JFP 8/19: Obama approval down on Afghanistan; when will Brazil leave Haiti?
Just Foreign Policy News
August 19, 2011
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Why the Jobs Argument Against Military Cuts is Bogus
An argument against cuts to projected military spending that is sure to rear its ugly head is that this would cost American jobs. In the current political context, this "jobs" argument is 100% nonsense. Here's why.
*Take Action: Urge Your Rep. to Support the Lee Bill
Representative Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that would prevent the Pentagon from keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq by cutting off funds for the war after December 31, 2011. Urge your Representative to co-sponsor the Lee bill.
(Incomplete) List of Congressional Town Halls
Are your representatives in Congress having a "Town Hall" during the recess? Urge them to end the wars and cut the military budget by a trillion dollars over the next ten years (the time frame of the "Super Committee"). An incomplete list of town halls is here:
Tony Karon: Why Iraq's Terror Uptick Won't Affect Decisions on U.S. Troops
Karon argues that Iraqis know that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq won't do anything to prevent sectarian violence, and Iraqi parliamentarians who would have to approve an agreement know that; regional diplomacy is likely to matter more. Meanwhile, the notion that U.S. troops are needed in Iraq to counter Iranian influence isn't likely to carry much weight with the Iraqi government, which is strengthening its relations with Iran.
Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
The opponents of peace and diplomacy work every day. Help us be an effective counterweight.
1) Americans' approval of Obama on Afghanistan is down 15 points since mid-May, the most of any issue Gallup tracked during this period, Gallup reports. The decline follows a bounce to 53% after the killing of bin Laden on May 1, and may partly reflect public reaction to the recent downing of a U.S. military helicopter in Afghanistan in which 30 U.S. troops perished, Gallup says.
2) Brazil's new Defense Minister, Celso Amorim has said "he supports the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti," writes Mark Weisbrot in Folha de São Paulo. But when? President Obama has talked about U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan, but the Pentagon talks about keeping a permanent military presence there. Even in Iraq, the Obama Administration is trying to keep 10,000 soldiers there indefinitely. U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan when political opposition at home becomes too great for politicians to ignore - as it has in Canada and the Netherlands. The same is true of the occupation of Haiti, which is also a U.S. occupation - under U.N. cover.
Within Brazil, there is significant opposition to the occupation of Haiti. A recent letter to President Dilma signed by a number of legislators from the ruling party said, "We must end Brazil's participation in a military operation that is repudiated by the vast majority of the Haitian people."
3) A new paper from CEPR argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths. The paper argues that it is not too late to bring the cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts.
4) Writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, Josh Ruebner argues that a recent Congressional trip to Israel violated House rules because it was funded by AIPAC, whose primary purpose is lobbying. The American Israel Education Foundation, which technically funded the trip, has no paid staff - its "staff" are AIPAC employees.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen who helped draft the new post-Abramoff federal lobbying and ethics reform legislation signed into law in 2007, says, "The House ethics rules do not provide an exemption for 501(c)(3)s that are controlled and directed by a lobbying entity to pay for travel junkets for members of Congress. When the ethics rules were written in 2007 as part of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA), an exemption for 501(c)(3)s was written into the Senate rules – which I called the 'AIPAC' loophole – but the House under Speaker Pelosi stuck to strict travel rules for its members and declined to poke a comparable loophole into its ethics rules…Even if there were such a loophole in House rules," Holman said, "which there isn't, it appears that the 501(c)(3) wing of AIPAC is little more than a front group designed to extend its lobbying activities beyond Capitol Hill. From 2000 to 2006, lobbyist Richard Kessler similarly attempted to evade the ethics rule prohibiting lobbyist- sponsored travel junkets by setting up a 501(c)(3) that he directly controlled to pay for the trips. HLOGA was passed in 2007 to end these types of evasions."
5) Matthew Price of the BBC attempted to verify Libyan claims of a massacre of civilians in Libya by NATO forces. NATO said: "The allegation of civilian casualties made by the Gaddafi regime was not corroborated by available factual information at the site." But Price spoke to a wounded girl in the hospital who said she was sitting outside her house when NATO missiles struck, injuring her and killing her mother and two sisters.
