Want to set up an ‘Arab spring’ or a ‘colour revolution’?

Follow super-secret agent 86 Maxwell Smart to Mission Equatorial Guinea*

Monday 11 June 2012 by CEPRID

Agustin Velloso**

1. Businessmen, ambassadors, lobbyists and other animals

February 23, 2012, the telephone rings in the office of the super-secret agent 86:

Hello, I am Katie Fish, researcher of Diligence, Global Business Intelligence; you know: investigations, due diligence, forensics, security, business intelligence. (1) Delighted, please tell me… (Smart thinks if this is a poetry contest or, more probably, just a teaser).

We are carrying out a routine investigation on Mr Francisco Nsue Masié and we would like to talk to people who know his whereabouts…

Smart recalls in silence that Francisco Macías -that is to say, Masié- was Equatorial Guinea’s (EG) first president after the end of the Spanish colony in 1968. In 1979 he was executed after a summary trial ordered by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, then vice minister of Defense. He is still president since the third of August of that year, after a coup d’état against his uncle.

In the year 2000 Francisco Nsue was imprisoned, charged with conspiracy and seriously tortured during several days by the director of the national security Antonio Mbá Nguema, Obiang’s brother.

Well, very interesting… (he wonders: if this is a routine work, how will they deal with the extraordinary ones? A second later he thinks that the imprisonment and torture of Nsue –or another person- by order of any of the Obiangs is a routine matter in EG).

My clients want to get in touch with him because they are planning to set up some business in EG and think that Mr Nsue can help them in this regard. Smart knows that since the second half of the 90s of last century EG has experienced an economic growth unseen in other countries, chiefly due to oil exploitation. According to information provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), "The discovery and exploitation of large oil and gas reserves have contributed to dramatic economic growth”. The CIA adds that “gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2011 is 7,1%, while in the remainder of the world is of -0.8% for 2010, and GDP per capita in 2011 is 19,300 dollars, while in the remainder of the world is18,600 for 2010." (2) Mrs Fish, I never met Mr Nsue, although I really doubt he can be of any help for your clients, unless their businesses are of a kind that I dare not to name.

Smart does not tell her that that growth has given rise to corporations, businessmen, mediators, consultants and adventurers looking for all types of business opportunities in EG, legal and illegal. Naturally, he knows that Diligence is aware that large foreign investments, especially those related to oil and gas, are inevitably linked to international politics. At the same time, due to the fact that the government and the remainder of the State powers are in the hands of Obiang’s extended family, who do and undo as they see fit according to their private interests, all the businesses are controlled or participated by its members. (3)

I am sorry, I do not understand you.

Let me tell you that all I know about EG is useless to answer your question, since I mainly focus on human rights and social matters in general, but I am not interested in the business sector, I am not involved in any, and I do discourage people from participating in businesses in EG because these are detrimental to its inhabitants.

Yes, of course, I just called to find out if you are able to give us some information on Mr Nsue whereabouts…

I am sorry to disappoint you, I do not know Mr Nsue; in fact I admit that I hardly had heard of him before your call. I can only tell you that EG political situation does not allow for business initiatives which are beneficial for the majority of its population.

According to the report on embezzlement, presented October 25, 2011 before the Court of Justice of the district of Columbia, "President Obiang exercises plenary control over the Government of E.G. Nearly all positions of political and economic power in E.G. are held by the Inner Circle. One member of the Inner Circle is Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, President Obiang’s eldest son, who has been appointed by his father to various ministerial positions. Nguema is the beneficial owner of the defendant assets. During President Obiang’s more than 30-year rule, members of the Inner Circle have amassed extraordinary wealth through a variety of corrupt schemes.” (4)

Understood, many thanks, if you know of someone who can know Mr Nsue, please send me his contact details.

