Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o exílio de Julian Assange em Londres

Em Junho de 2012, Julian Assange refugiou-se na embaixada do Equador, em Londres, para evitar ser detido e extraditado para a Suécia, onde é procurado no âmbito de um processo de abuso sexual. O fundador da Wikileaks receia que essa investigação seja apenas um pretexto para o seu envio posterior para os Estados Unidos. E, desde então, nunca mais saiu da representação diplomática equatoriana. No entanto, isso não o fez parar: realizou uma série de entrevistas (transmitidas em O Informador, no ano passado), dirigiu-se à Assembleia Geral da ONU, escreveu um livro, candidatou-se ao senado australiano e, envolveu-se na fuga de Edward Snowden. Este artigo da Vanity Fair explica como. 

Foto da esquerda: OLIVIA HARRIS/REUTERS/LANDOV; Foto da direita: NEIL HALL/REX USA

Foto da esquerda: OLIVIA HARRIS/REUTERS/LANDOV; Foto da direita: NEIL HALL/REX USA

Julian Assange hasn’t set foot outside Ecuador’s London embassy in more than a year—avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault. But physical confinement seems only to enhance his reach. The WikiLeaks founder has video-addressed the U.N., launched a Senate campaignin absentia in his native Australia, entertained Lady Gaga, and played a key role in the case of N.S.A. leaker Edward Snowden. As several movies depict aspects of Assange’s story, Sarah Ellison focuses on the center of his web.

I. Dead End

Every afternoon, at four o’clock, a small group of demonstrators gathers outside 3 Hans Crescent, in London’s Knightsbridge district, to protest the confinement of a man inside the embassy at that address. The man hasn’t set foot beyond the embassy since June 19, 2012, the day he walked through its doors to avoid extradition from Britain to another country, where he is facing allegations that, he contends, are merely a first step in his eventual extradition to the United States.

The man is Julian Assange, the 42-year-old Australian who is best known as the founder (in 2006) and public face of WikiLeaks, the nonprofit Web site that publishes previously secret material. In April, the organization released its largest trove to date, a database of approximately 1.7 million declassified diplomatic records from the years 1973 to 1976 that WikiLeaks refers to as “the Kissinger Cables.” In 2010, in partnership with The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, and others, WikiLeaks began releasing more than 450,000 military documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. The documents had been provided by Bradley Manning, an army private stationed in Iraq, who, when tried in military court, was found not guilty of “aiding the enemy” but guilty of espionage, theft, and computer fraud. Despite Manning’s statement that he had first tried to get his information to both The Washington Post and The New York Times, the prosecution argued that it was “obvious that Manning pulled as much information as possible to please Julian Assange,” and said that Assange “had found the right insider” in Manning. WikiLeaks is under investigation by the Justice Department, and there are reports that a sealed indictment exists for Assange himself. In the meantime, for the past year, he has been living in a small room—reportedly 15 feet by 13 feet—at the Ecuadoran Embassy, largely unseen by the public. He has most recently surfaced as a prominent adviser to Edward Snowden, a former “infrastructure analyst” at National Security Agency contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who last June leaked details about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Assange’s living space, a former embassy office, is located on a ground-floor corner overlooking a small dead-end street. His window sits above one of the hundreds of thousands of security cameras that blanket London, and when I visited the embassy in June, two Metropolitan Police vans were parked just outside. WikiLeaks says the building is watched by about a dozen British police officers at any one time. According to Scotland Yard, the authorities have so far spent $6 million to keep Assange under a watchful eye (and to keep him in place at the embassy). Early on, officials from Britain’s Foreign Office were threatening to remove Assange from the embassy against his will. In his first two months there, the Ecuadoran consul, Fidel Narváez, slept at the embassy to serve as a diplomatic presence at all times and thereby “protect” Assange from the aggressive police attention. Narváez told The Prisma, a London-based newspaper published in both Spanish and English, that he got to know Assange well during that time. “It’s certainly true that we talked a lot over those months, especially at times when we were alone, at night,” Narváez said. In July, Ecuadoran intelligence found a microphone hidden in the office of the ambassador, Ana Albán. The intelligence officials were doing a routine search in preparation for a visit from the country’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, who said that the device appeared to have been planted by a private investigation company, the Surveillance Group, Ltd., adding that the bugging represented “a loss of ethics at the international level in relations between governments.” The company has denied involvement.

