Rice hosts notorious African dictator: “You are a good friend…”

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Image of “President” Teodoro Obiang, of Equatorial Guinea, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Bush and Rice aren’t too particular about their friends, as long as they have oil and know how to spread the freedom cash around:

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“Thank you very much for your presence here,” she cooed. “You are a good friend, and we welcome you.”

Since 2004, according to Department of Justice reports, Equatorial Guinea has paid Cassidy and Associates at least $120,000 per month to overhaul the country’s image.

Yet on the ground, improvements are hard to come by. Equatorial Guinea has one of the world’s highest incomes per capita, but in one of the 10 most corrupt nations on earth, little of that money trickles down. Obiang rules the country with an iron fist: According to State Department reports, suspects have been tortured to death and prisoners raped by police. Still, Cassidy has delivered results for Obiang in D.C. “A few years ago, at least U.S. officials wouldn’t talk about the relationship with Equatorial Guinea, or they would admit all the problems and horrible human rights abuses,” says Frank Ruddy, the former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. Now, he adds, “you would have thought this is Mother Teresa’s brother running Equatorial Guinea.”

Such makeovers are the result of sophisticated campaigns. In the past, dictatorships simply used lobbyists to court the mostly below-the-radar support of American politicians. But in the post-9/11 world of 24/7 media coverage of every human rights crackdown in Kazakhstan or every whisper of Saudi Arabia funding extremists, authoritarians need a different strategy—an intensive, crisis-management approach to PR. Like Angelina Jolie, who transformed her image from wild woman to paragon of charity, these dictators have rebranded themselves completely, using every avenue to promote their new images.

“The Saudis were the first to get this new era of PR,” says Kevin McCauley, editor of O’Dwyer’s Public Relations, the leading trade publication covering the PR industry. Shortly after 9/11, Saudi Arabia entered into a $14 million-a-year contract with Qorvis, a Washington PR firm…

I wonder how many PR subcontractors and PACs the money went through…..

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Filed under Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, economics, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Politics

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