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Friday, March 14, 2014

Southern Command Doesn't Have Drones, Commander Says

Here is a striking exchange from yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Northern and Southern Command. At about the 46 minute mark, the commander of all U.S. military forces in the Americas (excluding Mexico) says that, “generally speaking,” he never gets to use any of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of surveillance drones.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), committee chairman: Under the FY15 budget, the Air Force is going to cap the fleet of unmanned aerial systems, which are mainly the Predator and Reaper drones. They’re going to reduce the growth in that fleet from 65 to 55 combat air patrol. Is that something that would make it more difficult for you to meet your full ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] requirement?

Gen. John Kelly, commander, U.S. Southern Command: Right now, Senator, I don’t get any of those systems, generally speaking, right now. I was actually hoping, and only found out yesterday, about the caps. I was actually hoping that as the war in Afghanistan, Middle East, started to wind down, and those assets maybe be made available, I was hoping to get some of those. So, very disappointed yesterday when I was told that we’re going in that direction.

We found it surprising that the Defense Department isn’t using drones at all for surveillance in Latin America, neither over the Caribbean or Pacific, nor in the airspace of countries, like Colombia, that might allow it.

We know that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (part of the Homeland Security Department) uses drones over the Caribbean, Pacific, Mexico, and possibly parts of Central America, if not further south. And we can only guess what the intelligence community is up to. But contrary to what we’d expect, the U.S. military isn’t employing them, apparently for budget reasons.

Southern Command still uses lots of manned aircraft, like Navy P-3s operating out of El Salvador and Aruba-Curacao (and maybe Colombia). Gen. Kelly was quite emphatic yesterday that he doesn’t have enough of those, either.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

U.S. military exercises in August and September

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

Entire Region, Colombia

  • The 54th annual edition of “UNITAS,” a U.S. - South American sponsored naval exercise, kicked off on September 9th. “Operating in the Caribbean waters off Colombia through Sept. 15,“ read a Southern Command release, ”the participants in Unitas 2013 will focus on coalition building, multilateral security cooperation, tactical interoperability and mutual understanding among the participants.” Another document explains, “During 10 days at sea, 19 ships conducted a full spectrum of maritime operations, including electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime interdiction operations.”

Entire Region, Panama

  • PANAMAX 2013, a joint exercise between the United States and 17 other Latin American nations, spanned from August 12th to 16th. Its focus was to develop participating nations’ capacity “to plan and execute complex multilateral operations … under the support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”

Belize

  • On September 4th, U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited with Belizean military and civilian defense officials to discuss “security engagement and joint activities” between the United States and Belize. Part of the talks included the humanitarian assistance exercise “New Horizons,” which seeks to improve interoperability and joint humanitarian response techniques. A similar exercise will take place in 2014.

El Salvador

  • On August 14th high-ranking U.S. and Salvadoran military officials met to identify and discuss strategies for improving interoperability. The meeting culminated in both Major General Joseph DiSalvo of SOUTHCOM and Salvadoran Brig. Gen. William Armando Mejia signing a memorandum of understanding. The major issues guiding cooperation were identified prior to the signing in a number of steering sessions that led to the development of a “bilateral engagement plan that includes knowledge, capabilities and support for current and future peace-keeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other combined operations.”

Guatemala

  • Texas National Guardsmen and Border Patrol tactical units teamed up to lead a training program for Guatemalan soldiers and federal police from the newly created Tecún Umán Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). The program addressed a number of skills including “fundamentals of marksmanship, weapons maintenance, sand table preparations, mounted and dismounted operations, and gunnery skills.” The spirit of the training course was one of building connections between the two nations’ armed forces, with U.S. and Guatemalan soldiers working side by side in on simulated missions during the day and sharing the same barracks at night.

Honduras

  • Thirteen advisors from the United States’ Mobility Support Advisory Squadron led a 35 day training seminar in Honduras to train 50 partner nation personnel on aircraft maintenance, secure communications, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

  • On August 23rd, airmen from Joint Task Force Bravo engaged in a joint exercise with Honduran forces, simulating a response to a downed aircraft. The exercise took place outside of the boundaries of the Soto Cano Airbase in Comayagua, adding a greater degree of reality to the simulation. Joint Security Forces Commander Robert Shaw noted that “This is a way for our joint security force members to be tested in their individual and collective tasks."

Trinidad and Tobago

  • U.S. Green Berets and Special Forces units from Trinidad and Tobago engaged in a four week Joint Combined Exchange Training Program. The month long Special Operations Forces training activity allowed members of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) to work on interoperability and bilateral relations, to train in an unfamiliar environment, and to improve their tactics and area knowledge. SOCSOUTH planners intend to hold similar events with several other countries in the coming months.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Podcast: The Week Ahead, September 6, 2013

Adam looks at protests undercutting the popularity of Colombia's president; a crusading Colombian prosecutor's appointment to a UN anti-impunity office in Guatemala; and a survey of Latin American governments' views of intervention in Syria.

Subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast here and on iTunes. Thank you for listening.





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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Colombia: Secretary of State Kerry's visit, and Senator Kerry's record

Secretary of State Kerry and Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín.

John Kerry is about to make his second trip to Latin America as secretary of state. The first was in June, when he attended the OAS General Assembly meeting in Guatemala. This time, he is to go to Colombia on Sunday and Monday, and then to Brazil.

