The US tried pressuring Canada into closing down safe injection facilities for addicts. Cables also show that a Bangladeshi top commander told US officials that extra-judicial killings were ‘necessary.’ Christopher Schwartz in a thorough analysis describes the initial reactions to WikiLeaks in Central Asia after the release of the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, and the US State Department cables. All this and more in this week’s press roundup.
U.S. influence and perspectives^
Big Pharmaceutical companies’ lobby for patents and intellectual property rights in developing nations: An article from The Fix gives an overview of cables mentioning large American pharmaceutical companies lobbying U.S. officials in developing countries for advocacy on their behalf. Cables from India describe strong resistance to the pharmaceutical lobby and success in allowing cheaper generic drugs to reach the population. In the Dominican Republic, a cable notes that Big Pharma representatives complained about the deliberate slowdown on patent approval, delaying companies’ potential market monopolies. Such monopolies are preserved under the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which many developing countries are pressured into accepting. One unique cable from the outgoing ambassador to Poland in 2009 says, “while pharmaceutical companies often assert that they would be happy with a transparent process, even if it led to decisions not to fund their drugs, in practice they seem to resent all government measures aimed at cost containment, as these also inevitably limit drug companies’ sales.” In Thailand, when the government decided to import a cheaper Indian HIV drug, the cables discuss how Thailand was subsequently put on a watch list for countries which violate international trade rules such as TRIPS.
Drones and U.S. Imperialism in Mauritius and the Seychelles: Cables from Mauritius and the Seychelles show that the two countries are under constant pressure from the U.S. Ignoring elected representatives’ obligations towards their constituents, the U.S. embassy makes direct contact with politicians while forbidding them from relating their conversations. In this way, the U.S. embassy has created close relations with officials on the highest level.
The Seychelles is among the countries hosting a U.S. drone base. While it has been claimed that operations from this base would be only for surveillance, cables cited by the Washington Post show that the U.S. from the start informed Seychelles officials that it might request permission to arm the drones in the future. The ambassador warned of informing anyone other than the president of any such plans, as it would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’. The secrecy surrounding the deployment of drones in the Seychelles provides a warning for Mauritius and other countries, as the U.S. seeks to extend its network of drone bases.
|Canada’s Supreme Court ruled on 30 September that Insite, the city’s embattled supervised injection facility, could remain open. Photo by M-J Milloy.|
U.S. wanted Vancouver safe injection facility shut down: A 2009 cable, while praising the Canadian government’s efforts to undermine the distribution of illicit drugs and a drug awareness program, said that the Canadian state and municipalities should, however, do more to eliminate injection sites and distribution programs. Last week, on September 30, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled with a 9-0 majority in favor of keeping the injection facilities open. The court said the facilities have helped save lives, and that an earlier government decision to end the program threatened drug users’ health and their lives.
Quebec policies and sovereignty: Deputies told the U.S. embassy in Ottawa that the Bloc, a strongly supported separatist Quebec party, is behind the scenes more interested in increased autonomy than sovereignty, and insisted “the Bloc was no longer a sovereignist party.”
A recent article alleges that a cable shows Paraguay’s current president, Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez, had requested assistance from the embassy to monitor his political enemies. Lugo had campaigned on a leftist platform while remaining close to the US Embassy, including supporting the United States’ fight against the Paraguay People’s Army.
U.S. envoys helped Mormons worldwide: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that after the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. State Department has advocated a great deal for religious freedom abroad. In countries such as Vietnam, China, Guyana, and Slovakia the cables document how U.S. officials have kept tabs on Mormon communities and spoke on their behalf with foreign officials when the safety of the communities were at risk.
U.S. contributed funding to activist groups opposing Chinese dam project in Burma: Noting that the project was mainly a Chinese endeavor and was strongly opposed by Burma citizens, a cable states that the “Dam-related social unrest is a possibility in light of the already-tense political situation in Kachin state and the dislocations the project is expected to cause.” The cable discusses grassroots opposition to the dam project from minority groups, “including recipients of Embassy small grants.”
U.S. plans to cut funds to military bases in Spain cause public relations concerns: A U.S. official cautioned that the Spanish government would be very displeased by layoffs at the Morón and Rota airbases, and could retaliate by making the U.S. pay local fees and bring unwanted publicity in the media.
Over 3,000 cables from U.S. embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka: One cable from Sri Lanka shows that the U.S. ambassador was skeptical about a project to build a port in Hambantota, saying that it would likely be influenced by political patronage and corruption and that the project lacked private investors. Another cable written following 2010 Presidential elections noted large transfers within the military and police, implying that the transfers were made based on political loyalty.