Assange took refuge at the embassy in June 2012, shortly after he lost his bid in the British courts to prevent extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning in relation to the alleged sexual assault of two women. (He has yet to be charged with a crime.) At first, Assange slept on an inflatable mattress on the floor that the ambassador brought from her own apartment nearby. Assange found that the noise from the street outside his window disturbed his sleep. After exploring the embassy for a quiet room, he settled on the women’s bathroom, where the embassy staff reluctantly removed the toilet so he could sleep there. He has a lamp that mimics natural light, to enhance his psychological well-being, and he jogs every day on a treadmill, a gift from the film director Ken Loach. The embassy has installed a shower for Assange’s use. There is a fireplace with a Victorian white mantel in his room, and a small round table of blond wood, on which Assange keeps his computer. Several shelves line the walls. Assange eats a combination of take-out food—he keeps the restaurants from which he orders secret, for fear his food might be poisoned—and simple Ecuadoran dishes prepared by the embassy staff. He is able to receive visitors, including Sarah Harrison, the 31-year-old WikiLeaks researcher who met up with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, where Snowden initially hid from the American authorities, and helped deliver to him a temporary Ecuadoran travel document that Assange and Fidel Narváez had reportedly secured.

The Ecuadoran Embassy itself is modest—a suite of 10 rooms on a single floor of a red-brick Victorian pile, with no bedrooms and no facilities except a small kitchenette. For atmospherics, imagine the offices of a private upscale medical practice that for some reason is partial to flags of yellow, red, and blue. Assange’s diplomatic immunity does not extend to the lobby of the building, which is shared with the Colombian Embassy and some 15 well-appointed private apartments upstairs. The entrance to the Men’s Fragrance department at Harrods department store is just half a block away. The door to the embassy is thick black metal and opens immediately onto a full-body metal detector. A portrait of the Ecuadoran president, Rafael Correa, hangs on the walls, along with paintings of tropical birds. The government of Ecuador has stated that Assange is welcome to stay in its London embassy for “centuries.”

Last year, on July 3, the day he turned 41, Assange sent 12 pieces of birthday cake to the 12 protesters standing outside the embassy. On his birthday this year, people outside carried a sign noting that the number 42, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is “the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.” On ordinary days, protesters carry small signs with photos of Assange, his mouth taped shut by an American flag, and bearing slogans such as “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.” From time to time Assange appears in vaguely papal fashion at the front window, silver-haired and pale, and waves. He gives the occasional press conference from a small balcony. He recently showed up for an interview with Agence France-Presse wearing a coat and tie but no shoes, a gesture to underscore the fact that he has little need for them.

Even before the Snowden affair brought him back into the limelight, Assange had been busy. During his year of confinement at the embassy, he has released a vast cache of documents, written a book, addressed the U.N., founded a political party in Australia and launched a bid for a Senate seat there, entertained socialites and celebrities, maintained contact with leakers and whistle-blowers all over the world, and worked behind the scenes to influence depictions of him that are now hitting movie screens (the most high-profile being a DreamWorks production starring Benedict Cumberbatch). As for the Snowden case, Assange and WikiLeaks have served, in effect, as Snowden’s travel agents, publicists, and envoys; it is still not clear how far back the Snowden connection goes, or precisely how it originated, though the filmmaker Laura Poitras likely played the key role.

Assange cannot move from his quarters, but he is either at his computer or in conference, working in an impressive number of spheres. “He is like any other C.E.O.—plagued by constant meetings,” WikiLeaks told me. He employs sophisticated encryption software, which anyone wishing to make contact with him or his circle is encouraged to use. To gain a sense of his life and work, during the past months I have spoken to Assange’s lawyers and to many longtime or former friends, supporters, and professional associates. (Some have requested anonymity.) Daniel Ellsberg, the former U.S. military analyst who brought the Pentagon Papers to light, has met with Assange and speaks with personal knowledge about the lonely life of a leaker and whistle-blower. “We are exiles and émigrés,” he told me.

But the fact that Assange has had to take himself physically out of circulation has had the effect, oddly, of keeping him more purely at the center of things than he was before. His legal perils have not receded, but his state of diplomatic limbo means that he is no longer being hauled out of black vans and in front of screaming reporters and whirring cameras. The U.S. government has tried to decapitate his organization, which has only made him a martyr. No one is talking, as they were when he was free to mingle with the outside world, about his thin skin, his argumentative nature, his paranoia, his self-absorption, his poor personal hygiene, his habit of using his laptop when dining in company, or his failure to flush the toilet.

