Large-scale corruption and economic crimes often go hand in hand with mass human rights abuses in authoritarian countries. The two are mutually reinforcing: Dictators gain and maintain power—and perpetuate impunity—through a combination of violent repression and the distribution of patronage and graft opportunities. The plunder of public wealth serves as both an incentive for retaining power by force, and a means of rewarding those who carry out or cover up regime crimes. Despite this connection, the mechanisms of transitional justice have not adequately dealt with the legacy of authoritarian corruption nor remedied its far-reaching socioeconomic effects.
China’s ruling Communist Party boasts an increasingly intrepid army and navy, an expanding web of international energy pipelines and other trade links, and a suite of generously funded media companies with bureaus around the world. But unlike past empires, Beijing’s true strength does not derive from its ability to project force and soft-power influence overseas. Instead, particularly when dealing with developed nations and their citizens, the party has imposed its will by squatting at the gates of the massive Chinese economy and issuing demands as the price of admission.
It has been less than four months since heavily manipulated elections gave Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party complete control over the executive and a supermajority in Parliament, and already the international community is signaling that it is ready to move on. Admittedly, other countries in Africa pose more urgent threats in terms of war, terrorism, and mass atrocities, but Mugabe’s return to unfettered power in Zimbabwe could erase the democratic and economic gains the country has achieved over the past five years.
More than 100 days after he stole his latest reelection, it is safe to say that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has gotten away with the crime. Other leaders in the region may be studying his methods, which makes it all the more important for democracy advocates to do the same.
Ecuador’s government is preparing to move forward with an oil-drilling project that will disrupt the life of indigenous tribes and damage the country’s—and the world’s—ecological patrimony. Although a significant number of Ecuadorians oppose the decision, the administration’s repressive policies toward the media and civil society are preventing an open debate.
Five years ago, the Maldives elected a new leader, Mohamed Nasheed, in the first free and fair balloting in the country’s history. But Nasheed was forced from office in 2012, and with his political and institutional rivals now threatening to scuttle fresh elections this weekend, the democratic gains of recent years hang in the balance.
Last Monday, a jeep plowed through a group of pedestrians on Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square, killing at least five people and injuring dozens before going up in flames beneath a portrait of Mao Zedong. Chinese officials promptly took control of the narrative, claiming that the event was a premeditated attack by members of the Uighur ethnic group, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from China’s northwest. Lest anyone suggest otherwise, the authorities arrested foreign journalists covering the scene and promptly censored discussions on Chinese social networks.