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Published by Mary | Filed under International Economy
When it comes to politics, everyone has an opinion, even if that opinion is: they don’t like politics. A wise “unknown author” once said, “Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason”. The following list will cover some of history’s most corrupt leaders and politicians. The World Bank defines corruption ” as the abuse of public power for private benefit”. However, for the purpose of this list, the term political corruption will go further, to pertain to any form of abuse of power or deviation from a sound government system.
N.B. This list could easily have surpassed twenty-one.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (a.k.a Caligula)
Years in Power: 37 CE – 41 CE
Emperor Caligula began his political career as an admired leader, but took a turn for the worse after falling very ill in the first two years of his rule. Though he recovered, he became cruel and insane. Caligula had his wife banished and his father-in-law, Marcus Silanus and his cousin, Tiberius Gemellus commit suicide. He tried to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul and a priest. He introduced heavy taxation to pay for his personal expenditures, created a tax on prostitutes and opened a brothel in a wing of the imperial palace. “Comments that he could easily order the death of magistrates, or slit the throats of lovers were common.” [Source].
William Marcy Tweed (Boss Tweed)
Years in Power: 1853-1855
Country: United States
Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City. He built his power in Tammany Hall through the appointment and election of his friends- known as the “Tweed Ring”. Tweed was convicted for stealing between $40 million and $200 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption (based on the inflation rate of the dollar since 1870 of 2.7%, approximately 1.5 and 8 billion 2009 dollars). The “Tweed Ring” managed to steal the money by faking leases, padding bills with false changes and paying for unnecessary repairs and overpriced goods and services bought from suppliers controlled by the ring. Tweed died in the Ludlow Street Jail in 1855. [Source].
Years In Power: 1922-1953
Country: Soviet Union
According to official records that were brought to light after the collapse of the Soviet Union, under Stalin’s regime, approximately 30 million lives were claimed. 800,000 political and criminal prisoners were executed; around 1.7 million deaths in the Gulags (state security that operated the penal system) and some 390,000 deaths during kulak (independent farmers) forced resettlement. Stalin’s forced-famine known as the Holodomor (death by hunger) which took place in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine between 1932-1933 was one of the most horrendous crimes against humanity- considered perhaps, the most extreme example of the use of food as a weapon to eradicate a people. Stalin remains one of history’s most powerful and murderous dictators.
Years In Power: 1922-1943
Mussolini was one of the key figures in the creation of fascism. His foremost priority was the establishment of a totalitarian state where he would rule as the supreme leader (Il Duce). He was head of the Fascist Party, armed with his fascist militia, the “Balckshirts” who terrorizing resistance in cities and provinces throughout Italy. He would appoint himself in various ministries at once, as he see fit- from foreign affairs, defense, to public works, all the while holding the premiership. Mussolini used propaganda to advance his goals and “Italianize” the parts of the Italian Empire he was aiming to build. At first, Mussolini rejected much of Hitler’s ideas of biological racism- however, Hitler’s influence eventually took over and Mussolini systematically stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship, modeling his Manifesto of Race on the Nazi Nuremberg laws.
Maximiliano Hernández Martínez
Years in Power: 1931 to 1944
Country: El Salvador
Hernández Martínez’s military government was responsible for the murder of 10,000 to 40,000 indigenous people in the Salvadoran peasant revolt of 1932, led by Farabundo Marti. This massacre came to be known as La Matanza. His government was supported by the United States, and military aid and government grants was offered if needed. He also created a racial law to keep blacks out of the country.
Years in Power: 1933-1944 and again in 1952-1959
Under Batista’s corrupt and tyrannical regime, Havana became known as “the Latin Las Vegas”. He jailed his opponents, used terrorist methods and made fortunes for himself and his associates. Cuba became profitable for American business and organized crime with a close tie to Mafia boss Meyer Lansky helping to turn Havana into an international drug port. [Source]
Years In Power: 1934-1945
At least 50 million died under Hitler’s reign, including the eradication of over six million European Jews throughout the Holocaust. According to some scholars, the definition of the Holocaust should also include “the Nazis’ systematic murder of millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents”. [Source]. Thousands were shipped daily to extermination camps and concentration camps, either to be killed, forced into human experimentation or manual labor. Medical experiments on large numbers of prisoners by the Nazis, such as mustard gas experiments- where test subjects were exposed to mustard gas which inflicted severe chemical burns, freezing experiments, sterilization experiments, racial morphological experiments and other non-consented and autrocious experiments were designed and implemented in order to help German military in combat situations, to aid in recovery of injured soldiers and advance Third Reich racial ideology.
