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Thursday, January 8, 2009
Yesterday, the National Security Archive posted four declassified documents on its website showing that the U.S. government was aware since 1994 of allegations that members of the Colombian military frequently collaborated with paramilitary groups, and killed civilians to present the bodies as dead guerrillas.
The documents describe the Colombian military's use of "death squad tactics in their counterinsurgency campaign," and the persistence of "body count mentalities, especially among Colombian army officers,"(pdf 1) which fuel "human rights abuses by otherwise well-meaning soldiers trying to get their quota to impress superiors" (pdf 2).
Cooperation with paramilitary groups, according to one 1997 document (pdf 3), had gotten "much worse under Del Rio." The reference is to Gen. Rito Alejo del Rio, commander of the Colombian Army's 17th Brigade in northwestern Colombia, recently arrested for his earlier alleged collaboration with the murderous militias.
The most amusing document, however, is a U.S. Embassy cable from February 2000 that discusses a slip-up between the ACCU and the Colombian Army, in which both tried to claim responsibility for the killing of two demobilized guerrillas. According to this document (pdf 4), "The ACCU (which witnesses say kidnapped the two) claims its forces executed them, while the Army's Fourth Brigade (which released the bodies the next day) presented the dead as ELN Guerrillas killed in combat with the Army." When it became apparent that both groups had claimed responsibility, the bodies of the two demobilized guerrillas disappeared from the morgue.
Colombia's Semana magazine published an article by National Security Archive Colombia Analyst Michael Evans detailing the history of the so-called 'false positive' scandal and the findings from each declassified document. Evans ends his article asking:
While recent steps to cleanse the Army's ranks of officials associated with the policy are welcome, they are clearly not enough. What are the facts? Who is responsible? How long has this been happening? Who are the victims? And where are the bodies buried? Declassified U.S. documents can provide some clues, but it seems unlikely that we will learn the answers to these questions unless the Colombian Army declassifies and releases its full report on the 'false positives' scandal. Until then, it seems, secrecy and impunity will continue to prevail over transparency and justice in Colombia.
The article can be read in full in English on the National Security Archive website or in Spanish on Semana.com.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Violence in Mexico increased substantially during 2008 and it appears that the rise may continue well into 2009, as the Mexican government combats the country's powerful drug cartels. However, as pressure on narcotraffickers increases in both Mexico and Colombia, drug-related violence has seeped into many of the countries' neighbors, a topic that emerged in various media articles across the region this week.
According to one article in La Nacion, one of Argentina's top newspapers, the spread of narcotrafficking and drug-related violence is evident in Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica, in addition to the violence in Colombia and Mexico:
the expansion of Mexican narcotrafficking in the region is evident. The president of Peru, Alan García, has expressed his concern about the growing penetration of these groups and asked Mexico to send antinarcotics police to the country. The internationalization of the drug lords has been recognized by countries like Colombia, where the increasing collaboration between Mexican and Colombian narcotraffickers is documented. And it has also been recognized by our country, where various Mexican citizens, linked to the Sinaloa cartel, are detained for the investigation for illegal trafficking of ephedrine to Mexico. The Sinaloa cartel has also extended its presence to Costa Rica, a country that the cartel uses for drug storage.
An Agence France Presse article published in El Nuevo Herald discussed the growing drug-related violence in Panama, as both Colombian and Mexican cartels are forced to travel to other countries to "directly care for their cargo" as a result of increased actions against drug traffickers in Mexico. According to the article:
Panamanian authorities captured 53 tons of drugs in 2008, but they were not able to stop narcotrafficking's rise to the 'main' cause of crime and murders in the country by Mexican and Colombian cartels.
Narcotrafficking activities in Panama increased as a result of the repression of Mexican and Colombian cartels in their own countries, which "produced a migration [of traffickers] to different countries in Central and South America and Panama does not escape this reality," assured the chief anti-drug prosecutor, Jose Abel Almengor.
Mateo Samper's December 17th article in Colombia's Semana magazine alludes to this problem, arguing that while both Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative were conceived as anti-drug policies, "in essence, they are both faltering and are going to fail." As an alternative to these policies, he argues for a region- or even world-wide policy of legalization, or at least baby steps toward such a policy through decriminalization in the region: "If the governments of Latin American countries sit down to discuss and coordinate more sensible regional policies regarding drugs, they could propel change on an international level."
The region is experiencing a "balloon effect" (a term referring to what happens when one squeezes a half-deflated balloon) of the spreading violence, as individual countries implement policies to fight the spread of narcotrafficking and drug-related violence within their borders. The projected increase in drug-related violence in Mexico in 2009 could be reflected, though to a lesser extent, in many countries throughout the region.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Here is our list of the most significant news stories in 2008 relating to U.S. policy and security in Latin America.
March: Colombia bombs a Farc encampment in Ecuador, killing Raul Reyes, one of the rebel group's leaders. The attack leads Ecuador to cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia, which have yet to be restored, while Venezuela threatens to send troops to the border.
April: Attempts to pass the United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement are thwarted when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leads an effort to delay the vote, citing human rights violations against union leaders as a major concern. This concern was reiterated by President-elect Barack Obama in one of the presidential debates leading up to the elections.
June: The U.S. Congress approves $400 million toward the Merida Initiative, a proposed $1.3 billion aid package aimed at helping Mexico and Central America fight the drug war.
July: Colombia's Operación Jaque results in the rescue of 15 Farc hostages, including prominent hostages Ingrid Betancourt and the three American contractors Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes.
July: The Ecuadorian government formally tells the United States that it will not renew the United States' agreement to use the Manta air force base when it expires in 2009.
September: Bolivian President Evo Morales expels U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Venezuela also expels U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy. The Bush administration's response includes de-certifying Bolivia as an anti-drug partner and not renewing Bolivia's trade preferences under ATPDEA (Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Enforcement Act).
November: Barack Obama's victory leads to calls and hopes for a new era of relations between Latin America and the United States by many Latin American governments.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The degree of politicization of the Armed Forces is such that in November, constant insults from a group of people forced the commander of the Armed Forces to leave a restaurant in Santa Cruz.
[Gen. Edwin] Donayre is not just leaving the leadership of the Army. He is retiring, according to the law. His passage through the highest military post has been, without a doubt, the most controversial and the noisiest of recent years. He brought to his command a new style and a rather un-military excess: indiscretion.
The government says that one reason the military has been employed is that the firepower of drug traffickers far exceeds that of the local police. But the military also has its own deficiencies, which could be hampering the effort, says Roderic Camp, a Mexican military expert at Claremont McKenna College. "Their function is not as a police force. They don't have the kind of vehicles that chase civilian criminals," he says.
The Navy should continue with its constitutional mission and not risk dirtying its white uniforms with "black gold."
Retired Air Force Chief Gen. Juan Rafael Bustillo Toledo: "The FMLN says that they are against the amnesty law. I personally am against the amnesty because I would also like to see them judged, but unfortunately the peace accords allowed them to occupy political posts and now you can see, they have candidates for vice-president, congress, mayors who were part of the guerrillas, but you're not going to see military officers occupying political posts, except perhaps for two congressmen in the PCN and one in the PDC."
The objective of the militarization of the most conflictive barrios is, according to Brazil's Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to guarantee free exercise of the right to vote, after some candidates and residenced denounced having been victims of intimidation by narcotraffickers or paramilitaries who dominate the favelas, and who are pressuring for the election of their own candidates.
The changes in the Army high command, which included the exit of its chief upon confirmation that he faces a judicial investigation, reveals the extent of administrative anomalies and "gray zones" in the functioning of the armed forces that affect its ability to fully implement its tasks.
U.N.-backed Truth Commission found the army committed 85 percent of the civil war killings, including hundreds of massacres of civilians. Despite that brutal history, the decision to put more troops on the street to fight criminals is popular, as murder rates soar out of control with youth gang members, drug traffickers and corrupt police terrifying the population.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a U.S. government economic-aid program begun during the first years of the Bush administration. It offers several-year "contracts" of aid to countries that meet a list of good governance criteria, then submit and receive approval for aid proposals. (See our MCC aid data here.)
