Fifty Ways to Spot a Dictator

Lenin Ledo Galano*

 ¿Do you think your president is a dictator? Consult this short manual.


HAVANA TIMES — Dictators have evinced a series of common characteristics – to a greater or lesser degree – since the times of Pericles, 2500 years ago. Though they are something of an endangered species today, some are still around, defying the onslaught of the World Wide Web, a medium they tend to criticize and hate, stubbornly seeking to control it and use it to serve their ends (and occasionally succeeding).

The Internet may well be to dictators what scientists believe a meteorite that struck the earth was to the dinosaurs (those “terrible lizards” ultimately do have some similarities). If they ever managed to control the web, they could have a shot at survival.

Like an incestuous father, the dictator requires isolation to achieve his aims. Since they maintain almost complete control over the media in their countries, their subjects find it next to impossible to see them for what they are (in some cases, because of a lack of information, in others, out of pure, personal interest). Below are fifty statements and attitudes typical of dictators, part of a much larger list that can help us identify them:

“I have to be the center of attention, even at other peoples’ birthdays.”

“This country came into being when I rose to power.”

Mussolini and Hitler

“I am doing people a favor by ruling over them.”

“I answer to the people.”

“The media is bad if I’m not controlling it.”

“I am an expert in all fields of knowledge.”

“People are worse off anywhere else.”

“When I want to know what the people think, I need only ask myself.”

“Ours is the most democratic country in the world.”

“Those who die for my cause live forever.”

“Anyone who opposes me is either crazy or being paid by a foreign power.”

“Whenever I pay someone a visit, it is to give them the pleasure to see me.”

Charles de Gualle

“All of the negative things in my country are to be blamed on foreigners, all of the positive things are the fruit of my efforts.”

“My whims become state policies.”

“I’m strong as a horse, even on my death bed.”

“There’s always a plot to assassinate me being hatched somewhere.”

“Any tribute paid to a subordinate is aimed at reminding them that they are my subordinates.”

“All of the country’s ills will return if I am removed from power.”

“I must constantly create conflicts to steer people’s attention away from my mistakes.”

“The people are those who agree with me and support me.”

“The highest virtue is loyalty…to me”

“Foreigners may come and see what I show them, not what they please.”

“All of my decisions lead to resounding success.”

“I stop talking about anything I do wrong. What isn’t mentioned doesn’t exist.”

Francisco Franco

“I occasionally praise the people so that they will praise me.”

“I pretend to avoid praise only to be praised more.”

“If god exists, he is under my command.”

“I give important positions to the inept so that they will be truly grateful, as they themselves know they do not deserve them.”

“I have to appear courageous.”

“It’s very important for me to be a good actor, to make the perfect gesture every time, put on the face the fits every occasions, particularly when I’m lying.”

“I am always stiff, like a statute that moves occasionally.”

“Whoever speaks ill of me is gone, or they stay…in prison.”

“I need to hold a title that no one else in the world has.”

“I hold a child in public from time to time. At home, I hold my dog.”

“I prefer military uniforms because they inspire fear.”

Jorge Rafael Videl

“I occasionally act tough in front of a crowd, not to frighten the external enemy I supposedly address, but to intimidate the internal enemy and give my faithful followers the sense that I am brave.”

“Anyone who does not support me is a traitor.”

“History will be re-written…by me.”

“When the mix starts to go sour, I stir it up a bit and keep the spoon. When all is said and done, everyone is expendable (except my family). No one who’s ditched will complain, as they all got their undreamt-of positions through brown-nosing, not out of merit.”

“Talking about trivial things with people of humble means is very important for my image.”

“Disappearing from the limelight for a few days causes a stir among my followers and enemies. I can create the impression of being everywhere at once when I return.”

“My absence must create anxiety – there is no country without me.”

“I must create numberless organizations and public offices that are entitled to make decisions in writing, but which actually decide nothing in practice.”

“My personal life (including, of course, my quirks) are State secrets.”

Augusto Pinochet

“The impression of movement must always be maintained, even in times of stagnation, as most people like to feel they are moving, regardless of where we are heading.”

“I must always give people hope – hope is ultimately more than nothing.”

“People are to be dominated, not through their virtues, but through their defects.”

“I will create a vast network of snitches, such that, even if some of these fail, the system will continue to function. Everyone will keep watch over everyone else, friends and enemies alike.”

“The much-celebrated separation or division of State powers into legislative, executive and judiciary orders is something dreamt up by Aristotle, Montesquieu and others who never governed. I create many nominal powers to make those who hold such positions feel important, and one real power: my own.”

“I fear anything I cannot control.”