“If anything, I think he’s stronger and more sophisticated than he used to be, and so is the organization,” Jennifer Robinson, an Australian human-rights lawyer best known for her work defending Assange in London, told me. “They’ve weathered three years of intense pressure and all forms of legal and political attacks, and they are still here and still publishing and still making headlines.” Today, Assange is alone and unbothered, but not isolated—the unquiet center of a web whose vibrations he can both detect and influence.”

O artigo completo está aqui

“Quando decidi divulgar informações classificadas, fi-lo por amor ao meu país e pelo sentido de dever em relação aos outros”

Bradley Manning foi ontem condenado a uma pena de 35 anos de prisão por entregar informações classificadas à Wikileaks. Para além do comunicado que enviou ao Today, da televisão NBC, onde diz querer submeter-se a um tratamento hormonal e passar a chamar-se Chelsea, o militar de 25 anos enviou também uma carta ao presidente Barack Obama. O texto foi lido pelo seu advogado e Manning garante que, se o seu pedido de perdão for recusado, irá cumprir a sua pena de bom grado.

Foto: AFP

Foto: AFP

“The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy — the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps — to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”

Bradley Manning condenado a 35 anos de prisão

O militar que entregou milhares de documentos classificados à Wikileaks vai passar os próximos 35 anos atrás das grades. O antigo analista, que recolheu a documentação quando estava colocado numa base no Iraque, enfrentava uma pena que podia chegar aos 90 anos. Mais informações, aqui.

Fotografia: AP/Patrick Semansky

Fotografia: AP/Patrick Semansky


Bradley Manning condenado – mas não “ajudou o inimigo”

Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Bradley Manning foi considerado culpado de mais de 20 crimes que vinha acusado, incluindo de espionagem. No entanto, o tribunal absolveu-o da mais graves das acusações: auxílio ao inimigo. Caso tivesse sido considerado culpado deste crime, Manning poderia ser condenado a prisão perpétua sem possibilidade de liberdade condicional. É também um golpe para os procuradores que argumentaram que a fuga de informação que permitiu à Wikileaks divulgar dados confidenciais sobre as guerras no Afeganistão e no Iraque tinha ajudado a Al Qaeda. O militar pode ser condenado a 134 anos de prisão.

Barack Obama nomeou um novo embaixador para Lisboa

A partir de Agosto, Rui Machete terá um novo interlocutor na embaixada dos Estados Unidos em Lisboa. Ainda lhe falta cumprir a formalidade de ser confirmado pelo Congresso mas a Casa Branca já anunciou a nomeação de Robert A. Sherman como embaixador norte-americano em Portugal. Respeitando a tradição dos últimos anos, Barack Obama nomeia um embaixador político e não um diplomata de carreira para Lisboa. Licenciado em direito, Robert A. Sherman fez toda a sua carreira em Boston, onde fundou a sociedade Greenberg Traurig, LPP. Desde Janeiro deste ano que pertence ao Conselho para a Memória do Holocausto.

De acordo com a Casa Branca, Barack Obama afirmou que os novos embaixadores americanos “demonstraram conhecimento e dedicação ao longo das suas carreiras”. O presidente dos EUA mostrou-se também agradecido que eles tenham decidido aceitar desafios e mostrou-se ansioso em “trabalhar com eles nos próximos meses e anos”.

Parte do trabalho de Robert A. Sherman será, certamente, conhecer o país onde irá viver e aqueles com quem irá lidar. Nesse sentido, quer o Departamento de Estado norte-americano quer a própria embaixada em Lisboa têm muitos telegramas para lhe mostrar sobre o novo ministro de Estado e dos Negócios Estrangeiros


A passagem de Rui Machete pelo Bloco Central – segundo a biografia de Mário Soares

O passado de Rui Machete continua a levantar polémica. Não só pelo que foi divulgado pelo wikileaks sobre os anos do novo ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros à frente da Fundação Luso Americana para o Desenvolvimento mas, sobretudo, pelas suas ligações ao BPN e ao BPP.

