wookieeleaks and the office for public diplomacy

With enough material to keep us reading until seemingly the next decade, Wikileaks has lifted the lid on what passes for diplomacy by the elites. We need to be cautious, though. There seems to be at least two types of information emerging from Wikileaks. The first, facts contained in leaked cables, are useful, and usually confirm things which are already in the public domain, or for which already existed informed speculation. The second type of cables are the mad ramblings of senior and junior diplomats in far flung places, penned late at night, with the writers probably praying they will be shipped to a better gig if they serve up what their political masters want. Unfortunately the two have been reported as if both are factual, and then are repeated as newspapers feed websites feed tv feed radio feed other, lesser newspapers.

Nicaragua has provided two classic examples, one from the first wave of leaks before Christmas, the second from the constant drip which is now provided by the site.

Last December El Pais, using cables provided by Wikileaks, claimed that the Ortega government was ‘fueled’ by drug money, in return for letting drug traffickers go free. It also said that Hugo Chavez sent suitcases stuffed with money to the government. Is this the same Sandinista government that has the best record out of all the Central American republics for arresting drug criminals? Or the same government, who along with the Venezuelan government, has been transparent about the $1 billion that has come from Venezuela, in the form of aid and other economic transactions through the ALBA? The cable also alluded to senior Sandinista officials helping smuggle cocaine in the 1980s. In fact, the Contras and the CIA provided a staging route for cocaine into the US, detailed in a 1996 expose by Gary Webbe of the San Jose Mercury News. Thanks to the need to provide covert money for the contras when the US Senate cut off offical aid, Los Angeles’ black citizens were introduced to the benefits of crack cocaine.

Another leak released at the same time before Christmas might give more of an explanation. In 2006 the US Embassy was responsible for a series of ‘rap sheets’, seeking to remind `Nicaraguan voters and others of the true character” of Daniel Ortega and his opponent, Arnoldo Aleman. The Embassy was also talking to the Taiwanese Embassy at this time. A more recent leak (see here) shows that the Taiwanese were seeking, with the United States, to engineer a deal with the Sandinistas’ opponents, to ensure that a single right wing candidate would have a chance of trouncing the FSLN. Presumably similar shenanigans are going on at the moment, with suitcases stuffed with US cash.

Whilst Wikileaks has had some minor impacts (Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela has sent home their US Ambassadors, partly as a response to information revealed on Wikileaks), the only person to suffer so far in the lands of the powers that be is half Welsh Bradley Manning. It has become another vehicle for distributing propaganda, something which the US proved adept at doing during the first Sandinista Government during the 1980s, with their Orwellian Office for Public Diplomacy. Wikileaks is important, but it doesn’t mean you should accept every word as gospel.

For more on Wikileaks and Latin America, see COHA’s Wikileaks: the Quito Cables. For a more critical discussion of Wikileaks, see Tortilla con sal’s Wikileaks: the view from Nicaragua.

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