Ilham Aliyev tries to mislead the world through "caviar diplomacy", creating the illusion of "happy" Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic which is ruled by the president, who has made his power unlimited through the referendum and keeps dozens of political prisoners in prisons. To appear a modern country, the Azerbaijani authorities organize cultural and sports events of a global scale and generously greet Western diplomats and parliamentarians. This is written by the Argentine site “Infobae”.

It is noted that Azerbaijan is a country known for its black caviar, for its authoritarian president, who inherited authority from his father, for its about 100 political prisoners and bribes of US congressmen.

“The authorities of authoritarian Azerbaijan are trying to demonstrate to the whole world that the country is committed to European values, but they are constantly persecuting critics of the regime and trying to influence the West with so-called “caviar diplomacy”, which costs them millions of dollars,” the author writes.

It is emphasized that President Ilham Aliyev has decided that with the help of sport and bribes it is possible to present the country as “happy and prosperous”. So, the authorities organized the Formula 1 Grand Prix for diversifying the economy. However, there were not many guests at the event: about 200,000 sports fans attended the first races in Monaco, in Baku their number was only 25,000. In addition, tickets for Formula 1 were not available to the residents of the capital, although they were sold at a 40% discount.

According to the British journalist Matthew Valencia, in 2003 Aliyev came to power due to rigged elections, and last year he initiated a constitutional referendum in order to strengthen his power. Throughout these years, the president pursued and imprisoned opposition activists. Among them are former presidential candidate Ilgar Mammadov and journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who has investigated corrupt government transactions. The country’s only independent newspaper, Azadlig, is on the verge of closure due to financial problems, and a criminal case has been launched against the leadership of the independent resource MeydanTV.

“In order to create a favorable image, Aliyev planned to carry out a lobbying campaign in the West: he uses consultants and firms specializing in public relations, organizes press conferences financed by his politicians in the most luxurious hotels in Baku and bribes assistants with gifts – carpets and caviar”, – the author emphasizes.

For example, the activities of “The European Azerbaijan Society” (TEAS) include organization of cultural events, lobbying of Azerbaijan’s interests among European legislators and organization of their visits to Baku. Thus, the Azerbaijani authorities paid about 2 million euros to the Italian parliamentarian Luca Volonte, who voted against the report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe.

It is noted that Azerbaijan not only wants to become an important country for Europe, but also tries to introduce itself as a tolerant and stable country. Thus, “caviar diplomacy” is active not only in Europe, but also in the USA, where the lobbying organization “Azerbaijan-American Alliance” (AAA) is developing its activities. Before Aliyev went to the US to take part in the nuclear summit, Baku had hired a lobbying organization called Podesta Group.

Podesta Group is also trying to prevent the adoption in the US Congress of an “Act on Democracy”, which provides for the imposition of sanctions against Azerbaijani officials for violations of human rights and democracy.

As the author writes, in 2013, US congressmen and about 30 of their staff visited Azerbaijan. The visit was fully financed by a network of organizations, behind which stands the State Oil Company of the country (SOCAR). Congressmen can not receive gifts from foreign governments, but in this case they were given expensive carpets and tea sets.

“Representatives of the Azerbaijani elite like to communicate with influential Western politicians, in particular, they “have a weakness” for the British. In London they have a lot of real estate, they even achieved the fact that Azerbaijani dancers took part in the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, and for this they received “sincere gratitude”, the article says.

Among the many British companies with which Azerbaijan cooperates, Baku prefers to work more actively with the organization “Freud Communications”. It was this company that was engaged in creating the image of the daughter of a despot – Leila Aliyeva. “While the population of Azerbaijan protests in different cities of the country against the rise in prices for bread, she lives in luxury: high fashion, Ferrari cars, luxury restaurants,” the author emphasizes.

As for sports events, the author writes that the president of Formula One Management, Bernie Ecclestone, is not the only one who showed indifference when he was criticized for holding races in Azerbaijan. In 2015, European games were also held in Baku. The cost of this event was twice as much as London’s spending on the Olympic Games. Today, Azerbaijan is preparing to host Islamic solidarity games.

In addition, in 2012 Azerbaijan organized a song contest “Eurovision 2012”. The fund, associated with the country’s government, financed some restoration projects in France, and also donated 1 million euros to the Louvre Museum. The author also notes that the president’s wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, is a member of parliament, a goodwill ambassador of UNESCO, and also sponsors cultural events.

“In different western countries active work is being carried out to create a favorable image of the first lady of Azerbaijan, however, not the Europeans are the addressees of this campaign, but the Azerbaijanis themselves, whom the authorities want to assure that their country is respected abroad,” the material says.

Summing up, the author writes that the “caviar policy” of Azerbaijan was overshadowed by the fall in oil prices in 2014 and 2015. After that, the country experienced a devaluation of the national currency and an economic crisis.