In Colombia, Secretary of State Kerry is expected to discuss with President Juan Manuel Santos the ongoing peace talks with the FARC guerrillas, for which the Obama administration has expressed support; the issue of security and Colombia’s provision of security assistance to third countries; and the state of bilateral trade two years after approval of a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.

In his 28 years as a U.S. senator with a strong interest in foreign affairs, John Kerry has a long record of positions on U.S. policy toward Latin America. He opposed the Reagan administration’s massive aid to abusive regimes in Central America, especially aid to the Nicaraguan contras, during the civil wars of the 1980s. He has criticized the U.S. approach to Cuba as “frozen, stalemated.”

During the past 15 years, though, Senator Kerry consistently supported the aid packages that made Colombia by far the number-one recipient of U.S. military assistance in Latin America.

His support for “Plan Colombia,” however, was neither full-throated nor wholehearted. While Senator Kerry supported assistance to curtail drug trafficking, he criticized insufficient emphasis on drug treatment to reduce demand at home. He expressed concerns about the possibility that counter-drug aid could evolve into a larger counter-insurgency mission (as it did during the 2000s). He criticized the Colombian government’s human rights record, and endorsed human rights conditions that his Senate colleagues applied to U.S. military assistance. He has even at times urged the State Department not to certify improvements in the Colombian military’s human rights record, as required by foreign aid law.

Here are excerpts from Senator John Kerry’s record on Colombia, the country that Secretary of State John Kerry will be visiting in a few days.

From his 1998 book The New War, where he characterized drug cartels as a principal threat.

Drugs have made Colombia rich; the nation is awash in profits earned by the export of cocaine to the US and the rest of the world. But the country has been all but stolen from its people, virtually taken over by the drug cartels. … A willing army of young Colombians enlist with the cartels, dreaming of easy money, while some young Colombians join the police, army, and customs department just to make money by cooperating with drug criminals.

From the June 22, 2000 Senate debate on the “Plan Colombia” aid appropriation, where he supported the aid package as a flawed but necessary option. Here, he raised concerns about counterinsurgency entanglements, displacement, human rights, and insufficient attention to domestic drug demand. He said he expected Europe to counter-balance the U.S. aid package’s lopsided emphasis on military aid. This did not happen.

Colombia’s situation is bleak, and this may be its last chance to begin to dig its way out. If we fail to support aid to Colombia, we can only sit back and watch it deteriorate even further.
… My first concern is the fine line that exists between counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations, particularly since they are so intertwined in Colombia. It is impossible to attack drug trafficking in Colombia without seriously undercutting the insurgents’ operations. We must acknowledge that the more involved in Colombia’s counternarcotics efforts we become the more we will become involved in its counterinsurgency, regardless of our intentions to steer clear of it. But, because the drug trade is the most destabilizing factor in Colombia, our cooperation with the government will over the long run, advance the development and expansion of democracy, and will limit the insurgents’ ability to terrorize the civilian population. But our military involvement in Colombia should go no further than this. Efforts to limit number of personnel are designed to address this.
I appreciate the concerns expressed by my colleagues that the United States contribution to Plan Colombia is skewed in favor of the military, but we must keep in mind that our contribution is only a percentage of the total Plan. … As part of our contribution, and to balance military aid, the United States must continue to support Colombian requests for additional funding from international financial institutions and other EU donors. We must also continue to implement stringent human rights vetting and end-use monitoring agreements, and make sure that our Colombia policy does not end with the extension of aid.
Second, I am concerned that even if the Plan is successful at destroying coca production and reducing the northward flow of drugs, large numbers of coca farmers will be displaced, worsening the current crisis of internally displaced people in Colombia.
My third major concern with respect to this aid package is that it does not adequately address Colombia’s human rights problem. … I would like to commend my colleagues on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee for bolstering the human rights component of this legislation.
Despite my reservations, the potential benefits of this plan are too large to ignore. In light of the changes made by the committee, I believe the plan can help advance United States interests by reducing drug trafficking and thereby promoting stability and democracy in Colombia. We must now work to ensure that our concerns do not become realities.
… Increasing funding and expanding drug treatment and prevention programs are absolutely imperative if we are to coordinate an effective counterdrug campaign, particularly if we are to expect any real improvement in the situation in Colombia.
… As we support Colombia’s efforts to attack the sources of illegal drugs, we need to make sure we are addressing our own problems. … It is clear that drug treatment works, and there is no excuse for the high numbers of addicts who have been unable to receive treatment. As we increase funding for supply reduction programs in Colombia, we must increase funding for treatment to balance and complement it.

A July 26, 2004 letter to Colombian President Álvaro Uribe from 23 U.S. senators, including Senator Kerry, expressing human rights concerns and supporting the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We remain deeply concerned about the continued levels of violence directed at the civilian population. There are reports of increased violations, such as extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, attributed directly to Colombian security forces. In addition, guerrillas continued their indiscriminate use of explosive devices against civilians while paramilitary forces carried out assassinations and massacres despite the existence of a cease fire. We believe that an adherence to UNHCHR’s recommendations will help to establish the “democratic security” for all Colombians to which you are personally committed.

The most urgent of UNHCHR’s recommendations is to cut ties between the army and paramilitary forces engaged in abuses, by suspending, investigating and vigorously prosecuting officials engaged in such collaboration.

… We remain concerned about the commitment of the Attorney General’s office to investigate high-level officials implicated in human rights violations and links to paramilitary groups.

