WikiLeaked

Brazilian defense minister knew FARC was on Venezuelan soil

According to a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil’s outgoing defense minister "all but acknowledged" that the FARC, a Colombian leftist rebel group that the State Department considers a terrorist organization, was present in Venezuela despite Brazilian leaders’ consistent refusal to say so in public. This is big news. Brazil has always ...

JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

According to a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil’s outgoing defense minister "all but acknowledged" that the FARC, a Colombian leftist rebel group that the State Department considers a terrorist organization, was present in Venezuela despite Brazilian leaders’ consistent refusal to say so in public.

This is big news. Brazil has always played the cool mediator between unfriendly neighbors Colombia and Venezuela, taking neither party’s side in their often-heated dispute over the FARC. In recent years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has repeatedly denied that the rebels are on his country’s soil, while the Colombians have insisted otherwise, and Brazil has kept mum to avoid being seen as biased. The incoming president, Dilma Roussef, has said that FARC is not Brazil’s problem.

As the defense minister, Nelson Jobim, put it, "were he to acknowledge its presence [in Venezuela] ‘it would ruin Brazil’s ability to mediate,’" according to the cable.

That’s not to say, however, that Brazil is on Colombia’s side. In fact, the WikiLeaks documents show signs that the Brazilians were frustrated with both parties. The Nov. 13 cable refers to Brazil’s "insistence on painting [then Colombian President Álvaro] Uribe as the primary source of Andean tensions." And Jobim is seen blaming each side for making inflammatory statements about the other to drum up political support at home.

"Jobim also was critical of Uribe seeking a third term, a move which he thought set a bad precedent for the ‘Bolivarists,’" the cable reads, referring to Chávez and his acolytes in Ecuador and Bolivia. (Another cable from Paris quotes French diplomatic advisor Jean-David Levitte as saying that Chávez is "crazy" and that "even Brazil wasn’t able to support him anymore.")

So if neither Venezuela nor Colombia is Brazil’s favored regional friend, is it a win for Washington at least? Likely not. In the same conversation, Jobim comes across as furious about a recent U.S.-basing agreement signed between Washington and Bogotá. The pact was lambasted in Latin American as yet more Yankee imperialism; in conversations recounted in the cable, the defense minister says that a U.S. policy document on the bases evinced "a complete lack of understanding" of the region.

Both Colombia and Brazil have newly elected presidents, which will likely shake things up in the relationship — probably for the better. But what’s not likely to change is the the sense in Latin American capitals that Washington just doesn’t get it.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola