Stories and news that barely rate a mention in the Western corporate media. This is why Wikileaks remains vital for democratic transparency, away from bitter Western hacks who see their role as protecting turf and power. The Nation explains:
On June 19, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange slipped into the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, seeking sanctuary and asylum from extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual misconduct. If and when the government of Rafael Correa grants his request—a decision that had yet to be made as The Nation went to press—Assange will become a resident of Latin America, where the trove of US State Department cables he strategically disseminated has generated hundreds of headlines, from Mexico to the Southern Cone.
“Cablegate,” as the revelations have come to be known, has had a different degree of impact in each Latin American nation—on politics, the media, and the public debate over transparency and government accountability. In two countries it led to the forced departure of the US ambassador; in another it helped change the course of a presidential election. In some countries, the documents revealed the level of US influence in domestic affairs; in others they detailed criminal activities and corruption within a number of host governments. In many nations, the cables disclosed the parade of local political, cultural and even media elites who lined up to divulge information—or gossip—to US Embassy officers, never suspecting that their discussions would become front-page news.
Collectively, the Americas have been treated to a mega– civics lesson in globalized whistleblowing. And US citizens have also peered into the foreign policy abyss of our bilateral and regional ties. A year after the diplomatic dust has settled on the WikiLeaks phenomenon in Latin America, it seems appropriate to assess—drawing attention to the experiences of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia—what the biggest leak of US documents in history has left in its wake.
Of the quarter-million diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks’ source, Bradley Manning, downloaded from a US military database in Iraq, some 30,386 traveled to or from embassies and consulates in Latin America. More than half were unclassified or “limited distribution” cables; they reported on articles in the local press, public forums, the chit-chat of diplomatic functions and the routine of consular affairs. The majority of the cables, Carlos Eduardo Huertas notes in his article on Colombia, “disclosed how the US diplomatic corps tends to official business.”
But almost 900 cables were stamped “Secret” and 10,000 “Confidential.” Many of those revealed policies, operations, sources and classified assessments that inflamed, at least temporarily, US bilateral relations with a handful of countries.
In Mexico, as Blanche Petrich Moreno reports, US Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s critical commentary on the Mexican Army’s lack of action on US-provided intelligence targeting drug kingpins proved politically embarrassing for President Felipe Calderón. La Jornada’s stories on the ambassador’s candid critique contributed to a breach in US-Mexican relations; in March 2011, Pascual was forced to resign.
In Ecuador, Rafael Correa expelled US Ambassador Heather Hodges after the press reported on a secret cable revoking the US visa of former National Police chief Jaime Aquilino Hurtado, who had “used his office…to extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking, and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues.” Some embassy officers, according to the cable, “believe that President Correa must have been aware” of Aquilino Hurtado’s corruption, but appointed him anyway because he wanted a National Police chief “whom he could easily manipulate.”