Who is the world's new longest-ruling leader?

Barring a truly remarkable turn of events, Muammar al-Qaddafi's rule appears to have come to an end. Having taken power 41 years and 357 days ago, Qaddafi had been the world's longest-ruling sitting leader (not counting royals). He fell short of the all-time record of 49 years set by Fidel Castro, as well as those of Chiang Kai-shek (46 years) and Kim Il Sung (45 years.) So who takes the crown now?

According to Wikipedia, it's Cameroonian President Paul Biya, at 36 years. However, that's disputable since Biya was actually prime minister for the first seven of those years and only assumed the office of the presidency when the sitting president died in 1982.

Going down the list, there's Mohamed Abdelaziz, president of Western Sahara --which is not a generally recognized country -- at 34 years. Then there's Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh at 33 years, though his grip on power is tenuous to say the least.

That leaves Equatorial Guinea's kleptocratic President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as the world's longest-serving undisputed ruler at 32 years and 21 days. Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe are close behind him, both at 31 years.

Given that Obiang and dos Santos are both 71 and Mugabe is 87, Castro's all-time dictator longevity record appears to be pretty safe.



Chávez stands by his man

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez can be called a lot of things, but not a fair-weather friend. El Universal reports:

"We recognize only one government, the one headed by Muammar Gaddafi. We reaffirm our solidarity with the Libyan people, our brothers who are attacked and bombed," Chávez said during a cabinet meeting broadcast by all Venezuelan radio and television stations, Efe quoted.

"See what is happening in Libya. It is a shame. Undoubtedly, we are face-to-face with the imperial madness. They are looting and robbing international reserves and oil (from Libya,)" Chávez said, when Libyan rebels have taken most of Tripoli, including the headquarters of Gaddafi, whose whereabouts are unknown.

One question this raises is why Qaddafi didn't choose, yesterday, to get in touch with Chávez -- a national leader with a high, if controversial, profile -- rather than an eccentric Kalmykian chess fanatic who talks to aliens.

In other Chávez news, the Venezuelan government is planning to repatriate $11 billion in gold held in foreign banks in order to protect it from the financial crisis. As you might imagine, moving that much gold is not so easy.