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Tuesday, October 6, 2009
In early September, the number of people killed by drug-related violence in Mexico surpassed 5,000, prompting us to write on this blog that "it looks like 2009 is assured to be more violent than 2008 - which ended with 5,600 narcoviolence-related murders." Unfortunately, it took less than one month for the number of such murders in Mexico to surpass 2008 levels, reaching 5,874 murders by the end of September.
The image below was posted on the Security in Latin America blog today and is from the Mexican newspaper Milenio. It breaks down the narcoviolence-related murder rate in Mexico in various ways, providing an interesting and unsettling picture of Mexico's increasing violence. Because the image is in Spanish, here are a few statistics that stand out:
So far in 2009, 5,874 people have been murdered as a result of narcoviolence.
September 2009 was the most violent month since Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office, with 826 narcoviolence-related murders. The map of Mexico breaks down the September murder rate in the states with military operations ongoing, indicating Chihuahua as the state with the most murders in September (409) and Sinaloa trailing it with 101 murders. Ciudad Juárez, widely viewed as Mexico's most violent city, is in Chihuahua.
During the month of September, at least 10 people were killed every day, with multiple days tallying over 30 murders and one day reaching 50 murders (as indicated by the line graph).
Of the 826 people killed in September, 43 were police, 32 women, 15 minors, and 7 government officials.
In Chihuahua, the number of people killed by drug-related violence has been increasing steadily since January 2009, reaching 409 murders in September, as indicated by the bar graph at the bottom of the image. The bar graph also shows that 3,037 people were murdered as a result of narcoviolence in the state of Chihuahua alone, making up almost 52% of the nation's total narcoviolence-related murders in 2009.
Since President Calderón took office, 14,478 people have been killed as a result of drug-related violence.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The advance mission for the upcoming Organization of American States (OAS) delegation of ten foreign ministers and Secretary General José Miguel Insulza arrived in Honduras last week to begin pushing for a dialogue between both de facto President Roberto Micheletti and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, and preliminary reports show that both parties have expressed a desire to talk.
Meanwhile, two different delegations of U.S. members of Congress traveled to Honduras on "fact-finding trips."
Here's is today's update on the situation in Honduras:
Two delegations from the U.S. Congress traveled to Honduras on "fact-finding trips."
The first delegation, led by Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), arrived in Honduras on Friday, despite an attempt to block the trip by Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts). Sen. DeMint was joined by Rep. Aaron Shock (R-Illinois), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Illinois), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado). While in Honduras, the delegation met with de facto President Micheletti, as well as members of the Honduran Supreme Court, election officials and business and civic leaders.
Sen. Kerry tried to prevent the fact-finding trip due to the hold Sen. DeMint has placed on the confirmations of Arturo Valenzuela as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Tom Shannon as the ambassador to Brazil. However, with the help of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the delegation received permission directly from the Defense Department to travel to Honduras.
Today, three of Florida's members of Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart (all R-Miami), traveled to Honduras to meet with Micheletti and to express their support for the November 29th elections. While in Honduras, the delegation also planned to meet with representatives of the opposition and of ousted President Zelaya.
The four OAS functionaries who were expelled from Honduras one week ago arrived in Honduras on Friday to prepare for the OAS mission of ten foreign ministers and OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, due to arrive in Honduras on Wednesday.
John Biehl, an OAS special envoy, held separate meetings with both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Micheletti to advance the possibility of a dialogue, mediated by the OAS, between both parties. After his meetings, Biehl told reporters, "there will be a call next week for dialogue between the acting government and the other side and it will be accepted. That has already been agreed."
Reuters reports today, however, that while both leaders say they are ready for talks, their key demands remain unchanged: "Micheletti says Zelaya must face the courts and is resisting pressure to restore him to power, while Zelaya insists he be reinstated unconditionally."
