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New cables reveal frank U.S. views on Latin America, from Argentina to Venezuela

December 2, 2010 |  1:22 pm

Hugo chavez wikileaks

The global fall-out over the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables continues to trickle into Latin America, where leaders are responding to a variety of disclosures that reveal frank opinions on governments with whom   the United States has sometimes had tense relations.

Here's a run-down of some of the most significant claims or statements made on Latin America in the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, by country. Links below follow news coverage as well as the original cables as published by WikiLeaks or the news organizations that have reviewed them.

Argentina: More on the Kirchners

Besides the personal questions asked about the mental health and relationship of the Kirchners (the late former President Nestor Kirchner and current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, his widow), another cable also reveals that a former Cabinet chief for Fernandez de Kirchner called her "submissive" to her husband. The same cable also describes Nestor Kirchner as a "psychopath."

The former Cabinet chief quoted, Sergio Massa, told the U.S. Embassy that "the Kirchners have no chance to capture the presidency in 2011."

A top official in Fernandez de Kirchner's current government called the cables related to Argentina "a stupidity" this week (video link in Spanish). "This is the United States' problem, not ours," said Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez.

Yet Fernandez de Kirchner's character appears to be a regional concern. In a just-released cable from the U.S. Embassy in Chile, dated January 2010, then-Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is quoted describing Argentina's president as "unsteady." According to the cable, Bachelet said that Fernandez de Kirchner is "emblematic" of Argentina's problems, where "democracy is not robust, and its institutions are not strong."

Bolivia: Israeli concern over Iranian presence

The Bolivia government has denied a claim made in a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Brazil that President Evo Morales had a nose tumor that might explain why "Morales has seemed unfocused and not his usual self."

Another cable relayed the concern of the Israeli foreign minister on the "growing presence" of Iran in Bolivia. From the document: "The Israeli FM also mentioned concern about Iran's disproportionately large diplomatic mission in Bolivia which the Israeli government believed was connected with Iran's interest in gaining access to Bolivia's uranium deposits."

Brazil: On counter-terrorism efforts and the Arab population

U.S. Ambassador Clifford Sobel wrote in a 2008 cable to Washington that Brazil was cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts, making arrests of suspected terrorists, "but will charge them on a variety of non-terrorism related crimes to avoid calling attention of the media and the higher levels of the government."

Brazil has no official counter-terrorism law enforcement program. Yet officials in the country have expressed fears, according to leaked cables, that terrorists could target the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, both to be held in Brazil (link in Spanish).

Other cables reveal efforts to engage Brazil's Arab and Muslim populations. Brazilian officials have yet to comment on the leaked documents.

Cuba: An intelligence influence in Venezuela

Cuban intelligence officers are said to have a strong influence over President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, according to the leaked diplomatic cables. Cables from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, report that the relationship between Cuba and Venezuela has grown stronger in general, with Cuba supplying Venezuela with doctors and Venezuela supplying Cuba with subsidized oil.

"Cuban intelligence officers have direct access to Chavez and frequently provide him with intelligence reporting unvetted by Venezuelan officers," said a 2006 cable, titled "Axis of Mischief."

Other cables just released by WikiLeaks discuss a Venezuelan "coziness" with Iran ("Iran and Venezuela have been signing bilateral agreements galore") and a fearful mood among Venezuelan Jews.

Venezuela: Dissing Hugo Chavez

In a 2009 cable summarizing a State Department meeting in Paris with French advisors, Chavez, a persistent critic of U.S. foreign policy, is described as "crazy." Chavez responded on Tuesday, calling for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resign over the cables.

"The empire stood naked," he said. "They disrespect their allies with all these spying activities."

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Credit: Associated Press