Just Foreign Policy News
November 15, 2010
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Will "Free Trade" Save Obama in 2012?
Editorialists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all agree: President Obama should ignore trade unions and his Democratic supporters and try to push through "free trade agreements" negotiated by George W. Bush. But here's what the editorialists don't tell you: voters don't think these agreements are good for the country or for them personally, and Republican and independent voters are no exception to this, according to recent poll data released by the Pew Research Center.
Republican Election Victory and US Afghanistan, Iran Policy
Just Foreign Policy talks with The Real News.
KPFK Uprising: Reported Shift on Afghan Withdrawal
Just Foreign Policy talks with KPFK's Sonali Kolhatkar about McClatchy and New York Times reports that the Obama Administration intends to downplay its promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2011.
South of the Border on DVD
Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border is now available on DVD. The DVD contains an interview with outgoing Brazilian President Lula in which he says what he really thinks about the US version of "free trade." You can get the DVD here.
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1) President Karzai said Saturday the US must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end increased US Special Operations forces night raids, the Washington Post reports. Karzai said he wanted US troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war.
The Afghan president has placed himself squarely in favor of a lighter military footprint as the administration reviews progress of the war and debate intensifies about the pace of the withdrawal, the Post says. Under Petraeus and his predecessor, night raids by U.S. Special Operations troops have increased sharply, to about 200 a month, or six times the number being carried out 18 months ago, said a NATO official. Karzai was emphatic that U.S. troops must cease such operations, which he said violate the sanctity of Afghan homes and incite more people to join the insurgency, the Post says.
An Afghan official said Karzai is seeking veto power over night raids. The Afghan government does not have the legal arrangement the Iraqi government has with U.S. forces to approve particular military operations, the Post notes.
Karzai said the U.S. military "should and could" draw down its forces next year.
2) Gen. Petraeus warned Afghan officials Sunday that Karzai's latest public criticism of U.S. strategy threatens to seriously undermine progress in the war and risks making Petraeus's own position "untenable," the Washington Post reports. The night raids are at the heart of Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy, the Post says. The controversy came days before NATO leaders, including President Obama, are scheduled to hold a summit in Lisbon that will begin to set a timetable for transition - the process of turning portions of Afghanistan security control over to Afghan forces. The summit, which Karzai is to attend, will also set 2014 as a deadline for the end of coalition combat operations there, the Post says.
3) The most immediate problem facing the world economy is that the high-income economies - including the US, Europe and Japan - are barely recovering from their recessions, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. This is everybody's concern because high-income countries make up the majority of the world's economy. This is something the G20 governments could do something about, not least because some of them are actively making things worse. European authorities are choking off recovery in Spain, Ireland, Greece, and Portugal. It is a great irony that any of these governments or authorities now complain when the US Federal Reserve actually does something right. The Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" (creating money and using it to buy long-term government bonds) is exactly what any responsible central bank should do when its national economy is this depressed. The best thing that the European Central Bank could do is imitate the Fed, and help the weaker Eurozone economies restore economic growth, rather than pushing them back toward recession.
4) The US has reportedly said it will strengthen its commitment to oppose UN resolutions critical of Israel, and offer defense and security guarantees if Israel renews a partial freeze on settlement construction, the BBC reports. Israel would stop building for 90 days in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority reacted negatively to the proposal because the halt would not include East Jerusalem.
5) Western powers and Iran still have not agreed on a venue or agenda for talks, Glenn Kessler reports in the Washington Post. Some analysts say they think threats from Washington are reducing chances of a successful negotiation. "The stick side has been emphasized so much that it is hard for Iran to hear anything positive," said Paul Pillar, national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. Ivanka Barzashka and Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists said it was more important to achieve a deal on fuel for Iran's medical reactor to get meaningful talks going than to achieve a greater reduction in Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium than Iran has already agreed to.
6) India, like Turkey, would like the US to de-escalate its approach towards Iran, writes Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe. India has criticized sanctions against Iran that "cause difficulties to the ordinary man, woman, and child." Since the US and India have a new partnership, perhaps the US will listen to the advice from Iran that it rejected from Turkey, suggests Kinzer.
7) Clashes have broken out between protesters and UN troops in Haiti, Al Jazeera reports. Protesters, who hold Nepalese UN peacekeepers responsible for the cholera outbreak, threw stones and threatened to set fire to a base in Cap Haitien on Monday. The cholera epidemic has claimed over 900 lives in about three weeks.
