A Bolivian lawyer in La Paz recounted this tale to me over dinner recently. “A friend of mine who is a diplomat thinks that Wikileaks will destroy foreign relations, but I told him it will do nothing of the sort. It merely confirms what we have always known about the American foreign policy in this part of the world - they meddle,” the lawyer said. This is by far an unusual reaction to Wikileaks in Latin America. This is a continent which the US has regarded almost as its own territory for so long now, that few in the region trust Washington.
Among the thousands of cables Wikileaks has published include one from the US Embassy in Bolivia - one of the biggest in the region - written in 2009. It is patently biased against the leftist government of Bolivian President Evo Morales and recounts conversations Embassy officials had with Morales’ political opponents in the lead up to a national vote on a new constitution. It clearly implies the Americans were involving themselves in domestic political affairs. Another, from 2007, has a State Department official bullying the Bolivian Ambassador over President Evo Morales’ anti American rhetoric. “Actions have consequences, Kelly admonished, “ and he then listed a number of aid programs that would be cut if Morales did not tape his mouth.
Nikolas Kozloff, writing in the Huffington Post on December 7, analysed highly critical cables written by a US Embassy official who complained long and hard abour President Morales’ opposition to the American controlled agenda of the Copenhagen Climate Change meeting last year. Kozloff observed that while one “would expect U.S. diplomats to be critical of Morales in their reporting…in going over the WikiLeaks cables I've been struck by the remarkably supercilious tone and vindictive accusations hurled at the Bolivian leader.” Like comparing him to a petulant four year old child as one cable does.
Spanish newspaper El Pais has published a 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Buenos Aires which outlined a strategy for the left of centre Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to rein in Ecuador’s leader Rafel Correa - a firebrand leader who loathes the Americans. Argentina was to “influence the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, to behave with more restraint, to take a more constructive position, mature and balanced in the Colombian conflict and positively influence his Venezuelan counterpart” Hugo Chavez.
In short, Wikileaks has exposed the US’s continued interference in the sovereignty of nations that the Americans consider to be their back yard. And this is what will help galavanise the already virulent anti-Americanism that runs through Latin America among everyone except a few hard core neo fascists and retired generals.
The Wikileaks cables explain why many Latin Americans were not as excited about the prospect of Barak Obama succeeding the hapless and hopeless George W Bush in 2009 as were many in Europe and Australia. Their hunch was right. Under Obama the US, Wikileaks reveals, continues with its business as usual strategy. The revelation that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton wanted to know what type of medication Argentina’s Fernandez de Kirchner takes is as odious as a 2008 request from Washington for their men and women in Asuncion Paraguay “to include fingerprints, facial images, iris scans, and DNA” on each of the presidential candidates.
What is notable in Latin America is the reluctance of political leaders, or anyone for that matter, to criticise Wikileaks. Julian Assange is a hero to many. Bolivia’s Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera has published in full on his website all the Wikileak cables pertaining to Bolivia. Garcia Linera includes on his site a quote from Assange and the Biblical reference , “the truth will set you free.”
It is all very well for politcial leaders like Julia Gillard to join the American chorus in condemning Wikileaks and be complicit in handing over Australian citiizen Assange to a corrupt legal process. But the country she leads does not have to endure American imperialism and high handedness on a daily basis.