Phnom Penh Post reports on how Canadia bank made a front company to avoid negative publicity and Cambodian loggers have been involved in border conflicts with Thailand. The Vatican expresses its unease with left-wing leaders in Latin America in U.S. embassy cables. Haitian politics are affected by continuous embassy cables coverage, and the ACLU discusses its FOIA request to declassify 23 of the leaked State Department cables.
Phnom Penh Post published an article on a front company that Canadia Bank made to avoid negative publicity. In 2009, Cambodia government officials forced eviction of 129 families from a community called Group 78, claiming the land belonged to Sour Srun Enterprises. But a cable from Phnom Penh said that Sour Srun Enterprises is actually “believed by many to be a front for Canadia Bank, whose General Manager Pung Kheav Se is an advisor to [Prime Minister] Hun Sen.” The cable added that Canadia was worried about bad publicity due to a previous land dispute, so the front company was made to avoid more negative press. Group 78 families cite the 2001 Land Law to argue that they should have been able to own the land, but the government refused to allow it. Most of them recieved USD 8,000 for leaving their homes.
Another article from The Diplomat describes Uighurs who sought refuge in Cambodia. The Uighurs had fled China after clashes between security forces and demonstrators arrived in Cambodia in 2009. In early December 2009, The Washington Post published an article which made their presence in Cambodia public. Cables show that U.S. officials were worried that subsequent visits to Cambodia by Chinese officials would put pressure on Cambodia and threaten the safety of the Uighurs.
On December 18, 20 Uighurs were taken from a safe house at gunpoint and deported the next evening to China.
Shortly after, the government announced China had offered $1.2 billion in bilateral aid — ‘more than the cumulative total of Chinese assistance over the past 17 years,’ Theodore Allegra, then the embassy’s chargé d’affaires, noted in a December 22 cable entitled ‘A Grateful China Rewards Cambodia.’
The aid offered by China was far more than any other countries had donated in 2009. The group of Uighurs were reported by Radio Free Asia in March 2011 to be held in a detention center in China.
A Thai-Cambodia border incident is described in an article from Phnom Penh Post from a December 2009 cable from Bangkok, where a Cambodian logger was killed by Thai troops. The cable source said that Cambodian forces were defending the Cambodian loggers, and the Thai and Cambodian forces had exchanged fire. But a director from the Cambodian-Thai border relations office said that allegations of Cambodian forces crossing the border were only excuses for Thai soldier misconduct. A local rights group named Adhoc claimed that 22 Cambodian loggers had been shot by Thai forces in 2010.
Vatican and archbishops sought U.S. support to undermine left-wing leaders in South America
La Jornada this week reports on discussions held between high-ranking officials and cardinals of the Catholic church and the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Rooney. It cites a number of cables documenting the concerns and hostile views held by the Catholic Church with regard to left-wing Latin American leaders throughout Latin America.
In a cable sent to Washington in late 2005, Vice Secretary of State Leonardo Sandri – considered to be the third highest ranking official in the Vatican – expresses dismay at what he sees as a general shift to the left in Latin American politics, as well as at many of the region’s leaders’ allignment with Castro and Chavez. The latter’s influence, in particular, was a concern for Mr Sandri, who claims in the cables that Chavez was dangerous from the day he took office.
While saying that the Church would likely maintain its non-confrontational attitude towards Venezuela, Sandri welcomes the idea put forth by the ambassador to provide funding to programmes run by the Catholic church in Venezuela aimed at undermining support for Chavez.
In a a second article, the ambassador cites similar concerns, this time expressed by Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez and Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who both separately met with the US ambassador during a visit to Rome in early 2006. Cardinal Sandoval Iniguez argued that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who ran for the Mexican presidency in 2006, might be added to the long list of Latin American leaders which should be opposed.
Both cardinals, the ambassador writes, expressed hopes the U.S. could help Latin Americans understand the power of the free market, as opposed to that of left-wing policies.
The cardinals felt the poor in Latin America did not understand the potential benefits to them of free markets and urged USG help, acknowledging that the Church, though necessarily cautious, can also play a greater role.
In response to the claims made in the cables, the archdiocese of Guadalajara has confirmed that the meeting between cardian Sandoval Iniguez took place, but denies says neither the Mexican presidential candidate, nor any leftist Latin American politicians were discussed. The Mexican Episcopal Conference expressed its support for the cardinal, adding that “Wikileaks seeks only to damage Mexico and the Catholic Church.”
Haïti Liberté’s article this week describes the effect that the Haiti cablegate release has had on Haitian politics.
Previous Haïti Liberté articles have reported on cables in which Haitian businessman Fritz Mevs told a U.S. ambassador that Senator Youri Latortue was “the most brazenly corrupt of leading Haitian politicians.” Mevs has since written an open letter apologizing to Latortue and praising him as a patriot. Latortue has denied charges of corruption and threatened a lawsuit against Haïti Liberté.
Recently elected President Michel Martelly is having difficulty getting Parliamentary approval for his choice of Bernard Gousse for prime minister. Cables stated that Gousse was a “complete failure both on the security and justice fronts” as Justice Minister under the post-coup interim government after President Aristide in 2004. In addition, Gousse was said to have “presided over repeated police and paramilitary assaults on suspected pro-Aristide neighborhoods and supporters, killing and jailing thousands of people.” Gousse also argued against prosecuting former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier when he returned to Haiti in January 2011.
16 of 30 Haitian Senators have written to President Martelly asking for him to rescind the nomination. The Senators said in a resolution that Gousse was unacceptable for the “repression, arbitrary arrests and killings in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince” that were carried out under his auspices in 2004 and 2005.
Haïti Liberté also reported on cables which showed that the Haitian elite had created their own private army using the Haitian National Police. Fritz Mevs was the source for these allegations. As the cables and reports on them were released, Mevs family members published a letter in Le Nouveliste which “deplores any infringement on the integrity and honor of all individuals directly or indirectly implicated in this article.” The letter continued to praise those who were defamed in the cables.
The apologies and latest revelations have lit up Haitian radio stations and the blogosphere. Joe Emersberger, one of the editors of the website HaitiAnalysis.com, summed up the episode: “The letter by Fritz Mevs to Youri Latortue reads like a fear-ridden apology to Don Corleone.”
State Department response to ACLU’s FOIA request
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blog reported an update on its lawsuit challeging the lack of response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the State Department. The request asked for the declassification of 23 State Department cables which have already been made public by WikiLeaks.
The ACLU received a response to the lawsuit from the State Department, which stated that the ACLU did not ask for State Department cables in its FOIA request, but instead what the ACLU claimed were cables. In addition to refusal to acknowledge that the cables do indeed come from the State Department, it was claimed that,
…those cables do not “describe federal government activity.” Even actual State Department cables “are often preliminary and incomplete expressions of foreign policy, and . . . they do not necessarily represent U.S. views or policy.”
In conclusion, the government cited “unusual circumstances” which would further delay the processing of the ACLU request. ACLU called for the government to take responsibility for the cables.
Corruption in Lithuanian media
The European Journalism Centre describes how an article based on embassy cables published earlier this month describing corruption in the international media has caused a stir in Lithuania. The U.S. ambasador to Vilnius in acable states that
Some media outlets in Lithuania, newspapers especially, extort politicians and businessmen using rewards of positive coverage and the threat of negative coverage. Media corruption damages media credibility, undermines Lithuanias democratic institutions, and intimidates politicians, businesses, and civil society.
The cable details corruption relating to Respublika and Lietuvos Rytas, two of the main newspapers in the country, including multiple offers to to provide positive coverage in return for money. Independent sources confirm the practices.
Respublika responded to the publication by suing Aftenposten. Its owner and editor said the accusations are an attempt by the the U.S. secret service to oust the paper. Respublika also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. embassy, but the claim was rejected.
A Miami Herald article reports that during the two year iterim from 2004 to 2006 after the overthrow of President Jean Betrand Aristide, the U.S. was heavily involved in conducting Haitian affairs. Yvone Neptune, former Prime Minister to Aristide, was taken into custody after Aristide was overthrown. He was finally released due to lack of evidence for charges against him.
Brian Concannon Jr., a human rights lawyer who worked on the Neptune case and that of imprisoned activist Miami priest the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, said the cables show that the “U.S. concerns were limited to the public relations effects of their deaths in custody, not the fact that their imprisonment was illegal.’’
Funding in Bahamas politics
The Nassau Guardian reports that efforts in the Bahamas to introduce regulation of money in politics that have been ongoing for three decades have yet to have any results. A bill for increased supervision of money in politics drafted in 1980 has failed to pass into legislation. The country’s Prime Minsiter, Hubert Ingraham, has expressed opposition to leglistaion of political funding. While opposition leader Perry Christie recently called on the government to address the issue, he, himself, failed to do so during his own time as prime minister. In a cable sent in 2004, the U.S. ambassador to Bahamas cites instances of dubious funding contributions to both major political parties in the country, and says that “Both of The Bahamas’ two major political parties live in glass houses when it comes to campaign contributions.” Some of the cables refer to Mohammed Harajchi, an Iranian businessman. He has claimed that 90% if the Christie cabinet contacted him requesting funding contributions.
Arms dealer Viktor Bout uses cables in U.S. hearing
The Courthouse News Service reports that infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was extradited from Thailand to the U.S. in November 2010, has claimed to a New York court that embassy cables from the embassy in Bangkok shows that his extradition was politically motivated. One of the claims made by Bout’s lawyers was that the U.S. diplomat to Bangkok established the extradition of Bout as a condition for the return of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra into Thai care. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has not yet announced her judgment as to the claim, but appeared unimpressed. She said that “even if the WikiLeak documents were authentic,” there is nothing unusual about diplomatic pressure in extradition, and treaties show that U.S. courts cannot investigate the decisions of another country’s judicial system.”