Even though Secretary General Insulza was not due in Honduras until this Wednesday, it has been confirmed that he was in Honduras and met with de facto President Micheletti last week. An OAS press release reads:
Zelaya told reporters that "in order to begin a 'sincere' dialogue with the interim government civil liberties must be restored." Today, Micheletti announced that the Council of Ministers abolished the decree he imposed last week to suspend important civil liberties, stating that he made the decision to completely annul it since "it is no longer necessary because we have peace in the country."
Thirty-eight farmers who were imprisoned on Wednesday after police and soldiers removed them from the National Agrarian Institute building are now on a hunger strike "to demand a just trial, the restitution of president Zelaya, and respect for our right to the land."
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, confirmed on Saturday that in the last few days he met in Honduras with Mr. Roberto Micheletti. "The meeting was aimed at promoting a dialogue between the parties in the conflict with the goal of restoring democracy and the constitutional order in Honduras, with strict respect of the mandate given to the Secretary General by the General Assembly on July 4th", Mr. Insulza said.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Today Honduras entered the fifth day of restrictions on fundamental human rights, despite national and international condemnations of the decree issued by de facto President Roberto Micheletti on Sunday.
Here is today's update on the situation in Honduras:
The UN Human Rights Council endorsed a proposal calling for an immediate end to all human rights violations in Honduras. The Council also requested an exhaustive report from UN High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay on human rights violations since the coup d'etat in Honduras.
A delegation of six Brazilian parliamentarians arrived in Honduras last night to verify the situation in the country as well as in the Brazilian embassy. While in Honduras, the delegation will meet with the Board of the National Congress, leaders of Honduran political parties, human rights organizations, representatives of the Supreme Court and members of the Brazilian community. They have said they do not hope to be mediators in the conflict, but hope to contribute a solution to the crisis.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) will travel to Honduras on Monday to conduct an "evaluation on the situation in the country and the state of North American interests as a result of the Administration's poorly conducted focus on Zelaya." Rep. Ros-Lehtinen plans to meet with de facto President Micheletti, members of his government, Cardinal Osacr Andres Rodriguez, representatives of Honduran community groups and American business leaders living in the country.
The Organization of American States has confirmed that an advance mission will arrive in Honduras on Friday, "with the goal of paving the way for the visit of a Delegation of Foreign Ministers and the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, which would arrive in Honduras next week."
An article by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald suggests that the Honduran presidential candidates may play a larger role in finding a negotiated solution to the current political crisis, "because nobody would want to be president of a country that would not have diplomatic recognition from any country." A senior Obama administration official told Oppenheimer that the candidates "are a pressure point, not the solution." And OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said, "What I'm trying to do is getting representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti to sit on the same table, alongside the presidential candidates and other forces, to try to narrow down their differences along the lines of the San Jose agreements. We are trying to make that happen next Wednesday, during a scheduled visit by foreign ministers."
Thursday, October 1, 2009
On Sunday, Ecuador's largest indigenous organization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), mobilized its bases to protest new water, mining and oil laws. The new water law would give the state control over the country's water supply, including those resources found on indigenous territory. CONAIE argues that "the policy amounts to privatization of the country's water supply" and threatens the indigenous population's collective rights to their territories and resources, as required by the Ecuadorian Constitution and international laws such as International Labor Organization Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As a result, hundreds of indigenous protesters blocked the Pan American highway in several provinces throughout the country on Monday, but the protests were called off after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa promised to hold a dialogue, "without conditions," to hear their objections to the new laws.
President Correa classified the indigenous uprising as a "complete failure," and urged an end to the protests on Monday, adding that he hopes "the indigenous peoples realize that they are being used by the right who want to create a scene like that in Honduras, where President Manuel Zelaya was ousted." News outlets reported on Tuesday that President Correa had "successfully gotten around his first political run-in with the indigenous groups" after CONAIE called off the protests.
In the past, the indigenous population in Ecuador was one of the strongest and most well-organized groups in the Andean region (CONAIE played an important role in the fall of three presidents, Abdalá Bucaraum (1997), Jamil Mahuad (2000) and Lucio Gutierrez (2005)). However, tensions within the organization that started during the presidency of Lucio Gutierrez have weakened CONAIE's power, and large factions of CONAIE objected to Monday's protest.
