Countries ruled by one family

What do countries like Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Azerbaijan have in common? You will think that they are not examples of democracies, and that is true. But the key element is that they are States controlled by one family.

All over the planet, we find… Several instances of such political favoritism. The facts are far removed from the legacy of classical Greece, he explains Bruna Alvarezprofessor in the Department of Anthropology at UAB.

“They have nothing to do with their political traditions or their way of organizing power or managing themselves. There are many ways of organizing themselves politically based on what they call in anthropology clans.”

Let’s take a closer look at two of the clearest examples, which are still relevant today.

Deadlock to Equatorial Guinea

Teodoro Obiang Nguema is a non-royalist national leader who He has been in power for the longest time in the world. In 1979, he staged a coup to overthrow his uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema (left), President of Equatorial Guinea, at a 2022 election campaign event (Europe Press)

In Equatorial Guinea, there is a tendency for this They rely more on family alliances than politics. In fact, family members become political allies. Thus, Teodoro Obiang has three official wives with him He had many children, twenty of whom went through the government Or for public office.

The most famous of them is Teodorin, who follows a playboy lifestyle. He drives around Malabo in a replica of the Batmobile or uses a pocket submarine, often flaunting his wealth on social media.

He is the first child Constance Mango d’Obiang, President Obiang’s first wife, is a powerful woman who bets on him to be his successor. For this He has been appointed vice president.

However, Teodorin now presents himself as a statesman It raises suspicions in Equatorial Guinean society. For example, because he never married and had no children, he explains Gustao Nerrenprofessor of African history at UB.

“Equatorial Guineans believe that the proof of a man’s maturity is that he knows how to lead a family, and someone who cannot lead a family life will not be able to run a larger society.”

next to, Teodorin was convicted abroad for money laundering and corruption. for every Jose Luis NfumbaEquatorial Guinean lawyer exiled in Barcelona since the 1990s, this is a message.

“These sentences are warnings from countries with interests in Equatorial Guinea that Teodorin should not be the heir. I do not believe that if he ever takes power, he will remain like his father.”

Which is, according to Nfumba, that Teodoro’s father knows how to gauge powers better and is “able to control himself a little bit.” On the other hand, from his point of view, “Teodorin is an absolutely uncontrollable person.”

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Teodoro Nguema Obiang, Teodorin, shows off a spacesuit donated by the Russian Space Foundation (Europa Press)

the system He has destroyed the political opposition and has no idea about the public interestAs Nfumba explains: “Equatorial Guinea has become a banana republic, and the most important thing is to be a brother or son of Teodoro Obiang. Their priority is the good of the family and, if possible, to inherit the country’s wealth.”

Kwan Muri Obiang, The line won’t end. Experts expect an intense conflict, but not between the democratic sectors and the dictatorial sectors, but rather between the various branches of the family. This is what he refers to Bruna Alvarezprofessor in the Department of Anthropology at UAB.

“We know the family more, for good and for bad. We want to pass on to our children the continuity of our identity, which has a lot to do with memory, the way of doing things, as well as ensuring well-being. – Being offspring.”

Saudi Relief

in KSA, The Al Saud family has dominated the state since its founding. In fact, its power reaches the extreme The country was named after this clan: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is not a nuclear family or a few members, but a very extended family.

An entire framework born from the founder’s marriage Many women from different tribes to maintain pacts and alliancesfor this reason, When the caliphate comes, there is an alternation of power Among the most powerful tribes.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left) and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (center) (Europa Press)

clearly, However, the family does not differentiate between public and private heritageBecause it is so broad and you have to please many relatives, there are often internal conflicts, he explains Lourdes Vidal BertrandProfessor of International Relations at the Universidad Blancuerna Ramon Llull and the IBEI.

“All big important positions are trading cards that are distributed among the family. One way to maintain or balance power is to say: ‘I give you this ministry.’”

he the king Salman Officially, he has been president of the country since 2015, but he is Seriously ill and, in practice, does not exercise Your site: The king had thirteen children from two different women, and the one who has monopolized power since 2017 is the first child from the second wife: Mohamed Bin Salman.

