Where do totalitarian leaders go for state visits these days?
That was the question recently faced by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And who could blame Ahmadinejad for wanting to get away from Tehran for a while? Sometimes after a tough week of developing nuclear weapons, planning the blockage of international shipping channels and condemning American tourists to death, a tyrannical leader just needs some time to be alone with his thoughts.
But where can despots go to get away from the daily grind of oppression and just hang out with like-minded kooks?
Why, Cuba, of course.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent his Latin American “solidarity” tour to Havana this week shortly after the United States toughened sanctions on his government. It was a whirlwind stop for the president. He dropped by the University of Havana and, after giving a speech denouncing capitalism and America, received an honorary doctorate.
Following his rousing address, “Dr.” Ahmadinejad visited with Fidel Castro for several hours and reportedly said, “It was a great motive of joy for me to find [Castro] sane and healthy” — a statement that makes you wonder who Ahmadinejad hangs out with back home in Tehran.
Imagine the two human rights abusers, lighting up cigars and knocking it back dictator-to-dictator, old-school style. Ahmadinejad probably started with a joke about how he denied the Holocaust. Castro responding by denying the number of Cubans he has killed since coming to power.
Those crazy authoritarians.
Sanctioned soul brothers
It is no coincidence that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed up in Havana days after being slapped with additional sanctions by the Obama administration. He went to Cuba for a reason.
Cuba has been dealing with American sanctions since the early 1960s. If you want to laugh in the face of American leaders, head to Cuba. Fidel Castro and his little brother Raul have been thumbing their collective nose at American leaders for a half-century.
Despite 50 years of American sanctions, the Castro boys have killed upwards of 18,000 political opponents. Another 7,000 dissidents have died in Cuban jails. As many as 50,000 Cubans have lost their lives trying to escape. Gay Cuban males have been routinely sent to concentration camps.
An American, Alan Gross, was held in jail for over a year without charges. His eventual conviction in a Cuban kangaroo court would be considered a miscarriage of justice in any country with even nominal respect for the rule of law. In Cuba, the Gross sham was simply business as usual.