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

  • 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.

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