Years In Power: 1939-1975
Hundreds of thousands of people died of hunger in the early years of Francoism. Spain under Franco’s nearly 40 year dictatorship was marked by oppression and strong Spanish nationalism. Any cultural diversity that diverged from traditional, Catholic, conservative values were forbidden and subject to strict censorship. The legal usage of languages other than Spanish, such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque were prohibited. Spaniards and particularly children at school were told that the Divine Providence had sent Franco to save Spain from chaos and poverty. Even before the Nazis’ concentration camps, General Franco’s forces (helped by Germans) organized extermination camps in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. [Source]
Years In Power: 1943-1976
Country: People’s Republic of China
Under Mao’s direction, horrible forms of torture and killing took place. Mao’s policies are widely attributed to the deaths of 40 to 70 million people. Authors Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, of the book Mao: The Unknown Story argue that Mao’s economic and social plan, known as the Great Leap Forward, exasperated a widespread famine that resulted in millions of deaths. All private food production was banned, peasants were ordered to work on massive infrastructure projects and livestock and farm implements were brought under collective ownership. During the Cultural Revolution, schools in China were closed and students were forced to be “re-educated” by the peasants and perform hard manual labor. Mao created a cult of personality and forced his image upon the Chinese people in his Little Red Book, a collection of his political maxims.
Ngo Dinh Diem
Years in Power: 1955-1963
Country: Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
He was the President of South Vietnam and member of the Roman Catholic Church, yet in a country with an estimated 70 and 90 percent Buddhist majority, Diem’s policies were grossly religiously biased. His brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu was his chief adviser and any high level government positions were staffed by members of his own family. He pursued pro-Catholic policies that alienated Buddhists, imprisoning and killing hundreds of Buddhists alleging they were Communist insurgents, which finally persuaded the United States to withdraw its support from him.
Years in Power: 1957 to 1971
It is estimated that Duvalier was responsible for 30,000 deaths and the exile of thousands more. His regime was marked by corruption and state-sponsored terrorism through his private militia known as the Tonton Macoutes. Through the late 1950s to the middle 1960s this force continued to grow and was responsible for terrorizing and assassinating anyone thought to be an opponent of Duvalier. In the 1961 elections Duvalier altered the ballots to have his name placed at the top. Afterward he announced that his victory gave him another six years in office. [Source].
Years in Power: 1964-1979
Country: United States
Nixon has been the only American president to date to have resigned office after being implicated in the Watergate Scandal. Five men were arrested for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. It was later revealed that this burglary was one of many illegal activities authorized and carried out by Nixon’s staff. Improper tax audits, espionage, illegal wiretapping and a secret slush fund laundered in Mexico to pay those who conducted these operations were brought forward. Nixon had also approved a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia in March 1969, believed to be the headquarters of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam. Despite much resistance at home, Nixon implemented the Nixon Doctrine, where American troops were replaced with Vietnamese troops. This was yet another unfavorable move for his image.
Mobutu Sese Seko
Years in Power: 1965-1997
Mobutu led one of the most long-enduring dictatorial and corrupt regimes in Africa. Despite the country’s rich resources, Mobutu amassed a personal fortune of over $5 billion
while the country sank further and further into poverty. He exercised power with an iron fist, publicly executing political rivals, coup plotters, and other threats to his rule. They would be hung before large audiences, such as the former Prime Minister, Evariste Kimba. Mobutu’s rule earned him a reputation as one of the world’s foremost examples of kleptocracy (rule by thieves) and nepotism (favoritism). The nation suffered massive currency devaluations. Rebel forces led by Laurent Kabila expelled Mobutu from the country in 1997. He died on September 7, 1997, in exile in Rabat, Morocco.
Years in Power: 1965-1986
To this day, the Philippine government still pays interest in public debts incurred during Marcos’ administration. Handing out billions from the country’s wealth to friends, family (not to mention his wife’s 2,500 pairs of shoes), under his rule the nation was marred by authoritarian corruption, political repression and human rights violations. It was reported that when Marcos fled the Philippines, U.S. Customs agents discovered 24 suitcases of gold bricks and diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags and in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars.