6) The U.S., Britain, France and Germany called on Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, to give up power, the New York Times reports. President Obama ordered the freezing of all Syrian assets within U.S. jurisdiction, banned imports of Syrian oil and barred American citizens from having any business dealings with the Syrian government. U.S. officials acknowledged that U.S. sanctions alone would have little effect.
7) Many Koreans and some experts suspect that the planned naval base on Jeju island will serve less as a shield against North Korea than as an outpost for the U.S. Navy to project its power against China, the New York Times reports. In March, Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said the U.S. wanted South Korea to expand the allies' low-level missile defense ties into an integrated regional missile defense system that some experts suspect was intended as a shield against China. Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control specialist, said the new Aegis destroyers to be based in Jeju would help defend South Korea and Japan against Chinese missiles, but won't provide much defense for South Korea against North Korean missiles. Matthew Hoey, an arms control analyst, argued that the base could set off a regional arms race by prompting China to upgrade its own strategic deterrent.
8) For years, over half the Jamaican government's budget has been dedicated to paying debt, and that has forced the government to scrimp on schools, hospitals and infrastructure, AP reports. Even after an IMF-sponsored debt restructuring, 60 percent of government spending goes to debt.
9) A former Salvadoran government minister accused of colluding in the infamous killing of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador two decades ago has been living in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports. Inocente Orlando Montano is among 20 former military officers charged with conspiring to kill the priests in fresh indictments from Spain. In 1993, a UN "truth commission" that investigated the clergy killings named Montano as one of the top leaders who participated in a meeting to plot the assassination of Father Ignacio Ellacuria, the rector of Central American University.
"I find it unbelievable and unconscionable that somebody involved in this crime is in the United States," said Representative James McGovern. McGovern and other Members of the US Congress are urging the Obama administration to cooperate with authorities in Spain.
1) New Low of 26% Approve of Obama on the Economy
Ratings on Afghanistan and foreign affairs have also declined
Lydia Saad, Gallup, August 17, 2011
Approval on Afghanistan Sinks 15 Points
Americans' approval of Obama on Afghanistan is down 15 points since mid-May, the most of any issue Gallup tracked during this period, though the resulting 38% approval rating is not the lowest he's seen on this issue. The decline follows a bounce to 53% after the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 1, and may partly reflect public reaction to the recent downing of a U.S. military helicopter in Afghanistan in which 30 American troops, many of them Navy SEALs, perished.
2) Brazilian Defense Minister Amorim Supports Withdrawal of Troops from Haiti – But When?
Mark Weisbrot, Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), August 17, 2011
One month ago I argued in this space that Brazil should set a timetable for getting its troops out of Haiti, since there is no war in Haiti and no legitimate reason – nor legal justification – for the UN military force (MINUSTAH) to be there. Now Brazil's new Defense Minister, Celso Amorim – who took office on Monday, August 7 – has told the Brazilian press that "he supports the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti." This is important news.
According to the report in O Globo, "The matter was discussed at the first meeting between the Minister and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Presidential Palace on Saturday. According to one of the participants of the meeting, there was a "convergence of opinion", so the military leadership also agrees with the return of the troops. "
But when will they leave? President Obama has talked about American troops leaving Afghanistan, but they have been there for nearly a decade and now the Pentagon talks about 2014, or even worse, keeping a permanent military presence there. Even in Iraq, where President Bush signed an agreement in 2008 to get all U.S. combat troops out, the Obama Administration is trying to get around the agreement and keep 10,000 soldiers – and thousands of civilian personnel – there indefinitely.
U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan when U.S. public opinion – which is overwhelmingly against the occupation and war – and pressure becomes too much for the politicians to ignore. It is mainly because of political opposition at home that the governments of Canada and the Netherlands have already withdrawn their combat troops from the so-called "coalition" forces, which in reality are part of a U.S. occupation.
