Cables reveal how the U.S. used a foreign aid law to leverage influence in Nicaragua. U.S. also pressured others to prolong former President Aristide’s exile from Haiti. In Libya, cables discuss the strategic importance of the country and its resources. Selected Articles cover Bulgarian dependency on Russia, homicide in El Salvador, a Thai-Cambodia oil dispute, and drug rehabilitation in Cambodia.
U.S. re-appropriation of property
This week, Nicaraguan press agency Confidencial published an extensive article on how the U.S. leveraged U.S. citizens’ claims for property confiscated in Nicaragua during the 80′s – after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship – in order to influence the Nicaraguan government. The issue is described in 60 diplomatic cables sent from Managua to Washington between 2007 and 2010.
According to the U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan, 2,646 claims involving U.S. citizens had been settled as of late 2009, of which 1,978 had resulted in the payment of compensation. Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samual Santos is reported in one cable in May 2009 as saying that the Nicaraguan government had paid some USD 1.2 billion worth of compensation, and that by contrast, the country received only USD 760 million worth of aid funds from the U.S.
As stipulated by the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. does not provide aid to any country that has expropriated what it considers U.S.-owned land. In addition, it will vote to oppose aid for the country in international financial institutions. Hence, the U.S. provides aid only if a waiver is issued. The U.S. has renewed the waiver for the past 18 years.
In a cable to the embassy in Managua in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argues that the Nicaraguan government has not done enough to meet the targets established by the USG on the issue, and points out that the waiver is to expire only a few month later. Discussing what the consequences of a cancellation of the waiver would be, the ambassador writes that
the prohibition would likely affect government-to-government assistance related to military training and equipment, drug interdiction, and electoral and judicial reform, economic development, CAFTA-DR implementation, as well as our votes at the IMF, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Section 527 authorizes the Secretary of State, as delegated by the President, to waive this prohibition on an annual basis provided that it is in the U.S. national interest.
The ambassador nevertheless suggests that the waiver be renewed, but adds that new demands could be placed. Another cable – not cited in the article – indicates that the threat might have had an effect: “The [government of Nicaragua] appears eager to resolve more claims this year than last to improve its prospects for a waiver.”
In June 2009, the U.S. ambassador writes that 284 Americans has 592 claims registered at the embassy. “Property claims resolutions in Nicaragua continue to consume the time and energy of former owners and government officials.”
U.S. campaign to keep President Aristide in exile
This week Haïti Liberté published an article (Part 1 of the french version of the article was posted last week) on U.S. efforts to keep former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in exile for seven years after he was removed from office. The coup that overthrew the enourmously popular Aristide in 2004 was instigated by wealthy Haitian elites with U.S. support. Aristide finally returned to Haiti in March 2011.
Cables from The Bahamas in 2003 shows that some Bahamian officials felt that the U.S. stance towards Haiti was “hard-minded,” and that the U.S. felt Bahamian Prime Minister Christie sypathized with Aristide. (An article from The Tribune provides more details on the Christie administration reaction to the situation in Haiti at the time.) Also in 2003, a U.S. official met with Vatin Official Giorgio Lingua, who encouraged U.S. pressure on Aristide, but refused to so in public, due to support for Aristide in segments of Haiti’s Catholic Church. After the coup in February 2004 ousted Aristide from the country, a cable from a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican reports that the Holy See had “no regret at Aristide’s departure.”
Aristide having been exiled to South Africa, the U.S. was determined to keep him out of the Western hemisphere.
When Dominican President Lionel Fernandez suggested…..nine months after the coup that Aristide should return and play a role in Haiti’s democracy, the United States reacted angrily, saying in a cable that Fernandez had “put a big front wrong in advocating the inclusion in the process of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide.”
In 2005, French and U.S. diplomats discussed the consequences of Aristide returning to Haiti, and agreed to pass on joint concerns to the South African government as a veiled threat: as South Africa wanted a seat in the UN Security Council, they “could not afford to be involved in any way with the destabilization of another country.” The Miami Herald reported that President Obama and UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon both called on South African President Zuma to prevent Aristide from leaving and possibly affecting the Haitian elections. But Aristide returned to an exuberant welcome in Port-au-Prince. The election two days after his return, which excluded his Lavalas party from the ballot, had less than 24% turnout.
Another article from World Socialist Web Site emphasizes the importance of MINUSTAH’s military occupation of Haiti, pointing to evidence in the cables that MINUSTAH was used as a U.S. and French proxy in order to occupy the country.
While noting that MINUSTAH had cost the US and its allies $2 billion by 2008, Sanderson wrote that the UN force was “a financial and regional security bargain for the USG.” Given the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, she argued that “in the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission.”
U.S. intervention in Libya
Two articles discuss how the current NATO intervention in Libya is not about humanitarian aid, but focused on the country’s strategic importance for the U.S. and investing oil companies. Cables from as far back as 2007 discuss U.S. relations with Libya and the U.S.’ single-minded focus on U.S. strategic interests in the region – in particular the advantages of Libya’s natural oil resources. Growing resource nationalism in Libyan policies from 2007 to 2008 forced major international oil companies including ExxonMobil, Petro-Canada, Repsol (Spain), Total (France), ENI (Italy), and Occidental (U.S.) to accept contracts “on significantly less favourable terms than they had previously enjoyed – and were collectively made to pay $5.4 billion in upfront ‘bonus’ payments.” Such contracts were made under the Libyan Exploration and Productions Sharing Agreement (EPSA IV). U.S. officials were alarmed at the possibility of Gaddafi nationalizing the oil sector. As noted in an earlier WLPress briefing describing a Bloomberg article, U.S. oil companies complied with Gaddafi’s demands to lobby the U.S. government in order to protect Libya’s oil and gas revenue.
The U.S. was also concerned about growing relationships between Libya and U.S. rivals in Europe, Russia, and China. A February 2009 cable reports that China Railway was given a USD 805 million contract that year and a USD 2.6 billion contract in 2008. Russia’s President Vladmir Putin also visited Libya in 2008 to negotiate forgiving Libya’s debt in exchange for big contracts in housing and electricity. Alarmed at Gaddafi’s support for contracts with non-U.S. entities, the U.S. cables show discussion of Gaddafi’s removal.
A February 2009 cable says the Libyan government was “anxious that the new US administration could adopt markedly different policies toward Libya…The cables show that the US government closely monitored political opposition to Gaddafi’s regime in eastern Libya, where the ‘rebel’ Transitional National Council is now based.
Coverup of homicide origins in El Salvador and accusations of corruption
An article from the news agency El Faro in El Salvador describes a circle of accusations amongst El Salvador’s top government officials in late 2005 in the midst of rising violence. Based on a series of cables written from the U.S. embassy in El Salvador, the article reports the rise in homicides during 2005. Much of the violence is blamed on the maras gangs, but one cable suggests that such blame may be used to cover up criticism of government policies.
The El Salvadoran government had attempted to improve the declining security situation, including launching a program called “Super Mano Dura” (Super Firm Hand) which did not have much success. Much of the violence had been blamed on the maras gangs, which “Super Mano Dura” had been aimed at supressing. A cable from October 2005 reports that U.S. officials met with El Salvador’s National Security Council Director Oscar Bonilla, who said otherwise:
Bonilla [sic] rejected claims by the National Police that up to 90 percent of violent crimes in El Salvador are committed by “mara” members. In fact, Bonilla claimed, no more than 30 percent of such crimes are committed by “maras,” but the Police and some high level government officials make that claim to deflect criticism of the [government of El Salvador] performance in providing security to the general population. Bonilla added that the majority of homicides are committed by and among traditional criminal organizations and are generally related to drug trafficking.
In another meeting with embassy officials, the head of the Narcotics Division of the Salvadoran National Police (PNC) accused Attorney General Artiga of money laundering. An interview with Artiga led to another round of “finger pointing” where the Attorney General “vented openly about National Police Commissioner Ricardo Menesses, strongly implying that Menesses is corrupt and has enriched himself through his position as head of the police.”
Thai-Cambodian oil dispute nearly resolved in 2006
The Bangkok Post reports from diplomatic cables that the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over natural gas reserves was nearly resolved in 2006. The conlict concerns overlapping claims in relation to a 27,000 km-large area, thought to contain 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. According to energy sector representatives cited by the U.S. ambassador to Phonm Pehn, the revenues to be extracted in the area could be of very significant importance for both countries. In the cable, the Cambodian secretary of state Kao Kim Hourn is quoted as saying in 2006 that an agreement in line with Thailand’s proposed model for division of the rescources between the two countries was only six months away. The secretary of state added, however, that the overthrow of the Thaksin government in 2006 later that year had made progress on the issue impossible. Since the Thaksin-backed Puea Thai party has won the recent 3 July Thai elections, there may now be possibilities for resolving the conflict.
Rehabilitation methods in Cambodia
An article by Crikey cites diplomatic cables describing drug use and rehabilitation in Cambodia. The ambassador writes that the country is struggling with a surge in drug use due to its porous borders, its domestic drug industry and urban crime. Fearing the social stigmatisation associated with drug use, rich families “hide their children’s drug use by secretly sending them to rehabilitation centers”, mostly in Australia and China. For “the poor and undesirable”, the treatment is different. Citing a Human Rights Watch Report, the ambassador describes the eleven domestic Cambodian rehabilitation centers as ranging from boot camps to torture centres. At these institutions, treatment includes “being shocked with electric batons, whipped with twisted electrical wire, beaten, forced to perform arduous exercise and labor, and sexual abuse”.
Bulgarian dependency on Russian energy
Bulgarian media have published a cable describing U.S. views on Bulgaria’s energy dependency on Russia. Writing to Washington in view of a visit by U.S. officials, Ambassador to Bulgaria Nancy McEldowney writes that given the country’s lack of energy resources, the forced closure of the Kozluddy power plant in Bulgaria has increased the country’s reliance on Russia. In addition, Russia has put significant pressure on the country in relation to energy issues. “With the price of energy at near record highs,” the Ambassador says, “Russia’s hydrocarbon-generated wealth is increasingly circulating through the Bulgarian economy, making Bulgaria all the more susceptible to Russian leverage.” He adds that “An energy strategy that focuses on renewables and efficiency is one tool Bulgaria can use to put a noticeable dent in negative Russian influence.”