How dictators took on diplomacy in 2016

Maclean's Newsmakers 2016: It was the best of times for global co-operation. It was the worst of times for democracy.

(Photo illustration by Lauren Cattermole and Richard Redditt)

(Photo illustration by Lauren Cattermole and Richard Redditt)

Our annual Newsmakers issue highlights the year’s highlights, lowlights, major moments and most important people. Read our Newsmakers 2016 stories here, and read on for a look back at the year that was for dictators across the globe.

Xi Jinping: The president of China cemented his power in October when the Communist Party gave him the title of “core” leader. Xi spent the year stoking nationalism at home and building out China’s territorial reach in the South China Sea.

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Nicolás Maduro: With Venezuela’s petrostate economy failing amid hyperinflation and food shortages, a referendum to recall the president was cancelled, and elections delayed.

Vladimir Putin: Russia’s president had a winning year—if winning means launching airstrikes against Syrian rebels, Russian hackers feeding Hillary Clinton’s emails to WikiLeaks, and journalist and Putin-critic Alexander Shchetinin being found murdered at home.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: In the wake of an attempted coup against the Turkish president in July, more than 100,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been suspended or fired, 36,000 have been arrested and 110 media outlets closed.

Bashar al-Assad: Thanks to Putin, the Syrian strongman’s grip on power strengthened even as the death toll from the country’s five-year civil war crossed the half-million mark.

The Paris Climate agreement: Less than a year after the deal was signed, close to 100 countries ratified it and it became international law in November—the same month Donald Trump, who argues climate change is a Chinese hoax, won on a promise to scrap the deal.

MORE: Donald Trump and the new world order

CETA: The free trade agreement between Canada and Europe, in the works since 2009, nearly hit a Wallonian wall when the Belgian region refused to sign the pact. The Walloons came around and CETA was signed, a rare move forward on trade in a protectionist world.

Cuba detente: Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba marked the first by a U.S. president since Fidel Castro took power—followed by another historic visit from the Rolling Stones.

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