The United Nations also raises important points regarding the vulnerability of human rights defenders, journalists and union leaders. Your government’s protection program for human rights and union leaders is important. However, progress investigating and prosecuting threats and attacks against such leaders is essential.

An October 15, 2004 statement from the Kerry for President campaign

President Uribe has achieved deserved popular support for his efforts to make Colombia more secure. I have been encouraged by declining levels of murders, massacres and kidnappings and progress in addressing the challenges of drug trafficking, guerrillas and paramilitaries. I am further encouraged that the Colombian government has agreed to use the recommendations of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as a framework for achieving the just peace that all Colombians deserve.
A persistent cycle of violence, such as that occurring in Colombia, can ultimately be broken only by combining greater security efforts with ending impunity, strengthening the rule of law and the defense of human and labor rights. For Colombians, that means condemning and putting a stop to the kidnappings, killings, and extortion practiced by outlawed guerrilla groups and by paramilitary groups who continually violate international humanitarian law. It also requires severing all links between the security forces and the paramilitaries; punishing those in uniform who have perpetrated these links and engage in extrajudicial killings and abuses; and better protecting judges, prosecutors, journalists, human rights activists and unionists from intimidation, violence and murder.
In Colombia, we must focus on the fight against narco-trafficking and counterinsurgency at the same time as we support the rule of law, alternative development, and the expansion of legitimate state authority to achieve a durable peace. As a Senator I have consistently supported Plan Colombia; and, as President, I will work with President Uribe to keep the bipartisan spirit in Washington alive in support of Plan Colombia, while insisting on progress on ending the violence against civilians.

A July 1, 2005 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 22 U.S. senators, including Senator Kerry. The letter urges the secretary of state not to “certify” that the Colombian military’s human rights record is improving, thus freeing up a portion of military assistance. This letter includes an early mention of a practice that, three years later, would erupt in Colombia as the “false positives” scandal of extrajudicial executions.

We believe there has been insufficient progress in suspending from the armed forces, investigating and vigorously prosecuting security force members who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights, or who have aided or abetted paramilitary organizations. Even some of the highest-profile cases have not advance.
… Greater progress in breaking links between the army and paramilitary forces is
imperative. The United Nations notes “continued reports… of cases in which
coordinated operations have been carried out by members of the security forces and
paramilitary groups, and cases in which the victims had been detained by members of the paramilitary forces and subsequently reported by the army as having been killed in combat.”
… We believe that it is time for the State Department to make clear to the Colombian government that further progress regarding its own security forces is necessary prior to certification. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Statement on World Refugee Day, June 20, 2012

In Colombia, where conflict has displaced an estimated 4 million people, our partners are helping the government to provide reparations and land restitution to affected individuals and families.

September 4, 2012 statement upon the announcement of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC

Colombians have suffered for far too long from the violence and insecurity associated with its decades-long internal armed conflict. President Santos has taken the difficult steps toward negotiating a political solution and has indicated that lessons learned from prior peace talks will be taken into consideration. This is an important and welcome sign. Any negotiation that helps strengthen Colombia’s democracy, promote the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and bring peace to the country is a good thing and deserves support.

Senator Kerry at his January 24, 2013 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

One of the great stories of Latin America is Colombia … President Uribe stepped up in a critical moment and began the process of rescuing that nation, President Santos is now doing an amazing job, we strengthened the relationship by passing the economic trade agreement. We have to build on that. And that is an example for the rest of Latin America of what awaits them… [Also] hope to bridge the gap with some of the other countries.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

U.S. military exercises in June and July

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

Caribbean

  • In the final segment of the “Tradewinds 2013” exercise, the US Coast Guard and forces from six Caribbean nations, working in Port Castries, St. Lucia, simulated a takedown and boarding scenario as part of a counter-narcotics exercise.

Central American Regional

  • Joint Task Force-Bravo, a Honduras-based component of Southern Command, carried out multiple medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) “with partner country militaries in underserved areas, as well as counter narcotics-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and capacity building activities that promote enduring security cooperation,” reports International Health, a U.S. military website.

Chile, Colombia, El Salvador

  • In early June, Joint Task Force Jaguar, a Southern Command unit set up to coordinate the “Beyond the Horizon” humanitarian exercise in El Salvador, oversaw members of the U.S., Salvadoran, Chilean, Colombian and Canadian militaries as they completed construction, dental, medical, and veterinary assistance projects in a rural area of El Salvador. U.S. Army South, the Southern Command’s army component, reported that the logistical preparations that took place to get the 1,400 U.S. military personnel to El Salvador involved “the same procedures they’d follow for missions ranging from a wartime deployment to a disaster response in the homeland.”

Colombia, Haiti

  • As part of a training program, 350 Haitian female police recruits were selected to travel to Colombia to train with U.S. and Colombian police. The program is part of an effort by the Haitian government to try to increase its police force from the current 10,000 officers to 15,000 officers by 2016. Other training programs for Haitian women take place in Chile, Canada, and the United States.

El Salvador

  • A “multi-national C-TOC [counter transnational organized crime operations] mission using advanced sensors to detect allusive smugglers using littoral waterways to move illegal contraband, to include narcotics, drug money and people, across international borders” began in June in El Salvador, according to Southern Command. The Salvadoran Coast Guard worked with U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection officers to prepare for this activity, which is part of Operation Martillo, “a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.”