(*) Lenin Ledo Galano, of Cuban-Spanish nationality, was born in Holguín, Oriente, Cuba in 1958.  In 1983 he graduated in economic engineering at the Moscow Engineering Institute. He has been a financial manager of different companies and has published technical articles in Cuban and foreign publications. He has taught post-graduate classes at the University of Havana.


14 thoughts on “Fifty Ways to Spot a Dictator

  • …and since Kennedy didn’t have your flavor of “audacity,” the counter-revolutionaries of that epoch, along with their mafioso brothers, had him bumped off! Folks risking their lives to get to the States are not limited to the anti-Castro Cubans. Just ask the Haitians, the Hondurans, the Salvadorians, the Guatemalans, etc. etc., all though all the latter don’t get a pass into the “free world.” Except for those in the early- to mid-1960’s, most are strictly economic emigrees (also reflected in the frequent flyer miles accumulated by the younger generations of Miami Cubans in their travels back-and-forth to their homeland, bringing $$$ to start, or continue, new businesses. FInally, like Pericles, Fidel has helped create a vibrant culture, where many Cubans have been afforded opportunities in education, the arts and the professions that they would never have received under the piratical villains of the psuedo-Republic.

  • WTF??!!

  • Leadership and efficiancy under Gods inspiration exists . Look for the signs and
    trust in the real God as he saves you from the George Botches of the world. Some people should never have survived birth and catch phrases are
    for fools . Kings are picked by God , demonocracy has failed .
    Thank You

  • audacity? It’s what Kenedy should have had during the Bay of Pigs. And entire aircraft carrier group sitting just off the coast was told to stand down. How sad that we had to be saddled with that megalomaniac Castro for 50+ years. So my parents and I had to flee your “new Jerusalem”. And Cubans continue to flee. How bad must it be that it is preferable to risk your life on a rickety raft in the Florida straights that remain in your paradise?

    ….and by the way, Pericles created an Imperial Athens; a center for learning and arts. Castro, has piggy backed on the great Cuban culture and driven it to ground.

  • Little faults? His list of faults should not only be measured by length but by also by degree. He has nearly destroyed an entire country! Speaking of foundations, that is literally all that is left after all the buildings have fallen down. Your assessment of the disaster that Fidel has wrought is that of someone who didn’t have to live under his tyrannical rule.

  • In the continuum of “dictators,” Fidel is closest to Pericles, and yes, History WILL absolve him–at least of most deficiencies! Everyone has his–or her–little faults; at least Fidel made an effort to create a more just society, and that was always his prime motive. In hindsight, some important errors were made. At least he wasn’t hemmed in by self-doubts. He was a man of action. As Danton said: “Audacity! Audacity! and more Audacity!” Now it is up the the current–and future– generations of Cubans to make corrections, but Fidel has laid the foundations for a New Jerusalem!

  • Classic response: When you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger. Reread the description listed in the post. I don’t have the facilities to dictate in my own home. However, “Dictator Moses” does have a ring to it?

  • I never said you did either. Nor would I describe you as a Castro “bootlicker”. But if the shoe fits…

  • Moses, I don’t think I’ve ever stated that the Castros “aren’t” dictators.

  • Mr. Patterson . . . you sound, yourself, as a would be dictator — perhaps a tiny one — but, you fit the descriptions of a real dictator: you are always right, you know better — in fact you apparently know it all.

  • SFB,
    Fidel RETIRED from active leadership some six years ago .
    He has not involved himself in the running of the country since then.
    Try to keep up to date with developments in the world .
    Of course Fidel was and Raul is a dictator . That is the nature of Leninist , state capitalist rulers .
    It is also peculiar to free enterprise capitalists all deeply religious people, those who espouse the dictatorship of the dollar which is the U.S..oligarchy and to those many in a male-dominated nuclear family structure.
    You have far more personally in common with dictatorial thinking than you do with the principles of democracy unless , of course , you choose to NOW personally disavow free enterprise capitalism, the U.S. oligarchy, your religion and the traditional male-dominated nuclear family structure which are all dictatorial forms.

  • Here is how most canadians feel about “the last action hero”” frank dalton/youtube/una amistad por siempre.

  • Oh yeah! This is a wonderful piece! Sadly, we know who fits this model
    and equally as sad, as with so many passionate people who wish to change the world because they
    know all, heartbreaks and sadness is the end result. Lots of good people who wanted change in Cuba
    and witnessed this “bad idea” are still in shock and royally upset!

  • This fits the Castros like a glove. I would love to read how the Castro bootlickers defend the notion that Fidel is NOT a dictator. Especially since Fidel, himself, all but acknowledged that he was. This is what makes this blog so interesting. Please respond castristas!

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