Sure, bye, bye… (he thinks that Mrs Fish is perhaps a crack in the intelligence community, but as far as her knowledge of men is concerned, she does not even get that when one says no, this only means no, but nothing close to ‘perhaps’, and much less ’I will do it if you insist’). After the phone conversation Mrs Fish was still unsure about the good disposition of Smart toward her. Some hours later she decided to encourage him through an e-mail:

“Thank you very much for speaking to me this morning. As mentioned, we are currently undertaking a routine background review of Mr Francisco Nsue Masie and are keen to speak to individuals that may have heard of him. As this individual is not known to you, it would be very helpful if you could send me the contact details of the other people you think might have knowledge of him.

Many thanks in advance for your assistance. Kind regards, Katie” Mrs Fish is an employee who speaks on behalf of a firm “that helps its clients confront difficult business challenges. In this role, we provide companies with both the intelligence and analysis to enable them to identify, manage and mitigate risks stemming either from the normal flow of business or from unanticipated contingencies".

Her quite unromantic email made Smart recall a previous –and kinder- email from Mr Julian Fisher (Aegis General Director for Africa, obviously a fatter fish):

"Please excuse this unsolicited email, but I am hoping you can help me to avert a potential wrong. My job is to advise companies on planned investments in Africa. We were approached recently by an international bank and asked to provide them with a report on Equatorial Guinea as a potential bank costumer. As you might expect, I drafted strongly worded report recommending that they did not take on the government as a costumer. In the report, I highlighted the ongoing abuses of democracy and human rights and the evidence of corruption including the Riggs Bank investigation, as well as the closeness of links between Obiang and the Zimbabwean President Mugabe.

Subsequently, I was disturbed to learn that certain executives at the bank had dismissed my report. They had approached the US Ambassador in Malabo, who said the material in my report was out of date, Obiang headed a ‘people’s government’ and was ‘the ideal partner’ for the US in fighting money laundering! (…) I suspect, of course, that they are allowing the oil millions to blind them to the truth, but it is very sad that they have the support of the US ambassador."

At that time Smart did not even think of dismissing the request. On the contrary, he sent the report for free –obviously two times a fool-, but at least he took pains to discourage any investment in EG:

"Dear Mr. Fisher, it is not surprising at all that your advice has been dismissed. Simply for the reason you mention: money makes people blind to truth. It does not matter how much information on Obiang’s corrupt and criminal practices you provide them with, they will always find a way to see a ‘brighter’ side of the story, and they will also count on the convenient think tank or the lobby to balance that information with another brighter one supplied by governmental or private sources.”

Obiang knows what people all over the world think about him and he thinks that money can help him to improve that. Enter the lobbies, public relations firms, lawyers and high ranking civil servants. Their influence is well-known, as their number and profits are. Some 17,000 people work for the lobbies in Washington and some 15,000 in Brussels. (5)

Smart’s only comfort –after his collaboration with Aegis- was Fisher’s answer: "Thanks, a powerful report. You will be pleased to learn that our client finally decided not to proceed with its proposed transaction with Obiang’s government. Thank you for helping us to guide them to this decision."

Had Smart been smart, he would have realised that “Aegis is a leading private security and risk management company with offices in the UK, USA, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain (…) that enable our clients - multi-nationals, governments, international agencies and many others - to minimise risk and maximise opportunity.” http://www.aegisworld.com/ Despite his doubtful talent to help the very people who help their fellow men, at least he learnt that people working for business, intelligence and security firms, notwithstanding their bad reputation, are familiar with human emotions. Here is Fisher: "It is sometimes disheartening to watch international investors’ behaviour in parts of Africa, but all we can do is tell them how it is".

He also recalled another email of August 28, 2009. This was sent by Sandra J. Francis, Senior Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 11226 NW 20th Street, Miami, Florida 33172, Office: 305.597.6187, Fax: 305.597.2727 “Dear Mr Smart, I have read with interest your most recent article, ‘Equatorial Guinea: Thirty Years With Obiang’. I am a Senior Special Agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and I specialize in Foreign Corruption Investigations. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak or correspond with you relative to Equatorial Guinea and the Obiang family. I am hoping that one of these two email addresses I found for you are still current. I look forward to your reply.”

