Adam looks at the foreign aid bill that's moving through Congress, the state of the gang truce in El Salvador, and Venezuela's latest effort to fight crime by sending soldiers into the streets.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Friday, March 1, 2013
WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman attended the February 28 hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee entitled "Overview of U.S. Interests in the Western Hemisphere: Opportunities and Challenges." This was the first hearing to be led by a new subcommittee chairman, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona). Here are her notes.
House Committee on Foreign Relations: Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere
February 28, 2013
I. Opening Statements
· Sees neighbors as critical to US security and economy
· US has job to combat criminal and terrorist organizations, promote democratic values and free enterprise
· Alluded to the successes of the Merida Initiative, the US’s interests in promoting security
· Importance of US-Mexican trade relations
· Thinks US should re-assert its role in trade and investment in the region, especially in places like Brazil
· Placed an interesting emphasis on the importance of tourism throughout the region and the damaging effects of terrorism and narco-trafficking on the tourism industry
· US needs a sound policy with regards to Cuba
· US needs to watch out for Venezuela and the possible ties it is developing with Iran and Hezbollah
o We should also try to strengthen democratic institutions in Venezuela
o Promote free and fair elections
· Latin America deserves more attention and focus in US Foreign Policy, current policy is too narrow
· Our reactive responses are insufficient, and the current patchwork of initiatives is also insufficient
· Concerned about Iran’s influence in the region (mentioned the recent development of the joint truth commission in Argentina regarding bombing against Israeli embassy)
· We should pressure Cuba’s authoritarian regime
· Must be ready in case Chavez dies in order to secure a democratic and peaceful transition of power
· We should continue to support Colombia
· Peña Nieto – how much will he work to combat drugs? Will he build off of the Merida initiative?
· Very eager
· Previous journalist who traveled throughout Latin America
· Sees Colombia as an example of our US foreign aid has played a huge positive role
· Cuba, Venezuela and Chavez
· Concerned about Iran, drugs, laundry list of problems
· Concerned mostly about the plight of afro descendants throughout the region
· US objectives are strongly linked to afro descendants and indigenous communities
· Impact of narco-trafficking on these groups
· Entered OAS report into the official record on the situation of Afro Americans
· Also primarily concerned with the indigenous community and the lack of autonomy that they have due to colonial and modern state practices
Roberta Jacobson –
· Under Obama administration, State has focused on the 4 goals presented at the summit of the Americas
· Free trade = prosperity and economic expansion in the region
· US has helped with contributing to security in Colombia
· Mexico is a similar situation
· Partnering important in both Colombia and Mexico
· Purpose of development aid is so that eventually the countries can graduate out of foreign assistance programs
· We should strengthen the economic capacities of countries
· The nature of development work automatically presents challenges – violence and criminality impede progress
· Colombians - Training with Latin American and Central American Police has been a big advancement for regional security and development efforts
· In Peru, lots of progress on helping coca farmers transition to legal products
· Lots of talk about Alan Gross in Cuba
II. Question and Answer
· Q: about corruption in Latin American governments and private sector investment.
· A from Jacobson: State Dep. Is working with governments to reduce corruption.
· Q: Colombia as a great example for US in the region in combatting drug trafficking and terrorism. Sees a reduction in kidnapping in the last 12 years by 90%, less poverty, lots of improvements. What lessons can we take from Colombia to apply to other countries in Latin America, like Mexico?
· A from Jacobson: have to remember that the two countries are structurally different but there are still many similarities. Looking to training that has occurred for police and helicopter pilots that they have done without our encouragement. Colombia is having more influence on Central America. They are better at training other domestic forces than we are sometimes. Our cooperation with Colombia is helping the region.
· A from F: Colombia is also a model for USAID. Bilateral cooperation from USAID and military cooperation.
· Q: About Plan Colombia and its shift to social change. Where are we with that? Mostly concerned about the human rights components of afro-indigenous programs
· Q: who is overseeing the Iran monitoring program in the Western hemisphere at the State department?
· A from Jacobson: She is overseeing it. In response to Iranian activities in the region, the US is working with other partners in the hemisphere. They help other countries to protect and monitor themselves and Iran’s activities within their own countries.