Years in Power: 1965-1989
During Ceauşescu’s tenure, he was able to borrow more than $13 billion from the West to finance development programs, however, this eventually devastated Romania’s economy. Determined to be completely independent of the West he adopted a policy of “depressing consumption to pay off the foreign debt”. In the 1980s, Ceauşescu ordered the export of much of the country’s agricultural and industrial production. Shortages of food, as well as heating, gas and electricity black-outs became standard of living for almost a decade. Meanwhile, Ceauşescu would be “shown on state TV entering stores filled with food supplies, visiting large food and arts festivals where people would serve him mouthwatering food while praising the “high living standard” achieved under his rule”. [Source]. The debt was fully paid in the summer of 1989, yet years of suffering directly prompted the Romanian Revolution of 1989; a week-long series of violent riots and fighting. In late December 1989, Ceauşescu was overthrown and later executed by a firing squad of over one hundred volunteers.
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet
Years in Power: 1974-1990
Deep admirer of Spanish dictator Fransisco Franco, before appointing himself president in 1974, Pinochet ordered the slaughter of more than 3,000 Salvador Allende (then President of Chile) supporters; tens of thousands more were tortured or exiled. Two-and-a-half years after the death of General Augusto Pinochet, a report by the Chilean police task force charged with investigating money-laundering claimed that British authorities and the financial sector were complicit in hiding his massive ill-gotten fortune believed to amount to as much as £1billion. [Source]
Years in Power: 1976-2008
Castro was the primary leader of the Cuban Revolution. Many of his critics have described him as a dictator who constructed “repressive machinery” depriving Cubans of their basic human rights [Human Rights Watch]. After declaring Cuba socialist state in 1961, he abolished multiparty elections, closed down any opposition newspaper, and all radio and television stations were under state control. According to Paul H. Lewis, author of Authoritarian regimes in Latin America, “moderates, teachers and professors were purged. He [Castro] was accused of keeping about 20,000 dissents held captive and tortured under inhuman prison conditions every year.” Homosexuals were locked in concentration camps, Castro claiming they were “agents of imperialism. Though Cuba boasts some of the highest literacy rates and most effective healthcare systems in the world, it is also a repressed, authoritarian state with a poor human rights record.
Years In Power: 1979-2003
Saddam led Iraq through a nearly decade-long war with Iran (1980-1988). Throughout Hussein’s tenure he aimed to purge Iraq of any Iranian influence as well as the eventual elimination of Shi’ism. He believed the Kurds to be a threat to Iraq’s survival, and his administration called for the extermination of “every living thing–human or animal”–in certain regions of the Kurdish north. Up until the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Hussein was an ally of the United States. In 1959, Hussein was backed by a CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qassim. During the 1980’s, the Reagan administration offered Hussein financial credits that eventually made Iraq the third-largest recipient of U.S. assistance. However, at the onset of the Gulf War, over twenty different nations joined forces to defeat Hussein. Again, in 2003, coalition forces, led by the United States, invaded Iraq and Saddam was identified as the most-wanted man in Iraq. Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on December 13, 2003. On November 5, 2006, he was convicted of charges related to the executions of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites suspected of planning an assassination attempt against him, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Years in Power: 1979-Present
Country: Equatorial Guinea
Amnesty International and other human rights groups, including the UN, have cited gross human rights violations, torture of political prisoners, unfair trials as well as deplorable prison conditions. Medical analysis showed that detainees were given electric shocks from starter cables, beaten with rubberised cables and wooden bars, suspended with hands and feet tied together and had heavy weights attached to their bodies. Torture most often was used in an attempt to extract confessions or information, but also sometimes as punishment or to extort money.
Although Equatorial Guinea is a constitutional democracy Obiang’s Partido Democratido of Equatorial Guinea remains the only party in the country since 1987. His control over the media is rumored to be absolute. He is also criticized for nepotism, as he has appointed many family members to key government positions. [Source]
Years in Power: 1980- Present
Zimbabwe’s current President, Mugabe ranked No. 1 on Parade Magazine’s 2009 World’s Worst Dictators list. Once one of the richest countries in Africa, the policies of President Mugabe have been blamed for Zimbabwe’s state of economic chaos. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate has reached nearly 80 percent, manufacturing is at a halt and basic foods are in short supply.
George W. Bush
Years in Power: 2001-2009
Country: United States
Bush Jr. has been a widely controversial figure, considered the most unpopular American president after Richard Nixon. After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Bush announced a global War on Terrorism which has been claimed by many security experts, politicians and policy organizations to have been counterproductive and in fact aided terrorist recruitment, increased the likelihood of attacks against the U.S. and her allies. Oxford Research Group reported that a minimum of 62,570 civilian deaths have been reported in the mass media since April 28, 2007. 4000 U.S. military dead (March 26, 2008) and 22,401 wounded in action. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have often been accused of being the principal actors behind Bush’s policies and actions.The Bush administration has been highly suspect for government corruption, war profiteering and trillions of missing dollars.