The same is true for the occupation of Haiti. It is also a U.S. occupation, in this case under U.N. cover. The troops were brought in to "keep order" after Washington and its allies toppled Haiti's democratically elected government in 2004. The occupation will end when the foreign governments who have soldiers there find it to be too much of a political liability. It is quite possible that other Latin American countries will leave before Brazil does, increasing the pressure on Brazil to find what Amorim called "an exit strategy."
Within Brazil, there is significant opposition to the occupation of Haiti. A recent letter to President Dilma was signed by a number of legislators from the PT, Markus Sokol of the PT National Directorate, representatives of the CUT and the MST, and many others. It said: "We must end Brazil's participation in a military operation that is repudiated by the vast majority of the Haitian people ... this occupation has only deepened the plight of the people and has denied them their sovereignty. "These Brazilians are acting as the conscience of the nation – they are speaking out because they care about the people of Haiti, not for any political gain of their own. The Dilma administration should listen to them, and get out of Haiti sooner rather than later.
3) Thousands of Lives Could Be Saved, and Haiti's Cholera Epidemic Managed, With Greater Treatment and Prevention Efforts, CEPR Paper Finds
Recent Cholera Spike Was "Entirely Predictable," Yet Treatment Efforts Fell Off
Center for Economic and Policy Research, August 18, 2011
Washington, D.C.- A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths, even though the dramatic rise in new cases this spring and summer was entirely predictable. The paper, "Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti", by researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt, argues that it is not too late to bring the 10-month old cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts.
"Haiti's cholera epidemic has been much worse than it could have been, and thousands more people have died, due to an inadequate response from the international community, going back to when the outbreak began," CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. "It's time to reverse course and get serious about controlling and eventually eliminating cholera from Haiti."
"In July 2011, one person was infected with cholera almost every minute, and at least 375 died over the course of the month due to an easily preventable and curable illness," the paper notes. A March 2011 article in the medical journal The Lancet predicted that cholera infections would spike with the onset of the rainy season following a drop-off during the drier months of late 2010 and early 2011. Yet overall cholera efforts were scaled back just as infections were increasing: only 48 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were addressing cholera in July, down from 128 in January.
As predicted, new cholera infections increased with the onset of the rainy season this year, reaching an average of 1800 new infections per day in June – almost twice as many as in May and three times as many as in March and April, the paper notes.
The paper also notes that NGO's and international agencies have targeted urban centers over rural areas, despite the anticipated spread of the disease to all corners of Haiti, and significantly higher case fatality rates in some rural areas. The department of Sud Est, for example, currently has the highest fatality rate, at 5.4%, but no Cholera Treatment Centers.
The authors recommend several ways in which the cholera epidemic could be brought under control -- and thousands of lives saved -- including expanding the reach of inpatient facilities in the hardest-hit areas, scaling up antibiotic and supplement treatment efforts, prevention and care through education campaigns, and a vaccination strategy. International donors also have fallen far behind on their pledges for cholera assistance.
The paper outlines a number of other factors that contributed to the severity of the epidemic, one of the most important being the relative scarcity of potable water in Haiti. The authors describe various ways in which public water systems have been under-funded and implementation delayed by the international community, while some donors have pushed instead for "cost recovery" water systems in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP's) and elsewhere. These would require residents to pay for potable water, and likely lead to an increase in cholera infections as potable water would be put out of reach of IDP's and other low-income Haitians.
"Safe, clean drinking water for all Haitians should be a top priority for international donors," Weisbrot said. "And if it had not been so neglected years ago, when loans for this purpose were blocked by the United States, the severity of this outbreak might have been drastically reduced."
The paper's lead author, Jake Johnston, added: "The money is there: the U.S. Congress appropriated $1.14 billion for Haiti a year ago, and most of that money has not been spent; and a lot of the $1.4 billion that Americans gave to private charities after the earthquake – including the biggest organizations such as the American Red Cross -- also remains unspent. And there are also hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid that were pledged by governments but not yet delivered. These funds can be used to expand treatment and prevention of cholera in Haiti, and to build the necessary water infrastructure."
4) Robbing Peter to Pay Israel
Josh Ruebner, Foreign Policy in Focus, August 12, 2011
During this August congressional recess, Rep. Jackson, Jr. should be at home, meeting with constituents and proposing to them how he will help them cope with their difficult circumstances. Instead, the politician is proudly gallivanting around Israel, in one of three separate congressional delegations heading there this month on all-expense-paid junkets organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a so-called charitable affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the myriad pro-Israel lobbying outfits.
In total, 81 representatives, nearly one-fifth of the entire House, will participate in these jaunts, which, according to The Washington Post, include "a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides."
The House Committee on Ethics should open an investigation to determine if it is even legal for Members of Congress to be participating in junkets organized by AIEF. The guidelines of the committee are as bright and clear as the midday sun on a Tel Aviv beach in August. "The travel provisions of the gift rule severely limit the ability of Members and staff to accept travel from an entity that employs or retains a registered lobbyist or a registered agent of a foreign principal."
Legistorm, which tracks congressional travel, explains that "even though AIPAC's primary purpose is lobbying, its nonprofit arm [AIEF] appears to provide a loophole for sponsored travel." However, this eureka loophole that AIPAC uses does not withstand scrutiny. According to the latest publicly available tax return of AIEF, the organization has no paid employees -- an astounding feat in itself for an organization that raked in more than $26 million in 2009 and a mind-blowing accomplishment for an organization running three huge congressional delegations in one month.
An examination of AIPAC's latest publicly available tax return reveals the sleight of hand. AIPAC reports that in 2009, it very generously contributed more than $3.2 million of employee salaries to cover the staff costs of AIEF. In other words, a 501(c)(4) organization with registered lobbyists is paying for the staff of a 501(c)(3) organization to run congressional delegations that cannot be funded by an organization that employs registered lobbyists.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen who helped draft the new post-Abramoff federal lobbying and ethics reform legislation signed into law in 2007, agrees that something is rotten in state of AIPAC. According to Holman, "The House ethics rules do not provide an exemption for 501(c)(3)s that are controlled and directed by a lobbying entity to pay for travel junkets for members of Congress. When the ethics rules were written in 2007 as part of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA), an exemption for 501(c)(3)s was written into the Senate rules – which I called the 'AIPAC' loophole – but the House under Speaker Pelosi stuck to strict travel rules for its members and declined to poke a comparable loophole into its ethics rules.
"Even if there were such a loophole in House rules," Holman continues, "which there isn't, it appears that the 501(c)(3) wing of AIPAC is little more than a front group designed to extend its lobbying activities beyond Capitol Hill. From 2000 to 2006, lobbyist Richard Kessler similarly attempted to evade the ethics rule prohibiting lobbyist- sponsored travel junkets by setting up a 501(c)(3) that he directly controlled to pay for the trips. HLOGA was passed in 2007 to end these types of evasions."
5) What really happened in Libya's Zlitan?
The Libyan government has taken correspondents to Zlitan, to see the aftermath of a Nato strike that it says killed 85 civilians. Nato says it hit a military staging base. The BBC's Matthew Price went along to weigh the competing claims.
Matthew Price, BBC, 11 August 2011
A photocopied version of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea lay in the rubble. Next to it were school books, their pages fluttering in the light breeze.
A policeman picked through the remains of the house. He slid the door of a refrigerator lying on its back to one side. Inside was a melon, and some bags of beans.
Nearby a sofa and a bed lay broken and covered in dust. There were other signs of normal life: a teddy bear, a football.
Just around the broken, mangled corner of the building, Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi was speaking. "You all saw that 85 Libyan civilians, from several families, were massacred in this location," he said, standing outside the remains of what was once perhaps a living room. "Thirty-three of them were children of a very young age," he continued. "This is 'Western democracy'."
For Libya's government, what happened south of Zlitan in the village of Majar is proof that Nato, contrary to its mandate, is not protecting civilians. Officials believe the alliance is engaged in regime change, at whatever cost.
Almost 48 hours after the first strike hit the cluster of buildings in the countryside to the south of Zlitan, Nato said it had completed its assessment of what happened.
It confirmed it had hit the area, targeting four buildings and nine vehicles at the site between 23.33 on Monday and 02.34 on Tuesday.
The times for the strikes correspond with those given by people in the area.
Nato went on: "We monitored this military compound very carefully before striking."
"Our assessment, based on the level of destruction of the buildings, confirms the likelihood of military and mercenary casualties. The allegation of civilian casualties made by the Gaddafi regime was not corroborated by available factual information at the site."
Try telling that however to 15 year-old Salwa Jawoo. Her name was on some of the school books at the scene - I found her in Zliten hospital. Her face was scarred - she had a broken shoulder.
She said she was sitting outside her home when the first missile struck. It was the second one that injured her. "There was no military camp. We were just living there. Why did they attack us?" she asked. "My mother died, and my two sisters," she added, with a sigh. A tear ran down her cheek as she spoke. Her grief was genuine.
So, too, was the sorrow of Ali Mufta Hamed Gavez. His wife - also in the hospital - had her leg amputated after being wounded.
6) Obama Administration Calls for Syrian President to Step Down
Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, August 18, 2011
Washington - The United States and several of its major allies on Thursday called on Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, to give up power. The carefully choreographed announcements came after months of popular protests and increasingly deadly reprisals that the United Nations commissioner for human rights said amounted to crimes against humanity by the Syrian authorities.
President Obama, who had faced criticism for not acting more assertively, ordered the freezing of all Syrian assets within American jurisdiction, banned imports of Syrian oil and barred American citizens from having any business dealings with the Syrian government, which the administration once courted in the hopes of improving relations.
He called on other countries to impose their own sanctions, focusing on Syria's oil and gas industry, and European leaders suggested those were now under consideration.
The ultimate effect of the chorus of international condemnation and sanctions remains to be seen, and the United States and its allies risked highlighting their relative powerlessness to alter events inside Syria.
It was Mr. Obama's first explicit call for the Syrian leader to resign, and it came after weeks of divisions within the administration and mounting criticism from many in Congress, advocates of Syrian democracy and others that the United States and other nations had responded too tepidly to the violent suppression of protests that have swept Syrian cities for five months. It also followed behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuvering in which Turkey took the lead in an unsuccessful effort to persuade Mr. Assad to halt the violence.
Almost simultaneously, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany issued a joint statement urging Mr. Assad "to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people." Canada made a similar appeal, as did the European Union. The United Nations human rights office in Geneva issued a damning, 22-page report that concluded that Syrian government forces might have committed crimes against humanity by carrying out summary executions, torturing prisoners and harming children.
In Washington, administration officials acknowledged that American sanctions alone would have little effect.
With Syria's opposition barely organized and under constant harassment, there is no obvious path to a transfer of power, even if Mr. Assad's grip weakens significantly. "Nothing about this is going to be easy," a senior administration official said.
7) Island's Naval Base Stirs Opposition in South Korea
Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, August 18, 2011
Gangjeong, South Korea - Dozens of banners adorn this village on the southern coast of South Korea's southernmost major island, trumpeting anxieties that have invaded this otherwise idyllic community and divided it so deeply that residents say some fathers and sons have stopped talking to one another. "Fight to the death against the American imperialists' anti-China naval base!" says one banner.
That declaration - and the underlying issue dividing this village of 1,000 fishermen and farmers on Jeju Island - mirrors the broader quandary South Korea faces, caught between the United States, its longstanding military ally, and China, its former battlefield foe but now its leading trading partner.
In January, the South Korean Navy began construction on a $970 million base in Gangjeong. Once completed in 2014, it will be home to 20 warships, including submarines, that the navy says will protect shipping lanes for South Korea's export-driven economy, which is dependent on imported oil. It will also enable South Korea to respond quickly to a brewing territorial dispute with China over Socotra Rock, a submerged reef south of Jeju that the Koreans call Ieodo. Both sides believe it is surrounded by oil and mineral deposits.
American ships cruising East Asian seas will be permitted to visit the port, the Defense Ministry says, and many villagers and anti-base activists from the Korean mainland suspect that the naval base will serve less as a shield against South Korea's prime enemy, North Korea, than as an outpost for the United States Navy to project its power against China.
