Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wikileaks targets LatAm

The media furor over Wikileaks may have mellowed out but the muckraking website continues to uncover hundreds of interesting diplomatic cables and documents. Latin America has not been an exception to this and Wikileaks targeted several countries in the past few days.


Colombia daily El Espectador published dozens of documents uncovered by Wikileaks over the past week. According to El Espectador the cables revealed that “the U.S. embassy became a confessional booth” once the para-politics corruption scandal broke out in 2006. One cable from that year revealed that Mario Uribe, senator and cousin to then-President Alvaro Uribe, was eager to meet with U.S. Ambassador William Wood and dissuade him from revoking his visa. (Mario was sentenced yesterday to nearly eight years in prison for his strong ties to the rightist paramilitaries).

Speaking of the former leader, several diplomatic documents revealed that U.S. diplomats were for the most part were content with Uribe’s actions in the para-politics ordeal. He “strongly supported judicial investigations of paramilitary-political ties” according to one 2006 memo after Uribe met with Wood. Wood’s successor, William Brownfield, praised Uribe in 2009 for pledging to “fully investigate” another scandal involving illegal wiretapping by Colombia’s intelligence agency (DAS).

According to other cables there were occasions when the ties between Uribe and U.S. diplomats were not always rosy. Another 2009 cable showed that the U.S. government tried to push Uribe to dismantle the DAS, an action that has yet to be taken. In 2006 Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns personal warned Uribe that reintegration programs of paramilitaries have not materialized” and that some of them are “returning to crime”. (Several of these former fighters would go on to form the base of the so-called “bandas criminales”, emerging narcotrafficking groups that have allied with leftist guerillas).


The Chilean government’s worries over the Middle East were the focus of several diplomatic documents uncovered by Wikileaks. A 2008 cable showed that Chile and Israel were both very worried over Iran’s ties to Venezuela. According to the document, Israel’s military attaché in Chile worked “with Chile's Investigative Police and 'other agencies' (presumably Chile's Intelligence Agency)” in order to spy on Iranian activities. 

Other cables from the U.S. embassy in Santiago showed that they were concerned with the presence of Hezbollah and similar groups among Chile’s small Islamic fundamentalist community. One 2006 document alleged that a "radical fundamentalist presence" was found in the city of Iquique and that “Hezbollah groups in the northern part of Chile are believed to be financial cells.”

Peruvian daily “El Comercio” revealed another memo via Wikileaks on an international court case between Peru and Chile. An unnamed Chilean diplomat in the 2008 cable worried that The Hague would “grant concessions to Peru” in a maritime border case based on previous rulings including one that year between Nicaragua and Colombia.

Speaking of Peru…


A 2005 document revealed that the ex-minister former interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi met with U.S. embassy officials where he expressed his “concerns” against “ultranationalist” Ollanta Humala. Along ex-Director of National Defense Ruben Vargas, Rospigliosi suggested several ways to counter the former presidential candidate including that “the Embassy consider supporting an anti-Humala communications program.”

Rospigliosi responded in an editorial published today alleging that his meeting with embassy officials was necessary and not “antidemocratic”. “Due to this ‘intromission of international governments’ (like Venezuela and Cuba), he decided to ‘balance out’ the situation and talk with the U.S. diplomats,” according to a Living in Peru article on Rospigliosi.

Aside from Rospigliosi, Wikileaks also revealed another cable alleging that Inti Gas soccer club president Rofilio Neyra received funds from drug traffickers. The politician, allied with political sectors loyal to disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, supposedly received the tainted money during a 2006 campaign for local office.


Lastly, Brazil’s growing economic and political clout in the Americas was a source of concern for Paraguay. Ex foreign affairs minster Leila Rachid told U.S. diplomats in 2005 that she was worried over Brazilian efforts “to minimize US influence in South America”. She opposed this perceived assertion of “Brazilian dominance” that could’ve lead to “unfettered Brazilian control of Paraguay’s destiny”.

Image- The Globe and Mail
Online Sources- La Republica, Living in Peru, El Pais, UPI, La Tercera, AFP, MercoPress, BBC News, El Espectador, Colombia Reports

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