Iran shipped UAVs to Venezuela (via Turkey) in 2009.
The collapse of the Venezuelan opposition.
Cuban doctors working in Venezuela complained to embassy officials of being "politically manipulated" and underpaid.
Did WikiLeaks out a Malaysian politician as gay?
Another day, another WikiLeaks e-book, this one by a British journalist who seems to have been a bit too into Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks has claimed another WikiLoser: U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges, who was kicked out of Ecuador today over a cable detailing alleged corruption in President Rafael Correa's government. "It is unfortunate that the published documents on WikiLeaks have made it impossible to continue collaborating with the current ambassador to Quito, but we hope to work with a new ambassador," Ecuador's Washington embassy said in a statement today, according to the Associated Press.
The offending cable, which was signed by Hodges (above, with Correa in happier times) in July 2009 and published on Monday by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, concerns Jaime Hurtado, the former commanding general of Ecuador's National Police. "The Embassy has multiple reports that indicate [Hurtado] used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues, and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichment," Hodges wrote.
Hodges is the third U.S. ambassador to be forced out of an embassy post by an inconvenient cable; Carlos Pascual resigned from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City last month, and Gene Cretz was called back from Tripoli in January (though he's back in action now that the U.S. government is somewhat less concerned about Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's feelings). Of course, it's also worth noting that Correa -- like his regional allies -- drops U.S. diplomats like they're going out of style.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Qaddafi worried about a U.S. military presence in Africa.
Bernie Madoff once discussed investment opportunities with Qaddafi.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe OK'd "clandestine operations" against FARC rebels across the border in Venezuela.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (and later Afghanistan) William Wood was not aware of the top Colombian military leader's dodgy résumé.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to take down Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
China used U.S. debt obligations to pressure the United States on arms sales to Taiwan.
For the first time since World War II, Japan is building a full-blown foreign intelligence agency.
U.S. diplomats pushed Norway to buy American-made fighter jets.
Britain blocked an arms sale to Swaziland over fears the weapons could end up in Iran.
Bahrain's crown prince is not a big fan of the whole democracy thing.
A British judge rules in favor of Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden.
George W. Bush doesn't like the idea of sharing a stage with Assange.
Gaddafi's "voluptuous nurse" has had enough of Libya.
WikiLeaks cable revelations are factoring in Peru's 2011 elections.
PayPal freezes the account of a group raising defense funds for Pfc. Bradley Manning.
More on HBGary, the cybersecurity firm that tried to take down WikiLeaks' supporters.
WikiLeaks now has a gift shop.
Anonymous makes "The Colbert Report" (slightly NSFW)
THE BIG PICTURE
The death of former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva is that country's equivalent of the John F. Kennedy assassaination: a national mystery around which so much speculation circulates that no truth will probably ever be known. On a January day in 1982, Frei checked into the hospital in the capital, Santiago, for what should have been a routine operation. Hours later, he was dead. His family and supporters believe he was poisoned. A December 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday offers odd details about what happened next -- including an in-hospital autopsy -- that will only further stoke the conspiracy theories.
First, a bit of backgrond: Frei one of the founding members of the Christian Democrats, a moderately right-leaning party in Chile, was president from 1964-1970. Though he initially supported the military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power, he later became a "leading figure in the opposition to [the] military dictator," as the cable puts it.
Frei's supporters, and many pro-democracy activists from that time in Chile, believe that Frei was slowly poisoned by the dictator. And on December 7, 2009, two-and-a-half decades after his death, a Santiago-based judge charged half-a-dozen Chileans with carrying out the crime. According to the judge, two chemicals, thalium and mustard gas, were given to Frei over several months to weaken his immune system, leaving him vulnerable to the infection that eventually killed him.
The cable offers further details about the president's:
Less than one hour after his death, doctors from the Catholic University Pathological Anatomy Department came to Clinica Santa Maria and performed an autopsy of Frei without the family's consent. The highly unusual autopsy was allegedly performed in the hospital room where Frei died, using a ladder to hang the body upside down in order to drain bodily fluids into the bathtub. Some organs, and in particular those whose chemical compositions might indicate poisoning, were removed and destroyed, and the body was embalmed.
Years later, the United States was approached for help in investigating the crime, and specifically, for help with forensic analysis of the body. But what followed was a series of frustrating exchanges, recounted in what reads as an annoyed tone, in the cable. Chilean officials repeatedly failed to follow protocol in reaching out to U.S. diplomats, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, a U.S. military analysis of samples from Frei's remains found no traces of poison (though the alleged chemicals wouldn't have showed up 20 years later, the cable claims.)
