OUR AGE

The authoritarian leaders who are eagerly awaiting a Trump presidency

Obsession
2016
Obsession
2016

Since Donald Trump won the US presidential elections, he has been receiving congratulations from world leaders.

While that’s to be expected, the enthusiasm for a Trump presidency from leaders with less-than-stellar human rights records has raised some eyebrows. Some of them, such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, seem hopeful for a US president who won’t interfere with how they govern their countries. Others, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, believe relations between their countries and the US will improve under Trump.

Here are some authoritarian leaders who have expressed support for Trump:

1. Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte, who’s earned a nickname as “Trump of the East,” said he would welcome the opportunity to be friends with Trump. “I can always be a friend to anybody especially to a president, a chief executive of another country,” he said, adding Trump “has not meddled in the human rights.”

That’s a big plus in Duterte’s book, who has made no secret of his feelings around human rights. “If it involves human rights, I don’t give a shit,” he said in October. Since coming into office this year, he’s waged a bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands, including children and innocent people.

In December, Duterte recounted a conversation he had with Trump, in which the US president-elect praised how he was governing the Philippines: “You’re doing great. I know what’s your worry about these Americans criticizing you. You are doing good, go ahead.”

2. Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko

The man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” reached out to congratulate Trump just hours after his victory (paywall). Lukashenko, who has jailed opponents and crushed opposition marches over the past 21 years, said Trump was helping return the US “to real democracy” and that his victory was “testimony to the American people’s choice in favor of a politics based on honesty, responsibility, and a search of change.”

3. Cambodian prime minister Samdech Hun Sen

The prime minister who has ruled Cambodia with an iron fist for three decades endorsed Trump in November because “Trump is a businessman” who “would not want to have war.”

Hun Sen is known for cracking down on opposition groups and was accused by a political analyst of shooting and killing an activist this July. In November, he congratulated Trump, writing on his Facebook page: “I believe that the policies of the Republican Party, which offered value to the freedom of humanity … would continue to be warm and firm for democracy, rights, and freedom of Khmer people in Cambodia.”

4. Russian president Vladimir Putin

Since Trump won the election in November, Putin has come out to say he is willing to “restore” relations between Russia and the US. “During my recent telephone conversation with Mr. Donald Trump, our opinions coincided that the current, unsatisfactory state of Russia-US relations, undoubtedly must be straightened out,” Putin said at a foreign policy conference in Moscow on Dec. 7.

Indeed, Russia appeared to be so eager for a Trump presidency that it may have intervened with the US presidential election, as some members from the CIA and National Security Administration have recently suggested.

5. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

To Assad, Trump is a “natural ally.”

“We cannot tell anything about what he’s going to do, but if, let’s say if, he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries,” the Syrian president said in an interview with Portuguese state TV RTP this November. Trump has said the US’s problem is not Assad (paywall), whose brutal war tactics have involved the use of chemical weapons, and that he would prefer to work with Russia, and thus Assad, to defeat ISIL.

6. Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza

After the US election, Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza tweeted the following to Trump:

Nkurunziza has ruled the landlocked East African country for more than 10 years and won a third term in a disputed election in 2015. He has been accused of torturing and murdering government opponents, according to a United Nations report released in September, which found “widespread and systemic patterns of violations” of human rights abuses.

7. Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, who has been ruling Zimbabwe for 36 years, has long endorsed Trump.

In his congratulation message to Trump, Mugabe said “as a government, we were quite happy listening to Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech.” He also believes a Trump presidency will help restore relations between Zimbabwe and the US. According to the Human Rights Watch, the 92-year-old’s government continues to rely on old laws instead of its new constitution, allowing police to violate basic rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly.

8. North Korea

Kim Jong-un hasn’t gone so far as to publicly endorse Trump, but a May column on North Korea’s state mouthpiece DPRK gave Trump a glowing endorsement, noting he’s “not the rough-talking, screwy, ignorant candidate they say he is.” The piece, allegedly written by a Korean scholar living in China named Han Yong Muk, argued that Trump could free America from “living every minute and second on pins and needles” in fear of a nuclear attack from Pyongyang.

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