- By Jai Singh
I’m not naive enough to think that the administration rhetoric on freedom applies to all countries. But still, look who Secretary Rice hosted this week.
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Welcome. I’m very pleased to welcome the President of Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang.[…]
PRESIDENT OBIANG: (Via interpreter) I thank you so much. We have extremely good relations with the United States. Our country has had good relations with the United States for a very long time and my visit here is simply in order to consolidate and also to establish further ties of cooperation with your country.[…]
Equatorial Guinea’s country’s state-run radio called Obiang “God” in 2003. The 2005 State Department report on the country says: “The government’s human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit or condone serious abuses.” Obiang came in at number 10 on this year’s Parade list of the world’s 10 worst dictators:
According to a United Nations inspector, torture “is the normal means of investigation” in Equatorial Guinea. There is no freedom of speech, and there are no bookstores or newsstands. The one private radio station is owned by Obiang’s son. Since major oil reserves were discovered in Equatorial Guinea in 1995, Obiang has deposited more than $700 million into special accounts in U.S. banks.
But then again, the State Department’s background note on Equatorial Guinea probably explains why we’re not bothering to fuss about Obiang’s human rights record:
Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest producer of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves are located mainly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea, containing estimated probable reserves as high as 10% of the world total. As a result, large amounts of foreign investment primarily by U.S. companies have poured into the country’s oil sector in recent years.
Hey, we’ve gotta fill our tanks with gas from somewhere.
My best news Googling effort has produced only one mention of this obvious dissonance this week — by David Koehler of the PhillyBurbs.com Blogs. Mother Jones has two pieces to provide more background: this profile by Peter Maass and a piece by Dave Gilson on Obiang’s role in the Riggs Bank scandal.
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |