JFP 10/21: Almost all uniformed US troops to leave Iraq, contractors remain; Sens. call for base closings

Just Foreign Policy News
October 21, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles


Woolsey and Payne Coddle Dictator in Bahrain
Lynn Woolsey and Donald Payne went to Bahrain and met with representatives of the country's largest opposition party. Their message? Don't expect anything from us, because we're friends with your oppressor.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/bahrain-us-relations_b_1021650.html

***Action: Press Congress to Oppose the Bahrain Arms Sale
Rep. McGovern and Sen. Wyden introduced a resolution of disapproval to block the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. Congressional support for this resolution would increase pressure on the Administration to speak up about human rights in Bahrain.
Ask your Rep. and Senators to add pressure on the Administration to change its policy on Bahrain by signing the McGovern-Wyden resolution.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/bahrainarmsdeal

"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown
The New York Times called the U.S. naval base in Bahrain a "convenience," but it's still being used as an excuse for U.S. silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.
http://www.truth-out.org/convenient-base-unexamined-excuse-us-silence-bahrain-crackdown/1318614630

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The Obama administration has decided to withdraw [almost] all [uniformed] U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, the Washington Post reports. The only [Department of Defense] U.S. military presence that will remain in Iraq after the end of the year will be the roughly 150 troops needed to protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and its thousands of U.S. diplomats and other personnel, as well as provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

2) President Obama said: "That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end," notes Spencer Ackerman in Wired. But it isn't so, Ackerman says. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries, Ackerman notes. In July, the State Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors' rules of engagement. You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, Ackerman says.

3) Sens. Jon Tester and Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced legislation to create a new commission to "scrutinize the necessity of the United States' current overseas basing structure" and do a cost-benefit analysis of closing multiple overseas bases, Starts and Stripes reports. This week the pair sent a letter to the congressional supercommittee urging them to make significant cuts in future overseas military construction projects. The letter called into question U.S. military projects in Europe and on Guam, saying the Defense Department has not justified the need for billions more in base spending there.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform earlier this year estimated that "responsible" overseas base closings could save taxpayers $8.5 billion in the next four years. The president's own Commission on Debt Reduction put that figure closer to $9 billion.

4) Senate Majority Leader Reid wrote to Secretary of State Clinton saying he had "serious concern" about allowing TransCanada to construct and operate a 1,700-mile-long pipeline between Alberta and Texas, the Washington Post reports.

"The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported," Reid wrote.

5) An Egyptian think-tank funded by USAID to promote privatization is now at the center of a corruption scandal, the Washington Post reports. The Post account, which uses information revealed by WikiLeaks, suggests that U.S. diplomats knew that the U.S.-backed privatization was rife with insider dealing. The Post story notes that IMF and World Bank leverage was used to push through the privatization.

Korea

6) South Korean officials will meet to determine whether to ask the US to revise the status of forces agreement, in the midst of public anger over two separate sex crimes involving U.S. Army suspects, Stars and Stripes reports. Much of the SOFA controversy surrounds two popular perceptions voiced by protesters and commentators: that South Korean law enforcement officials do not have enough power to prosecute US servicemembers suspected of crimes, and that the number of crimes committed by US servicemembers is increasing, the paper says. US SOFA agreements in other countries give local law enforcement more power, the paper says.

Iran
7) Iran plans to soon start moving nuclear material to an underground site for the pursuit of sensitive atomic activities, offering better protection against any military attacks, Reuters reports.

Kashmir
8) A much-despised law that suspends basic rights and shields security forces from prosecution in Indian-controlled Kashmir will be lifted in some areas in the next few days, the New York Times reports. Human rights activists have long argued that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives government security forces wide latitude in areas where insurgents operate, has led to widespread abuses.

Honduras
9) Honduras' Supreme Court has cleared six army generals accused of toppling former president Manuel Zelaya and flying him to Costa Rica in 2009, AP reports. Zelaya says the court decision is "unjust" but expected. He said "it's bothersome that those behind the coup are being protected." [The notoriously corrupt Supreme Court was itself deeply involved in the coup, although it did not tell the generals to take Zelaya out of the country - JFP.]

Contents:

U.S./Top News
1) All U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011
Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung, Friday, October 21, 2:10 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/all-us-troops-to-leave-iraq/2011/10/21/gIQAUyJi3L_story.html

The Obama administration has decided to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year after failing to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government that would have left several thousand troops there for special operations and training.

President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke Friday morning to cement that agreement in a scheduled telephone call.

The two leaders also agreed to continue informally discussing the need for and the terms of a U.S. military presence in Iraq into next year, people familiar with the agreement said. As a result, the only U.S. military presence that will remain in Iraq after the end of the year will be the roughly 150 troops needed to protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and its thousands of American diplomats and other personnel, as well as provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

"The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home at the end of the year," Obama said Friday at the White House. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."