In Latin America, only Honduras ($215 million [PDF]), Nicaragua ($175 million [PDF]), and El Salvador ($461 million [PDF]) have received MCC aid under several-year contracts. Paraguay and Guyana have received smaller amounts through single-year grants via what the MCC calls its "Threshold" program. The three countries that received MCC contract aid have seen a general decline in U.S. assistance through other, "traditional" U.S. economic-aid programs.
According to its contract, Nicaragua was scheduled to receive $47.5 million in MCC aid in 2009. On Thursday, however, the MCC announced that it was suspending Nicaragua's participation in the program due to concerns about the validity of recent local elections.
The Board also voted to suspend assistance for new activities under the $175 million MCC compact in Nicaragua because of actions taken by the Nicaraguan government that are inconsistent with MCC’s eligibility criteria. MCC will therefore not approve disbursements for activities not already contracted by MCA-Nicaragua. The political conditions leading up to, during, and following recent elections in Nicaragua were not consistent with MCC requirements that include a commitment to policies that promote political freedom and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.
The Board called on Nicaragua to develop and implement a comprehensive set of measures to address concerns regarding the government’s commitment to democratic principles. The Board will review the response of the Nicaraguan government and determine subsequent actions at its next quarterly Board meeting in March 2009.
“The MCC model is based on aid with accountability and good governance. The Board determined that recent actions by the Nicaraguan government were inconsistent with MCC’s core principles and therefore had to take this difficult decision,” said Ambassador Danilovich. “Nicaragua’s compact with MCC benefits hundreds of thousands of poor Nicaraguans by providing better roads, property titles, and agricultural business support. For the sake of the poor of the country, we sincerely hope that the Nicaraguan government recommits to the principles of democracy and the rule of law so that MCC can reestablish what has been an effective partnership. It should be remembered that our partnership with Nicaragua is dedicated to both poverty reduction and good government policies.”
As a result of the MCC aid suspension, we estimate that U.S. assistance to the hemisphere's second-poorest country will plummet in 2009 to its lowest level, in nominal dollars, since 2001.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Visitors to the site occasionally ask us why the aid numbers presented here - sometimes including old numbers from past years - change from time to time. The changes are usually not drastic, a few million dollars here or there, but can be frustrating for people seeking to cite definitive numbers, for instance for publications.
The answer is simple, though frustrating. The "Just the Facts" website cites only official written sources, but the sources themselves are often inconsistent. This is especially true for the Defense Department's reporting of its own aid programs. Whether because of poor record-keeping or because of confusion about which expenditures constitute "aid" instead of "operational costs," two documents from the same government department can report different amounts of assistance to the same country, in the same program, in the same year.
When this happens, we cite the more recent of the two documents, which we consider to have superseded the first one. However, if the older document describes activities that are not mentioned in the newer document, we include those activities in our new aid estimates as well.
The most recent example is in a report we obtained last week: the Defense Department's first-ever country-by-country report on all of its overseas military assistance. The report (PDF) was required by Section 1209 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. It is a major step forward for transparency over several military aid programs for which it was very difficult to obtain country-by-country data before.
One of those hard-to-track Defense Department programs is the Pentagon's authority to provide counter-drug assistance, known by the user-unfriendly name "Section 1004" after the provision in the 1991 Defense Authorization law that first created it. "Section 1004" is the second-largest source of military and police aid funding for Latin America and the Caribbean, but it has been consistently difficult for us to obtain an annual accounting of aid through this program.
This year, however, is different. We have information about "Section 1004" aid in 2007 from two different Defense Department sources:
(1) an April 2008 response to a Freedom of Information Act request from a U.S. non-governemntal organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (this document is not posted to our website); and
(2) The "Section 1209" report (PDF), which was required by Congress in July 2008, dated August 2008, and obtained by us in December 2008.
The two documents' accounting of "Section 1004" aid is very similar. Aid categories are almost identical, though many are cryptic and require a Google search to decipher. (Example: "CNIES" = "Cooperating Nations Information Exchange System.") But the two sources' aid numbers rarely match, and a few categories appear in one but not the other.
