Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Latin America policy’

McCain and Obama Ignore Abuses in Colombia and Mexico

July 4, 2008

McCain and Obama Ignore Abuses in Colombia and Mexico

New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Jul 04, 2008

Editor’s Note: When it comes to Colombia and Mexico, Presidential candidates Obama and McCain don’t sound much like an agent for “change,” or a maverick, writes NAM writer Roberto Lovato.

In the jubilation around the sensational release of Ingrid Betancourt and the other hostages from the FARC guerillas in Colombia, it’s easy to ignore Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba. But with her reddened brown eyes bubbling with tears she tries to contain, Cordoba provides a unique view into the effects of U.S. military policy in Latin America. But it’s not clear if either John McCain fresh from his Colombia tour or Barack Obama are listening.

During one of several public events she participated in during her visit to New York, Cordoba, an outspoken critic of the administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, did not, unlike Senator McCain, laud the effects of U.S. military aid to her country. “The (U.S.) aid is being given to a corrupt democracy, a democracy that governs through fear and terror,” said Cordoba, a former president of both the Colombian Human Rights Commission and Congress. She was herself kidnapped by 12 heavily-armed paramilitary operatives as she left a medical clinic in 2004. “The (Colombian) government uses the money and arms from Plan Colombia (PC) not just to combat drug traffickers,” she said, adding, “It’s also used to silence those of us who speak out against the government. They try to silence us by kidnapping, disappearing and even killing many of us.”

In a hemisphere that, with increasing frequency, rejects Washington’s free-trade and drug war policies, Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama would do well to listen to denunciations by Cordoba and other critics of U.S.-backed governments like those of Colombia and Mexico, where McCain just voiced his support for that country’s equivalent of the drug war, Plan Merida, also known as “Plan Mexico.”

Candidates McCain and Obama’s failure to denounce the exponential increase in atrocities committed by the governments of Colombia’s Uribe and of Mexico’s Felipe Calderon may signal that neither will be the “change” candidate when it comes to U.S. policy in Latin America. For example, though McCain did discuss human rights during his meeting with Uribe, he did so in soft tones that lacked the stridency and urgency heard with regard to other human rights abuses discussed on the “straight talk express,” where the candidate regularly references his imprisonment and torture. For his part though, he opposes the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia (FTA). Senator Obama has been generally supportive of Plan Colombia, a policy that has yielded little to inspire “hope” in the hemisphere.

In the past seven years, the more than $700 million that Colombia, which has one of the worst human rights records in the Americas, receives in mostly military aid each year under PC, has done little to deter drug flows and lots to foment fear and terror. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, at least 28 trade unionists have been killed so far this year in Colombia, making it the country with the world’s highest rate of killings of trade unionists and increases in extra judicial executions. Four million Colombians have been internally displaced since the commencement of PC, and most of the four million Colombians living outside their country migrated during that period also.

In a letter sent to McCain earlier this week, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, reminded the Senator that “more than 60 members of President Álvaro Uribe’s coalition in the Colombian Congress – representing approximately 20 percent of the Congress – are under investigation for rigging elections or collaborating with paramilitaries, considered terrorists by the United States.” Neither candidate has raised the alarm on the atrocities of the Uribe government.

As he toured Mexico, McCain said nothing about the fact that U.S. military aid under Plan Merida contributed to the record 468 civilians that were killed in Mexico because of drug wars between the government and cartels in the month of June. That month saw 509 civilians killed in Iraq. Neither McCain nor Obama –both of whom support Plan Mexico — discuss publicly how our southern neighbor, a country with no previous history of the militarization seen in the rest of the hemisphere, has witnessed what some are calling “Colombianization”: 25,000 troops and police deployed throughout the country; illegal detentions and unlawful searches; corruption linked from local officials to the highest levels of government; increased internal displacement and migration out of conflicted areas.

Ninety-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter to the governor of the State of Mexico and the country’s Attorney General calling for an investigation into the case of 26 female detainees who were physically, sexually and psychologically abused in San Salvador Atenco. In the first five months of this year there were 300 human rights claims – double the rate from the previous year, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission. And as McCain toured Mexico, he acted as if he was blind to the most recent scandal in the country: revelations of a “training” video showing police officers in the city of Leon forcing a fellow officer to crawl through vomit and injecting carbonated water into the nose of another. An instructor identified by Mexican officials as the employee of a U.S. security firm yells out commands in English.