The tension within the organization continued on Tuesday, as leaders of indigenous groups from the Amazon announced they disagreed with CONAIE's decision and they would continue the protests. This split within CONAIE impeded the beginning of a dialogue with the government, as Minister of Internal Security Miguel Carvajal said the internal discrepancies must be resolved and the protests must end before a meeting with the government could take place.
The three-day protest erupted into violence on Wednesday, with at least one indigenous protester killed and over 40 police and protesters injured near the town of Macas, in the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon. The Ecuadorian government claims the indigenous peoples fired at police with shotguns, while the protesters claim the police fired upon them.
CONAIE and other indigenous organizations have called for further mobilization of the bases to "radicalize the protest," saying that they "cannot stay here with our arms crossed." While President Correa has continued to call for dialogue, saying in a televised address, "we wait for them with open arms. But please, we never want to see this again, killing among Ecuadorians."
Conflicts such as this one, between the government and indigenous peoples, are common in the Andean region, as each party fights for control of the valuable natural resources found on indigenous territories. While a solution will not be found overnight, honest dialogue between the two groups is an important first step.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Fundamental human rights remain suspended in Honduras, despite de facto President Roberto Micheletti's announcement on Monday that he would consider revoking the decree that suspends such rights. It appears that the controversial decree has led to several cracks in support for the de facto government and some key coup supporters have suggested that negotiations could allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to the presidency with strictly limited powers.
Here is today's update on the situation in Honduras. Past updates can be read here.
Acting under the de facto government's controversial decree restricting free speech and the right to freely assemble, Honduran police have begun removing and arresting Zelaya supporters from buildings where they were holed up for three months to protest the coup. Over 55 Zelaya supporters were removed and arrested from the National Agrarian Institute building in Tegucigalpa this morning.
The anti-coup website, VosElSoberano.com, cited a complaint that Honduran police were seen removing documents from the National Agrarian Institute building after the eviction.
According to a spokesman for the Honduran police, the evictions are "part of the decree, clear out government buildings. We are looking at other institutions that were taken over."
Supporters of the de facto regime are starting to push for a negotiated solution to the current political crisis, a sign that their support for the de facto government may be waning. Adolfo Facusse, president of the National Industrial Association, proposed that Zelaya be both reinstated with limited powers and required to face prosecution on charges levied against him since he was deposed. The proposed agreement also includes sending foreign troops to Honduras to ensure that if Zelaya is reinstated, he would respect the limitations of his powers.
The Los Angeles Times reports that a "secret session" was held at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens with Honduran business leaders and senior politicians. The article suggests the general tone of the secret meeting indicated a shift in the tone of the de facto government supporters. "If the accord in fact limits any abuse of power, or political persecution, upon Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement, [then] along those lines we can reach agreement," a former Honduran president said Tuesday.
Even though Micheletti said on Monday that he would reconsider the move to impose a decree which suspends important constitutional rights, it remains in place today and will likely remain in place throughout the week. On Tuesday, however, Congressman Rigoberto Chang, of the conservative National Party, "made clear Congress will revoke an emergency security crackdown if the interim government does not."
Porfirio Lobo, the leading presidential candidate in Honduras, said the decree suspending constitutional rights could undermine the election results if not lifted. The National Party candidate said, "We're totally against the decree that restricts individual guarantees and freedom of expression."
Radio Globo immediately began to broadcast via the Internet after its headquarters was shuttered by the de facto government.
U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley backed up U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Lewis Amselem's comment on Zelaya's actions being "irresponsible and foolish" yesterday at the daily press briefing:
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens made a statement to the press yesterday, for the first time since the June 28th coup d'etat. Here are some excerpts from that statement, released by the Honduran newspaper, El Heraldo:
We have said throughout this process that all sides need to act constructively, avoid the kind of provocative statements or actions that would precipitate violence and inhibit the resolution of this situation. And I think our acting representative simply said with regard to statements that President Zelaya and his supporters have made that they need to act in a more constructive and positive manner. So I think what he said yesterday is fully consistent with our concern that both sides need to take constructive action, affirmative action. Both sides ultimately need to sign on to the San Jose process and begin a transition to a new government that the people of Honduras can support.
The United States' policy has been very clear and is not very complicated, it is rather simple: support for democracy in Honduras and in any other country in the region is the pillar; it has always been our foreign policy and in this sense our policy has been very clear in condemning what happened on June 28.
As President Obama has said, one cannot just push a button and resolve everything; it is important that we think and that the solution for Honduras is not decided by a North American solution imposed by the United States or a South American solution.
I think it should be a Central American solution and therefore we support President Arias and hope it is a solution that Hondurans themselves can negotiate.
What worries us in Washington is democracy and human rights. Look, the decree that was emitted a few days ago that basically suspends fundamental and constitutional rights in Honduras is something that really concerns us.
One thing is fundamental: the rights of the people are inalienable and must not be limited or restricted in any way. The Honduran people have a great democratic vocation.
Just as those who violate human rights are doing great damage to the people, so are those who instigate violence.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Honduran de facto government's decision to issue a decree suspending important civil liberties on Sunday received widespread international condemnation yesterday. As a result, de facto President Roberto Micheletti again made various reversals late Monday, stating that he will consider rescinding the decree, re-inviting the OAS delegation to Honduras after not allowing the delegation to enter the country on Sunday, and offering a "big hug" to Brazilian President Lula da Silva only 24 hours after offering him an ultimatum.
Meanwhile, President Zelaya addressed the United Nations General Assembly via cellphone, likening the de facto regime to a "dictatorship."
Here is today's update on the situation in Honduras. Past updates can be found here.
- International condemnation emerged yesterday in response to the decree issued by the de facto Micheletti government, which suspends civil liberties such as the freedom of speech and assembly and allowed for warrantless arrests for 45 days. Here are excerpts from some of the statements:
U.S. Department of State:
The United States views with grave concern the decree issued by the de facto regime in Honduras suspending fundamental civil and political rights. In response to strong popular opposition, the regime has indicated that it is considering rescinding the decree. We call on the de facto regime to do so immediately.
The freedoms inherent in the suspended rights are inalienable and cannot be limited or restricted without seriously damaging the democratic aspirations of the Honduran people.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
I am deeply concerned about developments in Honduras. A state of emergency has increased tensions. I note that the Congress of Honduras has rejected the suspension of civil liberties and urge that Constitutional guarantees including freedom of association, expression and movement be fully respected.
Threats on the embassy of Brazil in Honduras are unacceptable. International law is clear: sovereign immunity cannot be violated. Threats to the embassy staff and premises are intolerable. The Security Council has condemned such acts of intimidation. I do as well, in the strongest terms.
NGOs and Faith Based Organizations:
We call on the de facto government of Honduras to restore constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, respect human rights and freedom of expression, accept international monitoring and mediation, and establish dialogue with the constitutionally elected administration of President Manuel Zelaya.
Human Rights Watch:
Honduras's de facto government should immediately rescind an emergency decree that severely restricts press freedoms.
"Roberto Micheletti has effectively outlawed public criticism," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "This kind of decree has been the norm for authoritarian rulers - from Chile's Pinochet to Cuba's Castros - who tolerate freedom of speech only when it favors the government."
- The Honduran Congress told Micheletti that it would not approve the decree, which Honduran law requires it to do. The president of Congress José Alfredo Saavedra said, "we need to lower the pressure, and all begin to calm down so that we can have a dialogue."
Micheletti responded by announcing that he would consult with the Supreme Court to repeal the decree "as quickly as possible." "This decision was made because (Zelaya) was calling for insurrection ... but I'm going to listen to the other powers of the state and we're going to make the most wise decision in the interests of Honduras."