Consider this comparison of both sources' accounting of "Section 1004" aid to Colombia in 2007, which is typical:
4/08 FOIA Response
8/08 Section 1209 Report
|Bilateral Maritime Collection/Reporting
|CN Command Management System
|CN Intelligence Programs
|Colombia Airborne Surveillance
|Detection and Monitoring Domain Awareness
|Host Nation Rider
|Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South
|ONI Maritime Intelligence Support
|SOF CN Support
|SOUTHAF Support - Southcom
|SouthCom CN Joint Planning Action Teams
|SouthCom CN Operational Support
|SouthCom Command Support
|SouthCom Section 1033 Support
|Tactical Analysis Teams
|USARSO Support - SouthCom
|USMC CN Training Support
In the end, the August source yields a total for Colombia that is $2.6 million higher (2 percent) than the April source. If we include aid categories that appear in April but not August in our final estimate, as we do on our page for Section 1004 aid to Colombia in 2007, we get a total of $112,046,000, or $4.7 million higher (4 percent).
Similar discrepancies appear in both reports' estimates of aid to the majority of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This is a common issue. Because it happens frequently, we recommend checking "Just the Facts" when citing aid numbers to ensure that you are using the latest official estimates. And we recommend that the Department of Defense and the congressional oversight committees place a higher priority on reporting. As things stand now, reports give the distinct impression that the federal government does not know quite how much it is spending on overseas military and police aid.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Praise and congratulations emanated from Latin America, in response to the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday. Many Latin American presidents called for a new era of relations between their country and the United States, however, others expressed doubt as to whether relations will actually change. Editorial boards across the region also provided their interpretation of Obama's win, pointing to both the historic nature of the elections, with Barack Obama being the first African-American in the White House, and the significant challenges that lie ahead, despite the strong popular support for change.
Below you will find quotes from various Latin American presidents' official communications to the United States' new President-elect, as well as links to and excerpts from editorials from many of Latin America's top newspapers.
Latin American presidents' remarks:
Colombia: President Álvaro Uribe
"We have to continue working and looking for support in order to maintain a policy of coordination with the government of the United States against narcotrafficking, terrorism, and the strengthening democratic institutions."
Ecuador: President Rafael Correa
"I think that foreign policy is going to be more reasonable, more humane, less imperialist. I think that (there will be) more attention on Latin America, but I do not believe that there will be changes."
"I dream about the day that Latin America, really does not have to worry about who becomes the president of the United States, because it will be sovereign and autonomous enough to walk on its own two feet."
Correa also stressed the fact that for the first time "a black man will be the president of the United States. It is important that a minority leads the most powerful country in the world."
Bolivia: President Evo Morales
"Mr. Barack Obama has made history, his victory is historic and, in the name of the National Government, congratulations."
"Weeks ago, I said that, regardless of which candidate became president, we would work to improve relations with the United States, but even better with Obama, who is a person who represents the most marginalized sectors."
Chile: President Michelle Bachelet
"I know that we will continue working together to strengthen even further the relations between our countries and take advantage of not only economic opportunities, but also of the training, technology exchange and cultural development that we have."
"This triumph brings us to an historic moment. Because today, when the world is confronted with a serious range of difficulties affecting peoples' lives, such as the energy crisis, the economic crisis, and the food crisis, the international community obviously requires new solutions and a special preoccupation for the less protected populations. I am certain that Barack Obama is an expression of the dreams of an entire nation for a better future, full of hope."
Peru: President Alan Garcia
"We have followed this presidential campaign with interest and admiration, as it has shown the vigor of democracy in the United States and the majority of the U.S population has supported your message of change and hope. We are sure that your leadership and political convictions will be decisive so that the international community will find a responsible and equitable way out of the crisis that is affecting world finances and economy.
We are equally assured that during your term our bilateral relation will continue to strengthen. The vigorous entrance into the Free Trade Agreement, which you supported and used as an example during your campaign, will serve to energize business and investment, and will stimulate exchange and cooperation in the other fields Peru needs for its development and those fields over which the United States has global leadership."
Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez
"The historic election of an African-American to the head of the most powerful nation in the world is a symptom of the changing times that have been brewing from the south of America, which is now knocking on the door of the United States. From Simon Bolivar's homeland, we are convinced that the time has come to establish new relations between our countries and with our region, within the basis of principles of respect for sovereignty, equality, and true cooperation.
