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Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is in Washington this week for a range of talks which include meetings with the Organization of American States (OAS) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Despite the failure of the OAS mission to convince the interim government in Honduras to sign the San Jose Accord last week, both the OAS and the U.S. government still view the negotiated accord as the best, and only, solution to the current situation in Honduras.
Last week, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza announced:
We are going to continue the dialogue and the negotiations, and we will keep our lines of communication open. The message to the de facto government is still very clear: Why cause harm to the population when there is a very clear solution by way of the San José Accord? I hope that this is understood. If there is a good option that is reasonable and that takes into account the interests of all involved in the matter, one that offers all possible guarantees, I don’t see why we should choose a different path.
I don’t consider the negotiation closed. President Zelaya is coming next week, the delegation designated by Mr. Micheletti to negotiate is also coming, there will probably be a new meeting of the Permanent Council on this issue, and I will speak to several presidents in the coming days. There is still room for agreement, albeit increasingly narrow.
The OAS is also considering a proposal to not recognize the upcoming elections in Honduras, while the United States is debating formally cutting off aid to the Honduran government.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Last Friday, the 12 heads of state of UNASUR member countries met in Bariloche, Argentina for a special meeting convened to discuss the pending U.S.-Colombia military base agreement, among other topics. Many of the region's leaders took their turn speaking out against the agreement and the potential for an increased U.S. military presence in South America. However, the final declaration that all members signed did not officially condemn the proposal. Instead, it focused on expressing the need to respect the sovereignty of each nation in the region and strengthen peace throughout the region through confidence, cooperation and transparency.
A translation of the final declaration is below:
A joint declaration of the special meeting of the Council of Leaders of UNASUR
San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, August 28, 2009
The heads of state of the South American Union of Nations (UNASUR) together at an extra session on August 28, 2009 in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina; Reaffirming our commitment to the principles of International Law in reference to relations of friendship and cooperation between States, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; Recognizinge, equally, that military cooperation agreements must be strictly guided by the principles and intentions of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles of the Constitutional Treaty of UNASUR; Emphasizing that the unconditional respect of sovereignty, integrity and territorial sanctity of the States, the non-intervention in internal affairs and the self-determination of the people are essential for the consolidation of regional integration; Reiterating our will to consolidate South America into a zone of peace, fundamental for the integral development of our people and the preservation of their natural resources, through the prevention of conflicts, the peaceful solution of controversies and the abstention from reverting to threats or the use of force; Underlying UNASUR's vocation for the peaceful solution to controversies and the promotion of dialogue and consensus in topics of defense through the strengthening of cooperation, confidence and transparency;
To strengthen South America as a zone of peace, committing ourselves to establishing mechanisms for mutual confidence in defense and security, sustaining our decision to abstain ourselves from reverting to threats or the use of force against the territorial integrity of another UNASUR state.
To reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the fight and cooperation against terrorism and transnational organized crime and its related crimes: narcotrafficking, small and light arms trafficking, in addition to the rejection of the presence or action of illegal armed groups.
To reaffirm that the presence of foreign military forces cannot, with its means and resources linked to its own goals, threaten the sovereignty and integrity of any South American nation and as a consequence, the peace and security of the region.
To instruct their Ministers of Foreign Relations and Defense to hold an additional meeting, during the first 15 days of next September, so that in the pursuit of improved transparency they design the means to strengthen confidence and security in a way that is complementary to the pre-existing instruments of the OAS, including concrete mechanisms of implementation and guarantees for all applicable countries of the existing agreements with countries within and outside of the region; such as illegal arms trafficking, narcotrafficking and terrorism in compliance with the law of each country. These mechanisms must take into account the unconditional respect for sovereignty, integrity and territorial sanctity and non-intervention in the internal affairs of the States;
To instruct the South American Defense Council to analyze the text of the "South American Strategy. White Paper, Air Mobility Command" and carry out a verification of the situation on the borders and submit the resulting study to the Council of Heads of State with the goal of considering courses of action to follow.
To instruct the South American Council on the Fight against Narcotrafficking to develop urgently a Statute and Plan of Action with the objective of defining a South American strategy in the fight against illicit drug trafficking and strengthening the cooperation between specialized organisms from our countries.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Presidents from 12 South American countries will gather tomorrow in Bariloche, Argentina for a meeting of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. The meeting was initially convened earlier this month in order to discuss the pending U.S.-Colombia military base agreement that is worrying many of the continent's leaders, and the topic is still going to be the main point of discussion and perhaps contention. However, the meeting will most likely touch on several other topics that have not received as much recent media attention.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has already announced that if he is to attend the meeting (which has been confirmed), he will bring up issues such as foreign support for the FARC, illicit arms trafficking in the region, and military cooperation agreements between Colombia's neighbors and Russia.
Other issues that have received less media attention, especially in the United States, include the current rifts between Peru and Chile over providing Bolivia access to the Pacific Ocean and some leaders' concerns about a potential arms race brewing on the continent.
Here is a quick summary of each issue that could be brought up tomorrow in Argentina:
U.S.-Colombia base agreement
On July 15, Colombia's defense, interior and foreign relations ministers held a press conference to confirm reports that Colombia and the United States were negotiating an agreement that would give the United States authority to use seven military facilities in Colombia. The announcement was immediately followed by protests from many of Colombia's neighbors. Despite attempts by both the U.S. and Colombian governments to reassure the leaders of the region that this agreement will not result in activities outside of Colombia and will not lead to a "significant permanent increase in the U.S. military presence in Colombia," according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, these concerns have not subsided.
Last week, Brazilian President Lula da Silva invited President Obama to attend the meeting in Argentina in order to clear up any concerns or misunderstandings about the U.S.-Colombia deal, but Obama declined the invitation.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has also called for a continent-wide referendum on the proposed agreement, and announced that he will take his proposal to the UNASUR meeting.
Because the meeting in Argentina was convened as a result of this pending agreement, it will definitely hold center stage.
Venezuelan weapons found in the hands of the FARC
In July, Colombia announced that Swedish-made antitank rockets and launchers sold to the Venezuelan armed forces had been recovered from a FARC camp.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez immediately denied the allegations that his country was providing weapons to the guerrilla group, recalled his Ambassador from Colombia and froze diplomatic relations. Chávez later claimed that the weapons were reported missing from Venezuela's arsenal in 1995, nearly four years before his first presidential term began.
The information on the discovered weapons was released soon after Venezuela and other neighboring countries started to voice opposition to the U.S.-Colombia military base agreement, and President Chávez protested that the Colombian government was "trying to blackmail [Venezuela]" and use the information to justify intervention in his country.
Peru, Chile and Bolivia's access to the ocean
The Peruvian government hopes to bring up its concerns about what it calls an "agreement under the table" between Chile and Bolivia regarding Bolivia's desire for maritime access - a demand to which the Chilean government has responded that it does not need a third country intervening in bilateral relations between the two countries, let alone all of the members of UNASUR.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia argues that this is not just a bilateral issue, as the maritime access that could be granted to Bolivia was once Peruvian territory. According to Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonia García Belaúnde, "any sovereign solution over (the Chilean border town) Arica, must be made by both Peru and Chile, and Peru has not been consulted about this subject."
Potential arms race in South America
Both Paraguay and Colombia have expressed a desire to discuss a whether or not an arms race is brewing in South America. Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo cites concerns regarding Bolivia's recent agreement with Russia to purchase $100 million worth of weapons and military equipment. And Colombian President Uribe - who himself has greatly increased Colombia's arms purchases - has expressed concerns over "Venezuela's Russian purchases and Brazil's plans to launch a nuclear submarine with France's help and to buy 36 modern fighter jets."
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This was originally posted by Vanessa Kritzer and Jennifer Johnson on the Latin America Working Group's blog.