The New York Times suggests the move by the Honduran Congress indicates differences within the de facto government: "The congressional response to the decree appears to reflect differences in strategy within the governing coalition, if not in the final goal. While the government seemed willing to disregard international opprobrium in its efforts to muzzle the opposition, the main parties in Congress have a strong interest in finding a political way out of the crisis."
- Hours after Micheletti said he would accept congressional calls to reverse the emergency decree, Honduran General Romeo Vasquez, who oversaw the ouster of President Zelaya, implored all sectors of Honduran society, on Channel 5 television, to join in resolving the country's deepening crisis. "I am sure that Hondurans will find a peaceful solution to the crisis we are facing. All sectors of society should put aside their differences to unite the homeland."
- One day after giving Brazil his 10-day ultimatum to expel Zelaya from the embassy or move him to Brazil, Micheletti sent Brazilian President Lula da Silva "a big hug", and told him not to worry because neither the Police nor the Army would enter the grounds of the embassy.
- Micheletti also reversed his decision to not allow an OAS delegation to come to Honduras, one day after sending the advance mission for the OAS delegation home. On Monday, he invited an OAS mission to visit Honduras on October 7th in order to help start a dialogue between Zelaya and the de facto regime. The advance team, which made up the delegation refused entry into Honduras on Sunday, would be allowed to enter the country on October 2nd.
- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addressed the UN General Assembly by cellphone on Monday from the Brazilian embassy during the address of Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Isabel Rodas Bacas. Zelaya called on "the United Nations to give assistance to reverse this coup and to ensure that democracy is available to all nations of the world." He also said, "If there was any doubt that what we have here is a dictatorship, now with everything that has happened in these past 93 days of repression, I believe those doubts no longer exist."
- The OAS held a Special Meeting of the Permanent Council yesterday to discuss the situation in Honduras, however, the international body was unable to agree on the wording of a resolution. All 33 member countries unanimously rejected the expulsion of the OAS delegation from Honduras and expressed concern about the emergency decree issued by the de facto regime, however, a consensus could not be reached on whether it should include a statement rejecting the results of the upcoming elections. The United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Peru rejected a move to include a statement on the upcoming elections, even though many member countries have assured that they will not recognize them.
- U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley spoke about Honduras during yesterday's daily press briefing:
I think it’s time for the de facto regime to put down the shovel. With every action, they keep on making the hole deeper. It’s time for the de facto regime to move in a more constructive direction. So far, they have failed to do so.
We are concerned about the issue of civil rights and human rights in Honduras. It is having a significant impact on the Honduran people. But it’s also the reason why we have said clearly to the de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize an electoral result as free and fair under the current circumstances. So, in fact, I think the de facto regime was thinking if we just get to late November, get to an election, it will resolve everything. It will not.
So you’re quite right; in order to have a viable electoral process, you have to have freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly. And to the extent that the de facto regime takes that away from the Honduran people, it further will exacerbate the situation, which is why we continue to call on the de facto regime to recognize the San Jose Accords, which, in fact, then calls for appropriate international support for an electoral process, including the introduction of election monitors, so that you can have a process that the Honduran people can believe in. It is one of the reasons why we have met with several of the presidential candidates so that we can further make clear to the de facto regime that under the present circumstances we will not recognize the result.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
According to various press reports, primarily by Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, by October 30th the government of Panama will sign an international cooperation agreement with the United States to build naval bases in Bahía Piña, in the province of Darién, and Punta Coca, in the south of Veraguas, both on the Pacific coast.
According to La Prensa, a preliminary agreement was reached during recent talks between President Ricardo Martinelli and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the UN General Assembly sessions in New York. Vice President and foreign minister Juan Carlos Varela denied that the meeting between President Ricardo Martinelli and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dealt with the subject of U.S. bases in Panama. La Prensa reports that the U.S. Department of State has denied the extistence of the deal, and U.S. Southern Command has said that it is unaware of the supposed agreement. Both Varela and Minister of Government and Justice José Raúl Mulino
promised that the bases will not house U.S. forces, that they will instead utilize "100% Panamanian forces." (Panama has no armed forces, but its National Police have a Maritime Service, akin to a Coast Guard.) The bases will be used to combat narcotrafficking and organized crime.