From all of the corners of the planet, a clamor is arising that demands a change in international relations and the construction, as the liberator Simon Bolivar said, of an equal, peaceful, and coexisting world.
The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela confirms its will and its determination to build, over a base of absolute respect of sovereignty, a constructive bilateral agenda for the well-being of the Venezuelan and U.S. citizenry."
Mexico: President Felipe Calderón
Text from an official press release:
"The President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, sent a letter today, in the name of the pueblo and the Government of Mexico, to Senator Barack Obama, congratulating him for his victory in the United States' presidential elections.
In the letter, President Calderón reiterated the Government of Mexico's commitment to strengthening and deepening bilateral relations and working toward the construction of a better future for the region. He confided that the relation between both countries will begin a new phase of progress based on shared responsibility, a frank and respectful dialogue, and mutual trust."
Honduras: President Manuel Zelaya
"Barack Obama's victory is one for the entire world, and is for everyone, who in any moment of their lives, have fought for momentous changes through social organization, for civil rights, human rights, to combat inequality. It deserves sincere congratulations to the American population, to the president-elect, and to those who chivalrously accepted defeat."
La Razón: Estados Unidos, hacia “el cambio” (The United States made "the change")
"There are 'changing times in Washington,' [Bush] recognized; but immediately, he signaled that 'the world is going to continue being the same' with Obama. The change, it appears, is passing to the other side in the United States. And Bolivia, as the rest of the countries in the region, will have to understand it like that."
Los Tiempos: El triunfo de Barack Obama (Barack Obama's triumph)
"However, what awaits Obama is not anything easy. Many prejudices about his ability to lead were refuted by facts, yet there still remain other relative tests to his true aptitude and decisions to confront with conviction the necessary and monumental challenges such as terrorism and the economic debacle. If it is like this or not, the judgement of history will tell. Until then, what is certain is that the United States population and its democracy gave an admirable show of strength. And that already is, by itself, an extraordinary motive for the United States to revitalize its faith in the future."
El Tiempo: Revolución Obama (Obama revolution)
"In the case of Latin America, and in Colombia in particular, it is too early to speculate about the immediate changes that will be in the bilateral agenda. Regardless, the democratic majority now in power favors adding conditions to military aid packages, trade exchanges, and the fight against drugs in exchange for improvements in human rights. For our country, the arrival of the new Obama administration could become a unique opportunity to spell out new points in the bilateral agenda."
El Comercio: Ganar era previsible, gobernar será titánico (Winning was foreseeable, governing will be titanic)
"The agenda of the United States' new President is one of the most difficult tests in the history of the country. It will require an enormous and historic serenity; from an extraordinary team of advisors and, if it is believed, blessings from the divine."
El Comercio: Estados Unidos: histórica elección y grandes retos (United States: historic election and great challenges)
"In regard to Latin America, one hopes for improved relations, that will not be limited to a revised migration policy, but instead in more concrete links and on a longer time scale. In regard to Peru, it has only been mentioned as an example FTA that could be better considered by our government."
La República: Obama y A. Latina (Obama and Latin America)
"Although there were few references to Latin America during the presidential campaign, . . . there were two concrete points that can be cited in favor of the president-elect. The first was his t.v. spot in relatively correct Spanish, addressed to the hispanic electorate, that, according to the results, he ended up conquering.
The second, that was brought about during his debates with McCain, was in reference to Peru. The senator from Illinois presented himself as favorable to the FTA signed between the USA and our country, to which he practically qualified as exemplar and said that it could count on his support."
El Nacional: Obama y nosotros (Obama and us)
"When Venezuelans think about these campaigns in other countries and we compare them to their elections to elect governors and mayors, it makes them want to cry. Destruction is the war cry of the President against his adversaries. In the United States, the competition has other characteristics. It was between parties and between candidates; here it is between the all-powerful and corrupt government and simple citizens."