8) Critics say the US decision to designate Bolivia as a country that has "failed demonstrably" in its counternarcotics efforts is punishment for Bolivia's decision to kick out Drug Enforcement Administration, the Washington Post reports. The US began targeting Bolivia in 2008, after President Morales accused Ambassador Philip Goldberg of conspiring against him and expelled him. Critics say that the US uses flawed methodology to characterize Bolivia's anti-narcotics efforts, since U.S. and U.N. estimates of coca production rarely match up. Last year, Bolivian coca production was up either 1 percent or 9.4 percent, depending on the survey, but in past years the numbers have been even more uneven. Neither Peru nor Colombia - which grows more coca than Bolivia, but has a cozier relationship with Washington - is on the list of countries that have "failed demonstrably."
9) Mexican officials continue to criticize the US for failing to stop the flow of money and weapons from the US to Mexican drug cartels, NPR reports. "The founding fathers didn't draft the Second Amendment to allow international organized crime to A: illicitly buy weapons in gun shops and gun shows; B: illicitly cross them over an international border; and C: sell them to individuals of a country where those calibers or types of weapons are prohibited," said Mexican ambassador to Washington Arturo Sarukhan this week.
1) Karzai wants U.S. to reduce military operations in Afghanistan
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Sunday, November 14, 2010; 12:52 AM
Kabul - President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the increased U.S. Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Karzai said that he wanted American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war. His comments placed him at odds with U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has made capture-and-kill missions a central component of his counterinsurgency strategy, and who claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency.
"The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai said. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."
Karzai's comments come as American officials are playing down the importance of July 2011 - the date President Obama set to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan - in favor of a combat mission ending in 2014. The Afghan president has placed himself squarely in favor of a lighter military footprint as the administration reviews the progress of the Afghan war and debate intensifies about the pace of the withdrawal. Karzai says his troops are ready to take more responsibility for their own security.
In an hour-long interview with Post reporters and editors in his office in Kabul, Karzai said he was speaking out not to criticize the United States but in the belief that candor could improve what he called a "grudging" relationship between the countries. He described his own deep skepticism with American policy in Afghanistan - from last year's presidential election, which he said was manipulated by U.S. officials, to his conviction that government corruption has been caused by billions of American dollars funneled to unaccountable contractors. And he said Afghans have lost patience with the presence of American soldiers in their homes and armored vehicles on their roads.
Karzai has long been publicly critical of civilian casualties at the hands of U.S. and NATO troops and has repeatedly called for curtailing night raids into Afghan homes. Under Petraeus and his predecessor, such raids by U.S. Special Operations troops have increased sharply, to about 200 a month, or six times the number being carried out 18 months ago, said a senior NATO military official, who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly about the situation. These operations capture or kill their target 50 to 60 percent of the time, the official said.
To American commanders, the nighttime strike missions are a crucial weapon to capture Taliban commanders, disrupt bomb-making networks and weaken the 30,000-man insurgency in Afghanistan. In the past three months, U.S. Special Operations troops have killed or captured 368 insurgent leaders. On each mission, Afghan commandos accompany U.S. troops and Afghan officers work with the Special Operations command at Bagram Airfield to choose targets, military officials said.
"We understand President Karzai's concerns, but we would not be as far along as we are pressuring the network had it not been for these very precision operations we do at night," the NATO military official said. "I don't see any near-term alternative to this kind of operation."
But Karzai was emphatic that U.S. troops must cease such operations, which he said violate the sanctity of Afghan homes and incite more people to join the insurgency. A senior Afghan official said that Karzai has repeatedly criticized the raids in meetings with Petraeus and that he is seeking veto power over the operations. The Afghan government does not have the type of legal arrangement that the Iraqi government has with U.S. forces to approve particular military operations.
"The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away," Karzai said. "The Afghan people don't like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us."
Karzai, who said during his inaugural speech last year that he would like to have full Afghan security control by 2014, said that the U.S. military "should and could" draw down its forces next year. He acknowledged that an abrupt withdrawal would be dangerous, but said that American soldiers should confine themselves more to their bases and limit themselves to necessary operations along the Pakistani border. He said he wanted the U.S. government to apply more pressure on Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan while focusing on development projects and civilian assistance in Afghanistan.
Although he did not say how many U.S. troops he would prefer in Afghanistan, Karzai said that at current levels "you cannot sustain that." There are about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. "It's not desirable for the Afghan people either to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly," he said.
"We'd like to have a long-term relationship with America, a substantial relationship with America, that's what the Afghan people want. But we'd like the Afghan countryside - villages, homes, towns - not to be so overwhelmed with the military presence. Life has to be seen [as] more normal," he added.
2) Petraeus warns Afghans about Karzai's criticism of U.S. war strategy
Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, November 15, 2010; 12:24 AM
Kabul - Gen. David H. Petraeus, the coalition military commander in Afghanistan, warned Afghan officials Sunday that President Hamid Karzai's latest public criticism of U.S. strategy threatens to seriously undermine progress in the war and risks making Petraeus's own position "untenable," according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Officials said Petraeus expressed "astonishment and disappointment" with Karzai's call, in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post, to "reduce military operations" and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan that coalition officials said have killed or captured hundreds of Taliban commanders in recent months.
In a meeting Sunday morning with Ashraf Ghani, who leads the Afghan government's planning on transition, Petraeus made what several officials described as "hypothetical" references to an inability to continue U.S. operations in the face of Karzai's remarks.
The night raids are at the heart of Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy and are key to his hopes of being able to show significant progress when the White House reviews the situation in Afghanistan next month.
Officials discounted early reports Sunday that Petraeus had threatened to resign. But "for [Karzai] to go this way, and at that particular stage, is really undermining [Petraeus's] endeavors," one foreign diplomat in Kabul said. "Not only his personally, but the international community." Several officials in Washington and Kabul requested anonymity in order to discus the issue.
The weekend controversy came days before NATO leaders, including President Obama, are scheduled to hold a summit in Lisbon that will begin to set a timetable for transition - the process of turning portions of Afghanistan security control over to Afghan forces. The summit, which Karzai is to attend, will also set 2014 as a deadline for the end of coalition combat operations there and will showcase a long-term NATO-Afghan partnership.
In the Saturday interview, Karzai said that the often-troubled U.S.-Afghan dynamic had improved since Petraeus's arrival in the summer, and that the two countries have a more "mature relationship." But he also outlined a vision for the U.S. military presence here that sharply conflicts with the Obama administration's strategy.
In addition to ending night raids, Karzai said that he wants U.S. troops to be less intrusive in the lives of Afghans, and that they should strive to stay in their bases and conduct just the "necessary activities" along the Pakistan border. "I think it's [Karzai's] directness that really sticks in the craw," another NATO official said. "He is standing 180 degrees to what is a central tenet of our current campaign plan."
At the Lisbon summit, NATO plans to declare that progress in the war will enable "transition" to Afghan security control, beginning in the spring. Petraeus is to decide which provinces and districts are stable enough to turn over to Afghan national security forces, with coalition troops remaining in an "overwatch" capacity as they head toward complete combat withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Coalition officials hope that the formal start of the transition process will allow Karzai to assert that his concerns about a reduced foreign military footprint are being addressed. Areas slated for transition will be cleared with the Afghan government and Karzai will announce them in coming months.
3) G-20 Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Bad Macroeconomic Policies, Especially in the High Income Countries, Are the Main Threat to World Economic Recovery
Fears of protectionist battles over trade and exchange rates are overblown. The G20 really needs to focus on stimulating growth
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Friday 12 November 2010
If the G20 is going to be nothing more than a talking shop on economic issues, they ought at least to talk about the economic problems that really matter, and the ones they can do something about. Not that currency values don't matter - they are actually very important. And it is interesting to see them getting some attention, after the media ignored, for example, the fact that an overvalued dollar was the main cause of the United States's loss of nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs over the last decade.
But we are many years, if not decades, away from a multilateral agreement on currencies. It took a Great Depression and the second world war to get us the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates; the current group of governments will never resolve something this difficult when they can't even come up with a coherent analysis of the problem.
First things first. The most immediate problem facing the world economy is that the high-income economies - including the United States, Europe and Japan - are barely recovering from their recessions. The IMF pointed this out in their semi-annual World Economic Outlook last month, noting that the recoveries of the high-income economies "will remain fragile for as long as improving business investment does not translate into higher employment growth". Unfortunately, this is everybody's concern because these countries make up the majority of the world's economy.