Fear of becoming "the shrimp whose back gets broken in a fight between whales" - a popular saying in this country, whose territory has been the battlefield of bigger powers - is palpable in this village, where palm trees sway in the wind and low-slung homes lie snug behind walls of volcanic rock.
"I don't understand why we're trying so hard to accommodate something people in Okinawa tried so hard to resist," said Kim Jong-hwan, 55, a tangerine farmer, referring to the Japanese islanders' struggle against the American military base there. "When I think how the Americans go around the world starting wars, I can only expect the worst."
Both the South Korean and American militaries insist that the United States military is not involved in the base's construction. Nor is the base directed against a particular country, the Defense Ministry says. But the controversy feeds on the unease many South Koreans feel as they struggle to reconcile the influence of a rising China with their longstanding security ties to the United States.
Ever since the United States fought alongside it in the Korean War, South Korea has considered its alliance with Washington a top priority, a position re-emphasized after North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and its recent military provocations, including the shelling of another South Korean island in November. But many South Koreans, especially younger ones, suspect that Washington is exploiting that sense of vulnerability to compel their country into advancing American foreign policy interests.
In 2005, South Korea's fear of confronting China flared into a public quarrel between Seoul and Washington over "strategic flexibility," a plan that would redefine the mission of American troops stationed in South Korea for the South's defense, allowing them to be sent to conflicts elsewhere. The dispute was patched up in 2006 when Washington agreed to respect South Korea's wish not to be "involved in a regional conflict in Northeast Asia against the will of the Korean people."
In March, Ellen O. Tauscher, the American under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said the United States wanted South Korea to expand the allies' low-level missile defense ties into an integrated regional missile defense system that some experts suspect was intended as a shield against China.
Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control specialist at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said the new Aegis destroyers to be based in Jeju would help defend South Korea against Chinese missiles and help defend Japan against missiles from both China and North Korea.
But they "won't provide much defense for South Korea against North Korean missiles," he said. "Very few North Korean missiles would rise high enough on their way toward South Korea to give South Korean destroyers a shot."
Partly out of deference to Beijing, Seoul has yet to commit itself fully to the American missile defense program. Even so, John F. Fei of the RAND Corporation said in a paper published in February that the construction of the Jeju base might indicate that once South Korea saw China's rising economic power as a possible threat, "it no longer repressed voices within the elite calling for a more muscular political and security posture to hedge against China."
Still, Matthew Hoey, an arms control analyst based in Cambridge, Mass., who recently visited Gangjeong to support those fighting the base, argued that the base could set off a regional arms race by prompting China to upgrade its own strategic deterrent.
8) Jamaica focuses on paying down heavy debt load, scrimping on schools, hospitals, other needs
David McFadden, Associated Press, August 17
Kingston, Jamaica - When the afternoon bell rings at August Town Primary School, children kick around a plastic bottle filled with gravel instead of a soccer ball. When administrators need to buy a copier, they turn to parents, businesses or foreign embassies for donations.
Making do has become a way of life at the school as it has all across Jamaica, where paying off the nation's punishing debt takes priority.
The country owes creditors $18.2 billion, which is more than its entire domestic economy produces in a year: 132 percent of gross domestic product, according to the International Monetary Fund. That's a heavier load than crisis-hit Italy, Spain or Ireland face, and nearly as high as Greece's.
For years, over half the government's budget has been dedicated to paying the debt, and that has forced the government to scrimp on schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
"The budget's tight, there's no question. But it's been tight for a long while and we've had to learn to make things work as best as we can," said August Town Vice Principal Dwight Peart at the low-slung concrete school in an impoverished valley community in the capital.
Roughly a third of the Caribbean island's 2.8 million people live in squatter settlements, and there's little money for housing aid. Public hospitals are hampered by a shortage of medical equipment. Roads are filled with potholes. The thousands of Jamaican dropouts from overcrowded schools become easy prey for drug and extortion gangs.
With the exception of the pearl-toned beaches of Jamaica's resorts, no corner of the island has been spared by the debt monster.
Jamaica's experience with austerity holds lessons for other nations struggling to cope with debt, says Mark Weisbrot of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.