La Jornada: Histórico (Historic)
"It is not sensible, ultimately, to hold expectations of a radical change in the power of the United States as a result of the arrival of Barack Obama to the White House. But, it would be unfair to deny the marked and positive political and human differences between the victor at the polls yesterday and the man who in eight years has carried the power of the United States to its worse moral and economic abyss."
Clarín: Una elección por el cambio, en Estados Unidos (An election for change, in the United States)
"The triumph of Barack Obama was the consequence of a profound political mobilization. The Americans voted for a change in national and international policies and the election has an enormous significance for the northern country and for the rest of the world, in that which respects the national administration, international relations and the culture of social relations, because it will contribute to a more inclusive and tolerant society."
El Mercurio: Triunfo de Obama (Obama's triumph)
"Obama represents a distinct way of taking on international themes, in tune with the ruthless criticism that the Democratic Party made to Bush in his eight years."
Prensa Libre: Respecto de una victoria anunciada (Respect of an announced victory)
"This election became a symbol of hope to achieve changes and to establish the now lost unity of the purposes of this country."
Nación: Presidente de la esperanza (President of hope)
"The exemplar triumph of Barack Obama reflects the best of the United States. Governing will be the biggest challenge, but he has solid conditions to assume it."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Less than one week remains before election day, and the end of what has felt like the longest-ever presidential campaign season. While Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain have tried to show America what a McCain or Obama Administration would look like, talk of how they will work with Latin America has been few and far between. Below, we have compiled links to speeches, press releases, policy statements, and some interviews that will give you a better idea as to what each candidate has been saying about U.S. policy toward and relationship with Latin America.
A New Partnership for the Americas: Fact Sheet on Latin America (PDF)
On Latin America & the Caribbean
At TC Williams High School - Alexandria, VA - Feb 10, 2008
Statement of Senator Barack Obama on Fidel Castro Stepping Down - Feb 19, 2008
Obama Statement on Recent Events near Colombia's Borders - March 3, 2008
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas - Miami Florida - May 23, 2008
Interview with Barack Obama - ABC News - Jake Tapper
Obama Talks Latin America -- and Spain -- on Miami Radio - Sept 22, 2008
Debate Reality Check: Obama's Position on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement - October 15, 2008
Full text of the McCain interview - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - January 23, 2007
McCain Statement on Castro Resignation
Statement by John McCain on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement - April 11
Remarks by John McCain on Cuban Independence Day - May 20, 2008
John McCain 2008 Launches New Spanish Radio Ad, "Cuba Prisoners" - June 10, 2008
John McCain 2008 Launches New Web Ad: "Colombia Free Trade" July 1, 2008
Statement by John McCain on Today's Hostage Rescue in Colombia - July 2, 2008
ICYMI: John McCain On "Good Morning America" From Columbia (their typo) - July 2, 2008
Statement by John McCain on Venezuela - Sept 12, 2008
[Audio] interview with Union Radio - September 18, 2008
Remarks By John McCain In Miami, FL - October 17, 2008
Dialogue between both candidates at the final presidential debate on October 15: (see full transcript and video of this debate here)
MCCAIN: But let me give you another example of a free trade agreement that Senator Obama opposes. Right now, because of previous agreements, some made by President Clinton, the goods and products that we send to Colombia, which is our largest agricultural importer of our products, is -- there's a billion dollars that we -- our businesses have paid so far in order to get our goods in there.
Because of previous agreements, their goods and products come into our country for free. So Senator Obama, who has never traveled south of our border, opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The same country that's helping us try to stop the flow of drugs into our country that's killing young Americans.
And also the country that just freed three Americans that will help us create jobs in America because they will be a market for our goods and products without having to pay -- without us having to pay the billions of dollars -- the billion dollars and more that we've already paid.
Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.
OBAMA: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.
And what I have said, because the free trade -- the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.
But I think that the important point is we've got to have a president who understands the benefits of free trade but also is going to enforce unfair trade agreements and is going to stand up to other countries....
MCCAIN: Well, let me just said that that this is -- he -- Senator Obama doesn't want a free trade agreement with our best ally in the region but wants to sit down across the table without precondition to -- with Hugo Chavez, the guy who has been helping FARC, the terrorist organization.
