Wikileaks releases likening Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali family to the mafia may have triggered the world’s first Wikileaks revolution.
The ousted Ben Ali who fled Tunis to Saudi Arabia, ruled the North African country for 23 years, and now is replaced by Foued Mebezza as acting president as per article 57 in the country’s constitution.
Opposition to the corrupt rule of Ben Ali existed before the cables were released, however it gathered pace when U.S. embassy Wikileaks cables were published on December 2010, the British Daily Mail said.
Mafia family: cable
In one of the cables dated June 2009, the U.S. ambassador to Tunis Robert F. Godec referred to the Tunisian toppled president and his siblings as 'The Family' and had likened them to a Mafia elite who ran Tunisia's economy.
In another cable describing the power abuses by ‘The Family’ claimed that the former president's wife, Leila Ben Ali, obtained a land grant for free from the government to build a school which she later sold for huge profits.
Godec in one of his cables dated back to Geroge W. Bush’s administration time in June 2008 said that "President Ben Ali's extended family is often cited as the nexus of Tunisian corruption," The Miami Herald reported on Friday.
"Ben Ali's wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family, the Trabelsis, provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians," the ambassador wrote. "Along with the numerous allegations of Trabelsi corruption are often barbs about their lack of education, low social status, and conspicuous consumption."
No clear successor: cable
In a cable written in 2009, after President Barack Obama's was in office, Godec again bemoaned the Ben Ali regime,The Miami Herald added.
"By many measures, Tunisia should be a close U.S. ally," he said. "But it is not." He then described what he said was a "troubled" nation.
"President Ben Ali is aging, his regime is sclerotic and there is no clear successor," Godec wrote in a cable dated July 17, 2009.
"Many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities. Extremism poses a continuing threat. Compounding the problems, the GOT (government of Tunisia) brooks no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Instead, it seeks to impose ever greater control, often using the police."
Ten days later, the ambassador wrote another cable describing a lavish dinner at the beachfront home of Ben Ali's daughter Nesrine and son-in-law Sakher el Materi. He described the house as "impressive" and reported that the couple's pet tiger added "to the impression of 'over the top'."
"The opulence with which al-Materi and Nesrine live and their behavior make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali's family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians," the ambassador wrote. "The excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing."
The Tunisian government denied Wikileaks “allegations” and said that it won’t hurt diplomatic relations with the U.S.