“Dear Mrs Francis, thank you for your email and your interest in my work. I will be away from my office for a couple of weeks (starting tomorrow). Although I will not be able to get phone calls, I will be using Internet for email correspondence. Please, feel free to send me your questions by email if this is convenient for you.”

“Dear Mr Smart, thank you for your reply. I am in no rush - and I would prefer to speak with you personally whenever you return. I’ll look forward to speaking with at your convenience.”

Smart was not in a hurry to talk to her and finally he forgot the email and did not get any new call from Francis anyway.

2. Whatever differences exist amongst the aforementioned, their aim is the same: meddling to their own advantage in weak countries

Smart knew nothing about these people so interested in EG. Apart from Fisher, who can easily be found through Aegis web page, and another correspondent, Nicolas Cook, expert in African affairs, Katie and Sandra are more slippery.

There are several Sandra J. Francis, of course. If the ones that have passed away are ruled out, still there is at least a Sandra J. Francis really working in Florida, although not for the government but in the private sector. Perhaps she was fired after failing to obtain valuable information from Smart. However, she could have two jobs. Of course, hers could be just a convenient name for a secret agent.

Katie Fish is even a more suspicious case. There must be dozens of bars, restaurants and shanty towns with that name at the door. The problem is that some do not serve fish at all, but Mexican tacos. This is clearly a perfect name to confuse other secret agents and taxmen.

In Diligence web pages neither Katie nor Fish, let alone both together, can be found. A pair of ambassadors and a lord make up for that. Their CVs are extraordinary, although all are surpassed by the CV of Diligence Committee Advisor president, the judge William Webster, CIA’s and FBI’s former director.

Nicolas Cook looks like a good guy at first sight. Nevertheless, his obsession with concluding his statements with the tag: “comments are my own and do not represent the views of the CRS” (that is to say, his employer: US Congressional Research Services), or the tag: "the above thoughts are my own entirely, and are merely considerations that are a part of analysis and an exchange of views”, makes him a perfect suspect.

It does not help at all that those thoughts are not about the beauty of EG forests and beaches, but about “Africa’s great strategic importance to the United States. Roughly 25 percent of the United States’ oil imports come from Africa, almost all of which is the desirable, sweet and light crude. The African import market is expanding rapidly with other nations tripling exports in the last few years.”

While Fisher exaggerates his own kind nature in order to disguise the fact that at the end of the day what he does is to advise big international investment sharks, Cook objectively observes EG reality. In spite of this he ends up distancing himself personally as well: “African oil exporters do present some problems for the United States, however, and Cook pointed to the political elites’ control over oil revenue as one of the main stumbling blocks to sustainable growth. Several governments have suffered from the ‘national resources curse’ phenomenon, where corruption and rebellion follow the discovery of valuable natural goods.”

Cook knows very well what is going on behind the scenes: "While President Obama has supported the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), aimed at reducing the pitfalls of natural resource curses, the administration has given limited aid to countries looking to put EITI into place”. (6)

Allen Jackson is one of a kind in the select group of those Westerners devoted to help lesser peoples.

"Dear Mr Smart: Thank you so much for your mail. I have tried to contact the law firm but the attorneys there (Malabo, EG’s capital) have not been very helpful with my offer to work for the poor in the country. My goal is to go there, to work with the poor and understand the place then comeback and educate folks in the US about it. Before coming to law school, I worked for 5 years as an adviser to the Democratic Party in the US and also for some senators. My goal is to bring some light to these folks on Guinea. I also assisted the US senate as a staff in investigating the Obiang governments Riggs Bank Account." (7)

Riggs Bank was a commercial bank in Washington DC and with branch offices abroad. Established in the 19th century, it stopped its operations in 2005, just after Teodoro Obiang and Augusto Pinochet accounts affair.