We were disappointed and troubled to learn last week that the U.S. government had released the chunk of Merida Initiative funds that were supposed to have been withheld until the State Department reported that Mexico had demonstrated progress in key areas of human rights.
Soon after the news of the release was confirmed, the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, and the Fundar Center for Analysis and Investigation, three prominent Mexican human rights NGOs, released a public statement condemning the U.S. government’s action, as the “human rights obligations remain unfulfilled as Mexican security forces commit widespread, unpunished violations against the civilian population.”
Click here to read their statement in English.
Para leer el pronunciamiento en Español haga clic aquí.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who recently exercised his position as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations to freeze these funds, also issued a public statement expressing his deep disappointment that the State Department had “issued its report prematurely when there is so little progress to report.”
Senator Leahy also remarked that the report issued by the State Department about the status of human rights in Mexico “is most notable for how little it says about the key issue - impunity within the Mexican military. It is well known that the military justice system is manifestly ineffective, and it is apparent that neither the Mexican government nor the State Department has treated human rights abuses by the military, which is engaging in an internal police function it is ill-suited for, as a priority since the law was enacted over a year ago…Reform of Mexico's dysfunctional judicial system…is critical to the success of the Merida Initiative and to addressing the culture of lawlessness that pervades Mexican society.”
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Just the Facts is now on Twitter! Follow us @justf_org to stay in the know about U.S. policy toward Latin America and security in the region.
We'll post the following to our feed:
- New legislation before the U.S. Congress related to security and U.S. policy in the region;
- Noteworthy excerpts of what members of Congress are saying about the region;
- News headlines to keep you updated with what is going on in the region;
- Links to new entries on the Just the Facts blog;
- and more!
Basically, we want to keep you up-to-date on all of the important information that is constantly being added to the Just the Facts database.
We hope to see you on Twitter.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
According to a recent post on DipNote, the State Department's blog, a "tech.del" sponsored by the State Department is currently visiting Mexico. The participants are representatives from U.S. new media and telecommunications firms (including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft), State Department representatives, and an academic and the goal is to "look at how new media and technology tools can help Mexican citizens amplify their voices against narco-violence."
Here is an excerpt from the post by Suzanne Hall, the Public Diplomacy Advisor for Canada and Mexico in the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, "'Tech.Del' to Mexico: Using Technology to Encourage Citizen Participation."
This "tech.del" is the first that we have organized in the Western Hemisphere. We arrived yesterday in Juarez and kicked off our visit with a night border tour organized by Customs and Border Patrol agents. The idea was to give tech.del participants an idea of the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. Our border is characterized by an enormous amount of trade in goods and people, both licit and illicit. Today we will have the opportunity to meet with NGOs, journalist associations, business associations and academics from Juarez and the surrounding region who are working with local citizens to improve the security situation on the ground here. Our goal will be to listen to their objectives and the challenges they face, and review how existing technological applications can provide a venue for citizens of Juarez and beyond to better organize, share information on criminal acts and overcome personal security concerns to take a proactive stand against drug cartel violence.
After a full day of meetings in Juarez today, we will fly to Mexico City later this evening. On Wednesday, the tech.del participants will meet with Mexico City-based mobile providers, federal government representatives, NGOs and academics to hear the view from the capital. Working with the Mexican government, our starting point is that any long term solution to the challenge of drug violence in Mexico needs to include a grassroots, citizen-based response. Our goal is to identify real deliverables, partnering with the various Mexican institutions we will meet to create a space for the citizens of Mexico to feel secure in finding their voice against the cartels.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The Organization of the American States mission concluded its two-day trip to Honduras yesterday unable to obtain backing of the San Jose Accord by the Micheletti regime and its supporters. Ousted President Manuel Zelaya has accepted the Accord in its entirety, but the de facto government remains opposed to two points in the Accord: one calling for the return of Manuel Zelaya to power and the other calling for a temporary political amnesty for both sides.
