During one of his many alarming, unpresidential, and unsanctioned phone calls with foreign leaders, President-elect Donald Trump allegedly expressed support for the brutal drug war waged by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who many have compared to Trump for his violent campaign rhetoric and looseness with facts.
“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump,” Duterte said on Saturday. “And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.… He understood the way we are handling it, and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country. It was a bit very encouraging in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country.”
Duterte ran on a campaign of continuing his work as the 22-year mayor of Davao City, where unofficially state-sanctioned “death squads” roamed and drug users and petty criminals were executed in the streets. He pledged to kill all of the Philippines’ drug addicts, which he numbered around three million (though other government estimates have been about half of that, and Duterte has repeatedly cited false or misleading information to support his drug war). Since he took office in June, nearly 5,000 people have been killed, according to Human Rights Watch, either by death squads or police forces.
Responding to criticism of Trump’s apparent praise of a “campaign” that has killed thousands of people in just six months, his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway trotted out an unusual defense. “My husband’s Filipino, which means my children are, and we all recognize some of the negatives that have happened over time there and elsewhere, but we also recognize the opportunities that may exist between the United States of America and other countries,” she said Sunday to reporters at Trump Tower.