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Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Yesterday, the White House issued the "Majors List" of narcotics source and transfer countries for 2009. Under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the President must submit to Congress an annual report identifying (a) major drug-producing or transit countries and (b) those countries not "cooperating" with U.S. counternarcotics measures and subject to sanctions. Using the "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) every March, the "Majors List" is compiled each year and presented to the Secretary of State for consideration before being approved by the President and sent to Congress.
This year's list has no surprises or new additions - with all 20 countries on the list already appearing on the 2008 "Majors List." Also similar to last year, Venezuela and Bolivia were cited as having "'failed demonstrably' during the last 12 months to adhere to international counternarcotic agreements and take counternarcotic measures set forth in U.S. law." This is Venezuela's fifth consecutive year on this list, and Bolivia's second.
Designation of a country as having "failed demonstrably" can lead to sanctions, however President Obama issued a waiver "so that the United States may continue to support specific programs to benefit the Bolivian and Venezuelan people." These programs include "civil society programs and small community development programs" in Venezuela and "continued support for agricultural development, exchange programs, small enterprise development, and police training programs" in Bolivia.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Yesterday, we wrote that State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had expressed concern about Venezuela's desire to build up its arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a very similar statement yesterday during her press conference with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez.
In response to a question about weapons sales and the possibility of an arms race in the region, Secretary Clinton chose to focus her answer entirely on Venezuela, even though the reporter also used Brazil's recent military agreement with France as an example. According to Secretary Clinton, "[Venezuela] outpace[s] all other countries in South America and certainly raise[s] the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region." As Ian Kelly did in the press briefing, Secretary Clinton emphasized the importance of putting procedures and practices in place "to ensure that the weapons ... are not diverted to insurgent groups or illegal organizations."
Uruguayan President Vásquez also responded to the question, focusing his answer more on how investment in arms can divert attention and investment away from development and fighting poverty and inequality in the region. "The governments of South America [should] decide to devote more money to promote health, to promote education and education to prevent diseases; to spend that money, instead of spending it in weapons."
Below is an excerpt from the joint press conference, citing in full both Secretary Clinton's and President Vasquez's answers to the question on arms transfers in the region.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts on what seems to be a growing transfer of arms and possibly even an arms race in the region. We've seen a lot of transfers of technology from Iran to Venezuela. The Brazilians just bought a very big package from the French. And I'm wondering if this is alarming to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have expressed concern about the number of Venezuelan arms purchases. They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region. So we urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases, clear about its purposes. They should be putting in place procedures and practices to ensure that the weapons that they buy are not diverted to insurgent groups or illegal organizations, like drug trafficking gangs and other criminal cartel
PRESIDENT VAZQUEZ: (Via interpreter) With respect to the arms race, not only is our country worried, but we have already expressed time and again our position against an arms race. We believe that it is quite inconvenient to the region to devote such significant economic resources toward purchasing arms. And - but it's a fact, and we can't deny it, that the countries are buying weapons.
And to make things worse, our region is the region that has the worst distribution of wealth. So with - under those conditions, it is still worse to be devoting those resources to weapons. South America has millions of people living in poverty, and there are thousands of children that die across Latin America and South America because of child diarrhea or diseases that could be prevented.
So because of all these reasons, all that should lead the governments of South America to decide to devote more money to promote health, to promote education and education to prevent diseases; to spend that money, instead of spending it in weapons, spending it in housing, good housing for our people, and to further deepen investment, especially in the field of education.
So we should devote our energies and resources to fight against the real scourges of our societies, that are drug - such as drug trafficking and terrorism. That would be certainly a much better use of our resources.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Yesterday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was asked about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's ambitions to pursue a civilian nuclear program with help from Russia, and whether this has inspired concern within the U.S. government about technology transfers or nuclear transfers between Venezuela and Iran.
According to Kelly, the United States is concerned not only about the civilian nuclear program, but also about Venezuela's desire to build up its arsenal. He stated a U.S. government desire that Venezuela put in place procedures and safeguards to ensure that "these arms are not diverted to any irregular or illegal organizations in the region." Kelly's response alludes to recent reports that Venezuelan anti-tank rocket launchers were recently found in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the United States' growing concern about Iran's influence in the region.