Honduras

  • During a command change ceremony on June 21, Joint Task Force-Bravo ushered in a new commander, Army Col. Thomas D. Boccard, at its headquarters at the Soto Cano airbase in Comayagua, with Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of Southern Command, officiating.
  • As part of a joint exercise, Joint Task Force-Bravo “simulated a two-fold scenario simultaneously, one a nonviolent demonstration and the other being an attack from a terrorist organization July 17.”

Nicaragua

  • El Nuevo Diario reports that between March and April members of the Nicaraguan Navy traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to receive training in communications and military tactics from U.S. military specialists. In June, U.S. personnel traveled to Nicaragua to continue and expand this training.

Panama

  • Southern Command reports that over the course of four months, U.S. military personnel along with medical professionals from Panama’s Ministry of Health, provided medical care to approximately 13,000 people as part of the “Beyond the Horizon 2013” exercise.
  • According to Southern Command, a June 18 ceremony marked the end of the “Beyond the Horizon 2013” humanitarian exercise during which “U.S. military engineers and medical professionals conducted real-world training while providing needed services to communities throughout the country.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cuban Drug Policy and Bilateral Counternarcotics Efforts

This post was written with CIP Cuba Intern, Ashley Badesch

Despite Cuba’s absence from the recent OAS meeting, where antidrug policy in the Americas topped the agenda, Cuba collaborates with Latin American and Caribbean nations, and even the United States, on counternarcotics efforts. Cuba maintains formal agreements to fight narcotrafficking with at least 35 countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Chile, UK, Canada, Spain, Venezuela, Tanzania, Laos, and Jamaica. These accords allow Cuba to standardize counternarcotics operations and send real time alerts.

In 2002, the Cuban government drafted a bilateral accord for counternarcotics cooperation with the U.S. government; however, the U.S. has yet to acknowledge the accord, despite the State Department’s support of a well-structured agreement between the nations. The accord is still “under review” by the U.S. government and has gone through several iterations since it was introduced.

The most recent International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) report, published by the U.S. State Department, states that a U.S.-Cuba bilateral anti-drug agreement and greater multilateral cooperation in the region would likely lead to improved tactics, procedures, and sharing of information, leading to an increased disruption of narcotrafficking operations.

Counternarcotics in Cuba

2013’s INCSR, praised Cuba’s policies against illicit drugs and trafficking, stating,

“Cuba’s domestic drug production and consumption remain negligible as a result of active policing, harsh sentencing for drug offenses, and very low consumer disposable income. Cuba’s counternarcotics efforts have prevented illegal narcotics trafficking from having a significant impact on the island.”

Cuba is situated between the region’s top drug-producing countries in the Andean region and the region’s number one consumer country, the United States. It has 42,000 sq. miles of territorial waters, 3,000 miles of shoreline and 4,195 islands and small keys. Given these factors, both Cuba and the United States share a vested interest in improving tactics to close trafficking routes in the Caribbean and combat transnational crime.

In spite of Cuba’s close proximity to a number of the region’s largest exporters of illegal drugs, the State Department found, “Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) frequently attempt to avoid GOC and U.S. government counter drug patrol vessels and aircraft by skirting Cuba’s territorial waters.”

Cuba’s effective counternarcotics efforts are largely attributed to bilateral interdiction, intensive police presence on the ground, and low levels of domestic illegal drug consumption.

Low Demand

One of the chief reasons for the low demand for illegal drugs in Cuba is their prohibitive cost; the cost of one cigarette of marijuana on the island is equivalent to a week’s pay for a state employee (US$5).

President Obama’s lifting of restrictions on remittances has given a number of Cubans greater purchasing power, however. According to a Brookings report, remittances entering Cuba in 2012 were estimated to total $2.6 billion, double what Cuba received in remittances five years ago.

Domestic Initiatives

Maritime and aerial operations like “Operation Hatchet,” Cuba’s Minister of Interior-led multi-agency counternarcotics strategy, combined with harsh sentencing (up to 15 years for drug possession), prevention education and extensive on-the-ground policing by the Cuban National Anti-Drug Directorate, have reduced supply and demand.

  • In the past year, maritime interdictions fell by over 50 percent and total drug seizures on land declined 60 percent while narcotrafficking attempts through Cuba’s air border rose.
  • According to Granma, the official government newspaper, drug trafficking operations interdicted in Cuban airports doubled to 42 over the past year, resulting in the detention of 69 persons. The majority of those detained were Cuban citizens living in the United States. Police estimate that the increase in air trafficking to the U.S. is due to President Obama’s relaxation of travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans.
  • Up from 21 kilograms in 2011, Cuban airport security seized 42 kilograms of drugs (33.6 kg of cocaine, 7.4 kg of marijuana, and one kg of the synthetic drug known as cannabimimetic) in 2012 according to figures released by Granma in February.
  • Bilateral Counternarcotics Cooperation

    According to the INCSR, “With limited Cuban Interdiction assets and the high speed of the drug smuggling vessels, at-sea interdictions remain problematic, and the GOC’s prevalent response continues to be to pass information to neighboring countries, including the United States.” Some points on Cuban cooperation:

  • Although the United States does not provide any formal narcotics-related funding or assistance to Cuba, the U.S. government maintains one Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Specialist on the island.
  • The INCSR indicates that in 2012, coordination between Cuban law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard on a case-by-case basis led to 31 interdictions of “go-fast” narcotics vessels. The report also notes that the real-time e-mail and phone communications with the Cuban Border Guard have increased in quantity and improved in timeliness and quality.
  • U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2010 revealed U.S.-Cuban collaboration on combating drug smuggling from Jamaica, including one case in which the U.S. Coast Guard provided information that helped the Cuban Border Guard to interdict 700 kilograms of marijuana and another in which Cuban officials advised the USCG on the location of a plane that had dumped 13 bales of marijuana in a rural area in Cuba.
  • The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control released a report on U.S.-Caribbean security cooperation in September 2012, in which Senator Feinstein (D-California) recommended a number of steps to increase U.S.-Cuba collaboration on drug policy. Her recommendations included the negotiation of a bilateral agreement and the inclusion of Cuba in the U.S.-Caribbean Security Dialogue.