No entanto, Rui Machete tem um passado rico, cheio de episódios que vale a pena recordar. Como estes, relatados por Joaquim Vieira na biografia Mário Soares, Uma Vida. O primeiro deu-se em fins de Janeiro de 1984. Rui Machete era ministro da Justiça e o governo do bloco central, liderado por Mota Soares, tinha feito aprovar uma nova lei do aborto, que permitia a interrupção da gravidez em casos de violação, doença congénita da mãe ou da criança e ainda de possível morte da mulher. No entanto, a Igreja Católica não tinha ficado satisfeita com a iniciativa. O que testou a lealdade de Machete: entre o governo de que fazia parte e a Igreja, quem escolheu? Conta Joaquim Vieira:

“Soares ficou contudo preocupado com as implicações negativas que a adoção do diploma viesse a ter nas relações entre a área socialista e a Igreja: estava em causa, além do mais, a preservação da sua imagem como futuro candidato presidencial. (…)

Bernardino Gomes, que também assistiu ao desenvolvimento da querela à volta da lei do aborto, contará que o chefe do governo teria logo apreendido as consequências mais profundas da decisão: ≪Soares percebeu que tinha de gerir o pós‑aprovação da lei. Disse‑me: “Você pergunte ao nosso embaixador no Vaticano se é possível arranjar uma coisa qualquer em Roma. Eu podia lá ir e talvez conseguisse falar com alguém do Vaticano. Peguei no telefone e liguei ao embaixador, que era o Hélder Mendonça e Cunha [1921‑1992], um homem muito engraçado, um gay divertido, que tinha uma grande paixão pelo doutor Soares – o Soares fazia‑lhe sempre uma coisa qualquer, dizia‑lhe “ó senhor embaixador, a sua gravata e lindíssima”, e ele ficava derretido, perdido para o dia inteiro. E era também muito eficiente. Digo‑lhe: “Ó Hélder, você veja‑me lá esta coisa – o doutor Soares gostava de ir ai a Roma.” Uma hora depois ele telefona‑me: “Falei com o cardeal Casaroli [então secretário de Estado do Vaticano] e ele diz que sim senhor, não só ele tem muito prazer em recebê‑lo mas que Sua Santidade o recebe em visita oficial.” E.eu disse: “Ó Hélder, mas isso é assim?” “Exatamente assim.” Eu vou ao Soares e digo‑lhe: “Ó Mário, o Hélder ligou de volta e diz que Sua Santidade o papa [João Paulo II (1920‑2005)] o recebe em visita oficial.” “Você tem a certeza?” “Tenho a certeza que ele me disse. Calculo que seja verdade.” “Telefone‑lhe lá.” Fazemos a ligação e diz‑lhe o embaixador: “O cardeal Casaroli é um grande amigo do doutor Soares, diz os maiores elogios a seu respeito, que é uma pessoa que ele admira muito, e com certeza que vem de visita.” Era inimaginável. Acontece que eles fazem este convite sem avisar a Igreja portuguesa. E há um certo momento em que o cardeal‑patriarca percebeu, e vai para Roma tentar impedir a audiência com o papa. É uma coisa de doido, completamente de doido.≫

Confirmará Soares a tentativa de impedir in extremis o seu encontro com João Paulo II: ≪O cardeal Antonio Ribeiro e o bispo de Aveiro [Manuel de Almeida Trindade (1918‑2008), então presidente da Conferência Episcopal Portuguesa] resolveram ir a Roma para convencer o papa a nao me receber. Eu só soube isso no dia em que estava a entrar para o avião. Eu tinha dito antes no Conselho de Ministros: “Vou amanhã visitar Sua Santidade o papa a convite dele.” Ficou tudo banzado na sala. Acrescentei: “Acho que um dos senhores ministros me deve acompanhar, e acho que não deve ser o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros mas sim o da Justiça, porque há essa tradição em Portugal – o ministro da Justiça e dos Cultos, pasta dos tempos da monarquia. O Rui Machete disse: “Ó senhor doutor, com a maior das honras. Quando e que vamos?” “Vamos amanhã as 11h00.”

Na manhã seguinte telefona‑me ele as 9h00 a dizer: “Senhor doutor, eu não posso acompanhá‑lo.” “Mas porquê? Está doente?” “Não senhor doutor, é que o senhor cardeal proibiu‑me de ir.” “Então você é um gajo que em politica segue as orientações do cardeal em vez de ser do seu primeiro‑ministro?” Fiquei lixado com ele. “Bem, não venha que eu não preciso de si para nada.” Isso ficou‑me sempre atravessado até hoje.≫ (Machete explicará que recuou quando soube que a viagem fora tratada à margem da Igreja portuguesa.)