Iran, Azerbaijan In Tense Caspian Standoff: Cables show Azerbaijan fears the military power of Iran and Russia, as well as the U.S. position that any such threat should be deterred.
Bangladesh: ‘Khaleda alone’ would steer BNP into future: Despite aggressive rhetoric from her party colleagues, BNP leader Khaleda Zia in 2008 told the U.S. that she alone would lead the party, over which she later proceeded to expand her grip.
U.S. influence on foreign media^
U.S. monitored, pressured, and influenced Al Jazeera: A cable documenting a how U.S. officials had Al Jazeera Director General Khanfar modify news coverage of Iraq has been discussed in previous weeks in the media. Narcosphere points out several more interesting cables, including a cable on Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, who was held in Guantanamo for six years. Other cables show that the U.S. embassy bombarded Al Jazeera with meetings to complain about content and monitor the publication throughout the years.
U.S. closely monitored Venezuelan media, particularly Telesur and its cooperation with Al Jazeera: In an Al Jazeera editorial, Nikolas Kozloff writes on a U.S. embassy cable which shows concern over the creation of a South American news network Telesur in 2005. The cable reports that Chavez felt that CNN’s coverage in Venezuela was biased, and that he wanted to create Telesur to “promote government interests”. Other cables show how closely the U.S. monitored Telesur’s finances and interactions, even outside of Venezuela. A cable which discusses the Venezuelan government’s “propaganda practices” mentions the documentary film The Revolution Will Not be Televised, and notes that U.S. media had not yet questioned its “veracity”. Kozloff also interviewed the Telesur manager and reports his views on Telesur’s coverage. In conclusion, Kozloff says that although these cables do not expose blatantly immoral actions, they do reveal a great deal about U.S. State department operations and foreign policy. The cynical and highly opinionated tone that Kozloff finds throughout the cables reflects a consistent antagonistic stance towards Venezuela-U.S. relations, which is de facto supported by the American public.
Violence and Human rights violations^
Andy Worthington – ongoing coverage of Guantánamo prisoners released in 2006: Worthington documents the stories of 11 more prisoners who were arrested while crossing the Afghanistan border into Pakistan after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The 11 prisoners were all released sometime in 2006, and Worthington thoroughly outlines each individual’s story according to Detainee Assessment Briefs from Guantánamo leaked by WikiLeaks. A few of the detainees had claimed they went to Afghanistan for charity work via Iran, but could not re-enter and were subsequently arrested in Pakistan. Perhaps the most galling part of the 11 profiles and histories is the consistency with which the Joint Task Force sent detainees to Guantánamo – in spite of thin evidence of Al-Qaeda associations – simply on the grounds of providing further information.
Ethiopian authorities use aid as a weapon: Aid organizations say one reason why no help reaches many of the 4.5 million Ethiopians risking starvation is the government’s insistence on being responsible for the distribution of the aid. The government uses the aid as a means of controlling the population, Human Rights Watch says. Cables show that the U.S. has been pressuring Ethiopian officials on the issue for years, but the problem remains.
Kurdish Tribal Leaders Criticize Corruption And Party Dominance: A Kurdish tribal leader interviewed by Iraqi and U.S. officials said that fear of persecution by the Kurdistan Workers Party the Kurdistan Democratic Party prevented many of those who were evacuated by Saddam Hussein from returning to their villages. Several leaders said the rivalry between the two parties is what is fueling corruption in Kurdistan.
Bangladesh: RAB’s former second man Bari told US envoy ‘Crossfire killings necessary’: The second-in-command of Bangladeshi Rapid Action Battalion, a unit believed to have carried out some 700 extrajudicial killings since 2004, in 2006 described the origins of the organization to the U.S. embassy. Originally planned to consist of 44% police, the unit in 2006 had changed to be 80% military. Bari said the group had several political supporters, and that then prime minister Khaleda Zia chose the unit’s uniforms. Mr Bari also said that police arrests of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh members in 2005 prompted subsequent violence and murders.
Why army officers want Kashmir posting: As Pakistani authorities and military fail to address human rights issues and violence, cables lay bare the vested interests of some of the parties to a violent history in the Kashmir region. In the midst of thousands of violent deaths in Kashmir, separatists have been buying property in Dubai and elsewhere. Some separatists are reported to have cooperated with the ISI. Security officials, meanwhile, have bribed their way to lucrative positions in Kashmir.
Felix Batista, a Cuban-American anti-kidnapping expert who was kidnapped in December 2008 in Saltillo, Mexico, was murdered a few days after his disappearance, according to a cable from the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey.
Lebanese party leader Sleiman Franjieh: LF killed Pierre Gemayel: The leader of the Marada party said former Lebanese Forces operate Tony Obeid planned the murder of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, who was killed on November 21, 2006.