"Attempts to squeeze the economy in order to maintain unsustainably high debt service can lead to prolonged periods of stagnation and high unemployment." He said Jamaica's recent domestic debt restructuring erred by merely reducing some interest payments without writing down the principal.
Before the 1990s banking crisis, Jamaica ended exchange controls while lifting restrictions on lending and interest. Local banks went on a spree of lending while interest rates shot to near 50 percent. Then, in 1996, the system crashed. Dozens of banks failed and the government stepped in to absorb the bad loans and keep the rest of the system from collapsing, taking pension funds along with it.
By 2010, Jamaica's towering debt and the damaging impact of the global recession forced the government to seek assistance from the IMF. It helped the government carry out the debt restructuring and provided $1.27 billion in standby credits. It also unlocked funding from other global lending organizations, including $600 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and $450 million from the World Bank.
Yet roughly 60 percent of government spending goes to debt and an additional 30 percent goes to pay wages. That leaves just 10 percent for education, health, security and other functions.
The 2010 domestic debt-swap program lowered the government's debt-service costs by $450 million a year. But it left the amount of capital owed untouched. The interest expense breakdown is about 70 percent for domestic debt and 30 percent for external debt.
9) War crime suspect found in Everett
Former Salvadoran official accused of role in Jesuit priests' killings
Mark Arsenault, Boston Globe, August 17, 2011
Everett - A former Salvadoran government minister accused of colluding in the infamous killing of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador two decades ago has been living a quiet life in a modest apartment building in Everett, says a human rights group pursuing a legal case against him.
Inocente Orlando Montano, apparently living in Massachusetts for years under his own name, is among 20 former military officers charged with conspiring to kill the priests in fresh indictments from Spain.
The international indictments issued in May seek justice for the clergymen, five of them Spaniards; their housekeeper; and her 16-year-old daughter, who were roused at night from their beds on the campus of Central American University in San Salvador and executed by an elite unit of the Salvadoran military.
Most of those accused of the notorious war crime have never faced justice.
In 1993, a United Nations "truth commission" that investigated the clergy killings named Montano, a former government vice minister of public safety, as one of the top leaders who participated in a meeting to plot the assassination of Father Ignacio Ellacuria, the university's rector. The government suspected Ellacuria of supporting leftist rebels. The unit dispatched to kill Ellacuria was ordered to leave no witnesses, according to the commission's report.
"I find it unbelievable and unconscionable that somebody involved in this crime is in the United States," said US Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat who helped investigate the Jesuit slayings 20 years ago as an aide to J. Joseph Moakley, then a congressman. Moakley, of South Boston, had been appointed to lead a congressional task force to look into the killings in the early 1990s.
"It's still this terrible memory," said McGovern, who knew three of the slain priests personally through congressional work on refugee issues. "I had never been involved so closely with something so horrific. That case still is a strong force in me, saying that human rights is something we need to stand up for."
Montano was located in Everett by The Center for Justice & Accountability, a human rights organization based in San Francisco. In 2008, the center filed suit against the 20 defendants in Spain, which led to the new indictments. The group used a private detective to confirm Montano's address before presenting the information to the judge in Spain, said Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer who brought the lawsuit for the Center for Justice. At least one other former Salvadoran officer charged in the indictment is in the United States; he lives in California, she said.
Nine of the men accused in the indictments turned themselves in to authorities in El Salvador on Aug. 7. Salvadoran courts will decide if they will be extradited.
Whether any of the defendants will ever appear in a Spanish courtroom is an open question.
"Sometimes I expect little from these cases but at the same time I have to be optimistic," said Bernabeu. She hoped the US Department of Justice would arrest and extradite suspects in the United States, but three months after the indictments, no arrests have been made.
Because of that, she said, "I'm a little more pessimistic. But you never, ever know."
Members of the US Congress are urging the Obama administration to cooperate with authorities in Spain.
McGovern said he did not previously know that an alleged conspirator was living in Massachusetts. But he had contacted the Department of Justice about the case, urging action to assist the Spanish court in tracking down suspects, he said.
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here: