7 Modern Dictators Way Crazier Than You Thought Possible
History is loaded with power-hungry dickweeds who rule over their countries' fearful populations like the Predator in a laser tag match. Oftentimes these people are infamous not just for their cruelty, but also for their bafflingly insane and self-indulgent antics.
Francois Duvalier -- President for Life of Haiti
Also known as "Papa Doc," Francois Duvalier was President for Life of Haiti until 1971. Among other things, Papa Doc claimed to be the Voodoo spirit of death, Baron Samedi. This kind of hubris is exactly what you want in your elected officials.
Baron Samedi, in terms we all understand.
Well, who are we to mock someone based on his religion? There are probably noncrazy Voodoo practitioners, just like with any other faith. And sure, maybe he made the people recite a bastardized version of the Lord's Prayer with his own name inserted ("Our Doc, who art in the National Palace for life ...), but he's surely not the first dictator to do that.
Sometimes evil looks like a high school principal.
But after a heart attack plunged him into a nine-hour coma in 1959 that left him with massive brain damage, things kind of went downhill. He demanded that his temporary successor, Clement Barbot, be arrested, but when they couldn't find Barbot, Papa Doc's people told him that they believed he had transformed into a large black dog.
Understandably, Papa Doc ordered the deaths of all black dogs, because as we have mentioned, he was fucking insane. Eventually Barbot was caught and executed, and Papa Doc kept his head. You know, for Voodoo.
In 1961, he ordered new elections despite the fact that his "term" wasn't up until 1963. The move completely baffled everybody until the results of the election, which saw Papa Doc win with 100 percent of the votes. Evidently he just wanted to make sure everyone understood that he just didn't give a fuck.
What happened to him?
Papa Doc eventually died in 1971 of natural causes, but not before telling the world that he alone was responsible for John F. Kennedy's assassination by way of a Voodoo curse. He even sent someone to Kennedy's grave to collect the air around it so he could use it in a spell to control Kennedy's soul. By all accounts, Voodoo is kind of awesome.
Was Oswald possessed by a Voodoo demon? Probably.
Saparmurat Niyazov -- President of Turkmenistan
Niyazov was president of Turkmenistan and later promoted himself to President for Life. He seized power after the breakup of the Soviet Union, filling the vacuum left by Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. He also looked like Emeril Lagasse.
Niyazov had a penchant for renaming things. He renamed the months of the year, with January named "Turkmenbashi," which means Father of the Turkmen, a name he gave himself. He also changed the names of the days of the week to things like "Young Day" and "Spirituality Day" ("Twinkie Twin Day" was presumably discussed but ultimately not selected). He also changed the word "bread" to "Gurbansoltan" which incidentally was the name of his mother, suggesting that one of his fantasies was to see his mother eaten alive by poor people.
Niyazov outlawed beards on men and makeup on television anchors, and prohibited both chewing tobacco and lip-syncing on Turkmenistan soil. In lieu of tobacco, he suggested that people chew on bones, which he argued would strengthen their teeth. The types of bones and how to obtain them were left to the imagination of the populace.
This Neutrality Arch includes a golden statue of Niyazov that rotates to face the sun. For reals.
He also wrote a book called Ruhnama, which meant "Book of the Soul." Students were required to study it in schools and mosques had to give it equal respect to the Quran or be demolished. Memorization of the book was even required for getting a driver's license. Niyazov told his people that as a result of a pact made between him and Allah, anybody who read his book three times would automatically go to heaven.
If you read it four times, Def Leppard will sing a song at your birthday party.
Then in 2005, Niyazov launched a copy of it into space for aliens to read. This is as good a time as any to mention that Niyazov was illiterate.
Finally, to cement his legacy of batshit lunacy, he ordered that an ice palace be built in the capital of Turkmenistan, which as you may know is a desert country.
What happened to him?
Niyazov's life was marred by assassination attempts that probably surprised nobody but himself. But blessed by the spirits of the Turkmen, he escaped every one of them before dying of cardiac arrest in 2006, which may have been a result of being poisoned, presumably by some 16-year-old Turkman who failed his driver's license exam.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to memorize the kind of book an illiterate man writes?"