Energy and environment^
Cables show secret deal to make taxpayers pay for power exports to U.S.: Canadian officials promised that Canada would provide energy to the U.S. via a system they had promised was to be used only for transmissions internal to Canada. The USD 16 billion transmission system would be paid by Canadian tax payers. The revelation raises serious concerns regarding three former cabinet ministers, all with ambitions for the position of head of the Alberta government, who likely would have known of plans to export energy.
Previously released cables show how the U.S. has worked alongside Canadian officials to lobby for the export of Canadian oil to the U.S., the New York Times writes. State Department emails recently made public through a FOIA request by Friends of the Earth corroborate the picture given by the cables. They show the State Department working with lobbyists in the interest of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone pipeline, which is planned to run from the Canadian tar sands to the U.S.
The UN’s do-nothing green scheme: The Clean Development Mechanism has been a central part of the Kyoto protocol, but cables show that most of the CDM projects in India, where a large part of the total number of projects are based, should never have been approved. “What has leaked just confirms our view that in its present form the CDM is basically a farce,” CDM Watch says. The revelations come only one year before a new agreement has to be reached to replace the Kyoto protocol.
Impact and reactions^
The impact of WikiLeaks on post-Soviet Central Asia: In a thorough analysis, Christopher Schwartz describes the initial reactions to WikiLeaks in Central Asia immediately after the release of the Afghan War Diaries and subsequently, the Iraq War Logs. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Schwartz reports a hopeful reaction for the possibility of exposing the corruption within their countries, mingled with some fear and skepticism as to whether or not a leaking organization could be trusted.
After the initial Cablegate release began, there was minimal coverage in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan media. In analyzing Tajikistan’s reaction to the cables, Schwartz notes that during the first months of the Cablegate release, WikiLeaks did not have any media partners in Central Asia, but instead chose to collaborate with two Russian agencies. As Russian journalists had temporary exclusive access to Central Asian cables, they had the ability to be first to present the cables with their own interpretation. In addition, several reports have come out about alleged cables claiming Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister offered to support a coup; Schwartz claims that such cables have not surfaced, even after the full Cablegate release.
In Turkmenistan, the public showed great interest in the new deluge of information: “…for the Turkmens who live isolated and in a perpetual information blackout, to learn the real face of their government and especially the president was incredible.” But the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan seem to have reacted to the release by recoiling at the extent of U.S. information-gathering. The governments, already quite isolated and distrusting of the Western world, seem to have taken the cables as confirmation of their views.
Schwartz’ assessment is far from positive, claiming that WikiLeaks’ lack of coordination with Central Asian journalists or news agencies led to potentially lessened impact in that region. But he ends by quoting Barbara Frye, whom we also quote below:
[I think] that WikiLeaks forced some to rethink black and white notions of Great Power games. It seems to me that Central Asia often feels like a pawn, or maybe a pretty girl whose virtue is under threat from the rapacious Russia, the United States and China. They all want what Central Asia’s got, at the lowest possible price, but what does that mean for the ordinary person in Dushanbe or Astrakhan? Who is looking out for their interests, and should they believe what their governments tell them about these foreign powers? WikiLeaks was the first chance, probably since independence, for people to get an unfiltered answer to those questions.
Wikileaks cable prompts reopening of inquiry into massacre of Iraqi family: The move comes following the publication of a cables reporting on the execution by U.S. troops of 10 Iraqi civilians. According to the cable, troops on March 15 2006 entered the home of the ten persons, handcuffed them, and shot them in the head. Reports are that there are photographs of the handcuffed bodies, of which five were children and four women.
Fed MP gives assurance on Snowy Hydro’s future: According to Australian Federal Member Mike Kelly, the government may launch an investigation into the prospects for a privatization of Snowy Hydro, Australia’s largest producer of renewable energy. The federal government will, however, never approve of a privatization, due to cables having shown that the U.S. might be interested in a take-over, Kelly says.
Electoral Commission Concocted 2007 Results for Tribunal – Yar’Adua Lawyer: Suleiman M. Bisalla and Umar Jibrilu Gwandu go over the Wikileaks cables suggesting the inconsistency of the 2007 elections in Nigeria. The cables contain allegations that the election was a farce, as the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission was providing already-prepared election results. Last week the Daily Trust contacted Turaki, who claims not to remember communicating with US diplomats and says the “cables are rubbish.”
Maoists deny taking money from Essar: The Maoist Communist Party of India has rejected suggestions made in cables that Indian steel giant Essar has paid protection money to the party. The allegations recently led to the arrest of an Essar director, as well as a journalist and a private contractor and his aunt, on suspicions of having acted as links between the Maoists and the company.