a convenient enemy. Chavez is now warning people that the US is going to invade the country, annex the oil, and turn the population over to Guantanimo medical researchers for experiments on making robot slaves. Maybe not the last part. But the rest is true. Some are even reporting that Hugo is planning an invasion with all of the recent orders of Russian military equipment. (The Purple Avenger says it’s Curaco, and I wouldn’t doubt it considering Hugo’s buying submarines.)
Hugo’s been demonizing the West for a while, cleverly selling us the oil we so desperately need. He knows there’s no invasion anytime soon, but it’s a clever front for selling massive arms purchases to his loyal fans. And the opposition? Quietly suppressed. I wonder how many have been secretly arrested. But you won’t hear that on Common Dreams. They’re all thinking, “My God, Chavez is right! Bush is going to invade Venezeula!” (In their defense, they think Bush is going to invade everyone at some point of time.)
But let’s go through the dictator checklist for Chavez. Consolidation of power? Check. Easy enemy to blame all nations problems on? Check. Suppression of the opposition? Check.
All that’s missing is an appointment as Leader for Life, and I have a sneaking suspicion that can’t be more than a year away.
2) Russia. Vladimir Putin, duly elected ex-KGB President of Russia has been slowly rebuilding the Kremlin into an institution with one sole purpose– energy domination of Asia through the national company Gazprom. I’ve been blogging about Gazprom for a while, and their energy resources are large enough that they can influence policy in other nations. They’re even planning on energy deliveries to the UK, which I counter with a “No, don’t do it!” Oil, natural gas, coal– it runs the region. And let’s face it, natural resources are the only industry that Russia can compete with on a global level.
When Russia started seizing (I mean, nationalizing) foreign-based oil and gas platforms, you had to think something was up. And indeed, something is up.
Putin has even been eliminating people who could be costly for him. Polonium poisoning? Wow.
He plans on stepping down at the end of his current term (there’s a two-term limit), but he hasn’t ruled out a 2012 return to office. In the meantime, he and his party can prop up a useful idiot to do their bidding, all the while having Putin pulling the strings. In the meantime, Gazprom grows larger, slowly consolidating all Eurasian energy sources and making the region dependent upon its untapped natural resources.
As for a common enemy, Putin’s been putting it to the West for a variety or reasons, and he’s probably selling it big back home with his controlled media. The US is an old enemy, so the sell isn’t hard, and people will rally behind their nationalistic dreams.
Dicatorship checklist: Consolidation of power? Check. Demonizing a common enemy? Check. Suppression of opposition/press? Check. Dictator for life? No, but that doesn’t mean he’s not running things from the shadows– a perfect place for an ex-KGBer.
3) Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is a little tougher to call, as Mahmoud has certainly lost much popularity recently. One important facet of a successful rise to power to make sure the people think they’re better off after you’ve taken over.
Mahmoud is certainly sticking it to the Jews, and he and his hard-line Islamist religious backers have made no secret of their disdain for Israel. The common enemy is an old one and easy to rally against, but the economy has really suffered under the diversion of infrastructure to the nuclear program. Gas prices have skyrocketed and there’s been a crackdown on the “un-Islamic” in their nation. Unfortunately, you don’t score many points when you’re arresting suspected Israeli spies and women who aren’t being as totally modest as they should be at the same time. The moral equivalency falls flat, and it really seems to resonate with the Iranian people.
Mahmoud was very popular at first, and his rise to dictatorship seemed to be fast-tracked by the clerics and people. He consolidated power (well, the power was pretty much already centralized), suppressed opposition, and controlled the press, especially the foreign press who called him a “master diplomat”. But he hasn’t secured the population yet, and until he does, he’s going to have problems that could culminate in a revolution. The “modesty patrols” are the tip of the iceberg– those who aren’t hardcore Muslims in the eyes of the Ayatollahs are going to be the first who are rounded up. And guess who aren’t hardcore Islamists? People who don’t wear the traditional clothing.
So begins the crackdown on the rabble who oppose Mahmoud and his Clerics. Will there be a subsequent revolution? Only time will tell.