Friday, June 27, 2008

¿Como sería la Iniciativa Mérida, también conocida como Plan México?

English version coming soon...

El gobierno de México rechazó la primera propuesta del Plan México porque venía con “condiciones” de derechos humanos, aunque no habrían servido para proteger los derechos humanos frente a tanto apoyo financiero al ejercito y la policía de México. Lo siguiente describe exactamente la nueva propuesta de la Cámara de Diputados de los EUA (no ha sido aprobada por el Senado, ni firmada por George Bush), sin condiciones desagradables a los gobernantes mexicanos.

Las únicas condiciones son:1) Establecer una comisión para recibir quejas de mal conducta de las policías y del ejército. Entonces van a utilizar los nuevos recursos para violar sus derechos humanos, para habría una oficina para recibir sus quejas. 2) Autoridades mexicanas tendrían que consultar a cada rato con ONGs de derechos humanos. Se ha visto en el Plan Colombia que las autoridades no hacen caso a las ONGs y otros órganos de derechos humanos. 3) Fiscales y jueces civiles tendrían que juzgar miembros de fuerzas del ejército y de la policía federal, en lugar de ser juzgados bajo sus propios mecanismos internos. 4) Que no se use en juicios, testimonios obtenidos bajo tortura.

Hasta que la secretaria de Estado de los Estados Unidos (Secretaría de Gobernación), Condoleezza Rice, quien ayuda a encubrir la tortura sistemática del gobierno estadounidense, certifique que el gobierno de México esta tomando medidas para poder cumplir con las condiciones, el congreso de EUA “solo” daría 85% de los fondos comprometidos a México.

Dinero: El gobierno de México no recibiría dinero en efectivo, pero el Congreso estadounidense ha decidido cuanto gastaría en la Iniciativa Mérida.

  • 2008: hasta USD$470,000,000 en recursos para el gobierno mexicano.
    • Hasta USD$350,000,000 para seguridad pública y el ejército.
      • Incluye hasta USD$205,000,000 para las fuerzas armadas mexicanas.
    • Hasta USD$120,000,000 para “mejorar el estado de derecho y fortalecer instituciones civiles” (incluye reformas jurídicas y entrenamiento para policía).
    • USD$9,500,000 (no incluido en los $470 millones para México) para la Agencia estadounidense de Alcohol, Tabaco, y Armas de Fuego (ATF) para vigilar y prevenir el tráfico de armas estadounidenses a México.
  • 2009: hasta $490 millones en recursos para el gobierno mexicano (ya se aprobó $400 millones en la Cámara de Diputados)
    • Hasta USD$390,000,000 para seguridad pública y el ejército.
      • Hasta USD$120,000,000 para las fuerzas armadas mexicanas. La Cámara ya aprobó $116,500,000 bajo “financiamiento para ejércitos extranjeros” para “fortalecer la colaboración entre el ejército estadounidense y el ejército mexicano”;
      • Hasta USD$48 millones para combatir el tráfico de drogas;
      • $3 millones para establecer un registro de policías.
    • Hasta USD$100,000,000 para “mejorar el estado de derecho y fortalecer instituciones civiles” (incluye reformas jurídicas y entrenamiento para policía). La Cámara ya aprobó el mínimo de USD$73,500,000.
    • USD$9,500,000 (no incluido en los $490 millones para México) para la Agencia estadounidense de Alcohol, Tabaco, y Armas de Fuego (ATF) para vigilar y prevenir el tráfico de armas estadounidenses a México.
    • USD$1 millón (no incluido en los $490 millones) para la Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos (OACDH) de las Naciones Unidas en México.
  • 2010: USD$250 millones en recursos para el gobierno mexicano.
    • Hasta USD$40,000,000 para seguridad pública y el ejército.
      • Hasta USD$9,000,000 para las fuerzas armadas mexicanas.
    • USD$110,000,000 para “mejorar el estado de derecho y fortalecer instituciones civiles” (incluye reformas jurídicas y entrenamiento para policía).
    • USD$9,500,000 (no incluido en los $250 millones para el gobierno mexicano) para la Agencia estadounidense de Alcohol, Tabaco, y Armas de Fuego (ATF) para vigilar y prevenir el tráfico de armas estadounidenses a México.

Pero, aunque la ley de la Iniciativa prohíbe el pago en dinero en efectivo, a lo mejor algunas instituciones recibirían dinero, como son: ONGs de derechos humanos, colegios de abogados, y escuelas de derecho. También quieren aumentar programas de desarrollo de empresas pequeñas y el campo, asi programas para crear mas chamba.


El dinero pagará por recursos, armamentos, entrenamiento y el despliegue de agentes federales estadounidenses. Casi todo el equipo podría ser utilizado y compartido entre varias fuerzas militares y policíacas. Todo el equipo no conocido por las fuerzas o el gobierno de México viene con entrenamiento. La Iniciativa Mérida incluye, como equipo:

  • Equipo de vigilancia y radar. La ley dice que por un año el gobierno estadounidense regalará equipo de vigilancia sin asegurarse de que sea usado legalmente o no.
  • Equipo y entrenamiento de interdicción marítima y por tierra. Incluye:
    • Helicópteros de transporte y la habilidad de operar durante la noche. A lo mejor serían 8 helicópteros tipo Bell 412. Son para desplegar fuerzas militares muy rápidamente.
      • Llevan 1-2 personas de tripulación mas 13-14 soldados, 15 elementos en total
    • Aviones de vigilancia, a lo mejor dos. Dos opciones mencionadas son:
      • CASA CN-235-300 aviones con:
        • Habilidad de utilizar equipo de visión nocturna;
        • Dos computadoras para transmitir y recibir información de una base militar o centro de control;
        • Lugares para 57 soldados con todo su equipo o 48 paracaidistas;
        • Puede llevar 6 misiles anti-barcos, y quizás 2 torpedos tipo MK46 o misiles anti-barco tipo Exocet M-39.
      • Cessna Caravan
        • Puede tener tren de aterrizaje anfibio;
        • Puede ser utilizado como centro de control para un avión no tripulado;
        • Puede tener tres cámaras montadas debajo del avión;
        • Puede tener una arma tipo GECAL Gatling, 0.50 calibre montada en la puerta;
        • Puede tener sistemas para guerra electrónica. “Guerra electrónica” significa bloquear el uso de señales electrónicas (como radio, teléfono) del enemigo, mientras optimizar el uso de los sistemas por si mismo. También se vigilan comunicaciones electrónicas del enemigo. Significa la capacidad de “apagar” ciudades y comunidades;
        • Lleva entre 9-14 pasajeros.
  • Infraestructura y equipo de computación para vigilar y controlar ambas fronteras.
  • Redes de comunicación segura.
  • Tecnología de monitoreo “no intrusivo.” “No intrusivo” significa que la persona observada no detecta que está siendo vigilada. Ejemplos son: equipo de intervención telefónica, micrófonos parabólicos, programas para vigilar correo electrónico, etcétera.
  • Ampliación de bases de datos de inteligencia y nuevo hardware y sistemas operativos para actualizar las redes de comunicación de las agencias de inteligencia.
  • Equipo antimotines para la policía. Incluye chalecos y cascos.
  • “Mejorar la habilidad de la Secretaria de la Seguridad Publica (SSP) de hacer detectores de mentiras” -- a lo mejor significa equipo mas sofisticado y entrenamiento, pero no se especifica.
  • Equipo para investigadores criminales (detectives).
  • Equipo para vigilar el tráfico de armas ilegales.
Incluye, como entrenamiento:
  • Entrenamiento en todo el equipo regalado y en todos los sistemas nuevos.
  • Entrenamiento de seguridad pública y policía para planear y realizar operativos anti-narcos.
  • Entrenamiento de derechos humanos para policías, fiscales y guardias de prisiones.
  • Para “mejorar la profesionalidad de la policía”:
    • Entrenamiento sobre el uso de la fuerza;
    • Educación y entrenamiento en derechos humanos;
    • Entrenamiento para cuidar y documentar/registrar pruebas;
    • Aumento de la habilidad de escoger candidatos/as para ser policía.
  • Entrenamiento para investigadores criminales (detectives).
  • Entrenamiento en usar perros para detectar explosivos (policía).
  • Entrenamiento en restauración de números de serie.
Mucho entrenamiento de policía vendría de la “Academia internacional para la aplicación de la ley,” una escuela estadounidense en El Salvador. Es como la Escuela de las Américas para policías.

Otros cambios importantes:

  • Aumento de la Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, a lo mejor para homologar las normas mexicanas con las gringas y asi poder compartir inteligencia de mejor manera. El gobierno estadounidense ya vigila y registra todas las transferencias electrónicas de dinero que va y viene del extranjero.
  • En el sistema jurídico y derecho del Estado (ha sido llamado “el gringonización del sistema jurídico”):
    • Aumento de la habilidad para enjuiciar sospechosos;
    • Reforma del sistema de cárceles, incluye esfuerzos anti-maras y anti-crimen organizado;
    • Programas contra el lavado de dinero;
    • Programas de protección para testigos/victimas y restitución;
    • Entrenamiento para promover juicios transparentes.
  • Apoyo para la Procuraduria General de la República (PGR) incluye:
    • Aumento de habilidades para analizar evidencia forense;
    • Mejorar la recolección y análisis de datos;
    • Mejorar la gestión y vigilancia de casos;
    • Mejorar el funcionamiento de la inteligencia financiera;
    • Mejorar la gestión de sistemas de datos;
    • Reorganizar la gestión de recursos humanos y financieros.
  • Establecer una oficina dentro de la PGR para recibir quejas de ciudadanos sobre la conducta de la policía.
Personal estadounidense en México:
  • El dinero de la Iniciativa puede ser utilizado para mandar hasta 50 contratistas civiles a México. A lo mejor serian de empresas bélicas privadas como Blackwater, KBR o Halliburton.
  • Se despliegan agentes de la ATF a México para vigilar y prevenir el tráfico de armas estadounidenses a México.
Para mas información sobre el Plan México, por favor lee Un abecedario del Plan México.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Defense of Land and Territory: Zapatistas Take on Paramilitaries

On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rose up in arms, reclaiming 618,000 acres of land in Chiapas, Mexico. While EZLN soldiers in the countryside expropriated plantations the Zapatistas and their ancestors had toiled for generations, others invaded Chiapas' major cities to burn the land titles kept in government buildings.

Over the next couple of years, the EZLN redistributed the reclaimed land to indigenous farmers regardless of political affiliation, under one condition: that they refuse to collaborate with the government and that they never, under any circumstance, sign government documents pertaining to land ownership.

By refusing to legalize their land, Zapatistas free indigenous people from every law that was designed to rob them of their territory and natural resources. Even the ejido system (government-recognized communally held land that could not be bought nor sold) that Emiliano Zapata fought and died for was a compromise between government control over indigenous territory and traditional Mayan practices of collectively working land that belonged to everyone.

President Carlos Salinas de Gotari reformed Article 27 of the Mexican constitution in 1992 in preparation for the North American Free Trade Agreement, allowing ejidos to be bought, sold, and used as loan collateral. This was the spark that led to the zapatistas' 1994 uprising, but it has also been the government's most effective tool for carving out pieces of Zapatista territory and bringing it back under government control.

Recuperated land

Following the EZLN's uprising and seizure of vast quantities of land, the Mexican government bought out the former owners of the recuperated land. It then offered free, no-strings-attached land titles to the Zapatistas and other indigenous peoples on the land in an attempt to bring the land back within the government's domain. After all, owner-less recuperated land cannot be bought, sold, or used as loan collateral, but thanks to President Salinas' constitutional reform, government-recognized ejidos can. Legalizing land, even if it means that zapatistas and their allies are its official owners, opens up the possibility that the extremely impoverished indigenous landowners will sell their land or use it as collateral for loans they cannot repay.

The EZLN saw through the government's strategy and encouraged occupants of recuperated lands to resist legalization. However, some non-Zapatistas who had promised the EZLN they wouldn't legalize, reneged and signed papers making them the legal owners of the recuperated lands on which they lived and worked. Wooed by politicians' empty promises of community development projects, some zapatistas left the movement to join other indigenous organizations and legalize their land.

In other cases, indigenous organizations have invaded Zapatista lands, and rather than communally working the land with the Zapatistas, they block Zapatistas' access to the land and its resources and work with the government to legalize it, excluding Zapatista families from the land titles. Local politicians encourage this behavior by offering to pay all expenses in the process of legalizing Zapatista lands.

The government has thrown its full support behind the carving up of recuperated land by arming, protecting, and collaborating with paramilitary organizations that invade autonomous lands and terrorize their inhabitants. The most infamous instance occurred in Acteal on December 22, 1997, when paramilitaries massacred 45 members of the pacifist Catholic organization Las Abejas. All but nine of the victims were women and children. The attack occurred while a police patrol stationed 200 meters (218 yards) away did nothing to intervene—on the contrary, the EZLN intercepted government radio communications that indicated the police were there to provide backup for the paramilitaries. When police finally did arrive on the scene after the violence had ended and the perpetrators had fled, they were under high-level orders to “pick up [the bodies] before the journalists get here.”