What is portrayed in the cable as diplomatic frustration, however, may well seem like U.S. reticence to help in Chile. American officials were intimately involved in trying to stoke unrest in the Chilean military to spark a coup -- and subsequent administrations continued to back Pinochet once he came to office, though this position had begun to shift by the time of Frei's death.
(As an aside, the Chilean Judge issued his warrants days before a presidential election between Jose Piñera and Frei's son, Eduardo, also a former president -- described in another cable as "Smart, dependable, honest, and dull." If the charges were an attempt to push Frei's candidacy forward, however, it didn't work; he lost the vote.)
So in short, no resolution and lots more intrigue. As the December 2009 cable puts it: "the death of this emblematic president seems destined to be yet one more area [from the Pinochet years] in which the full truth may never be known."
U.S. officials worried about the return to Haiti of Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier back in 2006. (Duvalier returned to the country this week.)
Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom doesn't think Rigoberta Menchú exists.
BP's top Russia executive has his doubts about the survival of the company's partnership with Russian oil firm Rosneft.
Turkey allowed the United States to use one of its airbases for rendition flights.
Condoleezza Rice wanted U.S. diplomats in the Middle East to gather intelligence on Israeli communications technology and Palestinian leaders.
American diplomats were ambivalent about deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and alarmed by the growing opposition to him.
U.S. diplomats in Turkey fretted about a military backlash after the arrest of several officers in an alleged coup plot last year.
Julian Assange is planning to release details on 2,000 offshore bank accounts, which he says contain evidence of serious tax evasion and money laundering. Swiss authorities are now mulling filing related charges against his source, former Swiss Banker Rudolf Elmer, who was already found guilty on Wednesday of breaking other banking secrecy laws.
Alleged Assange source Pfc. Bradley Manning is placed on suicide watch; his lawyer says he's being mistreated at the Marine Corps jail.
The State Department has made a big deal about the havoc caused by WikiLeaks, but privately officials tell congressional staffers the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging."
Assange still has a lot of supporters in his home country of Australia.
The Pentagon wants U.S. military personnel to get rid of any WikiLeaks files they might have on their computers.
Russian WikiLeaks knockoff RuLeaks posts pictures of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea estate.
French lawyers are using WikiLeaks cables to argue for the acquittal of five Guantánamo detainees.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says that Assange's extradition is a judicial matter, and that his government won't be involved in the decision.
An investigative firm alleges WikiLeaks skims documents off of file-sharing networks.
Zimbabwe's attorney general is considering pursuing treason charges against more government officials based on WikiLeaks cables.
WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum is detained at an airport again.
A German CEO is out of a job after calling Europe's multi-billion-dollar Galileo satellite system (on which his company was working) a "stupid idea" in a WikiLeaked cable. (If you're keeping track, this is officially the first time WikiLeaks has caused trouble in space.)
THE BIG PICTURE
WikiLeaks was supposed to have extensive safeguards for its whistleblowers -- so why are so many of them ending up in jail?
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Tunisian uprising wasn't a WikiLeaks revolution, but it does help us understand how technology can and can't help spread democracy.
At last, someone thought to ask Miss America what she thinks about WikiLeaks.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Not much is known about Xi Jinping, the expected next president of China, but according to a newly public WikiLeaks cable, Xi has been complaining to America's neighbors about "well fed foreigners" pointing fingers at China.
In a February 2009 trip to Mexico, the first stop in Xi's six-country tour of Latin America, the current vice president of China blurted out his feelings about criticisms of Chinese diplomacy, according to a diplomatic cable classified by acting deputy chief of mission James Williard.
"There are some well fed foreigners who have nothing better to do than point fingers at our affairs," Xi blurted out at a lunch meeting, appropriately. "China does not, first, export revolution; second, export poverty and hunger; third, cause troubles for you."
Xi showed up with representatives of 20 Chinese companies in tow and made the case that China and Mexico have common cause to cooperate economically, as both are developing countries facing the consequences of a global financial crisis they didn't cause. The embassy cable noted that Xi's outburst seemed to reveal the Xi's true feelings about America despite a more diplomatic message during the rest of his visit.
"It should be noted that his criticism of 'well-fed foreigners' sharply contrasted from the overarching cooperation theme of his visit and were delivered on the first leg of his trip in a country with strong ties to the United States," the cable said.
The cable reported that Mexico was trying to correct its huge trade deficit with China and that Mexican officials were wary of China's tactic of expanding economic activity in developing countries.
