Given that arguably the biggest circus-style election in the history of western civilisation is about to play out in November 2016, combined with the political posturing and jockeying for positioning throughout Europe recently, not to mention some of political vacuums that exist in unstable areas throughout the world, it is easy to see why people say that politics is a murky business at best.
Sometimes though, the waters are murkier than some would expect. What’s more those murky waters sometimes become deadly.
While people, unfortunate as it is, go missing all time, when it is a politician or someone of influence who vanishes into thin air, people often scrutinise the circumstances a little closer. After all, these people are in, or are hoping to be in, positions of power. From these platforms their decisions will often affect millions of people. Or perhaps they are promising change – change that not everyone believes is right. That not everyone wants, and rightly or wrongly, will resist at all costs.
High Profile Disappearances
Maybe the most high profile disappearance of a political figure is that of Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt. Almost two years into serving as political leader of his country, Holt simply vanished on 17th December 1967. There has been debate and conspiracies as to exactly what happened to him. Was he murdered? Did he commit suicide? Maybe it was just a tragic accident? Some even go as far as to say Holt faked his own death so he could finish out his life in anonymity.
All that we know for sure is that Holt – a strong and avid swimmer – entered the sea to swim that fateful morning. Friends had warned him that the water looked particularly “choppy” but he assured them he would be fine. He was never seen nor heard from again.
Check out the video below that looks at Holt’s disappearance in a little more detail.
Five years later, in the United States another prominent politician disappeared amid a swirl of conspiracy theories.
While flying in a small plane over Alaska in 1972, Democratic congressman, Hale Boggs, seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth. What made Boggs disappearance a little suspicious to some, was the extent of his involvement in the Warren Commission – the investigation into the assassination of President John Kennedy in November 1963.
At the time of his now presumed death, Boggs went out of his way to assert influence and pressure to have the official investigation into President Kennedy’s death re-opened.
Incidentally, the plane, Boggs, or any of those on board the flight have never been found or located.
Still Happening Today
In a scenario very similar to the fate that seemingly awaited Boggs three decades earlier, in 2002 three prominent politicians – Boris Leontieff, Lucien Kimitete and Arsen Tuairau – disappeared from the face of the planet.
Boris Leontieff, the leader of the Fetia Api Party, the main opposition party of French Polynesia, disappeared without trace along with the small plane he was travelling on. Two other party members, Lucien Kimitete and Arsen Tuairau, were also on board and have also not been heard from since.
Due to alleged unanswered questions surrounding the details of their husband’s deaths, not least of which is the lack of any plane wreckage, the three politician’s wives campaigned to have an investigation into their disappearance opened.
In a dark twist, Leontieff’s former media advisor and journalist, Jean Pascal Couraud, vanished several years before the Fetia Api leader. A former spy had stated he believed the Couraud had been kidnapped and murdered, leading some to wonder if the three politicians had suffered a similar fate.
Much Political Change In Eastern Europe
In the years following the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union, much of Europe went through a period of dramatic change. Indeed history will arguably ultimately judge that this change is still very much in motion right now. Not surprisingly a great deal of the core of those changes occurred in Eastern Europe amid the former Bloc States.
Last seen entering a Sauna in Minsk on 16th September 1999, politician and opposition to then Belarusian President, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Viktar Hanchar was presumed to have been kidnapped. His car was found with a broken window and with traces of blood on it. A businessman, Anatol Krasouski, who had been with Hanchar at the time of the kidnapping has also not been seen since that day.
Five years earlier, Hanchar had served as deputy prime minister in Lukashenka’s government. However during the constitutional crisis there in 1996, he became one of the main drives behind the attempted impeachment of Lukashenka, and by 1999 had decided to run against him.
A whistle-blower, Aleh Alkayeu, who worked as head of a death-row prison during this time, has since stated that both men were executed by their kidnappers soon after their abduction. Although neither body has been found, the investigation was officially closed in 2003.
Several months prior to Hanchar’s abduction, on 7th May 1999, Yury Zacharanka also seemingly vanished into thin air as he walked home for the evening. Like Hanchar, Zacharanka had also served under President Lukashenka as interior minister – a post he held for over two years – before he switched political sides and became a notable figure for the opposition.
Zacharanka, a very outspoken person, with some researchers stating his vision of an independent police and army union – something which was beginning to be put into action – was arguably what put him in the firing line and ultimately resulted in his abduction.
Promisers Of Peace Not Wanted By All
Sometimes referred to as the “Lost Politician”, Tuncer Saglamer vanished without a trace in March 2014 in Strasburg, France.
Saglamer had “raised the hopes” of immigrants in Europe, in particular many Turks who viewed him somewhere just short of a hero. As leader of the Citizens Movement of Strasburg, he promoted multi-culturalism and rallied against the increasingly loud voices of the far right.
His disappearance is truly mysterious, with little attention paid to it by most media, and a feeling of “acceptance” over the whole affair. Although much of his support in the elections of 2014 had come from the Turkish community, he had received double the amount of support than had been predicted by most analysts and experts.