Here is an excerpt from the statement of the OAS mission that visited Honduras:
Most of the actors expressed their agreement with the Fundamentals of the San Jose Accord, even though many of them raised concerns around the same. The powers and organs of the State expressed reservations about two points: one relating to the amnesty established in Article 205 point 16 of the Constitution of Honduras; and one which refers to the return to the powers of the State before June 28, 2009, which implies the return of Jos?© Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the Presidency of the Republic until January 27, 2010. For their part, the representatives of civil society opposing the Government of President Zelaya expressed fear of the consequences that his return to power could have for the peace and social stability of the country.
While the Mission considers that steps forward were made during its visit, it must also recognize that full acceptance of the San Jose Accord lacks the support of Mr. Micheletti and the sectors that are akin to him.
Also yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly announced at a press conference in Washington the United States' decision to temporarily suspend non-immigrant visa services in Honduras. Last month the United States revoked the visas of top interim government officials from Honduras in an attempt to pressure the Micheletti government to agree to the San Jose Accord, and yesterday's decision is a new, more forceful, approach being taken by the U.S. government. One U.S. official told the New York Times that the visa decision was "a signal of how seriously we are watching the situation" and that "Washington was considering other steps though it was premature to disclose these."
Here is the State Department's statement:
The OAS Foreign Ministers mission is in Honduras seeking support for the San Jose Accord, which would restore the democratic and constitutional order and resolve the political crisis in Honduras. In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime‚Äôs reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the U.S. Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras. As part of that review, we are suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras, effective August 26. We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution.
News outlets report that interim President Roberto Micheletti is still resisting pressure to reinstate Zelaya and vowed that "there will be elections [in November] whether they are recognized or not." He also said that any economic sanctions imposed on Honduras will not sway his government and that "nobody is coming here to impose anything on us, unless troops come from somewhere else and force us."
While it appears that the de facto government is holding strong, suspended visa services and the threat of economic sanctions could have some effect on support for Micheletti and force him to agree to the San Jose Accord before the November elections, especially if the United States starts to act more aggressively on behalf of restoring democracy in Honduras.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Almost two months ago, on Sunday, June 28th, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office by the Honduran military and put on a plane (in his pajamas) to Costa Rica. The world immediately condemned the coup, yet the de facto government led by interim president Roberto Micheletti still remains in power and President Zelaya remains outside of Honduras.
Since the coup, the United States, the Organization of American States and several Latin American governments have been working together to bring about a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the crisis, which has centered on calls to reinstate Manuel Zelaya as president and allow him to remain in office until his term ends in January 2010. In addition to negotiations between the two parties led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, many efforts have been made to pressure the interim government to step down, including suspending the government from the OAS, revoking U.S. visas of top interim government officials, and cutting off various sources of aid to the country.
However, the situation in Honduras has not improved and over the past week, two reports have been released citing human rights abuses carried out by the de facto government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the OAS, released a report citing "an alarming pattern of widespread abuses and restrictions of civil liberties ... since the June 28 coup," and Amnesty International published a report "documenting repression and physical beatings carried out by Honduran security forces on supporters of President Manuel Zelaya."
Seven OAS-member foreign ministers and OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza are now making what appears to be a last ditch effort to resolve the political crisis with a two-day visit to Honduras. The delegation, which the United States "firmly supports," will meet with both Zelaya supporters and coup supporters (including business leaders, Supreme Court justices and members of the interim government), with the goal of restoring democracy with the return of President Zelaya and acceptance of President Arias' proposed framework solution, known as the San José Accords. However, both the interim government and the Supreme Court have called such a solution "non-negotiable."
The elections in Honduras are now only two and a half months away, and it appears that the de facto government is trying to hold out until November, with the belief that "once the vote is deemed free and fair, all will be forgiven and Honduras can start the new year with a clean slate." However, the OAS mission believes a solution must be found prior to the elections or the results will be illegitimate.
