German ministers have hit back after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said, in a comment meant to put down German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for calling Lukashenko a dictator,† that it is “better to be a dictator than be gay.”
The spat began over the weekend when Lukashenko went on the attack regarding proposed EU sanctions relating to alleged human rights abuses. Lukashenko reacted particularly strongly to being branded “Europe’s last dictator” by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, and commented to the press that the allegation is “hysteria” but that it is “better to be a dictator than gay.” German officials have said that this kind of homophobia and political posturing rather proves the point about Lukashenko’s presidency.
“It’s interesting in one sense that Lukashenko should consider himself a dictator, a conclusion the German government reached long ago — and the Belarusian president provides proof of its accuracy on a daily basis,” Steffen Seibert, chief German government spokesman, told reporters today in Berlin.
Mr Westerwelle has also made a comment regarding the Belarus president’s remarks. Via the BBC:
Mr Westerwelle responded by saying Mr Lukashenko’s statement spoke “for itself”.
“I’m not going to retreat from my engagement on human rights and democracy in Belarus one single millimetre,” the German foreign minister added.
This marks a new, if rather childish, turn in bad relations between Belarus and the rest of the EU.
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. His presidency has been dogged by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. In fact the EU recently extended its blacklist of Belarusian officials, adding a further 21 names to an already extensive 160 name list, saying that those individuals were corrupt and were known to have committed illegal activities.
This follows Bellarus having recently expelled an EU ambassador following an outcry over disputed elections in December 2010 when four opposition candidates were arrested.