· Q: ICE just release a huge number of illegal aliens, aren’t Central American governments upset about that?
· A from Jacobson: those illegal aliens were not criminal detainees to her knowledge, and there has been no response from those countries as of yet. She doubts that they will have a strong reaction though.
· Just really only cares about indigenous populations and the development of indigenous rights, education, poverty, and economy.
· Q: Concerned about Florida and Cuba. What will happen with Cuba over the next 5 years?
· A from Jacobson: she hopes that there will be changes in political rights just as much as in economic rights. There has been increased contact with Americans (church and education groups, etc…) Hopes that will help in promoting ideals for democracy and human rights.
· Q: concerned with Cuba and Allen Gross. Also concerned with deforestation in the Amazon. What can the US do to protect environmental sustainability?
· Wanted more information
· Q: asked state to submit budget priorities and embassy security priorities
· A from Jacobson: we are focusing a lot now post Benghazi on embassy security. We have to recognize that the western hemisphere doesn’t face the same kinds of threats as the Middle East does. We are reviewing all embassies with all embassy staff.
· Q: when will the western hemisphere report on 2012 on Iran come out. Iran is training Hezbollah in the Middle East
· A: the report will come out in June; they want to make sure all of the credible information is reviewed before it goes out. A good section of the report will be classified.
· Q: Venezuela and Chavez in failing health. Post-Chavez Venezuela is there a role that the US can, should, or could play in ensuring free and fair elections?
· A: yes, with a small amount of foreign assistance they believe they can make an impact on elections. There are programs that support civil society, election programs, and human rights group programs
Salmon Closing remarks
III. What Was Left Out
Friday, January 25, 2013
Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next Secretary of State, had his confirmation hearing yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. policy toward Latin America came up several times.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) — who, if Kerry is approved, will be the new Foreign Relations Committee chair — asked Sen. Kerry about U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere. Menendez mentioned several things that make him hopeful for better relations with Latin America, including a potential transition in Venezuela, a strengthening relationship with Mexico’s new president, negotiations in Colombia with the FARC. He asked for Kerry’s thoughts on the region.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) asked about the strengthening of the relationship between Mexico, Central America and the United States, due to “common security goals.” One element of this relationship is judicial reform, but the Senator noted that the federal government and several Mexican states have still lagged behind on this issue – i.e. making the judicial systems in those countries less “inquisitorial.” How, he askd can the United States better work with allies in Mexico to improve the judicial system?
Sen. Udall followed up that the new Mexican security strategy is to achieve a “Mexico in Peace,” and said he hoped that the government won’t abandon the fight against crime. How, he asked, can you assure that mutual areas of interest get the attention they deserve, especially cooperation along the border?
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California): “Under Secretary Clinton’s leadership the State Department has fought to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, to end the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Congo, to promote women’s economic empowerment in places like Asia, Africa and Latin America, and to ensure that women play a meaningful role as new governments take shape in the Middle East and North Africa. If confirmed, will you ensure that the position of global ambassador at large is retained and that the office is effectively resourced? ”
Also mentioning Latin America, but not eliciting a response, were Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who when criticizing U.S. foreign policy asked why did the administration condemn what happened in Honduras [the 2009 coup] while helping to steal an election in Nicaragua; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) who said he is worried about rising Chinese and Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere (especially Iranian sponsored Spanish-language broadcasts).
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) made a comment on Cuba that did not get a response from Kerry: “I’ve felt differently than perhaps some of my colleagues on this panel and thought that the best way to foster change and progress toward democracy is to allow free travel of Americans, to let them go as they wish. I don’t think that that is a weakness or any capitulation at all. I think it shows strength. In fact I’ve always thought that if we want a real get tough policy with the Castro Brothers, we should force them to deal with Spring Break once or twice. … This president has taken measures to allow more Americans to travel freely: relatives, travel for religious or cultural education purposes and I think that’s a good thing. I hope that you’ll find ways to continue that and continue more innovative approaches to deal with change there.”
