Tucson (Arizona, US), Jan 16 : US diplomatic cables released by the whistleblower website `Wikileaks' have portrayed a deepening ambivalence toward the rule of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, focussing not only on the corruptions of the country's first family, but also praising Ben Ali's cooperation against terrorism and the stability he long imposed.
In the recent weeks, the revelations helped fuel the anger on the streets that eventually forced Ben Ali to flee the country, which he ruled for 23 years.
A June 2008 cable titled "What's Yours Is Mine", said: "Corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants."
It also claimed that two nephews of Ben Ali's had seized the yacht of a French businessman in 2006.
"Although the petty corruption rankles, it is the excesses of President Ben Ali's family that inspire outrage among Tunisians. With Tunisians facing rising inflation and high unemployment, the conspicuous displays of wealth and persistent rumours of corruption have added fuel to the fire," the cables added.
Another cable from July 2009 reported a "lavish" dinner of the American ambassador, Robert F. Godec, with Ben Ali's son-in- law, Mohamed Sakher el-Materi, in his beachfront home in Hammamet.
The cables quoted the ambassador as saying that his hosts' behaviour made 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."
The protests in the country began several weeks ago following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old who worked as a fruit and vegetable vendor despite being a university graduate. He set himself on fire in a city square in December when the police seized his cart and mistreated him.
After Ben Ali fled the country after being in office for over 23 years, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced he was taking over as interim President, and promised that fresh elections would be held within six months. (ANI)