Now, this is something that the G20 governments could actually do something about, not least because some of them are actively making things worse. The European authorities - which include the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (which is subordinate to these authorities in Europe) - are choking off recovery in Spain, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and other countries. Ireland's borrowing costs just jumped 3 percentage points in the last three weeks - from 6% to a potentially explosive 9% - because its austerity policies are having the predictable effect of tanking the economy. Spain just racked up zero growth for the third quarter and hardly any for the whole year, with unemployment at 20%. In just the last six months, the IMF has had to lower the forecast for GDP growth in Greece from negative 2% to negative 4%, for the same reasons; and if all goes well according to their austerity plan, Greece will have a debt of 144% of GDP in 2013, up from 115% in 2009.
It is a great irony that any of these governments or authorities now complain when the US Federal Reserve actually does something right. The Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" (creating money and using it to buy long-term government bonds) is exactly what any responsible central bank should do when its national economy is this depressed. Unfortunately, because long-term rates are already extremely low, the impact of an additional $600bn of purchases over the next six months is likely to be minimal. But the Fed's action lowers the United States' net debt burden, since the interest payments on the debt that the Fed buys will now revert to the US Treasury.
By "monetising" this debt - and therefore getting rid of this interest burden on it - the Fed has created more space for President Obama and the US Congress to provide some badly-needed stimulus spending. If China, with an economy less than three quarters the size of the United States's (less than half at current exchange rates), can commit to $735bn of investment in low-carbon energy over the next decade, what do you think the United States could do to reduce climate disruption while providing some jobs for the 15m (officially) US unemployed?
So, if anyone wants to complain about what the US government is currently doing, or not doing, to the world economy, complaints should first go to the Congress and the president, who have failed to provide the necessary fiscal stimulus - not the Fed. The best thing that the European Central Bank could do is imitate the Fed, and help the weaker Eurozone economies restore economic growth, rather than pushing them back toward recession.
Some countries are worried that the Fed's maintaining low long-term rates will send too much money into their own economies, seeking a higher return, and driving up the value of their currencies. But these governments can reduce these inflows with capital controls, including taxes on various forms of incoming investment.
This whole threat of "currency wars" and a plunge into the protectionist abyss is quite exaggerated. For more than a decade, we have been repeatedly warned of a protectionist nightmare, threatening to grind the world economy to the halt - if the Doha Round of the WTO did not make progress. But the negotiations to liberalise trade and commerce went nowhere, while world exports more than doubled in just the five years from 2002-2007. When the crash finally came, it had nothing to do with protectionism - if anything, it had more to do with liberalisation in the financial sector.
The most immediate threat to the world economy at present comes not from "currency wars" or protectionism, but from overly conservative, dogma-driven macroeconomic policies. It's a shame that this wasn't a major item on the G20 agenda.
4) Israel ponders US incentive offer on settlement freeze
BBC, 14 November 2010
Israel's prime minister has briefed his cabinet on a package of incentives the US has proposed if it renews a partial freeze on settlement construction.
Washington has reportedly said it will strengthen its commitment to oppose UN resolutions critical of Israel, and offer defence and security guarantees.
In return, Israel would stop building for 90 days in the occupied West Bank.
US President Barack Obama said that Israel's review of the proposal was a "promising" sign.
However, the Palestinian Authority reacted negatively to the proposal because the halt would not include East Jerusalem.
The settlement row has derailed US-brokered direct peace talks, which resumed in September after almost 20 months and broke down only weeks later, when the previous construction freeze expired.
Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
According to diplomats, the US has said it will not ask Israel to extend the new freeze when it expires, provide 20 F-35 fighter jets worth $3bn, veto or oppose any initiatives at the UN Security Council critical of Israel, and sign a comprehensive security agreement with Israel at the same time as any peace deal is finalised.
5) Difficulty on Iran nuclear talks is a bad omen, diplomats warn
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Sunday, November 14, 2010; A17
For four months, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili traded letters trying to pin down a time and place for Iran to meet with a group of powerful countries concerned about its nuclear program. Late last week, they appeared to have settled on a start date: Dec. 5.
But they have yet to agree on a venue, a length for the talks or the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program. The other countries - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - want to talk mostly about the nuclear program.
The difficulty in restarting the talks, which have been on hold for more than a year, doesn't bode well, analysts and diplomats say.
In the past week, senior GOP figures have been pushing tougher steps. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, the incoming chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters that "if the country with whom we are negotiating with and playing diplomatic niceties with gets the feeling that they can string us along and have no actions take place, I think that's to the detriment of the United States." She warned against conveying a "sense of weakness and a lack of resolve."
Although the Obama administration has publicly stressed its interest in negotiations, some administration officials and advisers say they think the president would use military force to set back Iran's nuclear program if it appeared it was on the verge of having weapons capability.
Some analysts say they think the tough talk reduces chances of a successful negotiation. "The stick side has been emphasized so much that it is hard for Iran to hear anything positive," said Paul R. Pillar, national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, who teaches at Georgetown University. He said military action would be "an enormous blunder with huge consequences for the United States."
The coming talks will also be complicated by a failed agreement concerning a medical research reactor in Tehran, the centerpiece of the talks last year.
Because Iran has built up its stockpile since the deal fell apart, the United States and the other countries have agreed to demand substantially more enriched uranium from Iran this time. But analysts point out that 2,600 pounds would fulfill Iran's requirements at the research reactor for the next 20 years, making it unclear why Iran would have any incentive to give up more.
Ivanka Barzashka, a research associate at the Federation of American Scientists, said Iran will perceive the West as once again moving the goal posts. She said it was more important to quickly strike a deal that results in Iran giving up the 66 pounds of the 19.75 percent uranium it had produced and enough low-enriched uranium, about 2,200 pounds, to produce the rest of the fuel needed by the reactor.
The "political selling point" of Iran giving up enough uranium so it did not have enough for a bomb has been rendered meaningless by Iran's continued production of enriched uranium in the past year, she said. "The more important thing is to get this settled," said Ivan Oelrich, senior fellow at the federation. "We should just clear the decks to get the talks going."
6) India's sound advice on Iran
Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe, November 13, 2010
This week in New Delhi, President Obama went further than any of his predecessors toward embracing India as an ally, and most Indians are thrilled by this warm treatment. This does not mean, however, that the two countries will align all of their foreign policies. In some areas, India would like the United States to change its approach.
One key difference is over Iran. India has the wiser policy, and Obama should consider emulating it.
Despite some changes in atmospherics, Obama's approach to Iran has been remarkably similar to the one President George W. Bush took in his second term: don't bomb Iran, but continue to threaten that "all options are on the table"; steadily intensify economic sanctions, despite ample evidence that they weaken civil society and lavishly enrich the repressive Revolutionary Guard; insist on negotiations on the nuclear issue, but refuse to broaden the agenda to include issues that concern Iran.
India, like many other regional powers, takes the Iranian threat far less seriously than the United States does. It does not see Iran as an existential threat to anyone, but rather as just another thuggish country with resources, and wants to see it enticed back into the world's mainstream. India would like the United States to adopt a more accommodating policy toward Iran - and could even serve as the bridge that makes it possible.
One of Iran's other neighbors, Turkey, has already tried this approach. Turkish leaders have urged the United States to ratchet down its anti-Iran rhetoric, seek compromise instead of confrontation, and work to address Iran's concerns in an effort to draw it out of its isolation. The Obama administration has rejected this advice. Now it's India's turn to try.
There is a natural impulse to consider these countries as parts of different regions; Iran is mired in the strife-torn Middle East, while India dominates South Asia. This is a mistake. In fact, Iran and India were neighbors for millennia as they developed two of the world's richest cultures. The emergence of Pakistan in 1947 meant that India and Iran are no longer actual neighbors, but their shared history is so great that they feel as close as if they were still next door.
India imports oil and gas from Iran and is exploring the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline connecting the two countries - a project the United States opposes. Indian companies are negotiating for multi-billion-dollar oil exploration contracts in Iranian waters. In February, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao made a two-day trip to Tehran. A month later, in Washington, she said her government opposes sanctions on Iran that "cause difficulties to the ordinary man, woman, and child [and] would not be conducive to a resolution of this question."
While the intensifying confrontation between the United States and Iran disturbs India, an easing of tension would help stabilize both the Middle East and South Asia. It would certainly set off alarm bells, especially in Israel, where the idea of improved ties between Iran and the United States triggers instinctive panic. But Iran has so much to offer the United States strategically, beginning with its ability to help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, that reconciliation makes good sense. Some in India want their country to press Washington to change its mind on this crucial question.
The United States now has two good friends, Turkey and India, that sit near Iran and want better US-Iran ties. Turkey has been unable to persuade the Obama administration that a change in Iran policy makes sense. Now that Obama has described ties between India and the United States as "the defining partnership of the 21st century," maybe he will be more willing to heed India's advice.
7) Haiti Cholera Protest Turns Violent
Protesters clash with UN peacekeepers in second-largest city of Cap Haitien over epidemic that has killed more than 900.
Al Jazeera, 15 Nov 2010
Clashes and gunfire have broken out between protesters and UN troops in Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has claimed over 900 lives in about three weeks.
Protesters, who hold Nepalese UN peacekeepers responsible for the cholera outbreak, threw stones and threatened to set fire to a base in the country's second-largest city of Cap Haitien on Monday, Haitian radio and eyewitnesses reported.
There are also unconfirmed reports that five protesters and one UN peacekeeper have been shot dead.
The UN disputes the claims against the Nepalese mission, but the suspicion persists.
Al Jazeera's Cath Turner, en route to Cap Haitien, said that the situation "has been brewing for a while" with "very tense relations" between the UN peacekeepers stationed there and the local community.
"Back in August, a 16-year-old boy was found dead - he was hanging from a tree. And the Haitians believed that he was killed by the troops up there," she said. But the troops claimed the boy had committed suicide, and there was never a formal investigation into the boy's death, she added.
8) Bolivia walks thin line as it struggles to battle coca production
Helen Coster, Washington Post, Saturday, November 13, 2010; 9:52 PM
Coroico, Bolivia - In this remote corner of the Andes, three hours from Bolivia's capital city, Adela Mamani Poma earns $5 a day growing one of the world's most controversial crops.
Mamani, 35, grows coca - which is the raw material for cocaine and a staple of Bolivian life, chewed as a stimulant and appetite suppressant, to combat altitude sickness and to commemorate weddings and other social gatherings.
After preparing breakfast for her three children, Mamani walks an hour to the coca field where she works for 10 hours. She fills a waist-high sack of coca leaves, which her family will sell at the wholesale Villa Fatima market for slightly more than $8. "For us, coca is medicine and food," Mamani says. "It's good to fight cocaine production, but not to fight a war against coca."
In September the White House included Bolivia on the "majors" list - an annual list of the world's major drug transit or illicit-drug-producing countries. For the third year in a row, it named Bolivia, along with Burma and Venezuela, as a country that has "failed demonstrably" in its counternarcotics efforts.
The United States says that Bolivia - the world's third-largest producer of coca, after Colombia and Peru - produces too much excess coca, which is often processed into cocaine and sold in South America and Europe. Critics say the decision is political, intended to punish Bolivia for its lack of cooperation in the U.S.-led war on drugs, specifically President Evo Morales's decision to kick out the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008.
"Washington is saying that if you're not fighting the war on drugs the way we want you to, we'll punish you," says Sdenka Silva Ballon, a sociologist and founder of the Museo de la Coca in La Paz. "If Bolivia had invited DEA agents back, then the U.S. would probably be pleased with its efforts."
The United States began targeting Bolivia in 2008, after Morales accused Ambassador Philip Goldberg of conspiring against him and expelled him. Morales subsequently kicked out the DEA on charges of espionage. Shortly after the United States included Bolivia on the "failed demonstrably" list, it announced that the country would no longer be eligible for benefits under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which gives trade preferences to countries that cooperate with drug enforcement.
Despite frosty diplomatic relations, the United States continues to subsidize Bolivia's anti-narcotics efforts. The State Department's Narcotics Affairs Section administers $22.5 million in support of Bolivia's anti-trafficking police, and last year the United States Agency for International Development funded $60 million in health and agricultural programs.
Coca cultivation is legal in Bolivia, to a point. The Bolivian government allows coca farmers, known as cocaleros, to grow as much as 49,000 acres in the Yungas and Chapare regions. Bolivia's counternarcotics forces and cocaleros, tasked with self-regulation through a system called "social control," eradicate the rest. To the United States, these efforts are inadequate: Last year Bolivians destroyed about 16,000 acres of what the U.S. estimates to be 37,000 acres of excess coca - plants that can create 45 metric tons of cocaine.