Sen. Flake’s comment, however, angered Sen. Menendez, who replied, “To suggest that spring break is a form of — a form of torture to the Castro regime — unfortunately, they are experts about torture, as is evidenced by the increasing brutal crackdown on peaceful democracy advocates on the island just in the last year, over 6,600 peaceful democracy advocates detained or arrested. Just this past Sunday, the Ladies in White, a group of women who dress in white and march every Sunday with a gladiolus to church, tried to come together to go to church this past Sunday. And the result of that, these are individuals who are the relatives of former or current political prisoners in Castro’s jails … is that more than 35 of the Women in White were intercepted, beaten with belts, threatened [with] death by agents aiming guns at them and temporarily arrested.”
(This post was researched by CIP Associate Sarah Kinosian and WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.)
Sunday, May 27, 2012
The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the 2013 foreign aid bill on May 17. The Republican-majority committee would impose deep cuts on many assistance programs, and would strip out human rights conditions or limitations on military and police aid to Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
The bill is likely to change significantly after it is reconciled with the very different version that will emerge from the Democratic-majority Senate. In fact, the bill’s passage into law is very unlikely until after the November 6 U.S. presidential and legislative elections.
As is the norm, the Committee included a narrative report [PDF] along with the bill, making a number of non-binding recommendations. Among these are a series of reports that executive-branch agencies must produce next year. These reports must be produced, on pain of angering the committee that funds these agencies.
The committee report contains no less than ten reports with relevance for aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Department of State must “determine and report that providing assistance” to Bolivia “is in the national security interest.” Aid may not be made available to the Bolivian military and police until the report is received.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the activities that were conducted with previous appropriations” under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), a package of aid through several programs, “and the achievements associated with those funds, as well as activities that will be funded in fiscal year 2013 and the goals that are expected to be reached.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the activities that were conducted with previous appropriations” under the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CBSI), a package of aid through several programs, “and the achievements associated with those funds, as well as activities that will be funded in fiscal year 2013 and the goals that are expected to be reached.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must report “on the proposed uses of funding for Colombia’s judicial agencies. The report should include how assistance is designed to reduce impunity and protect due process, and include any associated benchmarks that have been established for the offices of the Colombian Attorney General, Inspector General, and Ombudsman.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must report “on the efforts the Colombian Armed Forces are taking to address human rights. The report shall include steps taken to: 1) suspend members who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights, or to have aided, abetted or benefitted from paramilitary organizations or other illegal armed groups; 2) promptly refer these cases to civilian jurisdiction; 3) cooperate fully with civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities; 4) sever links with and dismantle paramilitary organizations or other illegal armed groups; 5) respect the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and other social activists, and the rights and territory of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities; and 6) implement procedures to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their operations.” the report is due within 60 days after the bill’s eventual passage, and the Department of State must “consult with Colombian and international human rights organizations not less than 30 days prior to submitting this report.” (The House committee’s bill includes this report in lieu of conditions holding up some military aid until the Department of State can certify in writing that Colombia is making these improvements. For the second year in a row, the House is seeking to strip out this longstanding provision, which is likely to remain in the Senate’s version of the bill.)
USAID must submit a report on how its programs address the root causes of violence and instability in Mexico. The report is due within 90 days after the bill’s eventual passage. The committee report notes that a similar report, due in March 2012, had not yet been submitted as of mid-May.
The Department of State, in consultation with the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, must submit a report “describing the implementation of assistance for Mexico since fiscal year 2008,” along with “an assessment of the transnational criminal organizations operating in Mexico, including an assessment of the income-generating activities of these organizations and recommendations on how to combat the operations, financial networks, and money laundering techniques of such organizations. This report, or a portion thereof, may be submitted in classified form if necessary.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
The Department of State must submit a report “on the efforts of the Government of Mexico to investigate and prosecute in the civilian justice system, in accordance with Mexican and international law, military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights; to enforce prohibitions on the use of testimony obtained through torture; and the efforts of the Mexican military and police to cooperate with civilian judicial authorities in such cases.” The report is due within 60 days after the bill’s eventual passage. (The House committee’s bill includes this report in lieu of conditions holding up some military aid until the Department of State can certify in writing that Mexico is making these improvements. For the second year in a row, the House is seeking to strip out this longstanding provision, which is likely to remain in the Senate’s version of the bill.)