Below is the full text of State Department spokesman Kelly's response to the question on Venezuela during yesterday's press briefing at the State Department.
QUESTION: Is there any concern about technology transfers or nuclear transfers on the U.S. part between Iran and Venezuela?
MR. KELLY: The short answer is, to that, yes, we do have concerns. We have concerns in general about Venezuela‚Äôs stated desire to increase its arms buildup, which we think poses a serious challenge to stability in the Western Hemisphere. What they are looking to purchase and what they are purchasing outpaces all other countries in South America. And of course, we‚Äôre concerned about an arms race in the region.
And we urge Venezuela to be transparent in its purchases and very clear about the purposes of these purchases. And we‚Äôre also very concerned that they put in place very clear procedures and safeguards that these ‚Äì that these arms are not diverted to any irregular or illegal organizations in the region.
Venezuela is a signatory of the NPT. It has certain obligations, of course, under the NPT for any civilian nuclear program. And of course, we will be looking closely at this.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
CIP Intern Hannah Brodlie compiled this collection of recent reports of friction between governments and the news media throughout Latin America. Concerns about freedom of the press are on the increase.
- A massive September 10 tax raid on Argentina’s largest newspaper publisher, Grupo Clarín, fueled nationwide controversy over President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's proposed media bill. The “Media Reform Bill” would replace broadcast regulations dating back to 1980 with the stated goal of increasing competition and preventing media monopolies. It would force some of the biggest media groups (especially Clarín) to sell their assets. Critics of the bill insist that the raid and the bill stem from a personal grudge between the government and the newspaper, and argue that the law would allow “direct and indirect government control over media and journalistic content." See this Houston Chronicle article for the troubling details of the increasingly personal fight between Clarín and the Kirchners (the president and her predecessor and husband, Néstor Kirchner).
- In July the Venezuelan government closed 34 radio stations and two small television stations for allegedly failing to comply with regulations, and they’ve opened investigations into more than 200 others. In addition, attacks by pro-government militants on Globovisión, the only strongly anti-Chavez station in the country, have been largely ignored by officials. In fact, Venezuelan prosecutors recently opened a criminal probe into Globovisión to determine whether they were trying to incite rebellion by airing a string of text messages from viewers, some of which called for a coup.
- In Ecuador, television station Telemazonas has also been accused of broadcasting a secret government recording of a meeting President Rafael Correa held in his office. The station's director has said that the participants in the meeting were speaking of “public matters,” referring to how they had passed the constitution through the constituent assembly in 2008. Telemazonas is accused of violating media regulations and broadcasting law for the fourth time, and President Correa has said he will ask for its closure.
- Despite a recent statement from President Álvaro Uribe reiterating the government’s commitment to journalistic freedom in Colombia, the recent discovery that opposition journalists were a major target of years of illegal wiretapping and surveillance from the presidential intelligence service (DAS) suggests otherwise. For example, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom, the number of press freedom violations increased drastically due to the DAS activities, from January to June of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.
- In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega has also been publicly attacking the media, saying that he considers his critics in the press to be “weapons” of his political enemies. He has called on his party to close ranks against media critics and religious leaders who “generate” opposition. Ortega has said that "the State must act as necessary to regulate the activity of the media." A Ley de Colegio de Periodistas would do just that: establish “ethical” regulations for journalism and introduce conditions for its practice.
- At the end of July, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted, "During this year, at least nine reporters have been killed in the region for reasons that may have been related to their journalistic activity. Three of these reporters were killed in Mexico."
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mexico's El Universal reported last week that the number of deaths by narcoviolence in 2009 surpassed 5,000 on Thursday morning, reaching 5,018 by the end of the day. With narcoviolence-related deaths already surpassing 5,000 in early September, it looks like 2009 is assured to be more violent than 2008 - which ended with 5,600 narcoviolence-related murders.
