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May 09, 2014

The Hill: Abusive Belarus dictator doesn’t deserve hockey championship

By Shawn Gaylord

“Better to be a dictator than gay.” That was Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, responding in 2012 to Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s openly gay foreign minister, who had dubbed Lukashenko “Europe’s last dictator.”
They both had a point. In Belarus, it’s probably better to be Lukashenko than anyone else, gay or straight. And Lukashenko, now in his 20th year of authoritarian rule, is indeed a dictator. He also happens to be the host of this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation’s world championship tournament.

Lukashenko is a big hockey fan, so it was only natural for him to want to host the event. More surprising was the International Ice Hockey Federation’s decision to grant his wish. The move sparked criticism from activists and policymakers all over the world. A bipartisan group in Congress, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), urged “the International Ice Hockey Federation to demand that Belarus release all political prisoners or forfeit the honor of hosting the Championship.”