    Feinstein is not the only one asking for increasing dialogue with Cuba; Nicaragua, Brazil and several member states of the OAS have demanded Cuba’s inclusion in the 2015 Summit of the Americas. As a result the OAS created a special committee to address the issue.

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    U.S. military exercises in April and May

    Belize

    • On May 15th, 24 members of the Belize National Coast Guard and 5 members of the Belizean Anti-Drug Unit (ADU) graduated from a Special Warfare Operations Course. This 5-week training course, supervised and conducted in Belize by Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen of the U.S. Navy, “covered Navigation, Small-Boat Handing, Communications, Board Search and Seizure, Vectoring, Radar and GPS Operation, Weapon-Handling Skills, and Waterborne Techniques.”
    • “Approximately 90 airmen deployed from Hurlburt Field, Florida, are building school structures from the ground up throughout Belize as part of an exercise known as New Horizons,” reports the U.S. 12th Air Force. “The first of the airmen assigned to the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, commonly known as RED HORSE, began to arrive in Belize in February to begin pre-construction activities and set up logistics for the three-month training exercise that started April 1 and is scheduled to run through the end of June.”

    Belize, El Salvador, Panama

    • “From April through June 2013, U.S. military personnel will be in Belize, El Salvador, and Panama to conduct comprehensive humanitarian civic assistance exercises,” reports U.S. Southern Command. “As part of the Beyond the Horizon and New Horizons exercise programs, troops specializing in engineering, construction and health care are providing needed services to communities while receiving valuable deployment training and building important relationships with partner nations.”

    Brazil

    • On May 20-22 Brazil and the United States held their 29th annual army-to-army staff talks. These meetings “help strengthen professional partnerships and increase interaction between armies” and often result in “various events, training, exercises and exchanges together.” reports U.S. Army South, a component of U.S. Southern Command. This year, “the two delegations drafted a list of 29 Agreed to Actions (ATAs) that covered a wide range of professional exchanges designed to improve the working relationship between the two armies.”

    Caribbean Regional

    • As part of a “a test to see if the relatively low-cost drone, which runs on battery power, could be an alternative to manned aircraft such as the P-3 Orion, which requires a crew of seven and guzzles fuel,” reports the Miami Herald, naval officers practiced launching the Puma, a waterproof 13 pound drone that they hope will help in drug-smuggling detection. U.S. forces are employing at least 10 Pumas within the Central American and Caribbean waters. The exercise also involved a 321-foot helium-filled blimp, the TIF-25K Aerostat, also to be used over Caribbean waters to detect drug smuggling ships.

    • “Tradewinds 2013 was a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored training exercise conducted in the Caribbean Basin which focused on improving cooperation and security in the region,” reports U.S. Southern Command. “The joint and interagency exercise was held in St. Lucia from May 20 – June 6. The exercise includes participants from the U.S. military and U.S. law enforcement agencies who are joined counterparts from 14 partner nations, primarily from the Caribbean Basin.” Adds another Southcom release, “Uniformed service members and maritime police officers from four partner nations bolstered their maritime enforcement capabilities in a live-fire gunnery exercise off the coast of Saint Lucia during Tradewinds 2013.”

    Colombia, Guatemala

    • Civil affairs officers from U.S. Southern Command and Special Operations Command South worked “to develop a strategy to increase Guatemala’s Civil Affairs capacity to disrupt transnational organized criminal activities in minimally governed areas” during a Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) that took place in Guatemala City from April 23-25 between the United States, Colombia and Guatemala. The SMEE, led by Colombia, “was designed to provide the Civil Affairs representatives with a forum for sharing best practices in Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs Operations (CAO) and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities to complement U.S. Southern Command efforts in Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC).”

    El Salvador

    • Task Force Jaguar, organized by the Southern Command’s U.S. Army South, completed a mass casualty exercise in El Salvador in April. The activity took place before the launch of the Beyond the Horizon 2013 humanitarian exercise. “The mass casualty exercise is designed to simulate the stress caused during a real crisis” and “was just one step in the validation process required for the unit to maintain operations” in El Salvador. Additionally, “over the course of two days, safety, personnel recovery, and force protection inspectors from Army South evaluated the safety measures and tactics employed by the task force.”

    • Beyond the Horizon will operate in El Salvador until June. An Army press release describes it as “a joint and combined field training humanitarian exercise in which U.S. active duty, National Guard, and Reserve servicemembers specializing in engineering, construction and health care, working along-side partner nation personnel, provide much-needed services to communities in need while receiving valuable deployment training and building important relationships with partner nations.”

    • An April 16th Army release noted that since their arrival in El Salvador on the 30th of March, the Beyond the Horizon group’s work “constructing schools and latrines on three sites” is on track.