The article in El Universal breaks down the numbers of narcoviolence-related deaths to show how fast narcoviolence in Mexico is increasing. Here are some of those statistics:
- Under Mexican President Felipe Calderón's government, there have been 13,599 murders related to organized crime;
- The most recent 1,000 narcoviolence-related deaths of 2009 occurred in 41 days (August 1 - September 10);
- During those 41 days, a minimum of 24 crimes/day were reported - or one crime per hour;
- The first 1,000 narcoviolence-related deaths of 2009 occurred in 51 days, the second 1,000 in 59 days, the third 1,000 in 58 days and the fourth 1,000 in 44 days;
- Of the most recent 1,000 deaths, 487 were in Chihuahua, specifically in Ciudad Juárez where the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels fight for control of trafficking routes across the border into the United States;
- In 2009, narcoviolence-related deaths has occurred all over the country, except in Tlaxcala and Yucatán;
- The two most violent days of 2009 were August 17th, with 57 deaths, and September 2nd, with 52 deaths.
If the narcoviolence-related death rate (1,000 deaths/41 days) continues at its current pace, the remaining months of 2009 could add almost 2,750 more deaths to the 5,018 already cited by El Universal.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
(This post was written by CIP Associate Abigail Poe.)
Following the June 28th coup in Honduras, the U.S. government did not immediately impose sanctions on the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti. Some aid was suspended, but few other steps were taken, with the argument that moving slowly preserved "leverage" on behalf of President Manuel Zelaya's return. However, after a last OAS mission to Honduras in late August failed to convince the de facto coup government to agree to the terms of the San Jose Accord, the United States has started to implement multiple sanctions.
Below is a list of the sanctions that have been imposed by the United States on the de facto Honduran government to date, including details on the aid that has been officially terminated. In addition to the sanctions listed below, the State Department also released a statement indicating that "at this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections" on November 29 in Honduras.
- $11 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) assistance to Honduras has been terminated, along with a hold on $4 million intended for a road project.
- $9.4 million in USAID assistance has been terminated. This includes $8.7 million in development assistance and Economic Support Funds (ESF), which "go mainly toward trade capacity building and support for Honduran ministries of labor and education" and $2.7 million of the Child Survival and Health fund.
- $8.96 million in State Department assistance has been terminated. This is broken into three parts: $6.5 million in Foreign Military Financing, $361,000 in International Military Education and Training and $1.72 million in Global Peacekeeping operations.
- $1.7 million in section 1206 security assistance has been frozen.
- Visas of a few members and supporters of the de facto regime have been revoked.
- The nonimmigrant visa section in the consular section of the embassy in Honduras has been closed to all but emergency cases.
So far, the sanctions and threats to not recognize the results of the November 29th elections have not appeared to soften the Micheletti regime's opposition to the San Jose Accord and the subsequent return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power. Instead, Micheletti has expressed that he "is sure that the international community will recognize the regime formed from the coup d'etat on June 28, after the elections take place on November 29th."
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Note as of September 11: a Southern Command press release issued today makes clear that "Honduras withdrew from the exercise Aug. 10."
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2009 exercise, an "annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal." Every year, air and sea forces from various countries form a Multi-National Force to conduct training scenarios along the Panama Canal. This year, at least 20 countries will participate. However, it is unclear if Honduras is included on the list.
Various news outlets reported today that Honduras appears on the list being circulated in Panama of 21 countries that will participate in PANAMAX 2009. According to Telesur, "U.S. Southern Command invited the Armed Forces of Honduras' de facto government to participate in the FA PANAMAX 2009 training maneuvers, despite the fact that one month before Washington announced its intention to suspend all military cooperation with the Central American country." (On July 1, a U.S. Senior Administration Official said: "On the military side, we still maintain contact necessary for operational and safety issues and humanitarian affairs, but otherwise we’re standing down on our different cooperation programs.")
Honduras is not listed as a participating country on the PANAMAX page on Southern Command's website. And a call to Southcom's Washington office today did not clear up whether or not Honduras will participate. We did learn that Honduras was indeed invited to participate, but their actual participation could not be confirmed.