The failure to reach an agreement could pose security problems for the Iraqi government, still largely divided by sect and ethnicity, and for an Obama administration that inherited the war but has pledged an orderly withdrawal.

If sectarian strife or other violence should break out in Iraq once U.S. forces have left, Obama could be blamed, particularly by his conservative critics, for abandoning Iraq after nearly nine years of war before it was ready to protect itself.

But the result also allows for a more definitive conclusion to the divisive U.S. military operation in Iraq, which has cost nearly $1 trillion and more than 4,400 American lives. Obama, who separated himself from the crowded Democratic field in 2008 in part through his clear opposition to the Iraq war, will now be able to tell voters as he confronts a difficult re-election campaign that he has overseen the promised end to the Iraq conflict.

The plan conforms with the agreement negotiated by the George W. Bush administration to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011.
[...]

2) The Iraq War Ain't Over, No Matter What Obama Says
Spencer Ackerman, Danger Room, October 21, 2011, 2:05 pm
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/obama-iraq-eternal/

President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. "That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end," he said. Don't believe him.

Now: it's a big deal that all U.S. troops are coming home. For much of the year, the military, fearful of Iranian influence, has sought a residual presence in Iraq of several thousand troops. But arduous negotiations with the Iraqi government about keeping a residual force stalled over the Iraqis' reluctance to provide them with legal immunity.

But the fact is America's military efforts in Iraq aren't coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State's security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors' rules of engagement.

That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq - which, in case anyone has forgotten, is still a war zone. Since Iraq wouldn't grant legal immunity to U.S. troops, it is unlikely to grant it to U.S. contractors, particularly in the heat and anger of an accident resulting in the loss of Iraqi life.

It's a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster. And it's being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective.

You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, to hunt persons affiliated with al-Qaida. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conspicuously stated that al-Qaida still has 1,000 Iraqi adherents, which would make it the largest al-Qaida affiliate in the world.

So far, there are three big security firms with lucrative contracts to protect U.S. diplomats. Triple Canopy, a longtime State guard company, has a contract worth up to $1.53 billion to keep diplos safe as they travel throughout Iraq. Global Strategies Group will guard the consulate at Basra for up to $401 million. SOC Incorporated will protect the mega-embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million.
[...]


3) Senators want commission to consider overseas base closings
Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes, October 19, 2011
http://www.stripes.com/news/senators-want-commission-to-consider-overseas-base-closings-1.158192

Washington - A pair of U.S. senators are calling for full review of the costs of overseas military bases, saying that closing dozens of the foreign facilities could save billions in wasteful spending.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Wednesday introduced legislation to create a new commission to "scrutinize the necessity of the United States' current overseas basing structure" and do a cost-benefit analysis of closing multiple overseas bases.

Earlier in the week, the pair sent a letter to the congressional supercommittee charged with trimming $1.2 trillion in government spending, urging them to make significant cuts in future overseas military construction projects.

In particular, the letter called into question U.S. military projects in Europe and on Guam, saying the Defense Department has not justified the need for billions more in base spending there.

In a statement, Hutchison called the commission an important step toward ending unnecessary military spending.

"With today's historic levels of debt, we need to move quickly to identify ways that we can bring our military training capabilities home, create American jobs in military construction and save taxpayer dollars without sacrificing the security needs of U.S. forces and the American people," she said.

In May, Tester petitioned the Defense Department to consider closing Cold War-era military installations on foreign soil, saying the move could save billions of taxpayer dollars.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform earlier this year estimated that "responsible" overseas base closings could save taxpayers $8.5 billion in the next four years. The president's own Commission on Debt Reduction put that figure closer to $9 billion.
[...]
The eight-member panel would be appointed by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. The legislation would have to be approved by both chambers and signed into law by the president before becoming law.

4) Democratic lawmakers pressure Obama administration on both sides of Keystone pipeline issue
Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, October 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/democratic-lawmakers-pressure-obama-administration-on-both-sides-of-keystone-pipeline-issue/2011/10/19/gIQAJ8kVyL_story.html

Democratic lawmakers, split over whether to support a massive oil pipeline crossing the U.S.-Canada border, continue to lobby the Obama administration on both sides of the question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Oct. 5, saying he had "serious concern" about allowing TransCanada to construct and operate a 1,700-mile-long pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta, and Port Arthur, Tex.

"The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported," Reid wrote.

The letter marked the first time that Reid weighed in on the question of whether the pipeline should go forward.
[...]
Critics of the pipeline contend that extracting the crude oil to be transported would add too much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere and that the pipeline might have spills that would harm valuable habitat along its route.
[...]

