By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
His introduction to politics came in 1994, when Envela traveled to Washington, D.C. “I flew from L.A. and started passing out some information on Equatorial Guinea I had gotten from Amnesty International. I met with some senators. The initial person was Congressman Tom Lantos, who was the head of the congressional committee on human rights. I started talking to him and got a list of anyone that had an interest in human rights in Africa.
”Eventually, as I got more and more political, people started to remember me and recognize me, and I started to kind of broaden my base. And now, eight years later, I stand before you as someone who looks to be able to, hopefully, help Equatorial Guinea and all Equatorial Guineans, internally and externally, to become the great and beautifully rich country that it is, politically, economically and psychologically.“ Asked how the moment feels to him, he responds, ”Very optimistic. I feel like my steps are being ordered for me. I feel safe. I feel that I’m supposed to be where I am at this very moment in time.“
Equatorial Guinea will have its presidential election on December 15, and Envela considers himself a candidate. It says so on his business card. If the past is any indication, he is a long shot. The current president has remained unchallenged since executing his uncle back in ‘79. Even if the election process were to somehow become legitimate, Envela faces other obstacles. To qualify as a candidate, one must live in Equatorial Guinea and be a registered member of an opposition party. In the past, this combination has not proved a recipe for health and longevity. While Obiang is not the homicidal maniac his predecessor was, he is by no means a peacenik. In 1994, when the then--U.S. ambassador, John Bennett, started talking about human rights, Bennett suddenly received an ”anonymous“ message stating, ”You will go to America as a corpse because the people are fed up with you.“ The U.S. ambassador (currently George M. Staples, reassigned from the Republic of Rwanda) now serves from neighboring Cameroon.
Envela seems undeterred by such technicalities. Leaning close, he mentions that there are rumors of President Obiang having terminal cancer, possibly even AIDS. He also hints that there are external forces at work, alluding to recent correspondence he has had with the CIA and FBI. Handing me his cell phone, Envela plays a message from a man who speaks in purposely vague, spylike terminology, even referring to ”that matter we discussed.“ Envela tells me it is Bobby Pittman, director for African affairs for the National Security Council. He then gives me Pittman’s phone number.
Another name Envela gives me is Dr. Warren Weinstein, from an organization called Africa Global, which describes itself as ”an Africa-focused company whose mission is to provide high-quality services for government and corporate clients.“ In an article last year in The Nation, Africa Global was described as a ”D.C. lobby shop“ and was said to have actually represented Equatorial Guinea‘s second president, Obiang, for a time. When I speak to him on the phone, I ask Dr. Weinstein his opinion on Envela and whether he has any realistic chances. He responds, ”You know, it’s very hard to talk in white or black in such an uncertain universe when there are so many interests. You know, things occur, everything happens in the shadows, and all of a sudden it‘s out there, and where did it come from? But the fact is, in countries like this, phenomena like Gus happen precisely because they are the kind of places they are.“
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