Below are two of the articles citing Honduras' participation:
Telesur: Southern Command invites the Honduran de facto government to participate in military training exercise
El Universal: Honduras awaits departure of expelled diplomats
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Yesterday, the Millennium Challenge Corporation officially terminated $11 million in aid to Honduras and put on hold an additional $4 million intended for a road project to continue to pressure the de facto coup government in Honduras to accept the San Jose Accords.
Here is an excerpt from the Millennium Challenge Corporation's statement released after yesterday's board meeting:
MCC’s Board today announced that, given recent events in Honduras that are inconsistent with a commitment to democratic governance, MCC will terminate two planned activities in the transportation sector totaling approximately $11 million from its Compact with Honduras. As a result of the meeting, MCC also will put on hold approximately $4 million of its contribution for work on the CA-5 road project jointly funded with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). MCC will continue with existing activities for which funds have been contractually obligated and with the administration of the Compact with Honduras to ensure proper use of funds. MCC also will continue to monitor the situation in Honduras in close coordination with the State Department and other U.S. Government agencies.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Seven Latin American countries will hold presidential elections in the next 12 months. Analysts are watching the polls closely to see if the region will continue its movement to the left, or if more moderate or right-wing candidates will prevail.
While the last wave of elections overwhelmingly elected candidates from the left and center-left, an article in El Nuevo Herald argues that moderate candidates are gaining ground in many countries: "As of now, the majority of campaigns appear to be based more in the economic situation than ideology. And the influence of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the region may have reached its high point with [the 2008 peak of] high oil prices."
The article concludes that "a large part of analysts agree that the next elections probably will confirm that the majority of the Latin American left is democratic and that Chavez's version of '21st Century Socialism' probably will not extend beyond the territory it already controls in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua."
Here is a calendar of upcoming elections in the region, leading candidates, the most recent polls, and relevant excerpts from El Nuevo Herald's article:
Uruguay: October 25, 2009
- "In Uruguay, José Mujica, imprisoned between 1973 and 1985 for his guerrilla activities with the Tupamaros and now candidate for the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition [of leftist parties that backed President Tabaró Vásquez], appears poised for a second round against the center-right ex-President Luis Alberto Lacalle if neither win a majority in the first round. Muijca has run his campaign in a pragmatic way that favors some private investment in state businesses, while Lacalle has presented himself as a centrist that looks to maintain the majority of the country's broad social benefits."
Recent poll (8/24/09)
- José Mujica (Broad Front) - 44%
- Luis Alberto Lacalle (National Party) - 35%
- Pedro Bordaberry (Colorado Party) - 10%
Honduras: November 29, 2009
- "In Honduras, Elvin Santos, from the Partido Liberal (Liberal Party), was leading Porfirio Lobo, from the Partido Nacional (National Party), until liberal President Manuel Zelaya was ousted and obligated to go into exile on June 28th. Lobo has an advantage in the polls, while Santos has fought to unify his party, divided between supporters and opponents of Zelaya, before the elections on November 29th."
- The United States and the Organization of American States have both expressed concern regarding the legitimacy of the upcoming elections in Honduras if they are carried out under the de facto coup government of Roberto Micheletti.
Recent poll (8/31/09)
- Porfirio Lobo (National Party) - 42%
- Elvin Santos (Liberal Party) - 37%
Chile: December 11, 2009
- "In Chile, center-right businessman Sebastián Piñera, one of the owners of LAN airlines, is ahead in the polls of Eduardo Frei, a candidate of the coalition party of Bachelet and Marco Enríquez-Ominami, from the Coalición por el Cambio (Coalition for Change), of the center-left." Piñera lost the 2005 election in a runoff with President Michele Bachelet.
Recent Poll (9/8/09)
- Sebastián Piñera (Alliance for Chile) - 37%
- Eduardo Frei (Concertación) - 25%
- Marco Enríquez-Ominami (Coalition for Change) - 18%
Bolivia: December 6, 2009
- "It is almost certain that the left will win in Bolivia, where even the most outspoken critics of President Evo Morales predict his reelection on December 6th and that he will continue carrying the country towards Chávez's '21st Century Socialism.'"