O segundo episódio contado por Joaquim Vieira que envolve Rui Machete deu-se uns meses depois, em Junho de 1984, durante uma visita de Mário Soares ao Japão. O testemunho aqui é de Alfredo Barroso. E o novo ministro é retratado como um homem hesitante. 

“No Japão, Soares foi alertado por um problema doméstico, relacionado com a organização terrorista de extrema‑esquerda Forças Populares 25 de Abril (FP‑25) que a Policia Judiciária estava a tentar desmantelar, depois de alguns anos de atentados, assaltos e assassínios. Alfredo Barroso recordará o momento: ≪Num Conselho de Ministros, discute‑se mais uma vez se é o momento de avançar e prender os suspeitos das FP‑25. A PJ reportava ao ministro da Justiça, Rui Machete, que era um hesitante: “Não é oportuno, não chegou o momento, é o que eles nos dizem, mas dizem também que, se a gente lhes der cobertura, seguramente avancam.” Várias pessoas achavam que se devia avançar, como Eduardo Pereira e Jaime Gama, e quem estava nas encolhas era Machete. Mesmo Mota Pinto achava que se devia avançar, mas não quis autorizar. Houve uma ronda, decide‑se por fim avançar, mas é preciso consultar antes o primeiro‑ministro, que estava em viagem no Japão. Quem vai falar com ele é Mota Pinto: “A maioria acha que é altura, se não isto nunca mais.” E Soares manda avançar. Correu bem ao governo, correu bem ao Soares.≫

O terceiro episódio explica como Rui Machete ficou na história ao assinar o Tratado de Adesão de Portugal à então Comunidade Económica Europeia, a 12 de Junho de 1985. O governo do bloco central estava em crise. Oito dias antes da adesão, o PSD liderado por Cavaco silva tinha denunciado a coligação. No entanto, após longas negociações, foi acordado que os ministros social-democratas só apresentariam a demissão a 13 de Junho, um dias depois do acordo. Mário Soares recorda o episódio a Joaquim Vieira:

“Os ministros do PSD concordaram assim em pedir a demissão apenas a 13 de junho, para permitir a assinatura do tratado de adesão no dia anterior. Para Soares, era suficiente: ≪Eu no governo já tinha conseguido o que queria, incluindo entrarmos na CEE.≫ Mas, mesmo assim, estava ainda por resolver uma exigência social‑democrata: ≪Cavaco quis que entrasse o Machete nas assinaturas do tratado: “Se vocês não põem o Machete pelo PSD, então o PSD retira‑se da coligação, o governo cai.”≫

O primeiro‑ministro viu‑se obrigado a ceder: ≪Quem negociara tudo, no meu governo, fora uma equipa coesa constituída pelo ministros das Finanças, Ernâni Lopes, por Jaime Gama, titular dos Negócios Estrangeiros, e, finalmente, pelo economista António Marta [1946‑, então presidente da Comissão para a Integração Europeia]. Eram estes que deviam, portanto, assinar comigo. Segundo as regras da CEE, por Portugal só poderiam figurar quatro assinaturas, no máximo. Assim, para meter Rui Machete, foi necessário eliminar António Marta, o que considerei uma injustiça.≫


O que os Estados Unidos pensavam de Rui Machete

O novo ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros presidiu, durante mais de 20 anos, à Fundação Luso Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD). No entanto, não será por isso que a sua relação com os Estados Unidos – o mais poderoso aliado de Portugal – terá melhorias. De acordo com os telegramas diplomáticos enviados pela embaixada norte-americana em Lisboa para Washington, e divulgados pelo Wikileaks, Rui Machete era visto como um crítico dos Estados Unidos que sempre resistiu à intervenção da embaixada na FLAD. O embaixador Thomas Stephenson chegou mesmo a escrever, em 2008, que estava na “hora de decapitar Machete”. O novo ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros era também acusado de gastos sumptuosos – a fundação foi constituída com capitais norte-americanos – e de usar a FLAD em benefício próprio. As revelações foram feitas pelo Expresso em Março de 2011 e, na época, Rui Machete disse que as acusações não tinham fundamento e que se tratavam de um ataque pessoal a alguém que sempre geriu a FLAD com independência.

