Copyright ©2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GUY RAZ, host:

Amid all the U.S. diplomatic documents, published by the Web site WikiLeaks, are cables about mental health, gastrointestinal problems and a mysterious tumor. The documents were penned by U.S. diplomats about Latin American leaders.

NPR's Juan Forero reports they've sparked outrage around the region.

JUAN FORERO: In the slew of messages released by WikiLeaks about South America, there's plenty of American concern about terrorists, and information about the close ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran.

But what has struck a lot of observers on the region is the almost personal obsession about leaders like Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The State Department in a 2009 cable to Buenos Aires asks if she's on medication, and whether she's able to manage her nerves and anxiety.

Adam Isacson is an analyst with a think tank, the Washington Office on Latin America. He's been reading carefully.

Mr. ADAM ISACSON (Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, Washington Office on Latin America): The real damage done here has not been, you know, nefarious plots or conspiracies or, you know, planning coups or anything. If there's damage at all, it's that we've seen a lot of snarky comments, backhanded insults, speculations about people's mental and physical state.

FORERO: The Argentine cable by the State Department says, quote, "We have a much more solid understanding of Nestor Kirchner's style and personality," referring to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's husband, who'd been president of Argentina until 2007.

The cable goes on to say, quote, "We'd like to develop a more well-rounded view of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner."

As in much of the world, the WikiLeaks cables have caused something of an uproar in the press. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Argentine president to express regret, as a State Department spokesman put it.

Fernandez de Kirchner has kept silent. Not so Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.

President HUGO CHAVEZ (Venezuela): (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: On his nationally televised show, Chavez said the United States was, quote, "left naked by the release of the documents."

Another personal rumor came out of Brazil. A U.S. embassy cable reported that the defense minister in that country, Nelson Jobim, had told the American ambassador last year that Bolivia's president had a nose tumor. He's Evo Morales, an indigenous leader often at odds with U.S. policy. His office denied that he'd ever had a tumor.

Not everything reflects badly on U.S. diplomats. Cables show they're closely tracking Iran's budding ties to Latin America and Tehran's search for uranium. The U.S. ambassador in Honduras also wrote a cable last year, saying that the removal of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya by the military was, quote, "illegal and unconstitutional."

Michael Shifter, an analyst in Washington, says the cable shows the U.S. was not involved in the coup.

Mr. MICHAEL SHIFTER (President, the Inter-American Dialogue): I think the U.S. showed some professionalism in handling the Honduran crisis. And what the private communications show is pretty much what was said publicly. And that I think it will be disappointing for conspiracy theorists.

FORERO: Observers of the region say they want to read more. Isacson, the think tank analyst, has closely tracked Colombia for years - in particular, the man who recently left the presidency, Alvaro Uribe. He was a loyal U.S. ally but was caught up in many scandals.

Mr. ISACSON: I want to find out what these diplomats in the region are saying when they think no one is listening. What did they say about their staunch ally when they thought they were just talking to each other?

FORERO: And how their private comments deviated from their public ones?

Juan Forero, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.