"The president determined that Bolivia is not complying with its international obligations, and therefore not making a sufficient effort," says Joseph Manso, director of the Office of Americas Program in the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Critics say that the United States uses flawed methodology to characterize Bolivia's anti-narcotics efforts, since U.S. and U.N. estimates of coca production rarely match up. Last year, Bolivian coca production was up either 1 percent or 9.4 percent, depending on the survey, but in past years the numbers have been even more uneven. Neither Peru nor Colombia - which grows more coca than Bolivia, but has a cozier relationship with Washington - is on the list of countries that have "failed demonstrably."
"I think Bolivians are missing a key point," Manso says. "If you look at the U.S. and U.N. numbers from 2000 until now, they both show a steady upward trend and a more than doubling of coca planting in Bolivia."
Coca is an issue that has long defined U.S.-Bolivian relations, and which Morales, a cocalero and head of the coca growers' federation, uses to galvanize his base. "Evo's electoral stronghold was the cocaleros and other groups with the same school of thought: the have-nots neglected by the government masses," says CÃ©sar Guedes, representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Bolivia. "There's a thin line where the government has to be careful: keep the culture of coca without the support and endorsement of cocaine. It takes work for the government to make that message clear."
Morales came to power aiming to develop a legal, global market for coca. Under his "Coca Yes, Cocaine No" policy, his administration committed $5 million to industrialize coca, working with scientists to find alternative uses for the plant and building factories that will process coca into flour, syrups and other products.
But the market is crippled by a 1961 U.N. anti-drug convention that bans the export of any products that contain cocaine alkaloids.
Bolivia is spending $20 million on its own counternarcotics efforts, an investment that, if spent elsewhere, could help improve life in one of South America's poorest countries. Cocalero Adela Mamani Poma would like a hospital in the region and a better education for her children.
"My concern is that Bolivia is a victim of the circumstances," Guedes says. "The whole international demand for cocaine fuels this problem. Of the three countries [Colombia, Bolivia, Peru], Bolivia has the least means to confront the problem. It has to distract resources, people, technical means that it could put towards roads and hospitals into fighting narco-trafficking."
9) U.S. Guns Blamed For Fueling Violence In Mexico
Jason Beaubien, NPR, November 14, 2010
Many Mexican politicians view the current drug war - which has claimed roughly 30,000 lives over the past four years - as one more curse foisted on Mexico by their rich neighbor to the north. In this worldview, the incredibly violent conflict is fueled by U.S. demand for narcotics, fought with weapons from U.S. gun shops, and funded by U.S. cash that flows freely across the border.
At the chamber of the Mexican Senate, Sen. Sebastian Calderon Centeno says the United States hasn't done anything to curb demand for drugs or to diminish the flow of guns into Mexico. He says the drug war is actually increasing weapons trafficking.
The criminals are getting desperate, he says, and are trying to get more and more guns to attack the Mexican government. The senator says most of the guns in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers are bought legally in Texas, Arizona and California. And, he says, the U.S. has little incentive to stop the smuggling. "This is a growing business in the U.S.," Calderon says. "They are in the gun sales business, and it doesn't benefit them to stop."
Just this week, the Mexican ambassador to Washington again blamed lax American gun laws for fueling the drug conflict in Mexico. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan also said the U.S. could do more to limit the sale of weapons that eventually end up in the hands of the cartels.
"The founding fathers didn't draft the Second Amendment to allow international organized crime to A: illicitly buy weapons in gun shops and gun shows; B: illicitly cross them over an international border; and C: sell them to individuals of a country where those calibers or types of weapons are prohibited," Sarukhan said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
The U.S. needs to be involved in fighting the cartels along with the Mexican authorities, he says. The only way that Mexico has a chance of winning this battle is with sustained efforts from both sides of the border.
"But if we can't fundamentally ... modify the current flow of weapons and bulk cash that are coming from the U.S. into Mexico - and which provide the drug syndicates with their firepower and their ability to corrupt - it will be a very taxing challenge," Sarukhan says.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon also continues to call on the U.S. to crack down on weapons heading south.
There have been recent successes in gun seizures at or near the border. This summer, police in Texas got a tip that two men in a truck were moving a cache of weapons through Laredo. The authorities found 147 assault rifles and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle, which they believe was headed for Mexico.
But the perception here remains that the drug cartels continue to be able to buy weapons unfettered north of the Rio Grande.
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