    • On February 28th, eleven Salvadoran airmen returned to San Salvador after being deployed to Afghanistan by the United States. During their time in Afghanistan they worked as aviation advisers and International Security Assistance Force liaison officers. “The training that the Salvadoran airmen went through is similar to what U.S. service members receive in preparation for deployment. The Salvadorans also received psychological and medical evaluations and other exams to ensure they were fit for a combat mission”
      http://www.dvidshub.net/news/105377/us-el-salvador-partnership-leads-mis...

    Guatemala, Honduras

    • Following the completion of three weeks of “joint training and partnership building” in Guatemala, the Southern Partnership Station 2013 naval exercise moved to Honduras in April. SPS 2013 is working to train armed forces in “the areas of explosive ordnance disposal, land navigation, live-fire exercises, river operations and arrest procedures.”

    Honduras

    • Joint Task Force-Bravo, a U.S. Southern Command component based at the Soto Cano air base near Comayagua, Honduras, reports that it “partnered with four female Honduran National Police Officers, Community Engagement Section, to mentor young women aged 17-27 at the Arts for Humanity Women’s Leadership Center, as part of a commitment to assist in the development of partnership capacity in El Socorro, Honduras, April 18. Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Army Forces Battalion, Engineer Section and Medical Element taught classes on leadership and ethics, basic first aid, and conducted a technical engineering assessment of the center’s infrastructure.”

    • On April 23rd, Joint Task Force-Bravo’s mobile surgical team (MST) worked with a group of Honduran surgeons at the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa. This medical surgical team works with local surgeons in La Paz, Comayagua, and Tegucigalpa on a regular basis, helping to train medical students as part of Medial Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) programs. According to a Southern Command release, “the surgical MEDRETES allows the MST to exercise their surgical skills while providing relief to the saturated medical staff at Hospital Escuela.”

    • As part of a May 6th MEDRETE in the Cuesta de la Virgen community, members of Joint Task Force-Bravo worked with the Honduran Ministry of Health and Honduran military personnel to provide medical attention to more than 500 residents. In addition to teaching about preventative medicine, nutrition, and proper hygiene, “villagers were provided the opportunity to meet with a nurse, dentist or medical provider depending on their needs to receive assistance which ranged from routine medical checkups, basic immunizations, deworming medicine for children, tooth extractions and gynecological services.”

    • “Seventeen service members from Joint Task Force-Bravo were recalled and transported to Puerto Castilla to join the Honduran Comision Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO), during a Central America Survey and Assessment Team (C-SAT) exercise, May 15-16,” reports the Honduras-based U.S. Southern Command component. “The team partnered with COPECO to run through a simulated hurricane landfall disaster scenario and determine the actions each agency would accomplish during a disaster.”

    Mexico

    • The Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) announced on May 9th that Mexico’s Army will participate in a joint training exercise with the United States and Canada. Ardent Sentry, an exercise that U.S. Northern Command holds each year in the United States, will help develop a joint action plan in case of any disaster in the area of the borders between the countries. The training, which will cover appropriate responses to any biological, chemical, radiological and natural disasters that could potentially happen, will take place in Florida, South Carolina, and Montana.

    Panama

    • U.S. Army South marked the official start of Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 during an April 17 ceremony at Fort Sherman, once a U.S. Army base near Colón, Panama. “U.S. military engineers and medical professionals arrived to conduct real-world training while providing needed services to communities throughout the country,” reads a U.S. Army South release.

    • As part of Beyond the Horizon 2013, 28 U.S. Air Force airmen from the 203rd “Redhorse” Squadron, 192nd Fighter Wing, an Air Guard unit out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia and the 200th Squadron, 179th Fighter Wing, out of Mansfield, Ohio, are working with Panamanian personnel to build a health center in the rural area of Escobal, Panama. Upon completion of the health center, the airmen will build a dormitory for employees.

    • In April, as part of a three-day MEDRETE, approximately 50 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel provided medical, dental, and humanitarian, and veterinarian services to the residents of Cerro Plata, Panama. This MEDRETE is another component of the Beyond the Horizons 2013 exercise, which will take place until August. Army South reports that these programs “consist of a team of military medical and dental professionals who work in austere areas to gain valuable military experience, while also providing medical services to people in need of treatment.”

    • As part of Beyond the Horizon 2013, a U.S. Army officer assigned to Task Force Panama conducted a training session for some members of the National Air and Navy Service of Panama (SENAN). The session included training in “the proper use of under-carriage vehicle inspection mirrors and metal detecting wands for use on individuals” which “will add another layer of security to the force protection the SENAN already have in place.”

    • In Colón, Panama on April 30th members of the Rhode Island National Guard visited Hospital Colon and met with the hospital’s medical director. During the meeting, the two parties worked “to sustain a cooperative relationship with the local hospital to ensure appropriate medical treatment of U.S. and Panamanian security forces operating” in and around the area through the Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 program.

    Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    U.S. military exercises in February and March

    U.S. military personnel carry out a very regular schedule of exercises and training deployments throughout Latin America. Here, based on official releases and press reports, is a glimpse of these activities in February and March, in alphabetical order by country.

    Belize

    • Leading up to the “New Horizons” humanitarian exercise scheduled to take place in the spring, construction equipment and materials are scheduled to being arriving into ports in Belize. The exercise is being overseen by U.S. Southern Command and planned by Air Forces Southern. It will last approximately 90 days and involve construction projects as well as medical service events.

