Wikileaks & Latin America

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Wikileaks has made international diplomacy more complicated for the US—or at a minimum more awkward. Neither the citizens of Latin America nor those any other region of the world will be spared the agony of knowing exactly what Washington thinks of their countries or their leaders. So far only a tiny fraction of the 250,000 documents—around 20,000 of which come from US embassies in Latin American—promised by Wikileaks has yet been released, but the materials that are now public give a tantalizing sense of what will follow.

Actually, what has become available regarding Latin America is neither startling nor particularly embarrassing. Indeed, one cable discussing the constitutional questions surrounding the 2009 coup in Honduras demonstrated the US embassy’s exceptional grasp of issues and context, and its capacity for sophisticated and balanced analysis. Documents showing that US and Brazilian security officials worked far more closely together than had been suspected are a compliment to both countries, although Brazilian authorities may have some explaining to do to their constituents. That US diplomats worked hard, even super hard, to promote American business activities overseas will not surprise many Latin Americans—and will not displease their compatriots at home.

The next batch of leaked materials, however, may not be so kind. One document, for example, is rumored to comment on the mental stability of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. Given that documents that have already come to light reveal a US obsession with Iran, it is not hard to anticipate that Brazil’s connection to Tehran will be the object of considerable attention in the 2000 cables coming from Brasilia, probably most of them unflattering. The 2500 from Bogota will surely talk about human rights abuses and other unsavory aspects of the Colombian government’s battles against guerillas and drug mafias, since these have been so much part the debate over the free trade accord.

Still, no one is going to learn a great deal that is new from the Wikileak’s recent releases. The most revealing materials tend to confirm—although often in a raw and uncomfortable way—what most of us believed or suspected already. This stuff is not going to change anyone’s mind about how the world or Washington works.

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