"We don't want to be China's next Africa," a Mexican official told a U.S. Embassy economics officer, according to the cable, referring to the oft-cited criticism that China has pursued a strategy of seizing the continent's huge natural resources while dumping cheap industrial and manufactured products into foreign markets. "We need to own our country's development."
Two other recently released WikiLeaks cables also detailed China's charm offensive in Latin America and skepticism on that continent of Chinese motives and practices.
"China's strategy in Latin America is clear: it wants to 'control the supply of commodities,' said the Brazilian consul general in Shanghai," according to one cable sent to Washington from the U.S. Shanghai Consulate in April 2009.
"Colombia is wary of Chinese motives and what it sees as lax Chinese environmental and labor standards. However, Colombia needs new economic partners, particularly given the lack of progress on a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade agreement (FTA)," said another cable, conveying the views of Colombian diplomats as reported by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The cables paint a picture of an aggressive Chinese effort to insert state-owned companies into America's backyard while Latin American countries have few options but to go along in the face of American neglect.
Xi, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, has been intimately involved in those efforts, the cables show.
So how did his trip to Mexico go? The cables report the results as mixed.
"Xi's visit intensified the Mexico-China dialogue," the cable said. "However, Mexico's trade deficit with China and concerns over China's approach to investment continue to color Mexico's perception of China as a true partner."
AFP / Getty Images
Another day, another cable about alleged central-African multi-million-dollar embezzlement -- this time in Gabon.
The Obama administration dispatches a Florida senator to urge Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon not to pursue a torture case against Bush administration officials.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency quietly evolves into an international intelligence agency.
How a Brazilian who once kidnapped a U.S. ambassador managed to get into the United States.
McDonald's tries to muck up a free trade agreement in El Salvador.
The Jamaican government warned U.S. officials that extraditing a local drug lord would lead to trouble.
Britain trains a "government death squad" in Bangladesh.
Did Britain try to cheat Mauritius out of an island chain?
Inside Russia's awful prisons.
Shell thinks that Ireland could become a booming offshore gas supplier -- or not.
More U.S. complaints about Egypt's lackluster military.
Behind the scenes of an assassination in Dubai.
Julian Assange claims (dubiously) to have the names of CIA moles in Arab governments.
The FBI pays back "Operation Payback" over PayPal attack.
77 percent of Americans disapprove of WikiLeaks' cable release.
Did WikiLeaks dash Zimbabwe's hopes for democracy?
Hackers claim to have brought down Zimbabwean government websites in retaliation for a WikiLeaks-related lawsuit against a Harare newspaper.
THE BIG PICTURE
Daniel Ellsberg lawyer Floyd Abrams says Assange is no Daniel Ellsberg.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
By Ian Bremmer
Some of the information from those WikiLeaked U.S. diplomatic cables is interesting, or at least entertaining. But will the revelations actually have an impact on the conduct of international politics? Looking around the world, I've seen one policy so far that looks to be changed as a consequence of WikiLeaks.
On Dec. 6, Uruguay and Argentina joined Brazil in announcing they would formally recognize a Palestinian state, following the failure of Obama administration efforts to jumpstart talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Brazil's decision is interesting only in that it provides more evidence that major emerging market countries are carving out their own approaches to the world's big diplomatic conflicts, including in the Middle East, which is not a place where Latin American countries have many vital interests at stake. Remember when Brazil joined Turkey in direct engagement with Iran on its nuclear program? Or when outgoing President Lula invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil? That was a pretty clear statement that Brazil would not simply follow Washington's lead on every issue.
Argentina is more of an eyebrow raiser. After all, for reasons historical and cultural, Argentina is traditionally more sympathetic toward Israel than any of its Latin American neighbors. So why this shot across Israel's bow? Or was it the Obama administration's bow?
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner can't have been pleased to read that one of the cables exposed by WikiLeaks revealed that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had questioned her "mental state" and how she was "managing her nerves and anxiety." Making matters worse, the cables were written a year ago, but they went public one month after Kirchner lost her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner.
The leaks also revealed that a U.S. embassy official in Buenos Aires found her government to be "to be extremely thin-skinned and intolerant of perceived criticism." Maybe he had it right. Maybe the leaks explain, at least in part, why Argentina has decided to recognize a Palestinian state.
Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?
JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir allegedly has $9 billion in oil money stashed in Britain.
American diplomats at the United Nations don't like to talk much about human rights anymore.
Joking about Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, or even above Venezuela, is ill-advised.
