Our Landlord the Torturer

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Over at Harper’s, Ken Silverstein reports that the U.S. government is paying $17,500 a month to a rent one of its overseas embassies from a known torturer. The torturer in question is Manuel Nguema Mba, the security minister of Equatorial Guinea, a tiny, oil-rich West African nation that, as Peter Maass wrote in an investigative story in Mother Jones last year, seems like a “parody of an oil kleptocracy,” where “a dictator, awash in petrodollars, enriches himself and his family while starving his people.”
In his article, Maass disclosed the rental deal with Mba (who’s the uncle of the country’s despot, Teodoro Obiang), but Silverstein adds some new wrinkles to the story. Despite reliable documentation from the U.N. and the State Department, our ambassador to E.G. has pled ignorance of Mba’s human-rights record. The Clinton-era ambassador is calling for an investigation into the deal.

Sadly, it’s not surprising that we’re giving $210,000 a year to a man who has overseen the torture of dissidents. Pay-to-play is the name of the game in E.G.—it’s a game that several American oil companies have played in order to get access to the country’s crude. (In one egregious—but not atypical—instance, Amerada Hess paid $445,800 in rent to a 14-year-old relative of Obiang.) And apparently it’s a game that the Bush administration doesn’t mind playing, either.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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