5) In Egypt, corruption cases had an American root
James V. Grimaldi and Robert O'Harrow Jr., Washington Post, October 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/in-egypt-corruption-had-an-american-root/2011/10/07/gIQAApWoyL_story.html

Cairo - Beginning two decades ago, the United States government bankrolled an Egyptian think tank dedicated to economic reform. A different outcome is only now becoming visible in the fallout from Egypt's Arab Spring.

Formed with a $10 million endowment from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies gathered captains of industry in a small circle - with the president's son Gamal Mubarak at the center. Over time, members of the group would assume top roles in Egypt's ruling party and government.

Today, Gamal Mubarak and four of those think tank members are in jail, charged with squandering public funds in the sale of public resources, lands and government-run companies as part of a dramatic restructuring. Some have fled the country, pilloried amid the public outrage over insider deals and corruption that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

"It became a crony capitalism," Magda Kandil, the think tank's new executive director, said of the privatization program advocated by its founders. Because of the corruption, the center now estimates, the assets that Egypt has sold off since 1991 have netted only about $10 billion, $90 billion less than their estimated worth.

The privatization saga is a cautionary tale about the power and perils of U.S. foreign aid - most notably the nearly $8 billion that the United States has provided to Egypt since the 1990s to push the country toward economic reforms.
[...]
But the arc of the American-backed privatization effort in Egypt recalls years of questions from critics about the transparency and effectiveness of the more than $70 billion in military and economic assistance to that country over the past six decades, the most aid given to any country other than Israel.

Although U.S. officials have not publicly raised questions about the funding to ECES, as the economic think tank is known, they expressed concerns in confidential cables that privatization efforts could lead to high-level corruption, according to a review of hundreds of WikiLeaks documents by The Washington Post.

"The privatization and economic opening of recent years have created new opportunities for 'vertical corruption' at upper levels of government affecting state resources," said one confidential State Department cable written by an unidentified diplomat in 2006, quoting Hitler Tantawi, a former chief of an internal government financial watchdog called the Administrative Control Authority.
[...]
Since the 1970s, USAID has provided billions of dollars in economic help to Egypt in exchange for promises of liberalization of the socialist economy created in the 1950s by President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
[...]
But the picture began to change in the early 1990s, after a financial crisis in Egypt, when international lenders said they were no longer willing to float an economy so dependent on state-run enterprises.

In exchange for bailouts, Egypt agreed to make the types of structural reforms that were sweeping the planet after the collapse of Soviet communism. Policymakers envisioned the market pulling the masses out of poverty, as well as spurring a middle class and ultimately democratic reforms. The worldwide effort came to be called "the Washington Consensus."

In Egypt, privatization had a powerful champion in Gamal Mubarak. He was a graduate of the American University of Cairo and began his career as an investment banker at Bank of America in London. Gamal and his older brother, Alaa, founded Medinvest, becoming capitalist converts and earning a fortune by buying and selling Egyptian debt, according to allegations by Egyptian prosecutors.

As Gamal Mubarak became more deeply involved in public life, he moved toward the Washington Consensus with a single-minded commitment.

He had an ally in an ambitious lawyer named M. Taher Helmy, who helped draft legislation in 1991 that authorized Egypt's privatization program, with a plan to privatize more than 350 companies worth $104 billion.

A year later, Mubarak teamed up with Helmy to create the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies to promote market reforms through books, policy papers and conferences. The center's primary source of revenue came from the $10 million endowment from USAID.

Some privatization deals occurred in the 1990s. But meaningful change, involving major government assets, came only after Gamal Mubarak and fellow reformers gained control of the National Democratic Party, the ruling party of Egypt. Then the reforms came in a cascade of new policies and laws, many of them based directly on the papers produced by the U.S.-funded ECES.

In 2002, Mubarak formed the party's powerful policies committee. Following his lead, the party's general assembly quickly appointed other ECES members to the committee, including Helmy, who was the think tank's chairman at the time.

In a speech promoting "new thinking," Mubarak said that economic growth must come "through the perfect application of free-market principles." The rhetoric came straight out of ECES policy papers.

Privatization deals came quickly. In 2003, Egypt privatized nine companies worth about $18 million. In 2005 and 2006, the number of deals soared to 59, worth $2.6 billion.

The changes appeared to benefit the overall economy in Egypt, as the gross domestic product doubled and growth hit 7 percent. But behind the scenes, American diplomats warned of potential trouble.

U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone wrote in a classified embassy cable in early 2006 that the interests of "high-level members" of the political party and Hosni Mubarak's regime could pose a risk to reform. "Corruption also remains a significant impediment to growth, and may become more difficult to control as economic reform progresses," he wrote.