Rafael Trujillo -- Dictator of the Dominican Republic
A military strongman ruling the Dominican Republic with an iron fist, Rafael Trujillo (or "El Jefe") seized power in 1930 through a rigged election in which he gave himself more votes than voters, because why not?
"I'll take a chest full of medals, while we're at it."
Trujillo then appointed his 3-year-old son Ramfis as a colonel, because being a military commander himself he realized this was a strategic masterpiece. Then he organized a $30 million event called the Fair of Peace and Fraternity of the Free World to crown his daughter queen -- an event that lasted an entire year and vaporized one-third of the national budget. At the same fair, his nearly illiterate wife was honored as a "writer and philosopher," and Trujillo went on to campaign for her to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, which would've made her the first person in history to win the award for absolutely no reason.
Trujillo renamed the capital, multitudes of roads, buildings, bridges and even freaking mountains after himself. He required every license plate to say "Viva Trujillo" and every church to feature the phrase "Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra" (God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth).
Something about that tree makes us deeply uncomfortable.
Following that, El Jefe erected a massive electric sign in the capital that said "Dios y Trujillo." Years later, he would go on to increase the size of the sign and also promote his son to general.
What happened to him?
In 1961, a group of about 11 people ambushed El Jefe, killed him and kicked his family out of the country. The CIA may or may not have been involved, but ostensibly his people were just tired of him being such a raging dickhead.
Muammar Gaddafi -- Dictator of Libya
Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969 when he was just 27. Immediately following that, he expelled all Italians from his country, because fuck Italy. He gave up the post of prime minister just three years later in 1972 and started calling himself "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution" and "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya," because this is somehow easier to stencil on your office door.
He thought it would impress Putin. He was wrong.
Gaddafi started dressing in totally ridiculous clothes and makeup and decreed that all his bodyguards had to be female virgins, no doubt to insulate himself against rape attacks.
While on a friendship visit to Italy in 2010, he gave a lecture exclusively to women (who were all paid to attend) in which he said that all of Europe should convert to Islam and that the European Union should pay him "at least 5 billion euros a year" to put a stop to illegal immigration from Libya.
And in a two-hour-long rambling speech at the U.N. that saw the walking out of several delegates and the spontaneous combustion of scores of others, Gaddafi expressed support for Somali pirates, called Barack Obama "my son" and claimed that Israel was responsible for JFK's assassination. At the end of the speech, Gaddafi also added that his people had jet lag.
"Seriously, I can barely keep my eyes open."
What happened to him?
Gaddafi is still in power. He even bought a stake in Juventus F.C., a top Italian football club, just to be a dick. He also petitioned the U.N. to dissolve Switzerland and split the land among Germany, France and Italy, which is probably an indication that he is about to ban the Swiss from his country.
This is either a bad stroke or a good trip.
Mobutu -- Dictator of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Born Joseph-Desire Mobutu, the Congolese general seized power in 1965. Mobutu thought of himself as some sort of demigod and forced the evening news to begin with a scene of him descending from the clouds -- and forbade the newscaster to mention anybody but him by name.
Partly cloudy with a chance of narcissism.
Mobutu prohibited anybody else from wearing leopard-print hats and carried around a wooden cane that he claimed took the strength of eight men to carry.
"Just wait until I flex. You aren't even going to believe it."
Furthermore, Mobutu imprisoned people who did not have African names and changed his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga ("The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake"). Then he paid Muhammad Ali and George Foreman $5 million each to fight in his country to give it more recognition in the world. Muhammad Ali famously said, "Some countries go to war to get their names out there, and wars cost a lot more than $10 million."
This is a nice way of saying that Mobutu spent $10 million on something that costs about 50 bucks to watch on pay per view.
We don't want to know what the hats cost him.
What happened to him?
In 1996, Mobutu ordered all Congo people of Tutsi descent to leave the country. The Tutsis responded by exploding into rebellion. Everybody in the country joined in and Mobutu fled to Togo. He died of prostate cancer in 1997, allowing the people of Congo to wear leopard-print hats once more.