To catch up on all of the news coverage on the situation in Honduras since the coup, click here.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Today's news media includes multiple stories highlighting yesterday's UNASUR meeting in Quito, Ecuador and the groups' overall opposition to the Colombia-United States agreement to increase U.S. military presence at seven Colombian bases, despite its inability to come to a consensus on an official statement on the proposed U.S. military increase (a story which we covered yesterday on this blog).
While the majority of the stories cover Brazilian President Lula da Silva's
" target="blank">proposal for the United States to explain the plan to the concerned leaders of the region and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's statement that "the winds of war are blowing" in the region as a result of the proposed U.S. military increase, one article stands out. The Los Angeles Times editorial, titled "Washington is scaring our Latin American neighbors," calls on the United States to explain exactly what this military buildup in Colombia means. The editorial board writes that after Colombian President Álvaro Uribe had to spend three days last week traveling to every country in South America in an attempt to quell other South American leaders' concerns about the proposal, President Obama could at least try to explain in more detail what this really means for the region.
Uribe maintains that the purpose of the deal is to help Colombia defeat its leftist guerrillas, who are also the backbone of the country's drug trade. His assurances, however, can go only so far -- because the rest of South America isn't afraid of Colombia, it's afraid of the U.S.
While it is doubtful that whatever President Obama says will fix the tensions that this proposal has already created (especially since a lot of the concerns could have been avoided if the Obama Administration had talked to other leaders in the region about the ongoing negotiations before their content became public), it seems that, as the LA Times editorial puts it, "Washington too should be working hard to quell the fears it has raised in the region." So far, all the President and his administration have told us is that the United States is not putting bases in Colombia, but more details about the purpose and scope of the increased presence are needed.
The editorial wraps up with this:
It was clear that the United States needed to relocate military personnel who had been deployed in Ecuador but who could not remain after leftist President Rafael Correa refused to renew the U.S. lease on the Manta air base. But the deal with Colombia doesn't look like the mere shift in drug interdiction efforts that Uribe is selling to his neighbors. Worse, it gives Chavez cover for increased anti-American rhetoric, a nice distraction from his country's economic woes.
While President Uribe should continue to work with Colombia's neighbors in an effort to disclose the intentions of this proposed agreement, President Obama and his State Department must also play a role, in a process of transparency that should have begun weeks ago, since there are two parties to this agreement.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Today, South American leaders who are members of the Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, met in Quito, Ecuador, where the discussion centered on the proposed agreement between the United States and Colombia to increase the presence of the U.S. military at seven Colombian bases.
However, because President Uribe was not present (he decided not to attend due to the increased tensions between Colombia and its neighboring countries resulting from the agreement with the United States), the leaders in attendance decided not to condemn the military agreement between Colombia and the United States in its final document.
This decision, however, does not mean that the South American leaders are happy with it. Instead, they decided that it would be better to resolve the new tension in the region through dialogue and debate - one in which Colombia and the United States would participate. Brazilian President Lula da Silva suggested that UNASUR ask for the U.S. government to clarify the proposal to allow the United States military to use Colombian bases. Lula noted that "people will have to hear things they don't like" during the discussion.
It is unclear when or if this proposed meeting will take place. Regardless, the discussion surrounding the increased presence of the U.S. military in the region will continue on August 24, when Defense Ministers from the UNASUR member countries will meet. As of now, Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva is planning on attending the upcoming meeting.
Despite the decision to not condemn the Colombia-U.S. military agreement today, many of the region's presidents took the opportunity to speak out against it.
Here are some of the statements made during the meeting:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez: "This is worrisome. Venezuela is preparing itself, because they have their sights on us."
and "The wind of war is starting to blow (in South America)."
Argentine President Cristina Fernández: The U.S. proposal is "a belligerent, unprecedented and unacceptable situation."
and "It is essential that we invite President Álvaro Uribe to a place where he does not feel that there is hostility, what needs to be removed are the excuses."
Bolivian President Evo Morales: "We have to avoid Colombia turning into an Israel."