How Brazil got pharmaceutical companies to hand over cheap HIV/AIDS drugs.
WikiLeaks is banned there.
The Red Cross reported extensive torture of Kashmiris at Indian detention centers in Kashmir to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi in 2005.
Singapore's government owes an apology to basically every major country in Asia.
The Dalai Lama says fighting climate change is more important for Tibet than political independence.
The heir to the Gandhi family political dynasty thinks Hindu extremists are a bigger threat to India than Muslim ones.
Turkmen strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov doesn't like people who are smarter than him.
Eric Clapton's weirdly persistent influence on North Korean politics.
Silvio Berlusconi for the win?
The German government is still not digging L. Ron Hubbard.
The Stockholm embassy discusses Sweden's WikiLeaks-enabling Pirate Party in a particularly meta cable.
The Azeri first lady's plastic surgery creates confusion among U.S. diplomats in Baku.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is "bizarre" and "disturbed."
Do Arab leaders actually care about the Palestinians?
Hosni Mubarak thinks his son is a perfectionist.
Is the Egyptian military in "intellectual and social decline"?
The Arab League doesn't like Steven Spielberg.
Julian Assange is released on bail after a media-circus-attracting hearing, but not before Michael Moore manages to get involved. Now that he's out of jail, Assange is pretty chatty -- as is Vaughan Smith, the journalist and WikiLeaks supporter who's hosting him until his next court date.
Things are not going nearly so well for alleged Assange document source Bradley Manning.
Someone posts a manifesto on behalf of Anonymous, the ad-hoc group of hackers that has cyber-attacked an array of targets in solidarity with WikiLeaks over the past two weeks. The manifesto quotes KISS bassist Gene Simmons. A Greek web designer is arrested for it.
A lot of people think Assange should have been Time's 2010 person of the year. Richard Stengel, the magazine's managing editor, isn't one of them.
Would Henry David Thoreau join Anonymous?
Congress considers WikiLeaks.
Mark Prendergast, ombudsman for the U.S. military's official Stars and Stripes newspaper, argues that military personnel should be allowed to read the cables.
If WikiLeaks doesn't get things rolling a little faster, we'll be writing this blog for another 7.6 years.
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
WikiLeaks has released its first confidential cable written by diplomats from the U.S. mission to the United Nations. While the December 2009 cable -- which discusses U.S. efforts on a range of issues before the U.N. General Assembly -- provides no major news revelations, it contains some valuable insights into the way America conducts its business here.
The confidential U.S. diplomatic communication -- which was approved by U.S. ambassador Susan E. Rice -- shows how reliant the U.S. is on its allies, particularly in Europe, to take the lead on politically sensitive issues like the promotion of human rights, where the U.S. often faces criticism for its military and detention policies. The cable credits the European Union with "collaborating pragmatically" with the Obama administration on its top priorities, including efforts to require emerging economic powers to pay a larger share of the U.N.'s administrative and peacekeeping costs, and to adopt U.N. resolutions criticizing the human rights record of Burma, Iran, and North Korea.
The EU, led by Sweden, also helped Washington fend off efforts by an influential alliance of developing countries -- known as the Group of 77 -- to adopt resolutions that would increase American financial burdens, including a draft resolution affirming a right to economic development.
The EU "responded with alacrity to new U.S. flexibility, particularly on arms control and economic/social issues," according to the cable. "The Swedish ambassador himself repeatedly engaged with G-77 colleagues to sway votes."
The cable, however, also singled out areas where key European powers refused to budge, including its annual support for a General Assembly resolution condemning the U.S. embargo against Cuba: "Spain was a particularly tenacious critic of our Cuba policy." It also expressed frustration with the failure of the EU, despite strong support from Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to significantly weaken a raft of nine pro-Palestinian resolutions that criticize Israel each year. "The EU's annual negotiation of these nine drafts... improved marginally.... The vote outcomes remained lopsided."
On the whole, this U.N. cable was certainly more businesslike than many of the most dramatic reports flowing out of U.S. embassies around the world. But I anticipate that future releases may provide sharper insights into many of the U.N.'s more colorful personalities. Perhaps they will even show us what Rice really thinks about U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
According to a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil's outgoing defense minister "all but acknowledged" that the FARC, a Colombian leftist rebel group that the State Department considers a terrorist organization, was present in Venezuela despite Brazilian leaders' consistent refusal to say so in public.