He’s not even 40 years old, but he has been for seven years The Crown Prince and the nation’s strongman. It challenged the religious establishment with a process of openness and openness He was surrounded by his relatives, who overwhelmed him with the coup From the living room, when His cousins ​​were arrested They were imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.

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He confiscated their phones and took his cousin’s diabetes medication. This was marketed as a strike against corruption, but it was also a one-two punch Purge competitors.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters/Evelyn Hochstein)

in KSA Elections are never held thereThere are no political parties, so it is difficult to know how much real support the monarchy has.

Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a Saudi expert in financial economics, praises Bin Salman: “We love him very much. He has changed many things in society, in the economy, in the system, in culture… everything. That is why most of us young people love and admire him so much.”

In response to a question about allegations of human rights violations made by several organizations…

“I have a problem with these human rights organizations, because they are biased. What rights? We have a different model from others, and we are happy. I am Muhammad, I have all the rights: work, security, and my whole family is happy.”

but, yes, In Saudi Arabia, rights are violated.

Al-Qst Human Rights Organization, which has been documenting these violations from London for nearly a decade, condemns these violations. Repression against peaceful oppositionEspecially against freedom of expression.

There is no room for open criticism of the authorities. No street protests, no political parties are allowed, and the only space for dissent is the Internet.

And now, those who dare to make critical comments against Mohammed bin Salman or the government’s policies They are at risk of arrest. The Anti-Terrorism Law allows the identity of anonymous users on networks to be investigated and, if appropriate, to be sentenced to the maximum penalty, as happened with Muhammad Al-Ghamdi. Sentenced to death with only 10 followers in X (Old Twitter).

Sports bleaching

In recent years, the Saudi authorities have spent a lot of money on… Wash your face with exerciseEither by organizing international tournaments in football, tennis, and Formula 1…or by contracting with declining football stars, as he confirms. Joshua CooperDeputy Executive Director of ALQST.

“It’s sad that we have to go there and be used as a PR tool. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, whose contract stipulated that he had to publicize the reforms the regime was making on Instagram. Or also Messi, in his ‘ambassador’ role.”

For Cooper, it’s all for him Changing people’s perception of Saudi Arabia and ignoring human rights. In fact, if we ignore them, we can say so Bin Salman has opened the country to the world.

Since 2019, it has become possible to obtain a tourist visa, whereas previously it was only issued for work or pilgrimage to Mecca or Medina. In addition, entertainment was now permitted beyond religious strictness, for example, cinemas or exhibition halls were opened – where in some places such as the Red Sea city of Jeddah women could present their works.

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like him, The position of women has improved They obtained some rights a few years ago, he explains Alexander KuptxevWho traveled for three weeks in Saudi Arabia.

“Four years ago, they no longer have to wear the hijab, they can drive, and one thing is very important: they no longer need a guardian to open a checking account or do other things. They can do things without their wives’ approval.” Father or partner.

but, Those who demand more rights face years in prison. Most of the long sentences behind bars – up to 40 years – are for women demanding their freedom of expression on social media. The most symbolic case is that of the two sisters, Fawz Al-Atabi, who will be tried for wearing clothes considered “immodest.”

In parallel, Bin Salman established Vision 2030 to end dependence on oil and open the country to modernization through economic and social changes. However, the regime wants to convey an image of transformation and technological innovation.

The crown jewel is controversial A huge multi-million dollar project in the Red Sea called NEOM, a futuristic city with a capacity of 9 million people, was built from scratch in a desert that was, according to the authorities, uninhabited. But the truth is that the tribe has lived there for centuries, and many of its members are now in prison, accused of terrorism for opposing the project, or even died at the hands of regime forces.

US President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia (Bandar Al-Jaloud)

She’s been left behind The brutal murder and dismemberment of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi At the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Now, Saudi Arabia no longer attracts the same amount of international attention as it did in 2018 because of that crime.

Even the United States, Riyadh’s main protector, pointed to Mohammed bin Salman as being responsible. He then became an outcast, but over time, he was rehabilitated. Indeed, over the past two years, Biden, Macron, Sunak, Schulz, or more recently Pedro Sanchez, to name a few, have met or received the Saudi leader on the red carpet.

Oil pragmatism prevailed, which for decades allowed these long – and entrenched – lineages of leaders to remain in power.

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