    Central America

    • The U.S. Navy 4th Fleet’s Southern Partnership Station 2013 exercise involves port visits to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras by the USNS Swift, a high-speed catamaran. “The assigned units are focusing on locally identified needs, such as port security, noncommissioned officer professional development, operational risk management, medical readiness, outboard motor maintenance and patrol-craft operation.” In Belize, U.S. Seabees and Riverine Squadron 2 members helped with infrastructure building and training. In Guatemala, the assistance focuses on explosive ordnance disposal teams, as well as improving infrastructure at the Army’s Kaibil base.

    Cuba

    • More than 500 personnel from U.S. Army South, U.S. Southern Command and other military units and government agencies deployed to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as part of an exercise called “Integrated Advance” from Februrary 7–17. The exercise focused on mass migration in the Caribbean and Army South and SOUTHCOM abilities to support the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State in a humanitarian crisis scenario.

    El Salvador

    • “Joint Task Force Jaguar,” the U.S. Army South Component that will soon hold a “Beyond the Horizon” humanitarian exercise in El Salvador, tested itself in March by conducting a “mass casualty exercise” in Sonsonate. It is designed to simulate the stress caused during a real crisis.

    Panama

    • Members of the U.S. and Honduran militaries, along with Panama’s border service and civilians, carried out a Medical Readiness Training Exercise supported by Southern Command’s Honduras-based Joint Task Force-Bravo component between Feb. 28 and March 1. The exercise sought to test their ability to conduct expeditionary medical operations. Personnel provided medical care to around 1,200 patients in two villages in the Darién region of Panama.

    Paraguay

    • Operation “Ñepohãno 21” took place in Paraguay from February 16-17 as part of a joint civic-humanitarian action in Cruce Liberación, San Pedro. U.S. military personnel, together with about 220 Paraguayan military and police, offered free medical care including general practice, minor surgery, pediatrics, gynecology, and ophthalmology.

    Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    Six observations about last week's Southern Command "Posture Statement"

    Marine Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command since November, gave his first testimonies last week in the U.S. Congress. Before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, he presented the annual “Posture Statement” for Southcom the “regional combatant command” that manages all U.S. military activity in the Western Hemisphere (excluding Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas).

    Gen. Kelly took command just in time for “sequestration,” the deep cuts in federal spending, including Defense spending, that went into effect on March 1. As Latin America is clearly a lower U.S. national security priority than other regions of the world (Middle East, Pacific Rim, Europe), these cuts are hitting Southern Command disproportionately. Its Miami headquarters is trimming 26 percent from its budget, Gen. Kelly testified. These cuts’ effect, in fact, was the central theme of his testimonies last week.

    • 1. Reduced drug interdiction. Due to budget cuts, Gen. Kelly foresees a sharp drop in the number of planes and boats available to look for drug-smuggling and other trafficking activity along Central America’s coasts and in the Caribbean. He raised the possibility that the U.S. Navy may resort to “stopping all naval deployments to the Caribbean and South America,” something that would leave Southcom’s naval component, the 4th Fleet, with little to do.

    As a result, Gen. Kelly foresees a drop in the number of tons of cocaine that Southcom will seize in Central America and the Caribbean, from 152 last year to 90 this year. (See the chart below, which is also interesting because it contends that U.S. interdiction dropped after Ecuador refused to renew a U.S. presence at its Manta airbase in 2009.). The cuts will spell the end of “Operation Martillo” (“Hammer”), a surge of U.S. interdiction boats and planes that began last year along Central America’s coastlines. Two Navy frigates currently participating in the operation will return to port soon. The 90 tons of expected seizures this year, however, represent only a modest drop from the non-Martillo level of 117 tons measured in 2011.

    • 2. Trafficking appears to be moving westward, to the Pacific. The Posture Statement offers these estimates of how trafficking activity has shifted as a result of “Martillo.”

      • 21% drop in aircraft smuggling to Central America (mainly Honduras).

      • 57% drop in aircraft smuggling to Hispaniola island (mainly Haiti).
      • 36% drop in boats smuggling near Central America’s Caribbean coast.
      • 38% drop in boats smuggling on Caribbean high seas near Central America.
      • 71% increase in 2012, but 43% drop so far in 2013, in boats smuggling near Central America’s Pacific coast.
      • 12% increase in 2012, and 51% increase so far in 2013, in boats smuggling on Pacific high seas near Central America.

    The “balloon effect,” it would appear, continues to illustrate illicit trafficking activity in the region.

    • 3. Southcom is cutting back on exercises, military-to-military contacts, and Special Forces training deployments in 2013 as a result of “sequestration.” The command, Gen. Kelly says, has been forced to “scale back deployments of Civil Affairs and Special Operations Forces teams to the region.” Southcom has chosen to scale back the annual “Panamax” canal-defense exercise, and to cancel the following exercises:

    The Posture Statement also says that the National Guard’s “State Partnership Program,” a series of smaller deployments, has canceled more than 90 events. In 2012, this program alone carried out 223.

    Exercises that appear to have survived the cut include the “Beyond the Horizon” series of humanitarian exercises, UNITAS, the Southern Partnership Station series of naval events, and the Caribbean exercise Tradewinds.