The Panamanian announcement raises concerns, as it follows revelations that the United States and Colombia are nearing signature on a deal to let U.S. military personnel use at least seven bases inside Colombia. It appears likely that the deal with Panama involves the use of U.S. funds to build bases for Panama's own forces, with no barracks or separate facilities for the long-term presence of U.S. personnel or contractors. But until either government explains the arrangement more fully, we cannot state that with certainty.
A deal that would allow bases to house U.S. personnel would be hugely controversial in Panama, after the 1999 exit of U.S. troops from several bases there ended an often unwelcome presence that dated back to 1903. The political cost makes a "Cooperative Security Location" arrangement - similar to those the United States maintains with El Salvador, Aruba/Curaçao, Ecuador until recently, and soon Colombia - appear unlikely.
We estimate that Panama's national police will receive about $7.5 million in U.S. assistance next year. The base construction agreement could increase that amount.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Honduras appeared to be calming down toward the end of last week, as violent incidents were reduced, the curfew was lifted and Hondurans were allowed to return to "normalcy". However, ousted President Manuel Zelaya remained in the Brazilian embassy and de facto President Roberto Micheletti maintained his position against reinstating Zelaya into the presidency, despite presenting a willingness for dialogue between the two parties.
Over the weekend, tensions increased again, with Zelaya calling for a march to mark the three month anniversary of the coup d'etat that resulted in his exile from Honduras, and Micheletti calling for the suspension of key civil liberties in response.
Here is our update on Honduras for today. You can read the updates from last week here.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Rhetoric against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez often appears in the U.S. Congressional Record, which is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the U.S. Congress. From floor speeches about President Obama's "socialist" tendencies to a push to extend the United States' radio program in Asia to the need for nuclear energy in the United States, President Chávez is often cited as an enemy of the United States.
The excerpts below demonstrate the range of topics that incite the use of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, chiefly by Republicans, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. All of the comments below were made last week.
- To justify the extension of Radio Free Asia via H.R. 3593 (To amend the United States Broadcasting Act of 1994 to extend by one year the operation of Radio Free Asia, and for other purposes), President Chávez's name was mentioned by Congressman Ed Royce (R-California):
All around the globe, an information war is at play. Iran is spending heavily to block our broadcasting, while beaming its own message into Afghanistan and even the Balkans to sow division. Russia is broadcasting into southeastern Europe as well. Hugo Chavez is crippling local media while bolstering Venezuela's state broadcasts around Latin America, and he is preaching anti-Americanism with those broadcasts. Then there are the 150 sharia-friendly radio broadcasts in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Those are the broadcasts that the Taliban are making in Afghanistan and in northwest Pakistan.
So, from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang, these totalitarian regimes understand that controlling information is central to their being. Radio Free Asia is one of our pieces on this chess board.
- Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) compared President Obama to President Chávez in his speech on the House floor on Thursday, "Socialist versus Progressive."
I recall looking at a picture of President Obama standing next to Hugo Chavez, and they asked what I thought. I said, well, my reflection is that there are two huge nationalizers here. Hugo Chavez has been nationalizing right and left in Venezuela, but in the previous 30 days, he had only nationalized a Cargill rice plant, a Minnesota proud, privately held company, and nationalized that rice plant down in Venezuela. He simply said, I don't like the way you are running your rice plant; I will run it. And they will decide what the production is and what the people get paid that work there, and what they are going to pay for the product, and they will take their margin out that goes in to run the Government of Venezuela.
Well, what is going on with General Motors and Chrysler and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG and the three large investment banks, what is different about that?