Paramilitary organizations

The international backlash that followed the massacre closed the book on classically defined paramilitaries in Chiapas. Paramilitary organizations like the Anti-Zapatista Revolutionary Indigenous Movement (MIRA) and Peace and Justice folded under international scrutiny. A more sophisticated, twenty-first century paramilitary organization rose from their ashes: the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC).

Founded in May 1998, just months after the Acteal massacre, the OPDDIC has a paramilitary heart and a civilian face. The Mexican government recognizes it as a registered NGO. Most of its members are unarmed—they provide the political legitimacy necessary for the organization to openly work with the government. Its founder and leader is Pedro Chulin Jimenez, former local congressman and ex-head of the paramilitary organization MIRA. MIRA was notorious for its armed invasions of Zapatista communities, forcing residents from their homes and preventing their return.

Presented as an alternative to the Zapatistasas an organization that respects the law and works with the government instead of against it in order to win indigenous rights - the OPDDIC promotes the appropriation of more lands for indigenous campesinos. It offers to help indigenous people become the legal owners of their very own piece of land - land that was previously recuperated by the EZLN. To receive the OPDDIC's help, indigenous campesinos become members of the organization. The OPDDIC then works with the government to legalize the members’ land.

Leaked minutes from OPDDIC-government meetings show how OPDDIC leaders and government officials plan the legalization of recuperated lands with the intention of excluding and displacing Zapatistas who occupy and work the land in question. Once recuperated lands are legalized under the ownership of OPDDIC-affiliated campesinos, all other occupants whose names were intentionally left off the land titles have three options:

  • Leave their organizations and join the OPDDIC.
  • Pay the OPDDIC a monthly fee to remain on the land.
  • Face constant harassment, hostilities, and violence perpetuated by OPDDIC members and police.

The government supports the OPDDIC's civilian side as well as its paramilitary side. OPDDIC members often cruise Zapatista territory in government vehicles driven by police officers. Ex-OPDDIC members have publicly testified to receiving weapons from the government on behalf of the organization. OPDDIC members enter and leave federal military bases, presumably for military training.

Terrorizing Zapatistas

The government also provides hands-on support to help the OPDDIC terrorize Zapatistas. On September 11, 2007, fifty to sixty OPDDIC members armed with machetes, clubs, and .22 caliber pistols attacked a group of nine Zapatistas alongside a highway near the hotly contested community of Bolon Ajaw. Six escaped, but the three who didn't were brutally beaten. During the beatings OPDDIC member Jeronimo Urbina Lopez shot Zapatista Miguel Jimenez Alvaro in the chin. OPDDIC members took the three seriously injured Zapatistas to the Agua Azul jail, where police took them into custody, wrote down the prisoners' names, and took their photos as OPDDIC members continued to threaten them, saying, “We're going to kill you,” and “...we're going to rape [your wives and daughters] and make them our women.”

Paramilitary violence and land invasions present the Zapatistas with a complex dilemma: they are designed to provoke a violent reaction, therefore justifying federal military intervention in the region to disarm the Zapatistas. Always the innovators, Zapatistas have found other ways to defend themselves.

When OPDDIC and police kidnapped the three Bolon Ajaw Zapatistas, Zapatista bases of support responded by felling trees onto roads and cutting the electricity to Agua Azul. This prevented the prisoners' transfer to a Palenque prison and shut down Agua Azul, a tourist hot-spot owned and operated by the OPDDIC. The government was forced to negotiate with the Zapatistas' Good Government Council and release the prisoners.

Other Campaign

The Other Campaign, initiated by the Zapatistas in 2005, has also rallied in defense of recuperated land. Responding to the Zapatistas' call for a global Campaign in Defense of Land and Territory, the Other Campaign led a successful international boycott against the coffee chain Cafe la Selva and the Union de Ejidos de la Selva (UES), the cooperative that produces its coffee.

The Other Campaign initiated the boycott because UES coffee producers took advantage of the enormous displacement caused by a 1995 military offensive and claimed land Zapatistas had fled as their own, making themselves the legal owners. When Zapatistas returned to their homes, they found that their land now belonged to UES members. UES members visited Zapatista homes armed with machetes, trying to scare them into fleeing once again. Thanks to the boycott and protests, UES members retreated from the affected community and Zapatistas reclaimed their homes.

The Chiapas-based Center for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations (CAPISE) has also joined the Campaign in Defense of Land and Territory. It sends brigades of national and international observers to threatened Zapatista communities to document threats and violence in the hopes that their presence and scrutiny will deter further violence and invasions. The brigades persist despite paramilitary threats—the OPDDIC has threatened to rape female brigadistas on numerous occasions.

The Zapatista uprising that inspired the world to action in 1994 was rooted in indigenous land rights. The land Zapatistas fought, bled, and died for is now under attack. The EZLN's strength has always been national and international solidarity, not its weapons. What remains to be seen is if the international community is strong enough and willing to defend the Zapatistas from the most sophisticated and complex attack to date.

A similar version of this article was published in issue #29 of Left Turn magazine.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

APPO and PRIistas Clash in Zaachila, Oaxaca

by Eliza Ruiz Jaimes, translated by Kristin Bricker
Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca, June 21, 2008

Supporters of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) were hit with rocks thrown by a group of thugs hired by the municipal president of Zaachila, Noe Pérez Martínez, as well as municipal police, who used stones, firecrackers, and firearms.

With barricades, residents prevented the state governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), from entering the community, where he was supposed to tour.

The protesters accused Natalio Pérez Tomás--father of the current municipal president--of having fired a weapon: "He fired directly at the crowd, fortunately he didn't hurt anyone." The tension between the groups was brought under control after assistant Secretary of State Joaquín Rodríguez Palacios' appeal to the APPO to control itself.

The governor had to cancel the signing of the State-Municipal agreement and the start of public works in the municipality. Various people were wounded during the violence, including Asrael Torres Carmona, 71 years old, who believes that the repressive force is concentrated in the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI in its Spanish initials).

In agreement with Jorge Aragón Martínez, the assistant secretary admitted that the PRIista group was the one who initiated the confrontation. According to him no police force intervened in the clashes, despite the fact that on Thursday dozens of members of the Police Unit for Special Operations (UPOE in its Spanish initials) roamed the streets and installed metal fences in an attempt to impede the demonstrators' passage.

In response, the main roads into downtown Zaachila were closed with burning logs, tires, and rearranged metal fences, grabbed by residents and members of David "El Alebrije" Venegas' collective, who was present during the protest against the governor.

The governor's event was scheduled for 12:00pm yesterday, but it couldn't happen due to the protests of the residents with Zapoteca roots. They met in and around the Municipal Palace in order to keep Ruiz Ortiz from appearing in the community.

The APPO supporters said the government was overconfident because Jorge "El Chucky" Franco Vargas, the current leader of the PRI, arrived to put down the protest against the new municipal leader of the PRI, "but here we aren't going to let in any repressors."

The bandanas returned to cover the faces of protest. The stones returned to be defensive weapons together with firecrackers and chants against URO. The demonstrators warned that the fact that they "tolerate" the government that Pérez Martínez represents doesn't mean that they forgive Ruiz Ortiz's actions in their community. "The struggle continues."

The people who were wounded with cuts and scrapes after the violence in la Villa are considering bringing charges. The residents' assembly will determine the next steps and the stance against the ruler. According to the APPO, Pérez Martínez doesn't represent them: "we will go before the State Congress to request the removal of that repressor," they warned.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Counterinsurgency operations against indigenous communities in resistance intensify

Fray Bartolome de Las Casas
Human Rights Center

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas on June 11, 2008
Press Release 13

Counterinsurgency operations against indigenous communities in resistance intensify
  • Military and police accompanied by civilians enter indigenous communities in Chiapas and Guerrero.
  • Aggressions against residents and persecution of members of dissident social organizations during the incursions are reported
Since the beginning of this year, this Human Rights Center has received denunciations of military and police incursions in various communities in Chiapas and Guerrero in a logic of counterinsurgency owed to the fact that said operations operate in a manner of mixed military and police forces along with civilian actors from the same communities, establishing deployment tactics in the territories inhabited by a civilian population organized around just social demands. The testimonies of the assaulted residents are clear and permit the documentation of the harassment of the civilian population, by means of unlawful entry into properties, physical and verbal aggressions, as well as videotaping and photographing of people and places in the assaulted communities.

The establishment of the Mexican army's operations attempt to be justified under the pretext of “detecting Marijuana fields, Arms, and Clandestine Landing strips.” However, the already numerous documented raids allow us to see the heightened counterinsurgency plan by means of the discrediting of the communities and organizations in the public opinion with the objective of “earning the civilian population's support of the government”, moreover, establishing a climate of psychological harassment by means of territorial deployment and reconnaissance, which permits them to also observe the response of the civilian population to such operations.

It should be emphasized that these military incursions are attended by various federal, state, and local actors such as: the Federal Agency of Investigations (AFI in its Spanish initials), Federal and State Public Ministries, the State Preventive Police (PEP in its Spanish initials), and Civilian Residents from the region.

We believe that the series of events are not isolated incidents and that they correspond to a logic of offensives against indigenous populations, particularly those who are in resistance. Those which this Human Rights Center has received information about are the following:
  • Sunday, April 27, 2008, before sunrise, according to direct testimony from the inhabitants of the Community of Cruztón, Venustiano Carranza municipality, Chiapas, a police operation was carried out by approximately 500 police, who were guided by seven armed civilians from the Teopisca municipality and from the Ejido Nuevo Leon in the Venustiano Carranza municipality; seemingly to execute arrest warrants against Cruztón residents.
  • May 19 and 20, members of the Mexican Army accompanied by various police forces entered the community of San Jeronimo Tulija in the official municipality of Chilon and the autonomous rebel Zapatista municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon, where the residents witnessed the unlawful entry of three residences.
    The military operation was made up of a convoy of at least 11 vehicles, among which was documented the presence of forces from the 18th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army, the State Preventive Police (PEP), and the Federal Agency of Investigations (AFI), all of them guided by a resident of the community. It's worth emphasizing that it was evident that the tactical movement was set up in order to surround Zapatista community installations where meeting places and health assistance were located, and also directed at the location of the Zapatista autonomous authorities of said community.
  • May 22 in the 28 de Junio and San José, Venustiano Carranza municipality, members of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization-Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC in its Spanish initials) denounced the presence and installation of Mexican Army checkpoints in the neighborhoods of these communities.
    The information we received reports that that day in the morning members of the armed forces began to patrol in 11 communities where the OCEZ-RC has a presence, which are: Santa Rufina Las Perlas, 28 de junio, Nuevo San José La Grandeza, San José La Grandeza 3ra Ampliación, Guadalupe La Cuchilla, Mesa El Porvernir, Las Delicias, El Puerto, Nuevo Paraíso, Laguna Verde, San Caralampio Chavín.
  • On May 23 the residents of the Cruz Palenque, Usipá, Retorno Miguel Alemán y Nuevo Limar communities, in the Tila municipality, expressed their concern about the possible armed incursion of the Mexican Army because in the afternoon they discovered that the Mexican Army began to install intermittent checkpoints in the zone taking positions that altered the population.
  • On May 23 the residents of the Carrizal and Río Florido communities, in the Ocosingo municipality, reported low flybys by the Mexican Armed Forces and on the 26th of the same month, flybys happened again in these communities and also in the Chalam del Carmen community. In these three communities there are members of the OCEZ-FNLS organization.
  • On May 27 in the neighborhoods of the ejido “Nuevo Chamizal,” in the Ocosingo municipality, the presence of members of the Mexican Army, agents from the Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR in its Spanish initials), from the State Preventive Police (PEP), and civilians were reported, supposedly in order to destroy marijuana fields in Zapatista territory. However, the information received by this Center reports that there are no EZLN members in the zone of the raid.
  • On the same May 27, an article published in La Jornada the next day reported the eviction of the towns El Semental and Nuevo Salvador Allende, located in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. It was reported that the Federal Attorney General's Office for Environmental Protection (Profepa in its Spanish abbreviation) participated in the operation, supported by the Federal Police, the Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR), and members of the Mexican Army. They justified the operation in the name of the Zero Tolerance for Clandestine Tree-felling program.
  • On May 29 residents of the El Carrizal community, Ocosingo municipality, reported this Center that a convoy comprised of 9 federal army buses and 3 State Preventive Police (PEP) trucks, accompanied also by Ocosingo municipal police, tried to enter said community. However, upon noticing it, women from the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ) of the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS in its Spanish initials) formed a human circle that impeded their passage. Rio florido, Chuina
    Members of the army justified themselves saying that they were on their way to lands in the neighboring municipality of Oxchuc, where they had supposedly located marijuana fields, insisting that the operation was accompanied by members of the Public Ministry, the Ocosingo City Council, and personnel from the State Human Rights Commission (CEDH in its Spanish initials). However, none of these agreed to identify themselves to the population.
  • On June 4 the “El Camino del Futuro” Good Government Council headquartered in the La Garrucha caracol, Ocosingo, denounced the incursion of a military convoy that was accompanied by municipal police, state public security, and the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) in the La Garracha, Rancho Alegre (known as Chapuyil), Hermenegildo Galeana, San Alejandro.
    In this action, qualified as a provocation against the EZLN, soldiers assigned to the Tonina, Patiwitz, and San Quintin barracks. However, after the rebuff of the military incursion, members of the Mexican Army warned that they would return in 15 days in order to enter the communities which resisted this time.
    This military incursion, simultaneously carried out in different communities on the perimeter of caracol III “Resistencia Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer,” appears to be particularly serious given that it puts peace in serious peril owed to the fact that it is a provocation of the Mexican government towards the EZLN, with whom it supposedly maintains a ceasefire in which it was agreed to not carry out military actions against said insurgent organization, being that the La Garrucha community is the headquarters of the “El Camino del futuro” Good Government Council, as well as an emblematic space for the Zapatista struggle. Therefor we assure again that said military operations are framed in the Counterinsurgency Plan.
On the other hand it is important to observe and pay attention to the denunciations that various organizations and communities in Guerrero State have made to denounce the incursion of the Mexican Army under patterns of action similar to those which we've recorded in Chiapas.

  • In August 2007 the Human Rights Center of La Montana “Tlachinollan” denounced that members of the Mexican Army, presumed agents from the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) and from the Ministerial Investigative Police (PIM), remained active in the Nahual indigenous communities of Temalacatzingo and Tlaquilcingo, in the La Montana region, warning the population that they would carry out searches of their houses.
    On August 11, 2007, ten PIM vehicles entered Tlaquilcingo, and on August 15 some one hundred soldiers erected a checkpoint very close to Temalacatzingo; afterwards, at approximately 1 am, they arrived at the community in their vehicles and, without consulting the community authorities, established a camp on the edge of the town, within the territory of Community Goods. They remained there for three days, searching and interrogating the neighbors at a checkpoint that they established in the route that connects Temalacatzingo with Ixcamilpa.
  • On April 28, 2008, the Regional Coordinating Council of Community Authorities (CRAC in its Spanish initials) demanded that the Mexican Army, the Federal Agency of Investigations (AFI), and the Ministerial Investigative Police (PIM) leave the communities that requested the departure of the Army and the police that set up checkpoints at the entrances of El Limon, El Camalote, Te Cruz, Lomotepec, and Barranca de Guadalupe, in Ayutla weeks ago.
    In this respect, various regional commanders of the Community Police (in la Costa Chica and Montaña, Guerrero) announced that they would also support members of the Me'phaa communities and closely watch the moves of the Army and the AFI. Both forces have also carried out operations in Colombia de Guadalupe, Malinaltepec municipality, in search of supposed kidnappers.
    Throughout 2008, the denunciations regarding military incursions in the Sierra in Guerrero have been constant. The climate of polarization in the southeast regions of the country resembles past decades where the persecution of organizations and communities in resistance was exacerbated to the point of provoking confrontations in order to reactivate the unresolved internal armed conflict.
This Human Rights Center expresses its concern for the clear intensification of the Counterinsurgency Plan against indigenous communities, particularly in those where members of peasant and indigenous organizations who are organized around just demands have a presence. The above puts social stability, respect of Human Rights, and communities in serious danger.

As a Human Rights Center we remind the Mexican government that Democracy requires full respect for Human Rights in general and in this case the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and not what is happening how, where paying attention to the peoples' demands means the implementation of military operations that tend to destroy the will to demand social justice.
As has been demonstrated since 1994, the mobilization of civil society has been a fundamental component in defense of the communities faced with attempted military incursions. For this reason we make a call to be alert during this worsening of the Counterinsurgency Plan against organized indigenous communities.

Translated by Kristin Bricker
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Corporate Media Lies; We Can Still Beat Plan Mexico

The news that Plan Mexico passed without human rights conditions (meaning it would be a slam dunk for Bush and Calderon) that's been circulating around Mexican corporate media is simply incorrect. It seems as though when Calderon made his statement in Spain celebrating the passage of Plan Mexico without conditions, he was either misinformed about the US legislative process or he is posturing because the conditions is what makes the Mexican legislature and his own cabinet say they will certainly reject Plan Mexico. He knows that the human rights conditions are useless and unenforceable and won't change a thing about his "iron fist" way of governing. So if he can convince Mexican corporate press and politicians that Plan Mexico is coming without conditions, they won't oppose it.

Below is an excellent explanation of what the heck is going on with Plan Mexico in Congress. It cuts through all the corporate media misinformation, and as an added bonus it provides a preview of what a Mexico under Plan Mexico would look like a few years down the road by examining Plan Mexico's inspiration in action, Plan Colombia.
from the Center for International Policy's Colombia Program

This morning’s El Tiempo has the first solid official statistics for Colombian land area under coca cultivation in 2007. The news is not good. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, whose 2006 figure of 78,000 hectares (193,000 acres) was half the U.S. government’s estimate, detected 98,000 hectares (242,000 acres) in 2007 - 20,000 hectares or 26% more coca. While some of this increase likely owes to methodological adjustments, the figures make clear that narcotrafficking is one area where Colombia has made no progress since the “dark days” of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The UNODC data are not public yet, but will eventually appear here. No final word yet on when the U.S. government will release its (normally higher) coca-cultivation estimates for 2007.

* On Tuesday, the House of Representatives debated (go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r110:H10JN8-0043:) and approved (go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r110:H10JN8-0049:) a bill (go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.06028:) authorizing expenditures for the “Mérida Initiative” aid package to Mexico and Central America. It is important to note that this is not the bill that will send any money to Mexico and Central America. That is a separate bill: the 2008 supplemental appropriations bill (go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.02642:), which would provide piles of money for Iraq and Afghanistan, includes the Mérida aid in a few pages. The bill that passed the House this week, by contrast, only authorizes this use of funds for Mexico and Central America, laying out a statement of policy and adding provisions to permanent law.

In Congress, it is considered good practice to “authorize” appropriations like this before laying out money for them. But it doesn’t happen all the time; where foreign aid is concerned, in fact, “unauthorized” appropriations have been the norm since the mid-1980s. Though the House made the effort to pass authorizing legislation, the Mérida Initiative aid will be no exception: the Senate has no similar authorizing bill, so the bill that the House passed on Tuesday is unlikely ever to become law.

The supplemental appropriations bill that will actually “write the checks,” on the other hand, is on a separate track: the House and Senate both passed it in May, and now they are working out the differences in the two bills. This bill would give Mexico less money, and include stronger human rights conditions on military aid, than what this week’s House authorization bill recommends. The Mexican government has loudly complained about these human-rights conditions, especially the more specifically worded ones in the Senate’s version of the appropriations bill.

The New York Times reported - very briefly - on Wednesday that the House and Senate had worked out their differences and rewritten the conditions in a way that leaves them “intact, although softened.” The new text has not been made publicly available, but would appear here (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.02642:) when it does.

* Meanwhile, back in Colombia: another unpleasant chapter has been opened in the two-year-old scandal surrounding Jorge Noguera. For more than three years, Noguera headed President Uribe’s powerful presidential intelligence service (DAS). Today, he stands accused of using his position to help paramilitary leaders, including passing them lists of labor leaders and activists to be killed. For the second time, Noguera’s lawyers have managed to get him out of prison on a slim technicality (something involving the fact that a delegate of the prosecutor-general, and not the Prosecutor General himself, filed the charges - look it up yourself and try to understand it).

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Zapatistas and the War on Drugs

In the context of Plan Mexico, the US government's material support for Mexican president Felipe Calderón's deadly war on drugs which has already claimed over 4,100 lives, it's worth taking a look at where all that new military hardware will go in the south. Despite having never caught a Zapatista with a single bag of pot (or a bottle of beer, for that matter), the government continues to use the war on drugs as an excuse to terrorize Zapatista communities.

The New Government Provocation Against Zapatismo
by Luis Hernández Navarro
La Jornada, June 10, 2008
translation by Kristin Bricker

Since the January 1994 insurrection, various administrations have wanted to associate the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN in its Spanish initials) with drug trafficking. They've never been able to demonstrate such a link, but they try time and time again.

This past June 4 the tired old story played out again. Only this time the threat is greater than in the past. On that date over 200 agents from the federal Army, the Attorney General's office, and state and municipal police, with their faces painted, entered the Zapatista territory of La Garrucha with the pretext of looking for marijuana plants. Hundreds of residents from the Hermenegildo Galeana and San Alejando communities fended them off with machetes, clubs, and slingshots.

Zapatista communities prohibit the cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs. It's not even permitted to drink or sell alcohol there. This isn't a new fact. The rebel commanders have made this law public since the beginning of the armed uprising. The measure remains in effect under the civil authorities who have been put in charge of the autonomous municipalities and the good government councils. The same can't be said for the PRIista [translator's note: members of the Institutional Revolution Party which ruled Mexico with an iron fist for over 70 years] communities, where illegal drugs are grown in collusion with the police.

In a communique directed at then-president Ernesto Zedillo, dated February 10, 1995, one day after the military offensive that tried to detain, by means of treachery, Subcomandante Marcos, the insurgents stated: "we want to tell you the truth, if it's what you don't know: the criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers are you, they are the same people who make up your cabinet, they are your very own soldiers who traffic drugs, who force the indigenous peasants to plant marijuana and other narcotics. You haven't realized this, Mr. Zedillo? Yes, we Zapatistas, because we live amongst the people, are the same people who have fought against the planting of drugs, against the drug trafficking that your very own soldiers do and have done within the territories we've controlled."

Unfounded, the accusation has been repeated year after year. In 2004, the newspaper Reforma published the news that "on average, every two days members of the Mexican Army enter Zapatista territory in order to destroy marijuana and poppy fields which in the past year have considerably increased in number." Days afterwards, Gen. Jorge Isaac Jiménez García, commander of military operations in the zone, denied that the marijuana fields belonged to EZLN sympathizers.

The police-military provocation this past June 4 against the rebels is not an isolated incident. It forms part of and endless aggression. The government harassment against the insurgents has been constant since the arrival of Gov. Juan Sabines in 2006.

Various peasant groups close to the state government try to take possession of the lands that Zapatista support bases have occupied and worked since 1994. Paramilitary groups such as the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC) harass the autonomous municipalities. The Army has established new positions, made its presence felt in the region, and carried out unusual movements of a clearly intimidating character.

Jaime Martínez Veloz, representative of the Chiapas government on the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation (Cocopa), has explained very clearly the agrarian dimension of the current anti-Zapatista offensive. "The Mexican government," he said to the International Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH in its Spanish initials), "I am convinced that in the attitude of trying to confront the EZLN with peasants and indigenous people in the zone, gave land titles to people in need of land, but it entitled them as ejidatarios [trans. note: communal land owners] of the same lands that the Zapatistas occupied. It made them ejidatarios, and obviously it creates a conflict. In the same area there's those who occupy the land and those who have a title to it. This was already happening in the first years, '95, '96... and the repercussions of that, well, now they're surfacing."

Curiously, those responsible for agrarian, rural, and tourist policy in Juan Sabines' government are people like Jorge Constantino Kanter, representative of the plantation owners and ranchers affected by the Zapatista eruption, or Roberto Albores Gleason, son of ex-governor Roberto Albores, who committed countless human rights violations.

The June 4 operation was carried out in the place were just a short while before Subcomandante Marcos was. By the looks of it, his presence in La Garrucha worried the governmental authorities. The spokesperson of the rebel group hasn't appeared before the public for months, and his silence makes the intelligence services nervous. But the red flags that warn of the increasing governmental intolerance when faced with the peaceful civil initiative of the rebels have been raised for some time. En route to the first Continental Gathering of the Peoples of America [sic: Indigenous Peoples of America] in Vicam, Sonora, from October 11-14, 2007, police and military checkpoints detained a convoy that was transporting the Zapatista delegates, forcing the indigenous commanders who were going to attend the event to return to Chiapas.

An opinion poll recently carried out by Felipe Calderón's administration demonstrates that, in addition to the broad public support for the anti-drug campaign, despite the passing years, 26 percent of those surveyed support the Zapatistas. This is not a negligible percentage under the current circumstances.

The new governmental effort to make out the EZLN to be an accomplice in organized crime attempts to take advantage of the wave of anti-narco sentiment in order to try to erode the current positive opinion of the rebels and deal it a repressive blow. A resolute blow with a long history. Does the federal government really lack unresolved conflicts so much that it needs to enflame one that it hasn't been able to resolve for years?
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

From the Acteal Massacre to the Merida Initiative

by Rafael Landerreche, translation and footnotes by Kristin Bricker
La Jornada - November 10, 2007

Las Abejas from Chenalhó is an organization that professes non-violent principles. Time and time again they've declared that they don't want revenge for the Acrtal massacre, but that they won't give up their demand for justice so that incidents like that don't happen again.

It couldn't be a better time to review some tragic lessons from the Acteal case, since an agreement with the United States government known officially as the Merida Initiative is being cooked up right now.

The Acteal massacre almost ten years ago was the result of an operation meticulously planned and executed by a series of concentric circles, each one successively more distant from the scene of the crime than the one before it, but each one at the same time closer and closer to the true circles of power. In the first place, in the center of the concentric circles and in the material execution of the murders, are the armed indigenous people who attacked the Acteal chapel that December 22 while Las Abejas were fasting and praying for peace in their municipality. Immediately after this circle were the municipal council and the Chenalhó members of the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI in its Spanish initials), whose municipal president ended up in jail together with the people who carried out the murders. From here we can arrive at the Attorney General, although minimizing mention of the PRI.

The next circle is made up of the state Public Security forces and consequently the Chiapas state government. Their complicity with the people who carried out the massacre was very obvious; anyone who takes the trouble to review the testimony from the trial will be convinced of their evident participation. The height of this complicity is apparent in the presence of a state Public Security unit which was stationed a few meters from where Las Abejas were being massacred during the almost six hours in which the shooting lasted. Finding it impossible to cover up or deny this fact, the authorities had no other option but to affirm that those in charge of public security were guilty of negligence. From here we arrive at the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH in its Spanish initials).[1]

The third circle was a little more concealed than the one before it, because the Mexican Army was careful to not show itself in such a crude manner as the police did. It was careful to never appear officially as the army, and when uniformed individuals or people with military training who had participated in the training or arming of the people who carried out the massacre surfaced, it had to do with the institutional connection with the Army by means of the not-so-subtle dossier which confirmed that said individuals were discharged or on leave (sic). But even though the Army might deny its relationship with these individuals, it can't deny its relation to the Manual of non-conventional warfare. The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center has demonstrated the manual's relation to the Acteal operation.

The last circle consists of the military and security apparatus of the United States which advises the Mexican Army.

The identity of the people who carried out the massacre is defined by its relation to these concentric circles. The uncovered relationship with the Army demands the logic and need to call them very clearly paramilitary groups. Inversely, the entire strategy of the government and its co-conspirators, from the Attorney General in 1998 to Héctor Aguilar Camín in 2007[2], consists in denying, covering up, or disguising the relationship between the first circle and the others; in this way those in first circle are tamely defined as "civilian self-defense groups."

Beyond these cover-up attempts are the tracks left by the murders. One in particular is of supreme importance: the brutality and sadism with which the victims were killed, particularly the pregnant mothers.[3] People in the government recognized this and for this reason tried to cover it up, just like they did with the dead bodies. On October 27, Aída Hernández Castillo recounted in La Jornada how they wanted to get a favorable report from the Social Anthropology Research and Superior Studies Center (CIESAS in its Spanish initials) and how a group of anthropologists maintained that that type of violence had nothing to do with community conflicts, that it didn't have anything to do with the Tzotzil culture, but rather with the "culture of counterinsurgency that has its roots above all in the training centers for special forces in Central America and the United States."

There is no doubt that many Mexican soldiers studied in the School of the Americas; apparently there is not the same certainty as far as their training in the Kaibil School.[4] Curiously, neither the Mexican government nor the army has denied it. And at the beginning of this year the Chiapan Cuarto Poder published an odd report about the kaibil school, where it was straight out confirmed that "53 soldiers from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua took course number 67 in the Kaibil School."

Ten years after the Acteal massacre, Felipe Calderón's government tries to impose an agreement with President Bush on the country so that he would bestow upon Mexico, amongst other things, military guidance in questions of security. With precedents like Acteal and others that we've cited, there are more than enough reasons to be worried. Therefore, getting to the bottom of what happened in Acteal is important not only for the Las Abejas in Chenalhó, but also for all Mexicans.

Rafael Landerreche is the former coordinator of the Analysis and Diffusion Department of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center. He now works in an indigenous education project in the Chenalhó municipality.

Notes
1. The CNDH is the government-funded but theoretically independent human rights watchdog in Mexico. It has been accused both of complicity with the government and ineffectiveness.

2. John Ross reports that Héctor Aguilar Camín is "a high profile journalist and author...(he has his own late night show on Televisa) whose three-part series 'Return to Acteal' published in Nexos, the glossy highbrow monthly he co-edits, seeks to debunk the Zapatista 'legend' that the 'mal gobierno' (bad government) was responsible for the murders of the Abejas. Aguilar Camin was the house intellectual during the reigns of Carlos Salinas (1988-94) and Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) and has had a continued presence under PANista Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and his successor Felipe Calderon. 'Aguilar Camin always serves the princes,' sneers [Luis] Hernandez Navarro, op ed editor at the left daily La Jornada.

"Aguilar Camin's lengthy chronicle not only redeems Zedillo, who now heads Yale's Institute for Globalization Studies, but also neglects overwhelming evidence of his government's involvement in the events of December 22nd, 1997, instead ascribing the cause of the massacre to long latent 'inter-communal' and religious disputes that he suggests are inherent in Highland Maya culture and which were exacerbated by the Zapatista uprising."

3. During the Acteal massacre, paramilitaries murdered pregnant women and cut open their wombs to rip out and mutilate their fetuses.

4. Kaibiles are a special operations force of the Guatemalan military. They are infamous for their savagery and brutality. They are responsible for human rights abuses and various massacres that took place during Guatemala's Dirty War. They have a commando school called the Kaibil School. Kaibiles have trained Mexican soldiers and possibly paramilitaries, and Zapatistas report seeing them in Chiapas with Mexican soldiers. Mexico's ministry of defense also reports that Kaibil deserters have trained the Zetas, a group of ex-special forces from the Mexican military who now work as hitmen for the Gulf drug cartel.
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Friday, June 6, 2008

The Indypendent: Congress Approves Plan Mexico

An updated version of my Plan Mexico article appears in the current issue of The Indypendent. If you're in NYC, pick up a free copy.

Congress Approves Plan Mexico

By Kristin Bricker
From the June 6, 2008 issue | Posted in International | Email this article

NAFTA + Homeland Security = Mega Arms Deal

The U.S. Congress recently approved Plan Mexico, also known as the Mérida Initiative, dealing a potentially deadly blow to Mexican activists and indigenous communities. If signed into law, Plan Mexico would provide resources, equipment, and training to the Mexican government, police, and military. President Bush’s original proposal requested $1.4 billion over a period of three years. However, Tim Rieser, aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, says that three years won’t be enough, confirming what many activists suspected: Plan Mexico, like the War on Drugs, is designed to continue indefinitely.

Read more...
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

LASC Position on the Merida Initiative

As Congress enters the final stages to approve the Merida Initiative, an aid package to Mexico and Central America that seeks to further militarize the region under the guise of the U.S.’s “war on drugs/war on terror,” we find manifold reasons to stand in opposition:

1) Money for Central America through the Merida Initiative would mark a significant increase in funding for military/police equipment and training in the region at a time when the need is for anti-poverty and crime-prevention programs.

The Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, builds on the troubling model of Plan Colombia, which has poured billions of dollars into a failed military approach to combating drugs while doing little to address rural poverty and urban unemployment. Central America has already become a satellite for U.S. military and police training in Latin America, despite the poor human rights records of some governments in the region. With the opening of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in 2005, El Salvador—already the second largest recipient of military training in the region—became the hub of police training. The ILEA has the capacity to train 1500 students per year, more than the current Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation, also known as the SOA. U.S. officials refuse to acknowledge the corruption, misconduct and human rights violations committed by the Salvadoran police. To the contrary, the Merida Initiative now proposes to further support ILEA and further equip those police. Meanwhile, the Initiative wholly ignores the root problems that continue to compel regional involvement in drug trafficking—poverty and unemployment.

2) The Merida Initiative would further threaten human rights by supporting repression of the rights to free speech and protest. The money from the U.S. would be an open invitation for the Mexican and Central American governments to continue using “iron fist” and anti-terrorism laws to crack down on legitimate social movements.

Over the last decade, Mexican police and military personnel have repeatedly committed human rights violations in attempt to silence civil dissent. Taking the most recent example, in 2006 security forces responded to civil society protest in Oaxaca with hundreds of arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, and over 20 assassinations. Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations have expressed concern that Merida Initiative aid for Mexico's military and police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights violations.

Meanwhile, an “anti-terrorism” law passed by the Salvadoran legislature in 2006 uses language that, like the Iron Fist laws implemented in other Latin American countries, is very vague, leaving them open to a wide variety of repressive applications. The Salvadoran government has already used these laws to further criminalize protest tactics commonly used by social movements. The US Ambassador to El Salvador has expressed explicit support for police crackdowns, condoning the use of police force in protecting US trade interests. Through funding the ILEA – in addition to other police training programs in Central America and the Caribbean – the Merida Initiative would legitimize and justify such crackdowns . Vague human rights provisions in the bill would not change this reality.

Finally, there is evidence that the countries receiving aid from the Merida Initiative are already working to militarize their police forces. The separation between police and military in El Salvador and Guatemala, the top two Central American recipients of Merida Initiative aid, has declined dramatically in the years since Peace Accords led to the demilitarization of police in those countries. There has also been a resurgence of death squad-style murders, some linked to the police, in both Guatemala and El Salvador.

3) The Initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking.

Military interdiction efforts have a "balloon" effect. In Colombia, U.S. military efforts to stop coca production and trafficking in key locations have simply shifted production and trafficking to new locations, causing the number of coca-producing states to jump from 8 to 24 over the course of Plan Colombia. The Merida Initiative would likely have a parallel effect on drug trafficking, simply diverting trafficking routes from one place to another and forcing cartels to become more sophisticated.

Military interdiction efforts fail because they ignore a root cause of the problem: U.S. demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug trafficking a lucrative business. Colombia has taught us that so long as demand remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution will fail. Even the right-wing RAND Corporation has concluded that far-flung attempts to stop drugs at their source is 23 times less cost effective than domestic drug treatment at home. While Merida proposes another step down the failed supply-side path, no parallel funds are being destined to state-side drug demand reduction programs.

4) Programs like the Merida Initiative have a worrisome lack of oversight and transparency.

Congress has not been given sufficient information about how the Central American and Mexican police will utilize the funding included for the region in the Merida Initiative. The examples of the ILEA and the SOA are instructive, in that officials at these institutions have actually blocked availability to basic information. Human rights groups that have sought to monitor the SOA and the ILEA have been denied documentation, such as course descriptions and names of students and instructors. Though backers of these military and police training programs promise conditions will be placed on the funds, given the history of poor oversight of such programs there is no guarantee this will occur.

In addition, the process in Congress for assessing the Merida Initiative was rushed and unclear, preventing opposition voices from making themselves heard. By including the Merida Initiative in the Emergency Supplemental bill to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, promoters of the initiative short-circuited the normal process of going first through authorization and then through appropriations, preventing all sides and viewpoints to be heard and considered.

5) US military and police training contributes to violence rather than diminishing it.

Ample evidence gathered by SOA Watch and other human rights groups demonstrates that US training increases the level of official and extrajudicial violence in Latin America. There is no reason to believe that any of the structural problems have been addressed when it comes to police training. Reports from Mexico indicate that over 200 soldiers and police trained and equipped by the US have used the skills they learned to join and prop up various drug cartels. The proliferation of repression tactics only perpetuates the cycles of violence. The governments of Latin America do not need more police and military equipment and training from the country whose training has only raised the level of violence in the hemisphere.

The Latin America Solidarity Coalition demands:

  1. No funding for the Merida Initiative.
  2. Close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (SOA).
  3. Close the International Law Enforcement Academy for Latin America.
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Monday, June 2, 2008

Wed: Plan Mexico on KCSB FM 91.9

I'll be on the "No Alibis" program on KCSB FM 91.9 in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, June 4, at 8:30am PST/11:30am EST, talking about Plan Mexico, the military and police aid package to Mexico that's frighteningly similar to the failed Plan Colombia. My article on Plan Mexico is available here: http://mywordismyweapon.blogspot.com/2008/05/plan-mexico-passes-house-senate-vote.html. A shorter, updated version will run in the upcoming issue of The Indypendent (NYC).

You can stream the show live at http://www.kcsb.org/?page_id=9
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