For the Sake of Stability: More Leaders with Questionable Human Rights Records, Supported by the U.S.

President Obama, right, speaks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 1, 2010.
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Julia Edwards
Feb. 1, 2011, 12:32 p.m.

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:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, left, shakes hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as they meet in Hanoi on November 14, 2010. STR/AFP/Getty Images

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 Obama, right, and First Lady Michelle Obama stand alongside Chinese President Hu Jintao, center, upon his arrival on the North Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2011, prior to hosting a State Dinner. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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.

President Obama, right, meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House September 1, 2010, in Washington, D.C. Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

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.”

Haitian President Rene Garcia Preval, left, and former U.S. President and U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton chat during the opening session of the 'International Donors' Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti' at United Nations headquarters March 31, 2010, in New York City. Mario Tama/Getty Images
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks to the press at the Chancellery on February 27, 2008, in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Marcel Mettelsiefen/Getty Images

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.


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