Should they continue to support deadly military policies, hiding under cover of anti-drug policy, McCain and Obama threaten to continue policies that increase migration flows and repression against civilians, something no candidate who is about being a “maverick” or a “change” agent should be silent about.

Obama on Latin America: “Small Change”, If Any

May 29, 2008

obama_latin_america

(this article first appeared in the Black Agenda Report)

by Roberto Lovato

Many of us had great “hope” for the much-vaunted “change” in U.S. policy towards Latin America. But listening to Barack Obama’s “substantive” speech on U.S. Latin America policy last week and reading his “New Partnership with the Americas” policy proposal, it’s pretty clear that Obama will do nothing to alter the basic structure of George W. Bush’s Latin America policy: trade backed by militarism.

Given the painful failure and generalized destruction wrought by the last century of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the basic outline of “substantive” policy towards America Latina should look something like this

  • Immediate de-escalation of tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and US ally/surrogate Colombia. One would hope that, in the face of the atrocities in Colombia, Ubama would add a condemnation as loud as those Democrats wield at Cuba, whose violation of sovereignty (condemned by OAS) and human rights record-death squad killings, disappearances, torture of thousands-pales before that of Colombia;

  • Holding up Colombia’s multi-billion dollar military aid package would also indicate some substance;

  • Dismantling NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade and economic policies (ie some IMF and World Bank programs) that destroy livelihoods and communities (nay regions), bust government budgets and further enrich the elites in these countries;

  • Ending the embargo on Cuba. Will Obama stop beating the tattered political pinata of Cuba or simply spin it a little differently, hit it more gently?

  • Ending the low intensity destabilization programs in Venezuela and Bolivia;

  • Re-negotiating Bush’s crop-killing ethanol program;

  • Aborting Plan Mexico, which is already Colombianzing (ie; drug wars, anti-insurgent war, repression against opposition under cover of national security, etc.) a country that, for more than 80 years, has lived without the imposition of military rule. U.S. Presidents from Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Carter have paid for the arming of death squads who kidnap and torture jurists, journalists, union members and ordinary citizens as our “Latin American policy”;

  • Placing migration policy within the hemispheric context in which it originates;

  • Closing the School of the Americas and the ILEA training facility in El Salvador, both of which are factories for barbarism under the guise of national security.

With some important exceptions – engaging Venezuela, reconfiguring the World Bank and IMF, environmental agreements- his current approach to Latin America veers only slightly to the left of Bushismo. There is little in his speeches and proposals that is “liberal”, “progressive” or very enlightened in terms of easing the crush of poverty and repression in the region. In fact, Obama’s proposals for continuing and expanding the drug war in the hemisphere will only complete the efforts of the Bush Administration to re-militarize the region under cover of fighting drug wars.

In the search for post-Cold War enemies, the Bush Administration found its new excuse to militarize the region in the drug cartels, who, must be dealt with, but not in the Bush way.

Obama should know better.

The full text of Obama’s Miami speech can be found here.

Barack Obama’s “New Partnership For Latin America” also outlines his Latin America policies, and is located here.

Below are quotes from and brief analyses of these documents.

SUBJECT
WHAT OBAMA’S SPEECH & DOCUMENTS SAY WHAT THEY MEAN
On the brutal 46 year embargo of Cuba I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice…” Traveling to, or doing business in or with Cuba will remain illegal under US law. Academics and artists from Cuba will be denied visas, no cultural exchange permitted.
On US responsibility for deposing President Aristide and imposing the current regime poverty and terror upon Haiti Nothing The policy will not change
On US funding of the brutal war and death squad regime of Colombia When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. ” The policy will not change. The Colombian government has a blank check and a green light to murder and engage in cross-border provocations at will.
On the US continuing low-intensity war against Venezuela In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration’s blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.” Destabilization attempts under an Obama administration may be less blustery and clumsy.