Saturday, December 11, 2010

Drips and Dribbles From Wikileaks

Reportedly, more of the messages in Wikileaks' 'Cablegate' cache came from Bogotá than any of the U.S.'s South other American embassies. That's not too surprising, since historically Colombia has received more U.S. aid than any other nation in the hemisphere, and until the Iraq war the U.S.'s Bogotá embassy was its largest in the world.

Whatever one might think about an alleged rapist releasing confidential diplomatic messages, many of the messages are interesting, altho not terribly surprising.

For example, according to one cable, while serving as Pres. Alvaro Uribe's defense minister, current Colombian Pres. Juan Manuel Santos wanted to push harder in investigating the false positives scandal, in which Colombian military units killed innocent youths and then presented them as guerrilla fighters in order to receive bonuses. Good for Santos, who perhaps was unfairly tarred by the scandal.

Cables also portray the U.S. government as concerned about the extrajudicial killings (which have created an obstacle against U.S. aid and a pending free trade agreement.)
Juan Manuel Santos wanted to crack down on these killings.
Other cables could generate tensions between Colombia and the US, which has sent Bogotá billions of dollars in mostly-military aid to battle guerrillas and drug crops. One cable revealed that the U.S. considered setting up a crack military team intended to try to rescue three Americans kidnapped by the FARC guerrillas. Colombia is the U.S.'s closest ally in Latin America, and its military has been closely trained by U.S. advisors. Does the U.S. lack confidence in Colombia's armed forces? Apparently, even Pres. Uribe was prepared to accept a U.S. rescue attempt. In the end, the Colombian military tricked the FARC guerrillas into releasing the three Americans and other prominent hostages.

So confident were Colombian officials in the U.S. that then-Vice President Francisco Santos even asked for the U.S.'s help in investigating internal Colombian government scandals. The U.S. ambassador declined.

Hugging a Hitler?
Another cable reported that Pres. Uribe compared Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez to Adolf Hitler. In this blogger's opinion, Chavez is destructive, but no Hitler. Uribe, in fact, wanted pushed for the deal giving the U.S. use of Colombian military bases to dissuade a possible Venezuelan invasion. Even if Chavez were as evil as Hitler, the Venezuelan leader and his country are too bumbling and disorganized to do too great damage. Uribe's opinion does confirm his image as a hard liner, with maybe even a big dose of paranoia.

Not surprisingly, then, Colombian officials were angry about the U.S.'s silence on Venezuelan issues. But when the U.S. government needs to decide between allies and oil, the outcome's not difficult to predict.

My comment: Uribe's sometimes extremism is a bit scary. So it's perhaps impressive and surprising that he stayed generally within the Constitution's framework and even stepped down when the high court nixed a second reelection. Chavez, in contrast, is turning into a dictator. 

In contrast, during his final months in office, Uribe wanted to pursue a dialogue with the FARC guerrillas. Perhaps Uribe dreamed of changing his legacy from warrior to peacemaker.

None of the cables revealed so far are earth-shaking - or even particularly scandalous. And the U.S. doesn't come out too badly off. Yes, the U.S. government wanted to weaken Hugo Chavez - but no cable published so far has revealed the Americans trying to do so by underhanded or murderous means, as Chavez himself has so often charged. And the U.S. seems generally to have pushed for human rights here.

So far, about 20 Colombia cables have been released and, reportedly, thousands more are on their way.

Adrian Lamo. Colombia's most
famous hacker - who's not
quite Colombian.
There is also a second Colombian connection to the Wikicables.

Adrian Lamo, the noted computer hacker who turned in Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked the cables to Wikileaks, has a Colombian father and briefly lived here as a child.

Perhaps Colombian officials should hire him to hack Hugo Chavez.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours.

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