The U.S. relationship with Hosni Mubarak's government in Egypt highlights the State Department's pattern of backing oppressive leaders in order to preserve stability. Here are five instances of this diplomatic juggling act:
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam: As head of the Communist Party, the only party allowed to rule in Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung oversaw more restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly last year, according to Human Rights Watch. Like China, Vietnam filters the internet within the country. Last July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Obama administration was ready to move to the "next level" of close relations with Vietnam despite "profound differences" over human rights, according to the Washington Post.
President Hu Jintao, China: In a highly publicized state visit to the U.S. last month, Hu Jintao acknowledged human rights issues within his own country and said there was “a lot to be done.” The focus of the visit, however, centered around opportunities for U.S. job creation through business partnerships with the Communist nation.
King Abdullah II, Jordan: Democracy did not follow Abdullah’s ascension to the throne, despite hopes that the Western-educated leader would initiate reforms. But today, in response to Jordanian protests triggered by the uprising in Egypt, the King dissolved his Cabinet and appointed former premier Marouf al-Bakhit as prime minister. Although al-Bakhit did not alleviate oppression during his 2005-2007 tenure, he supports strong ties with the U.S. and Jordan's peace treaty with Israel, according to the Associated Press. AFP reports that Jordan’s poverty rate may be as high as 25 percent.
President René Prèval, Haiti: Following Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to Port-Au-Prince, U.S. officials said President René Prèval may stay in power past the date his term was set to expire if election results are not settled. Prèval was criticized for being absent during much of the turmoil after the January 2010 earthquake, but he issued a decree to grant necessary powers to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), of which former President Bill Clinton was a co-chair. Another concern is the return of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, Prèval recently said that Duvalier, who has been in exile over human rights violations, “[is] so far not charged, but only under investigation.”
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen:
Following Mobarak’s move, the Yemeni President, who has been an ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, announced Wednesday that he too will not be seeking re-election. Saleh took power by force in a military coup in 1978 and has ruled Yemen, one of the world’s least stable countries, as a unified entity since 1991. A close ally of Saddam Hussein, Saleh postponed elections of the Yemeni parliament for two years in 2009. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, the U.S. has kept Saleh as an ally to reduce the risk that instability in the country empowers terrorist groups like the one behind the Christmas Day bomb plot in 2009.