Above: More crazy than should ever be in one room.
Francisco Macias Nguema -- President of Equatorial Guinea
The son of a witch doctor, Nguema started with the humble position of mayor before becoming president of Equatorial Guinea in 1968. He banned the word "intellectual," shut down private schools and drove educated people out of his country because he had some sort of vendetta against book learning. Then he shut down several hospitals in favor of his witch doctor ancestry and, well, you can guess how that went.
Everyone looks sane on a stamp.
He even banned the use of lubricants in a power plant, saying that he could keep the place running with his magic powers. Unsurprisingly, the plant broke down, and the entire capital was engulfed in darkness.
He frequently indulged in bhang, a drink made from marijuana, and often dined with imaginary friends and executed imaginary enemies, two activities known in America as "playing video games."
Hallucinations and video games go together like hallucinations and governing nations.
In 1971, Nguema declared himself the Grandmaster of Education, Science and Culture and changed the national motto to "There is no other God than Macias Nguema." To top it all off, Nguema killed the governor of the public bank and hid all the money in his jungle shed.
What happened to him?
Nguema's own nephew ousted him in a long-overdue coup. He was executed by firing squad in 1979, because evidently his magical powers did not extend to the stopping of bullets.
"What a gyp."
Kim Jong Il -- Dictator of North Korea
Yes, we've written entire articles about the craziness of Kim's North Korea. We could devote the entire site to it.
Shine on, you crazy-ass diamond.
Kim Jong Il took control of North Korea in 1998 after his father's death. Aside from that fact, just about everything else he claims about himself is a ridiculous lie.
He built a town called Kijong-Dong right smack in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. He claims it is a 200-family collective farm serviced by myriad amenities, but in actuality there are no people in it, and the buildings are just empty shells without floors or windows. The whole thing just exists as a farce to try to trick South Koreans into defecting. Propaganda is broadcast by loudspeakers almost constantly, and a small crew works around the clock to preserve the illusion that people actually live there, sort of like Frontierland at Disney World.
Putin still wasn't impressed.
Kim referred to Coca-Cola as the "cesspool water of American capitalism" and told his people that he invented the hamburger. He even built a hamburger factory, saying "I've made up my mind to feed quality bread and french fries to university students, professors and researchers even if we are in (economic) hardship." Go back and read that sentence again.
And according to North Korean news sources, Kim is the greatest golfer in the history of existence. He routinely finishes 38 under par, and he averages four or five holes-in-ones per game. He is rumored to spend $350,000 a year on brandy. He claims to have been born in a log cabin, his birth marked by the appearance of a double rainbow.
He is said to travel with a pack of beautiful women he refers to as his "Pleasure Squad." One witness says he's a huge fan of James Bond films but thinks they are documentaries.
Presumably, he thinks British people are ageless mutants.
Seriously, we're just going to randomly stop there. It goes on and on.
What happened to him?
Kim is still in power, but he's suffered from all manner of health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure. Along with Kim's physical condition, his grip on power is slipping. Hence, he sought to cement his legacy by installing a successor before his health deteriorated further. Kim's youngest son, Jong Un, was chosen in favor of his older brother, Jong Nam, who fell out of favor after a particularly embarrassing incident in Tokyo when he tried to go to Disneyland using a forged Dominican Republic passport with the Chinese name "Fat Bear."
Oh, and at least one expert thinks he died five years ago and that what you've seen since is just an equally crazy imposter. So there's also that.
The Yeonpyeongdo shellings ... ordered by Kim Jong Il's ghost?
Ethan Lou is a freelance writer. He blogs at ethanethan.tumblr.com and you can contact him at email@example.com.
For more activities by crazy leaders, check out 6 Brutal Leaders And Their Ridiculous Secret Hobbies. Or learn about what creatures have lived in the White House, in 7 Badass Animals Presidents Have Kept As Pets.
And stop by Linkstorm to play online poker with Kim Jong Il.
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