Foto: Tiago Miranda

Foto: Tiago Miranda

Este é o telegrama integral divulgado pelo Wikileaks:

C O N F I D E N T I A L LISBON 002780 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2008

TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], AMGT [Management Operations], EAID [Foreign Economic Assistance], OEXC [Educational and Cultural Exchange Operations], SCUL [Cultural Affairs], PO [Portugal; Azores; Madeira Islands]



1. (C) SUMMARY: In 1985, with the USAID mission to Portugal closing its doors, the U.S. and Portuguese governments created the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon to address Portugal’s development challenges and to promote U.S.-Portuguese cooperation. The USG subsequently contributed some $111 million to FLAD, but during the past two decades the Embassy’s efforts to exercise responsible oversight over FLAD’s financial management have been thwarted by the foundation’s leadership, creating deep and continuous friction between FLAD and the Embassy. We propose to wage another campaign to change FLAD’s direction, but failing that, we must consider whether our continued participation in this institution is in the USG’s interest. End Summary. FLAD’S EARLY YEARS ——————

2. (U) In 1983, Portuguese PM Balsemao and President Reagan announced the creation of the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon. The announcement grew out of the imminent closure of the USAID mission in Portugal and the recognition of the importance of carrying on development and bilateral cooperation projects. In 1985 FLAD opened its doors as the USG provided an initial endowment of $38 million. USG contributions to FLAD eventually totaled $111 million, much of which was in the form of Economic Support Funds (ESF) that the U.S. provided to Portugal through 1992. When ESF funding ended in 1992, FLAD no longer received any external financing and its revenue then derived solely from its endowment and investments.

3. (SBU) FLAD’s stated mission is to contribute “to the economic and social development of Portugal through the promotion of scientific, technical, cultural, educational, commercial, and business cooperation between Portugal and the United States.” It was envisioned as a short-term program to help boost Portugal to a development level commensurate with the rest of the EU, which Portugal joined in 1986. Thus, FLAD’s goal was to spend 75 percent of its available funds each year on grants for development, education and science projects.

4. (C) In 1987, then-Prime Minister (and now President) Cavaco Silva reorganized the foundation in a move likely aimed at tightening GOP control over its programming and budget. Key authorities were moved from the Board of Directors (where the U.S. Ambassador has a seat) to the day-to-day executive council (where he does not). U.S. Ambassador Rowell objected to this and other decisions and suspended his participation on the Board. According to our files, the foundation stopped holding Board meetings altogether in the late 1980s, effectively shielding itself from all oversight.

5. (C) In 1990, U.S. Ambassador Briggs tried a different approach. Although it was largely a symbolic gesture since the Board had not met in years, Briggs formally resigned from the Board because of his role in negotiating the new bilateral agreement regarding U.S. use of Lajes Air Base in the Azores (which he viewed as presenting a conflict with his FLAD duties). Shortly after, a member of the U.S. Congress contacted the Embassy requesting information about FLAD’s management and oversight, but FLAD Director Rui Machete refused to respond, saying FLAD operations were “none of your business.”

6. (C) The tension came to a head in 1992 when the Embassy directly approached Prime Minister Cavaco Silva seeking clarification of reports that FLAD Director Rui Machete had offered FLAD business to companies in which he had a stake. Machete admitted no wrongdoing but did terminate one key contract. Separately in 1992, the USG’s sunsetting of Portugal’s ESF program ended all U.S. funding to FLAD. While the decision to cut off ESF funding was objectively based on Portugal’s national development levels, the GOP evidently believed it was a response to allegations of mismanagement. Shortly after the dustup over the Congressional inquiry and a separate independent study of FLAD’s management, the foundation resumed its semi-annual Board meetings, and the U.S. Ambassador returned to the Board of Directors. On the nine-member Board, the U.S. ambassador holds one seat and the right to nominate a second director. THE LAST MAN STANDING ———————

