One of the planet’s most despotic despots, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, ruler of tiny but oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and a star figure in the Riggs Bank scandal in 2004, may be dead. At last.
Unlike some of his prisoners, death didn’t occur through torture by stinging ants.
Afrol News is reporting the ailing Obiang’s “possible death or irreversible coma.” That’s the situation also of his little country.
The Bush regime has helped out Obiang in numerous ways (here’s Condi Rice with him in April 2006), and Obiang repaid the favors, at one time stashing some of his loot at Riggs National Bank in D.C., a former institution formerly owned by Bush family crony Joe Allbritton with a taste given to Dubya’s uncle Jonathan Bush.
For details of Obiang and Riggs, see my August 4, 2004 item “Yes, Protect the U.S. Treasury! Please!,” in which I noted:
The dangling thread that just this year  doomed Allbritton’s control of the bank was its link to Teodoro Obiang, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. He stashed millions of no-questions-asked dollars he got from — who else — U.S. oil companies in good ol’ Joe Allbritton’s friendly downtown D.C. bank, according to Senate investigators and others. When that was publicized in Senate hearings, thanks in large part to [Michigan senator Carl] Levin, the fabric of those expensive suits and ties inhabiting snooty Riggs Bank crumbled to dust.
As for Equatorial Guinea, well, people there are tortured by “stinging ants,” according to our own State Department. Let’s put that in context by quoting the entire sentence from the U.S. government’s 1998 report: “Police reportedly urinated on prisoners, kicked them in the ribs, sliced their ears with knives, and smeared oil over their naked bodies in order to attract stinging ants.”
The document continues, “According to credible reports, this torture was approved at the highest levels of the [Equatorial Guinea] Government and was directed by the chief of presidential security, Armengol Ondo Nguema, who is also President Obiang’s brother. Ondo Nguema allegedly taunted prisoners by describing the suffering that they were about to endure.”
U.S. oil companies have danced the tango with Obiang for years, as noted in the Washington Post‘s 2004 piece “U.S. Oil Firms Entwined in Equatorial Guinea Deals: Riggs Probe Led to SEC Inquiry on Corruption, Profiteering.”
But even those scandals didn’t stop our government from continuing to give Obiang a hand. Check out Ken Silverstein‘s August 9, 2006, Harper’s piece, “Obiang’s Banking Again: State Department and Washington insiders help a dictator get what he wants.” [via guinea-ecuatorial.net]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 13, 2008