Although Bruno Manser was not officially connected to any political party, he was a well-known and well organised Swiss political environmental and human rights activist, with a particular passion for the rainforests. His disappearance in 2000 while making his way to the Penan forests, was to some highly suspect. The last known sighting of him was on the island of Borneo.
It was terrain that he knew very well. He had spent six years from 1984 to 1990 living with and studying the Penan nomads, even being accepted by them as he learnt their hunting and survival skills.
Logging activities in the forest was threatening to encroach and displace the Penan, and as Manser made more and more noise about this, he became the Malaysian governments “Public Enemy Number One” – so much so that he had to flee the country in 1990, when security forces were sent to apprehend the activist. He continued to raise awareness from Switzerland, before returning to the area in 2000. It is not known whether his disappearance was a tragic accident, suicide or the result of the Malaysian government, but he hasn’t been seen since.
World Wide Problem
When one time Mexican presidential candidate and a leading politician of the ruling party at the time, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos disappeared without a trace in May 2010, many believed that those involved in organised crime were responsible.
Cevallos was last seen near his ranch where he lived, and perhaps more ominously, blood found on his abandoned car matched his blood type.
Cevallos had many “ties” to key decision makers within the Mexican government, and some claimed that he had used his political position to his advantage when acting as a lawyer. This resulted in settlements for certain clients he represented, something that had made him as many enemies as it had friends.
Several years earlier and half way across the world a similar scenario played out. Augustin Cyiza was a truly influential figure in Rwanda, and while he was serving as a judge at the time of his disappearance in early 2003, he had held very key senior military positions in regimes in charge of the country since the early 1990s.
After having served in the Hutu regime led by the one-time president, Juvenal Habyarimana, he switched his allegiance in 1994 to the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by eventual president, Paul Kagame.
His family firmly believe he was kidnapped by government officials and taken to a secret prison. They stated it was their belief he was interrogated under torture before being executed. They went even further stating that his body had been taken to a national park where it was cremated and dumped into a mass grave. The family claimed he received harassment and death threats since 1997.
Augustin was not the only political figure who seemingly dropped from the face of the planet around this time in Rwanda. Several weeks after Augustin’s disappearance, Leonard Hitimana disappeared sometime on 8th April while visiting a friend in the city of Kigali. His car was discovered the following day on the Ugandan border.
Those concerned with his safety and whereabouts believed he had been snatched by Rwandan intelligence services. Not only that, but his car had been purposely driven and abandoned near the Ugandan border to create an illusion that the politician had fled the country of his own accord.
Long History Of Influence Making A Person A Target
This isn’t a new, modern way of “getting things done” in such circles though. The fact is it has been going on for years – pretty much in one way or another, since the beginnings of civilisation.
Salvatore Pulia was a well-respected Democratic township boss in Proviso, who also had significant power and influence in his community. He also had a liking for late night gambling in “exclusive” Las Vegas “gambling dens” where, according to police intelligence, he enjoyed the company of equally influential organised crime associates.
His last known whereabouts was on 3rd June 1981. He had left his wife at their home at half seven in the evening to attend a dinner with a business associate. Pulia had recently set up his own company titled SPP & Associate, a municipal consulting business. Whether this was the topic of discussion that evening or not is not known. Staff saw Pulia leaving the restaurant premises at 10:30 pm. He was last seen alive by a patrolling policeman a little over an hour later, getting into and driving off in his car from a local motel.
Police investigations that followed uncovered a litany of enemies that Pulia had made, from mobster types to ruthless business partners, and his personality for “getting things done” meant that there was potentially a long list of suspects had he indeed met an untimely end.
In October 1959, a plane carrying revolutionist and member of Fidel Castro’s inner circle, Camilo Cienfuegos went missing on route to Havana. It was presumed and consequently told to the Cuban people, and indeed the world, that the Cessna 310 aircraft had crashed into the sea and that the much loved Cienfuegos was considered dead. This prompted thousands of grief stricken Cubans to travel in their droves to the water’s edge and toss flowers into the sea for their fallen hero.
Some though, believed that Castro himself had given the orders to eliminate the ever popular Cienfuegos. His political outlook was not in line with Castro’s and he saw him as an increasing threat.
Interestingly, those close to incident also appeared to be targeted in the aftermath. A British pilot who was said to have followed the plane carrying Cienfuegos that fateful evening seemingly disappeared, while a mechanic on the plane who made initial reports of hearing an exchange of gunfire was knocked down and killed by a car the same day he made his comments. Even a fisherman who just happened to have witnessed some type of “aerial shooting” that evening was taken in for questioning and also appeared to have vanished without a trace.
Political Food For Thought?
While it is easy to be fed up of politics and politicians, it is worth keeping an eye on what is going on in their world. Sometimes we will be surprised. Although all of the above would make great political thrillers no doubt, the fact of the matter is they are all very real accounts.
As cold as it sounds, is this simply the price to get things done? Or are we far from the advanced civilisation we think we are, still essentially resorting to one form of violence or another to assert one’s will and desire?
Food for thought indeed.
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