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LIMA — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might want to think twice before fleeing to Latin America with his family.

Who else is outraged that Mugabe is a UN tourism envoy?

Mugabe has presided over human rights abuses as well as the collapse of Zimbabwe's tourism. Why is he being honored?
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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 88, in Victoria Falls at the ceremony announcing that Zimbabwe and Zambia will co-host the UN World Tourism Organization General Assembly in August, 2013. (Joseph Mwenda/AFP/Getty Images)

Who else is outraged that Robert Mugabe has been named a UN special envoy for tourism?

Not only has Mugabe, 88 and in power for 32 years, run a ruthless regime blamed for state-sponsored murders and torture and bankrupted Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy, he has also presided over the collapse of Zimbabwe's previously thriving tourism industry.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe's tourism numbers have plummeted and hotel occupancy rates have dropped precipitously.

Air Zimbabwe used to run excellent flights around the country, connecting tourists to Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls. It also operated busy, profitable flights which brought in tourists from South Africa and London. No more. The state-owned airline piled up debts and saw its planes seized in Johannesburg and London. Air Zimbabwe stopped operating in February.

Elephant, giraffe, rhinos, lions and an abundance of other animals used to provide tourists to Zimbabwe with an incomparable experience with African wildlife. More recently wildlife has been decimated in Hwange and other national parks, including Mana Pools along the Zambezi River, by poachers, some of whom have connections to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, according to numerous reports. The parks have become run-down and often lack the water holes, because the parks department cannot keep the pumps operating, according to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

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Zimbabwe's combination of repression and chaos are not conducive to tourism. Yes, some recent visitors report that they had a wonderful time, but there are others who report scary roadblocks and aggressive questioning by militia.

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