    • 4. Iran’s efforts aren’t getting traction in the region. “I share the Congress’ concerns over Iran’s attempts to increase its influence in the region,” General Kelly says. However,

    “The reality on the ground is that Iran is struggling to maintain influence in the region, and that its efforts to cooperate with a small set of countries with interests that are inimical to the United States are waning. In an attempt to evade international sanctions and cultivate anti-U.S. sentiment, the Iranian regime has increased its diplomatic and economic outreach across the region with nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Argentina. This outreach has only been marginally successful, however, and the region as a whole has not been receptive to Iranian efforts.”

    Southcom nonetheless remains vigilant, Gen. Kelly says, even though its “limited intelligence capabilities may prevent our full awareness of all Iranian and Hezbollah activities in the region.”

    • 5. China is now being explicitly cited as a competitor. Gen. Kelly notes “an unprecedented three naval deployments to Latin America since 2008, including a hospital ship visit in 2011” from China. Whether three deployments in five years should be cause for concern is unclear, but the Commander, mindful of his congressional audience, contrasts them with the current budget cuts:

    “China is attempting to directly compete with U.S. military activities in the region. I believe it is important to note that sequestration will likely result in the cancellation of this year’s deployment of the USNS Comfort [a U.S. Navy hospital ship] to the region, an absence that would stand in stark contrast to China’s recent efforts.”

    • 6. The document’s annex provides a glimpse of current assistance to Colombian forces fighting in that country’s armed conflict. Note these fragments from the section on Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), the Southern Command’s Special Forces component.

      • “SOCSOUTH elements provided assistance to the Colombian Special Operations Command, the new joint interagency task forces that are conducting operations against key FARC concentrations. SOCSOUTH also provided counternarcotics, small unit tactics, and riverine training to Colombian National Police and military forces.”

      • SOCSOUTH supported Colombian War Plan ‘SWORD OF HONOR’ by helping build intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination capacity in newly established joint interagency task forces fighting the FARC.”
      • “In 2012, SOCSOUTH provided subject matter expertise to enable key Colombia partner units to establish a sustainable weapons-repair capability and initiate the development of an aerial delivery capability.”
      • “By partnering with academia, SOCSOUTH seeks to build critical thinking skills of key partner unit leadership, helping them to better confront complex irregular warfare challenges. In 2012, SOCSOUTH sponsored a “Counter FARC Ideological Activities” seminar in Colombia, and a “Counterterrorist Operations Planning” seminar in Peru in support of counter narco-terrorist operations.”

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Notes from Thursday's House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing

    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

    Hearing Minutes

    February 28, 2013

    Present:

    Committee Members:

    Rep. Salmon (R. Arizona. Headed Hearing)

    Rep. Sires (D. New Jersey)

    Rep. Meeks (D. New York)

    Rep. Faleomavaega (D. American Samoa)

    Rep. Deutch (D. Florida)

    Rep. Duncan (R. South Carolina)

    Rep. DeSantis (R. Florida)

    Rep. Radel (R. Florida)

    Witnesses:

    The Honorable Roberta S. Jacobson Assistant Secretary Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs U.S. Department of State [full text of opening statement]

    The Honorable Mark Feierstein Assistant Administrator Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean U.S. Agency for International Development [full text of opening statement]

    I. Opening Statements

    Salmon –

    · 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

    Sires –

    · 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?

    Radel –

    · 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

    Meeks –

    · 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

    Faleomavaega –

    · 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

    Feierstein –

    · 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

    Sires

    · Q: about corruption in Latin American governments and private sector investment.

    · A from Jacobson: State Dep. Is working with governments to reduce corruption.

    Radel

    · 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.

    Meeks:

    · 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

    Duncan:

    · 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.

    Faleomavaega

    · Just really only cares about indigenous populations and the development of indigenous rights, education, poverty, and economy.

    DeSantis

    · 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.

    Deutch

    · Q: concerned with Cuba and Allen Gross. Also concerned with deforestation in the Amazon. What can the US do to protect environmental sustainability?

    Salmon

    · 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.

    Sires

    · 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.

    Radel

    · 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

    Meeks

    • Q: will CBSI have a social impact? Also asked about the FARC Colombian peace process
    • A from Jacobson: a lot of work to be done on CBSI. State is currently implementing programs through CBSI. There has been an increase in information sharing and cooperation. Donor coordination has had success too and the UK and Canada have meant more in terms of contributions.

    Faleomavaega

    • Made a comment on the general number of people who have been killed by Cartels in Mexico due to guns and violence.

    Salmon Closing remarks

    • Believes that crop transitions for current coca farmers are good.
    • Sees Colombia as an enormous success story.
    • Thinks Brazil is doing the right thing in terms of economic development and growth.
    • The US should work to eradicate the drug cartels in Mexico.
    • Wonders what the US can do to keep Mexicans in their own country. Are they afraid to stay there? How can we work on that?

    III. What Was Left Out

    • There was no mention, apart from Colombia’s role as a training country, of bi-lateral or regional military involvement or strategy.
    • Other than Salmon’s closing remarks, nothing was said about the border or border security.
    • Nothing was said about immigration reform.
    • There was nothing said about Central American immigrants, it was as if the committee members present believed that everyone in this country who is a Hispanic immigrant has come from either Mexico out of fear of the drug cartels, or from Cuba, out of fear of being repressed.
    • Although violence caused by narco-trafficking and organized criminal activity was mentioned, nothing was said about US domestic gun reform and the potential impact that could have on violence in Central America.
    • While crop-transitions were mentioned for current farmers of coca, nothing was mentioned about the UN’s recent decriminalization of traditional uses of the coca leaf in Bolivia.