Free trade between ourselves and Colombia, I just recited to you the benefits of concluding that agreement, a billion dollars of American dollars that could have gone to creating jobs and businesses in the United States, opening up those markets.
MCCAIN: I have fought against -- well, one of them would be the marketing assistance program. Another one would be a number of subsidies for ethanol.
I oppose subsidies for ethanol because I thought it distorted the market and created inflation; Senator Obama supported those subsidies.
I would eliminate the tariff on imported sugarcane-based ethanol from Brazil.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Today, a Bolivian delegation made up of prominent government officials and business leaders is in Washington. They will testify in a public hearing hosted by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) about the economic benefits of the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Elimination Act (ATPDEA), an arrangement that gives several Bolivian products preferential access to the U.S. market. The Bush administration suspended Bolivia's ATPDEA trade preferences in late September, dealing a potential blow to the country's economy.
The Bolivian delegates are making the case for the U.S. program's importance for alternative development in coca-growing regions, and job creation nationwide. They are also seeking to defend the Bolivian government's counternarcotics program, which the Bush administration, in a September "de-certification" decision, determined does not meet its standard for full cooperation toward anti-drug goals.
The delegation is led by Bolivian Treasury Minister Luis Arce and Vice Minister of Social Defense and Controlled Substances Felipe Cáceres (whose position is similar to that of the U.S. drug czar), and includes the president of the La Paz Chamber of Exporters, Guillermo Poumont, the president of the Confederation of Private Business in Bolivia, Gabriel Babdoub and other business owners who export their products to the United States. Also, the hearing will include video testimony, compiled by the Cochabamba, Bolivia-based Democracy Center, of three Bolivian workers who will be adversely affected by the decision to suspend Bolivia's trade preferences with the United States.
According to the General Manager of the La Paz Chamber of Exporters, Fernando López, "it is important that we clearly demonstrate that Bolivia is carrying out good work in terms of counternarcotics" in addition to showing how ATPDEA is important for the Bolivian economy.
At the end of September, President Bush announced his plans to suspend Bolivia's trade preferences under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act due to Bolivia's failure to cooperate fully with the United States's counternarcotics programs, despite Congress' vote to extend ATPDEA preferences to Bolivia for six months. As required by law, the USTR must post the president's announcement in the Federal Register, hold a public hearing on the topic, and accept public comments until the end of the month (a .pdf of the announcement can be found here).
At the end of the month, the Bush Administration and the USTR will take into account the testimonies at the public hearing and formal comments submitted by outside parties, and a final decision will be made as to whether President Bush will maintain his decision to suspend trade preferences to Bolivia or if they will revert to the decision agreed upon by Congress to extend Bolivia's ATPDEA preferences for six months.
As discussed on this blog before, the suspension of trade preferences under ATPDEA will have a detrimental effect on the Bolivian economy. Approximately 25,000 (U.S. government estimate) to 50,000 (Bolivian government estimate) Bolivian jobs rely on trade with the United States made possible by ATPDEA - a significant percentage of the formal-economy workforce in a country whose entire population is under 10 million. Much of this employment is in the sprawling working-class city of El Alto, on the margins of La Paz, where the country's textile industry is based. The government is also concerned that the loss of these jobs could cause an increase in out-migration to other countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain.
In response to the pending suspension of ATPDEA, Bolivian President Evo Morales has said "We don't have to be afraid of an economic blockade by the United States against the Bolivian people." Instead he has announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has offered to replace and even surpass the income that ATPDEA generates for Bolivia and that the Iranian Government is interested in buying the products that will no longer be for eligible to enter the United States duty-free.
Bolivian Chancellor David Choquehaunca has claimed that Bush's announcement is not the "final word" and classified his decision as "entirely political" - a result of Bolivia's September expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, rather than a consequence of anti-drug strategy. However, we will have to wait to see whether Chancellor Choquehaunca's words turn out to be true, whether President Bush is going to stick to his initial decision and suspend Bolivia's trade preferences under ATPDEA as of January 1, 2009, and if so, whether President Bush's successor continues the suspension next year.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
|Download:(PDF, 3.78 MB) A Compass for Colombia Policy
(PDF, 3.95 MB) Un nuevo rumbo para la política estadounidense hacia Colombia
October 22, 2008
New Report Outlines a Just and Effective Foreign Policy toward Colombia
(English PDF, 3.78 MB) | (PDF en español, 3.95 MB).