The US Senate opened an investigation on the matter. The investigation concluded that the bank had not followed the norms on money laundering prevention and also that government officials in charge of controlling the bank compliance with these norms failed to carry out their obligations. Jackson was so kind as to send more details of his plans for EG, the US senate, the US government and Smart himself:

"I had a great meeting with the senators and a few congressmen today on EG. I am positive that there will be a new money laundering investigation launched against the (EG) government. I do not know if you will be willing to speak at Harvard University in the fall about your experience in EG. Please contact me if you can make it. I want to set up an EG accountability project at Harvard to expose this dictatorship.”

Harvard, generally considered one of the world’s finest universities, therefore well known before Jackson’s offer to Smart, recently made it to the news because a group of students walked out of a class in November of 2011.

“Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.

NPR’s Morning Edition covered the kerfuffle, suggesting that the students objected to the class partly because of (professor) Mankiw’s résumé. He served as an adviser to President George W. Bush and is now advising the campaign of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. He has also criticized the Occupy Wall Street protests and warned against the ‘politics of envy’.” (8)

Early in 2012 a member of the Spanish Public Television Team of Investigation met Smart in a bar in downtown Madrid for a chat about Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his eldest son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, otherwise known as Teodorín. By that time an international arrest warrant against him for ill-gotten goods had been issued by two French judges.

3. The Arab spring is moving towards Guinea Equatorial

Some time later, Nicolas Cook, analyst working for the US Congressional Research Service (9), sent Smart an email on April 9, 2012:

“¿Puedes por favor proporcione informaciones sobre la Guinea Ecuatorial Coalicion Electoral / Oposicion Democratica (CE/OD). ¿Cuales son sus partidos constituyentes? Cuando se formo (en que ano)? ¿Hay mas detalles en cuanto a su formacion como una coalicion?

La mayoría de las fuentes no explican su pertenencia u origen, sino que sólo la lista como la "coalición electoral." Por ejemplo:




.. y otras fuentes de impresión.

Muchas gracias, atentamente, Nicolas Cook African Affairs Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division Congressional Research Service Washington DC Tel. (202) 707-0429 FAX (202) 707-3415 ncook@crs.loc.gov” (10)

Smart was about to suggest to Cook to firstly change his automatic translator for an improved version and start again, but finally chose to answer his question right away and pay him back with a couple of questions of his own:

“First of all let me tell you that there is only one real opposition political party inside the country, Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), which is barely allowed to function. The rest of the groups are either in exile or banned and its members are in real danger (as many more people in the country, even those with no political activity whatsoever). In other words, simply have a look at the electoral results (general, local and presidential) of the last years: The Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), Mr. Obiang Nguema’s party, always wins (percentage of votes between 95% and 98%) and that is why he has been in power for the last 30 years. Let me put it this way: Equatorial Guinea house has 100 seats: 99 are occupied by the PDGE and one by CPDS.

Therefore, the question is not about democracy amongst any coalition of parties opposed to the dictatorship, disguised as “nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch”, according to US Department of State Country Reports, but about lack of democracy and respect for human rights under Equatorial Guinea’s government.

This question begs another one: why, also according to old US Department of State’s reports, “the people have no means of peacefully changing its government”?

I look forward to receiving your answer to my question.”

It seems that Cook is fast, efficient and understanding. Above all, unlike the others, he cares not only about just helping destitute Africans, but he strives to help them better. In his last email exchange with Smart, he was still ruminating about doing this softly or perforce.

Two ideas stand out amongst his long disquisitions on the US real political stand on EG authorities and their future.

The first is an appraisal: “I personally think that Obiang is (…) a personalist authoritarian, with all that entails on the human rights and (non-democratic fronts), no doubt. And his elder son is a corrupt buffoon, but if I understand things right, is culturally preferred as a successor (from Obiang’s family’s point of view), even if Lima (who ranks lower on that front due to his maternal lineage) is the smarter. (There are many other siblings, but none seem to pop up as possible successors.)”