I can't draw a moral distinction between an ACORN shakedown, a Mafia shakedown, or a shakedown that might come from Hugo Chavez or some strongman in some other country. ``You will pay the protection or you will not be in business.''
I wonder if Cargill refused to pay protection in Venezuela and that was why Hugo Chavez nationalized the rice company down there, the rice plant in Venezuela earlier this spring, in about April.
- Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday about missile defense.
It is, indeed, correct, as the gentleman from Iowa said, that if the Russians had been helping us to pressure the Iranians in a nonviolent embargo approach, that we would be further along in that effort to try to pressure the Iranians to use only a peaceful nuclear program, rather than what we, I think justifiably, suspect for all kinds of concepts that would be going there. We would not have Mr. Morgenthau from New York City, who can never be considered a right-wing radical Republican, talking in newspaper and magazine articles about the interconnect between Iran and Venezuela and how some of the money that was supposed to be stopped in the embargo has been able to be laundered through Venezuela and the connection between this. Eight times Chavez has visited Iran. Iran is now putting money into Chavez' efforts. So I see the future of the problem when we look at the Iranians on the east, Venezuela on the south of our country, the North Koreans on our west coast and realize that we are living in some very perilous times.
I'm concerned with our enemies, especially Venezuela, who are clearly malevolent in their approach to us, spreading that document throughout the rest of Latin South America. At the same time, the Iranians are very bellicose, to say the least. And North Korea, who knows what you want to do with him. Those are the concerns. Those are concerns.
- Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives about the "clear and present threat" of Iran.
Moreover, it is just this week--I think this is an important thing to know--Venezuela's Hugo Chavez announced the purchase of more than $2 billion in arms from Russia, including rocket technology, and has declared that Venezuela will get started on a nuclear program with Iran's help. This is some sort of unholy alliance here. To somehow suggest that Russia is going to be a help here, I think, is naive beyond degree.
- Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas) speaking about the United Nations' role as a "haven for international tyrants."
And let's not forget Hugo Chavez, the tyrant of Venezuela who railed against the United States. He spoke also at the U.N. He is good buddies with the desert rat of Iran. And a New York district attorney recently said that there is evidence that Venezuela is setting up a Venezuelan missile crisis for the United States. Now isn't that lovely. Why do we send U.S. taxpayer money to the U.N. at all? Twenty percent of U.N. funds come from the United States, and the American public is asking: Why? Why do we finance the U.N. that embraces thugs, dictators, terrorists and everyone who hates America and Israel.
- Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) speaking about the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
For instance, right now the Russians are building a commercial reactor for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He is not exactly friendly toward the United States. To make things more interesting, Manhattan District Attorney Morganthau recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that his office has recently uncovered evidence that Iran may be providing Venezuela with missile technology.
Monday, September 28, 2009
This post was written by WOLA intern Ursela Groat
The 18th of September marked the end of a twelve day fact-finding mission to Colombia by Margaret Sekaggya, the UNHCR Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. In her statement on the 18th of September, Ms. Sekaggya applauded the Colombian Government and High Commissioner on Human Rights for the significant overall improvement of the situation in the country since 2002, noting that "respect for the right to life and the exercise of fundamental freedoms for Colombian citizens have improved."
But Ms. Sekaggya also had several criticisms for the government about what she called the "climate of fear within the human rights defenders' community" that still exists in Colombia today. She noted a "pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders, and their families" that includes threats and incidences of murder, torture, disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detainment, illegal surveillance, exile, and stigmatization and branding of defenders. These violations are allegedly attributed to guerrilla and paramilitary groups, in addition to police and security forces, and government officials.
More troubling are her allegations that these threats and incidents are not being taken seriously when reported to police forces, creating a climate of impunity that negatively impacts the work of human rights activists. The Rapporteur argues that these incidents and the lack of official response "create a climate of fear" among human rights defenders that contributes to their insecurity and impedes their ability to work in the country.
Ms. Sekaggya will present her full report to the UN Human Rights Council in March of 2010.