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Context of 'December 7, 2010: Guardian Publishes US Cable Highlighting Luxurious Living Standards of Tunisian Ruling Class; Cable Obtained from WikiLeaks'

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The Guardian publishes a cable drafted by US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert F. Godec in July 2009 containing a description of a meal with Mohammad Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and his wife Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi. The Guardian obtained the cable through its agreement with WikiLeaks. The cable is primarily a description of El Materi’s political views, which coincide with US positions in some respects. However, there are also descriptions of the couple’s lifestyle. The dinner is called “lavish,” and the ambassador comments that El Materi is “living, however, in the midst of great wealth and excess, illustrating one reason resentment of President Ben Ali’s in-laws is increasing.” Godec also gives a desciption of El Materi’s home, which is “spacious,” “includes an infinity pool,” and has “ancient artifacts everywhere.” In addition, El Materi “hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to 10 months.” Further, there is a description of the meal, which included “perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous, and much more.” Most startlingly: “After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation…).” El Materi also has a large tiger on his compound, which reminded the ambassador “of Uday Hussein’s lion cage in Baghdad.” Godec’s final comment is: “The opulence with which El 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 excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing.” [Guardian, 12/7/2010]

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks, Robert F. Godec, The Guardian, Mohammad Sakher El Materi, Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi, US Embassy in Tunis

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

The government of Tunisia prevents its citizens from accessing the website of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which has republished US embassy cables about the current Tunisian regime. The cables were first published earlier in the day by The Guardian (see December 7, 2010 and December 7, 2010), which obtained them from WikiLeaks. The content of the cables is controversial because they contain candid assessments of Tunisia’s situation and deep-seated public anger about the ruling elite grouped around President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and its opulent lifestyle. [Guardian, 12/1/2010]

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

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