Recipe for Authoritarianism

Coups are going out of fashion. In the 1960s, the world had 61, but in the last decade, there were only ten.

The world may have less tolerance for military takeovers, but that doesn’t mean that leaders have given up their totalitarian desires. Today’s aspiring dictators are finding new ways to cook up their rise to power, using ingredients that the world can digest more easily. In today’s world, that often means passing yourself off as a democracy.

But there are ways to look like a democracy while behaving like a dictatorship. They use lawyers instead of generals. Constitutional reforms instead of tanks. And manipulation of the elections and the press instead of assaults on the presidential palace.

Versions of this recipe have been successful all over the world. In Zimbabwe, the elections that kept Robert Mugabe in office for 34 years are cooked differently than the electoral cuisine of Russia, where Vladimir Putin alternates between the offices of President and Prime Minister, all while never leaving the kitchen.

In Iran, where they like their politics heavily seasoned with religion, the supreme chef, Ali Khameini, realized that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was causing too many stomach-aches. Instead, he’s prepared a milder dish for the world with President Rohani Hasan.

In Latin America, the dish is made by chopping up the constitution. The leaders of Bolivarian Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia are masters of this art. Step into the dictator’s kitchen and see the recipe for authoritarianism – with a little Latin American flavor.