This is big news. Brazil has always played the cool mediator between unfriendly neighbors Colombia and Venezuela, taking neither party's side in their often-heated dispute over the FARC. In recent years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has repeatedly denied that the rebels are on his country's soil, while the Colombians have insisted otherwise, and Brazil has kept mum to avoid being seen as biased. The incoming president, Dilma Roussef, has said that FARC is not Brazil's problem.
As the defense minister, Nelson Jobim, put it, "were he to acknowledge its presence [in Venezuela] 'it would ruin Brazil's ability to mediate,'" according to the cable.
That's not to say, however, that Brazil is on Colombia's side. In fact, the WikiLeaks documents show signs that the Brazilians were frustrated with both parties. The Nov. 13 cable refers to Brazil's "insistence on painting [then Colombian President Álvaro] Uribe as the primary source of Andean tensions." And Jobim is seen blaming each side for making inflammatory statements about the other to drum up political support at home.
"Jobim also was critical of Uribe seeking a third term, a move which he thought set a bad precedent for the 'Bolivarists,'" the cable reads, referring to Chávez and his acolytes in Ecuador and Bolivia. (Another cable from Paris quotes French diplomatic advisor Jean-David Levitte as saying that Chávez is "crazy" and that "even Brazil wasn't able to support him anymore.")
So if neither Venezuela nor Colombia is Brazil's favored regional friend, is it a win for Washington at least? Likely not. In the same conversation, Jobim comes across as furious about a recent U.S.-basing agreement signed between Washington and Bogotá. The pact was lambasted in Latin American as yet more Yankee imperialism; in conversations recounted in the cable, the defense minister says that a U.S. policy document on the bases evinced "a complete lack of understanding" of the region.
Both Colombia and Brazil have newly elected presidents, which will likely shake things up in the relationship -- probably for the better. But what's not likely to change is the the sense in Latin American capitals that Washington just doesn't get it.
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
VZCZCXRO7945 RR RUEHRG DE RUEHBR #1315/01 3172140 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 132140Z NOV 09 FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5354 INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 0024 RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4429 RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 0001 RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 0090 RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 0018 RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0059 RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001315
STATE FOR WHA, PM AND T
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. In a November 9 meeting, Charge Kubiske and Minister of Defense Nelson Jobim discussed next steps in the United States-Brazil bilateral security relationship, the potential sale of U.S.-origin fighter aircraft and regional security. Jobim showed strong interest in furthering security cooperation by signing the Defense Cooperation as soon as possible and completing an information security agreement. Jobim told Charge that there would not be any decision on fighters until sometime after his return from international travel on November 23 and said that capability, technology transfer, benefit to Brazil's industrial capacity and price would be the criteria for decision. He offered no signs of encouragement that the U.S. bid would be chosen.
¶2. (C) Speaking of regional security issues, Jobim all but acknowledged presence of the FARC in Venezuela, offered a suggestion for building Colombia-Ecuador confidence along their border, and a possible border-monitoring arrangement for combating the drug flow between Colombia and Brazil. Jobim indicated concern about the contents of an USAF budget document which linked U.S. military access to bases in Colombia with "unfriendly governments" as evidence of a lack of understanding of Latin America. He believed that recent inflammatory statements from Presidents Uribe and Chavez are aimed at domestic constituencies on the eve of upcoming elections, and called a potential Uribe run for a third term a terrible precedent for Bolivarian governments in the region. Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia's public offer, only two days later, to monitor border activities as a way to reduce tensions between Colombia and Venezuela shows Jobim's influence. Despite the GOB's tendency to blame Colombia for current tensions, its efforts to maintain peace are sincere and should be encouraged. END SUMMARY.
Structuring the U.S.-Brazil Security Relationship
FX-2 Fighter Competition
The U.S.-Colombia DCA and Regional Implications
In addition to questioning Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's mental state, the health of Bolivia's firebrand President Evo Morales also comes up in the WikiLeaks document dump (The WikiLeaks website appears to be down at the moment but I'll add a link to the original cable once it become available):
The U.S. ambassador in Brazil said in a January 2009 dispatch that Brazil's defense minister had confirmed a rumor that the leftist leader was suffering from "a serious sinus tumor" that might explain "why Morales has seemed unfocussed and not his usual self" at recent meetings.
Ambassador Clifford Sobel quoted the Brazilian, Nelson Jobim, as saying that "surgery will be an effort to remove it" and that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "had offered Morales an examination and treatment at a Sao Paulo hospital."
Morales underwent surgery in February 2009, but the official story was that he had a deviated septum as a result of a soccer injury. Morales' spokesman stuck by that line today, saying the cable "had a big dose of speculation."
AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images