During their final presidential debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain expressed markedly different opinions on U.S. policy toward Colombia, an important partner in Latin America. Yet the next U.S. president won’t just be debating policy, he will be making it—and in the case of Colombia, he will need more than minor changes along the margins. He will need a new approach.
The Compass for Colombia Policy, written by some of Washington’s top Colombia experts, offers a better way forward for one of the main foreign policy challenges that the next administration will face. This report makes a detailed, persuasive case for a new U.S. strategy that would achieve our current policy goals while ending impunity and strengthening respect for human rights. Instead of risking all by placing too much faith in a single, charismatic leader, the United States must appeal to the aspirations and needs of all Colombians by strengthening democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. In particular, the United States must stand by and empower the human rights advocates, victims, judges, prosecutors, union leaders, journalists and others who are the driving forces towards a more just and peaceful Colombia.
The Compass details seven sensible steps policymakers can take to create a just and effective Colombia policy.
1. Use U.S. Aid and Leverage for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
To address a human rights crisis that continues unabated and a chronic lack of political will to deal with it, the United States must use tougher diplomacy to encourage the Colombian government to strengthen human rights guarantees, protect human rights defenders, and bolster institutions needed to break with a history of impunity for abuses. Colombia’s judicial system is central to the rule of law and must receive strong support.
2. Actively Support Overtures for Peace
The United States cannot continue to bankroll a war without end and, as the civilian population in the countryside continues to endure immense suffering, should make peace a priority.
3. Support Expansion of the Government’s Civilian Presence in the Countryside
Militarily occupying territory is not the solution to Colombia’s problems. The United States should help Colombia strengthen its civilian government presence in rural zones to address lawlessness, poverty and inequality, the roots of the conflict.
4. Protect the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees
The United States can help resolve Colombia’s massive humanitarian crisis by insisting on the dismantlement of paramilitary structures, supporting Colombia’s Constitutional Court rulings on IDPs, and increasing and improving aid to IDPs and refugees.
5. Protect the Rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities
The United States must pay special attention to promoting ethnic minorities’ land rights and guarantee that U.S. aid projects are not carried out on land obtained by violence.
6. Ensure that Trade Policy Supports, Not Undermines, Policy Goals towards Colombia
The United States should insist upon labor rights advances, especially in reducing and prosecuting violence against trade unionists, prior to further consideration of the trade agreement. The United States must ensure that any trade agreement will not undermine U.S. policy goals, such as reducing farmers’ dependence on coca and ending the conflict.
7. Get Serious—and Smart—about Drug Policy
The United States is overdue for a major course correction in its drug control strategy, which has failed spectacularly in Colombia and the Andean region. The United States should end the inhumane and counterproductive aerial spraying program and invest seriously in rural development, including alternative development designed with affected communities. Drug enforcement should focus higher up on the distribution chain, disrupt money laundering schemes and apprehend violent traffickers. Access to high-quality drug treatment in the United States, which will cut demand, must be the centerpiece of U.S. drug policy.
“The next administration should use diplomatic pressure to hold Colombia to much higher standards on human rights, labor rights, and protection of the rule of law.”–Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund
“The United States must recognize the magnitude of the human rights crisis for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lands and livelihoods to violence.” –Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America
“Nine years after the launch of Plan Colombia, the production of cocaine remains virtually unchanged. The United States simply cannot afford to continue to pursue this costly and failed counternarcotics policy. The next President must change course.” –Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy
“In the last decade, Colombia’s conflict has taken 20,000 more lives and displaced more than 2 million citizens. Now is the time to make renewed efforts for peace.” –Kelly Nicholls, U.S. Office on Colombia
For more information:
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, (202) 546-7010; lisah [at] lawg.org
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America, (202) 797-2171; gsanchez [at] wola.org
Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy, (202) 232-3317; isacson [at] ciponline.org
Kelly Nicholls, US Office on Colombia, (202) 232-8090; kelly [at] usofficeoncolombia.org