Monday, February 18, 2008

Rides of Heads of State, Breather Edition

For this post, I want to focus on what I can't find. To date, I have found the cars, SUVs, and one pick-up truck of leaders from 167 countries. But what about the 29 countries I can't find information (thus far) for? I'll divide them up by region. If any of you have any leads, please feel free to pass them along to me.

Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, San Marino.
Not surprisingly, all four of the missing countries are microstates. My bet is that eventually, I'll discover that these leaders all ride in European luxury sedans.

Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles.
These are mostly poorer and lesser-known countries. Their official government websites are abysmal, if they exist at all. I'll be lucky to find their official rides during a random clip shown on the BBC World News. I'm not holding my breath. I hypothesize that the split will be 60/40, Merc S-Class/Land Cruiser.

Americas: Guatemala, Paraguay, Suriname.
I believe these three will be the easiest to find. There are new pictures of Guatemala's Colom posted hourly. I have already concluded what Paraguay's president rides in, and I am studying Suriname's Venetiaan's ride. Stay tuned.

Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Vietnam.
Only a matter of time before I find the cars that go with these three countries. I predict Mercedes for Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam and a Caddy or Lincoln for Laos.

Oceania: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu.
These will be as tough to find as the remaining African states. I have noticed two trends as I search for these leaders' rides. First, these countries have small populations and are very poor. Second, many of these countries' only claim to fame is being a pawn in the epic Cold War struggle that is Taiwanese-Chinese diplomatic recognition. The PRC and ROC governments and their agents overtly and covertly spend millions of dollars every year trying to get tiny, poor countries in Oceania (and Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa) to stop recognizing the ROC/PRC and start recognizing the PRC/ROC.

The storylines are pathetic, but somewhat amusing. It is ironic that Taiwan, which many academics believe is the ancestral homeland of the Polynesians (who stretch from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east), is now an annoying and important part of Oceanian politics.

Here are a couple of samplings of the state of Oceania. First, Nauru is an eight square mile speck in the Micronesian South Pacific. For most of this century, it earned its fortune through the mining of phosphate. But an eight square mile island only holds so much phosphate. It is out of the mineral now and it is out of luck. This shot of an old Nauruan Mercedes 380SEL captures the state of Nauru perfectly. What was once an extravagantly well appointed executive sedan is now rusting, with its badge stolen, and with a broken turn signal.

Here is a shot of the door to Tuvalu's prime minister's office. The sign is taped onto the door and a bit torn. Just imagine how many people, expecting the men's or lady's room, interrupted the PM in deep contemplation before he told his assistant to post this sign. Sad, that.

Enough of the non sequitur. Here's Paraguay.

168. Paraguay. GM Yukon. Duarte Frutos' predecessor's ride was a lot more interesting. It was an armored BMW, which was apparently stolen and registered by El Presidente as a Toyota. Oh, the wacky hijinks. For the record, Paraguay supports Taiwan and there is a huge statue of Chiang Kai-Shek in Ciudad del Este, that haven for smugglers in the Southern Cone.

Updated tally:
S-class: 56
7 series: 15
Land Cruiser: 15
A8: 9
Maybach: 6
Caddy: 5
Suburban/Yukon: 5
Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero: 4
Phaeton: 4
G-wagen: 4
Holden-Chevy-Opel: 3
H2: 3
Jag: 2
ZIL: 2
Volvo: 2
Touareg: 2

One of each of the following: Lancia, Hyundai, Skoda, A6, Peugeot, Renault, Lincoln, VW van, London taxi, Daimler, Toyota Century, Hongqi, Bentley, Rolls, Ford Fairlane, Aston Martin, SEAT, Ford Expedition, Nissan Patrol, Stutz, Suzuki, Camry, Toyota Crown, Toyota Sequoia, Proton, Land Rover, Ford F150, Mitsubishi Galant, Lincoln Town Car, Hummer H1, Chrysler Imperial


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