Recent poll (9/4/09)
- Evo Morales - 57.7%
- Samuel Doria Medina (National Unity Front) - 9.7%
- Manfred Reyes Villa (New Republican Force) - 8.6%
- Jorge Quiroga (Social and Democratic Power) - 7.2%
Costa Rica: February 2010
- "In Costa Rica, it appears that the candidate of President Oscar Arias' Partido Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Party), Laura Chinchilla, will easily defeat Ottón Solís, from the center-left Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action), in the February elections, and that she will continue the moderate economic and social policies of Arias."
Recent poll (8/19/09)
- Laura Chinchilla (National Liberation Party) - 43%
- Ottón Solís (Citizen Action) - 26%
- Otto Guevara (Libertarian Movement) - 8%
- Rafael Ángel Calderón (Christian Social Unity) - 6%
Colombia: May 2010
- "Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, very popular and one of the true conservatives in the region, has not officially announced if he will run for reelection in May if Congress and the Supreme Court abolish the constitutional prohibition to governing more than 2 consecutive presidential terms."
- "Without Uribe, the competition will probably be between Juan Manuel Santos, the ex-Minister of Defense from the center-right, who led a popular and successful campaign against the leftist guerrillas, the FARC, and the center-left candidate Sergio Fajardo, who in his four years as mayor of Medellin was able to substantially reduce the crime rate."
Recent Poll (9/7/09)
If Uribe runs:
- Alvaro Uribe (Independent backed by several parties) - 54.5%
- Sergio Fajardo (Independent) - 8.96%
If Uribe does not run:
- Juan Manuel Santos (Social National Unity Party)- 16.5%
- Sergio Fajardo - 13%
Brazil: October 3, 2010
- "The greatest prize in play will be Brazil - the main economic and foreign policy leader in the region - where President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a very popular moderate from the left, is constitutionally prohibited from running in the elections on October 3, 2010.
Lula da Silva has designated an old collaborator, Dilma Rousseff, as the preferred candidate for his Partido de los Trabajadores (Workers' Party). But Rousseff never has held public office and is fighting against cancer. Currently, the polls give the advantage to José Serra, the Governor of Sao Paulo, the economic capital of the country, who defends free-market economics."
Recent poll (9/8/09)
- Jose Serra (Social Democracy Party) - 49.9%
- Dilma Rousseff (Workers' Party) - 25%
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday to express her "deep concern regarding the most recent strong-arm tactics of the U.S. Government to coerce the people of Honduras into accepting the return of former President Manuel Zelaya into power."
Here are some excerpts from her speech. The full text can be found here.
- "Have some U.S. officials forgotten what democracy really is? Democracy does not belong to nor is defined by one man nor one government. It cannot survive without respect for the rule of law. Yet this has been forgotten."
- "The U.S. and the international community failed the Honduran people and Honduran democracy as Zelaya violated the constitution and took unilateral actions to extend his hold on power. Our government said and did nothing as democracy came under attack in the months leading up to Zelaya's removal from office."
- "With no apparent regard for U.S. security or political or economic interests, the United States is doing all we can to ensure that Zelaya is put back in charge."
- "As the U.S. has been employing its harshest tactics against the Honduran government and the Honduran people, the U.S. has also at the same time eased restrictions on the Cuban dictatorship, pushed for engagement and dialogue with the Cuban, Syrian and Iranian regimes, while failing to hold Chavez and Correa accountable for the blatant violations of freedom of expression and other fundamental rights of their citizens."
- "The U.S. has crossed a dangerous threshold by announcing, as I stated, that we will not acknowledge the upcoming Honduran elections unless the current democratic government of Honduras accepts Zelaya's return to power.... The U.S. position undermines the fundamental right of the Honduran people to elect their own leaders in multiparty, transparent democratic elections, free from coercion."
- "The U.S. should be assisting rather than undermining the preparations for the upcoming elections to ensure that there is no interference with the democratic electoral process in Honduras."
- "...freedom must be and must remain our driving force. Freedom, Madam Speaker. If it is not, the U.S. would have not only forgotten the meaning of democracy but would have forgotten what our Nation is, what we stand for and what defines us. Freedom."