7. (C) Rui Machete, a lawyer and politician who held cabinet positions in the 1983-85 Portuguese government (including Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister) has been FLAD’s director since 1988, getting the job as a consolation prize after he lost his cabinet post in the change of government in 1985. Machete has long been critical of the U.S. and has resisted embassy participation at every turn. He is wired into both major political parties and is suspected of disbursing FLAD grants to curry political favor and maintain his sinecure. Machete has historically opposed all efforts at independent oversight, professional accounting practices, and transparent review of FLAD’s programs. Since the early 1990s, nearly every U.S. ambassador has urged Machete to carry out his fiduciary duties or step aside, but to no avail: – (C) In 1992, Ambassador Briggs reported that, “As long as Machete is there, FLAD can only be marginally useful to us.” The foundation’s overhead then was 60% of revenue, leaving only 40% for actual programming. Today, this figure is only somewhat better as FLAD continues to spend 46% of its budget on overhead for its luxurious art-adorned offices, bloated staff, fleet of chauffeured BMWs, and on “personnel and administrative costs” that has included at times wardrobe allowances, low-interest loans to staff, and honoraria for staffers participating in FLAD’s own programs. – (C) The Boris Report, a 1993 independent review conducted in the U.S., noted that the Board of Directors was excluded from planning and was given inadequate briefing materials before their semi-annual meetings. (Comment: this is a favorite Machete tactic and continues to this day: key documents for the Board’s consideration are distributed by Machete only days, and in some cases hours, before Board meetings to avoid informed discussions that might run counter to his objectives.) The Boris Report also recommended that FLAD develop investment goals and restructure its endowment portfolio to guarantee its long-term viability; this has not been done. – (C) In June 2006, in response to Ambassador Hoffman’s criticisms, Machete suddenly announced that he had approached Prime Minister Socrates with proposed changes to FLAD’s bylaws that would grant the GOP full control over the foundation and wholly eliminate the U.S. ambassador from the Board. Ambassador Hoffman protested to then-Foreign Minister Amaral, who was our designated GOP contact on the issue. Serendipitously, FM Amaral resigned a week later for unrelated health reasons and Machete’s plan was quietly shelved. – (C) Since late 2007, in Board meetings and in private discussions Ambassador Stephenson has repeatedly called on FLAD to reform itself and cut overhead, pointing out that the 2008 and 2009 budgets were unrealistic and unsustainable, given difficult market conditions, and would result in a diminished endowment. Both budgets were approved by the Board over the Ambassador’s objections. Another Board member, who shares our concerns, points out that not only is the budget built on excessive overhead and unrealistic forecasts for the endowment, but Machete’s promises to improve the accounting and transparency underlying the budget process have not been met.

8. (C) In 2008, beyond its overhead costs, FLAD spent 1.5 million euros on actual grants to fund projects such as: 10,000 euros for an Innovation Seminar held at FLAD’s offices; 89,000 euros for a conference about Franklin Roosevelt in the Azores; and 15,000 euros per quarter to a politically-connected public relations firm. Previous foundation boondoggles have included a conference in South Africa with no discernable connection to the United States or bilateral relations.

9. (C) Ambassador Stephenson had a frank conversation last week with FLAD Director Rui Machete, who appeared to accept the Ambassador’s grim diagnosis of the foundation’s ills, even speculating aloud about the challenge of cutting staff under Portuguese labor laws. Machete confided that he is stepping down in 2010, on FLAD’s 25th anniversary, and would like to make progress on reforms before then. Machete said that the issue should be first raised privately with Prime Minister Socrates, who could provide political cover and possibly assistance in addressing labor and other vexing issues. Ambassador Stephenson tentatively agreed to participate in a meeting with the Prime Minister –if the Ambassador is still here after January 20. COMMENT: TIME FOR MACHETE TO GET THE AXE —————————————–

10. (C) FLAD’s portfolio in November 2007 was 122 million euro. By November 2008 this had shrunk to 106 million euro. At this pace, FLAD could burn through the entire endowment by about 2014. While this money is no longer on the USG’s books, it originally came from the U.S. taxpayer with the goal of strengthening bilateral cooperation and supporting development projects. In spite of our long-running and high-level best efforts, we believe the current FLAD management is unable and unwilling to face economic reality and will fritter away the endowment — preferring to go over a cliff with the status quo rather than make the wrenching reforms necessary to put the foundation on the path to solvency and responsible planning. Two decades of the current leadership have not been good for FLAD, and its alienation from the US Embassy is both a cause and a symptom of the disease.

11. (C) The Embassy proposes to wage one more campaign to change FLAD’s direction via pressure on Machete and discussions with the highest level of the GOP. We are somewhat encouraged by Machete’s acceptance at last week’s meeting of the need for deep, immediate reforms, but he has made many empty promises to many U.S. Ambassadors over the years. We will believe in changes at the foundation only when we see them, and failing that, we must consider whether our continued participation in this institution remains in the USG’s interest. STEPHENSON