The second is a plan of action: “That all being a given, how does one influence change, and what change is one trying to accomplish?”

Both ideas are taking hold amongst the international community. This is something that Teodoro and Teodorín could not help but noticing through the controversial UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for Life Sciences and the aforementioned French warrant. (11)

Perhaps today it is already too late for the Obiangs to make a decision on their future, but at least they can try and negotiate about one of three US suggestions. These would correspond with the ones quite probably conveyed to the family head by two high-ranking French officials during a recent trip to Malabo. (12)

“The main choices seem to be engagement and slow reform over a long period; harsh criticism and isolation; combinations thereof; or overthrow. And one can take a legalistic and idealistic view or a realist view or play multiple hands (as in the case of the USA and France, i.e., do business on one hand, but prosecute for corruption on the other).”

In other –Cook- words:

“One option is to encourage them and try to hold the regime’s feet to the fire on the basis of their own promises, treaty obligations, and pledges and potentially obtain a tiny bit of reform over time (get police training, allow some NGOs to grow, publish your oil receipts). Another is to continue to lambaste and criticize them harshly and relentlessly, possibly eventually forcing certain reforms but equally possible retrenchment, regression, self-isolation, or a turning to the east (and in all instances re the latter case, a reduction in influence). Another option, as some have done, is to try to overthrow the regime, which risks failure and any number of nasty repercussions, including succession by an equally ugly set of characters—and is of course not legal or democratic (even if its target is not either).

None of these options are ideal, some are not pretty, and all have big pluses and minuses attached. And the performance of the U.S. (and Spanish and British and French) governments vis-a-vis the courses that they take can certainly be criticized. But in the end, what to do? What should be the goals vis-a-vis the regime and, once chosen, how are they best pursued? These are very hard questions.”

Before answering Cook, Smart paused and thought that if US taxpayers knew they are financing the 80,000 million dollars annual budget of the diverse intelligence agencies and their 854,000 employees, so that some of these end up asking him (by means of a crap online translator) whether he knows Francisco Nsue and if he knows something about EG Electoral Coalition internal democracy, a coup d’état should not take place in Malabo but in Washington.

Eventually he sent Cook the following considerations:

“Dear Nick, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and considerations with me. I see I can hardly give you more information on the Coalition or any other political issue about EG, since you are more than acquainted with the situation and know the sources. However, I would like to repay to your email:

You write that you are an analyst and not a policy-maker. So I am sure you know that the variety of choices you mention are not so important as their real goal and implementation. In light of the US behaviour all over the world you cannot expect EG people to believe that the US is going to bring them real democracy and respect for human rights, disregarding at the same time US oil companies and US national strategic interests.

Of course Spain would not do better. The only difference is that the most powerful country is able to inflict maximum damage, as we are witnessing in Afghanistan, Iraq..., a behaviour also shamefully seconded by Spain.

So, my favourite choice -one you have not included in your selection- would be a complete turn of the tables in EG, that is to say, taking all government members who have violated human rights and become rich to a popular court, seizing their riches and giving these back to their lawful owners, EG people.

Closing the US and other foreign embassies which have helped Obiang to stay in power for more than 30 years, and nationalising the oil and other basic industries, would be the next natural step to be taken.

Not a million US Congress analysts could convince EG people (apart from a handful of corrupt or fainthearted local politicians) that the US can bring them democracy and human rights through three –or three million- US planned options.”

Cook stopped sending mails to Smart and this fears that political leaders –both in Washington and in Malabo- consider that his option does not quite fit with their plans.

However, Smart has proved to be a man of resources and he can try his luck sending his proposal to the Department of the Presidency, Spanish Government, Moncloa Compound, 28071 Madrid, Spain.

Barely a few months ago he received an email from the Compound, inviting him to talk:

"We have had access to some of your publications on the African continent that we consider very interesting and timely, we congratulate you. African currents affairs are closely followed over here at the Presidency, it would be very interesting to share with you some ideas about Africa."

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