International Military Education and Training (IMET program)
The Department of State must submit “a report on the proposed uses of all program funds under this heading on a country-by-country basis, including a detailed description of proposed activities.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) program
The Department of State must submit a report “on the proposed uses of all funds on a country-by-country basis for each proposed program, project, or activity,” adding that “this report should serve as a baseline spend plan for the fiscal year.” The report is due within 45 days after the bill’s eventual passage, and 2013 INCLE funds may not be spent until the report is received.
Organization of American States (OAS)
The Department of State must issue a report on efforts the United States is taking to push the OAS to uphold all aspects of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The report is due within 90 days after the bill’s eventual passage.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This is cross-posted from the Center for International Policy's Colombia-focused website, "Plan Colombia and Beyond."
A very good letter to Secretary of State Clinton, asking for several badly needed changes to U.S. policy toward Colombia, is currently circulating in the U.S. Congress. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) and Mike Honda (D-California) are asking their colleagues in the House of Representatives to sign on.
Please call your member of Congress and ask them to sign on to this letter. It is circulating at a good time, as the Obama administration develops the 2011 aid request it will issue to Congress in February. If the letter goes to the State Department with lots of signatures, it will have real influence on the future of U.S. assistance to Colombia.
As of November 6th, this letter, written by Representatives McGovern, Schakowsky, Payne, and Honda, is circulating throughout the halls of Congress with a clear message: let's spend our taxpayer dollars on supporting victims of violence, not funding military abuses. This is our chance to get Congress behind the changes that we want to see and have our government start standing by our brothers and sisters in Colombia.
The letter makes a strong case for why there is no time to waste in changing our policies towards Colombia. It paints a vivid picture of the Colombian government's failure to protect human rights, raising issues like the killing of civilians by the army, the persecution of human rights defenders, and the humanitarian crisis of over four million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Echoing what we have been saying for a long time, it demands a cut in military aid and an increase in support for victims and those who are working for peace and justice in Colombia. It also calls for an end to harmful and ineffective aerial fumigations, investing instead in drug treatment in the United States. To get all the details, click here to read the full letter.
But, this letter needs the support of many members of Congress to be effective. So, that's why we need you make sure your congressional representative signs on now.
And don't stop there: Tell your friends. Tell your family. Or just go ahead and forward this on to your whole address book! We won't get another chance like this again for a long time, so let's pull out all the stops and make it happen together!
From November 6th through 24th, a letter calling for change in U.S. policy towards Colombia will be circulating through the House of Representatives. This letter has our message, calling for a decrease in U.S. aid for Colombia's military and an increase in support for human rights and humanitarian efforts.
Now, it's up to us to use our grassroots power to get at least 70 representatives to back up the initiators of this letter—Representatives Jim McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Donald Payne, and Mike Honda—by adding their signatures before it is sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The best way to persuade your member of congress to sign on is by calling his/her office and speaking directly with foreign policy staff, so please do it today!
Below we've given you simple instructions for making that call. Although it isn't quite as effective as a phone call, if you would prefer to send an email to your representative, click here.
How to Make an Effective Call
1. Check to make sure your Representative has not signed on yet. Click here to check our updated list of co-signers. Then, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be put through to your member of Congress. If you don't know who your representative is, click here. Ask the receptionist if you can speak with the Foreign Policy aide. If he/she is not available, ask to leave a message. Below, we've provided a script that you can use in your phone call, but feel free to add any personal stories or thoughts that you'd like to share.
"I am a constituent calling to encourage Representative ____________ to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter written by Representatives McGovern, Schakowsky, Payne, and Honda, which calls for change in U.S. policy towards Colombia. This letter to Secretary of State Clinton asks that our government be honest about the human rights conditions in Colombia and make changes in the aid package. The U.S. should stop spending taxpayer dollars on the military, which has been found to be killing innocent civilians and illegally wiretapping human rights defenders, journalists, and Supreme Court judges. Instead, we should be supporting refugees and displaced people, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and small farmers who are trying to turn away from coca. And we also need to invest in drug treatment centers here at home. I strongly urge Representative ______ to take a stand for human rights and sign on to this letter today. To get a copy of the letter and to sign on, please contact Cindy Buhl in Rep. McGovern's office. Thank you."
2. After you've made your call, if you have time, send a quick email to Vanessa, at email@example.com, so we can track how many phones we're ringing.
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.