But finally, privatization was in full throttle - with ECES in the center of the action.

Some of the privatization deals included the titans of business involved in ECES. And some of them were handled by Helmy's firm. They included Egypt's $1.6 billion sale of the National Bank of Alexandria and the $892 million sell-off of Telecom Egypt.
[...]
Among those who allegedly benefited from ties to ECES, Gamal Mubarak and the privatization effort was Ahmed Ezz, a founding member of ECES and a leading member of parliament and the former ruling party. Once known as the "steel king," Ezz built the state-owned Alexandria National Iron and Steel into the largest steel producer in the Middle East, with more than 7,000 employees. Helmy's firm handled the transactions for Ezz Steel.

In 1998, with the company facing bankruptcy, Ezz began buying shares, with help from then-Minister of Industry Ibrahim Salem Mohamadein. Prosecutors allege that he made more than $1 billion in inappropriate profits over the next decade as he acquired more than half of the state-run company's shares.

Ezz also benefited from laws written and pushed for by ECES colleagues and privatization advocates, who also served with him on the National Democratic Party's policies committee or in the government, according to a recent study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

In 2004, for instance, a law first drafted by Helmy slashed the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, leading to a windfall for Ezz's steel empire.

The next year, Helmy had a hand in writing a competition law that appeared to buffer Ezz's business from allegations of operating as a monopoly.
[...]
The corner office at ECES, now occupied by Kandil, the new executive director, has a commanding view of the Nile River.

One recent day, Kandil pulled out the galleys for a new book - one that was so controversial among the board that its publication was not approved until after the revolution. She flipped to a page that cites statistics showing that the sale of Egypt's public assets had recouped just one-tenth of their true value over the 20 years since the program began.

The sales prices were $9.6 billion, or about 1 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product. The assets' true value was $104 billion, according to Kandil.
[...]

Five people closely affiliated with ECES - members, directors or founders - have been charged in the corruption investigations launched since the revolution. In addition to Gamal Mubarak, they include Ezz, Maghrabi and officials who had served as the ministers of housing and trade. (Ezz was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison after being convicted in a scheme involving the illegal sale of steel licenses.)
[...]

Korea
6) S. Korea to review status of forces agreement with U.S.
Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes, October 12, 2011
http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/korea/s-korea-to-review-status-of-forces-agreement-with-u-s-1.157548

Yongsan Garrison, South Korea - South Korean government officials will meet in late November to determine whether to ask the United States to revise the status of forces agreement, in the midst of public anger over two separate sex crimes involving U.S. Army suspects.

The SOFA Joint Committee will review the wide-ranging bilateral agreement that sets ground rules for custody and prosecution of Defense Department personnel and their families, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official close to the proceedings told Stars and Stripes on condition of anonymity Wednesday.

"People say SOFA has lots of problems, and policemen do so as well," the official said. "Also, the media is raising a question about it, but it sometimes exaggerates or reports things groundlessly. So we will check whether the revisions on SOFA are necessary or not, like the media is saying.
[...]
The reassessment of the agreement was precipitated by the indictment of a Camp Casey private first class, who South Korean police say entered the dormitory-style hotel room of an 18-year-old woman in Dongducheon and raped her on Sept. 24.

Police are also questioning a soldier in connection with the rape of a young woman in Seoul, according to media reports.

On Friday, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. James Thurman ordered a military curfew for 30 days, citing "concerns caused by a few of our soldiers who have failed to uphold our standards," in a message to the roughly 28,000 servicemembers and 8,000 others covered by the SOFA.

The criminal incidents have touched off a torrent of media attention and civic protests, including a rally on Tuesday against both the SOFA and a pending bilateral trade agreement outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

Much of the SOFA controversy surrounds two popular perceptions voiced by protesters and commentators: that South Korean law enforcement officials do not have enough power to prosecute servicemembers suspected of crimes, and that the number of crimes committed by servicemembers is increasing.

A 2001 amendment to the long-standing SOFA allows South Korean authorities, if they ask, to retain custody of U.S. servicemembers following indictment for murder, sex crimes and multiple other heinous offenses.

Otherwise, South Korean authorities must transfer Defense Department servicemembers and civilians to U.S. custody upon request. The suspects must then be made available to South Korean law enforcement personnel for investigation and trial in South Korean court.

U.S status of forces agreements differ considerably in other countries. In Japan, for example, police may retain custody of servicemembers suspected of crimes for weeks without filing any charges.

Whether U.S. servicemembers are committing more crimes in South Korea is still somewhat unclear, though there are police figures that suggest at least a short-term increase.
[...]

Iran
7) Iran to soon move nuclear material to bunker – sources, Reuters, October 21, 2011
Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:53pm GMT
http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE79K1R520111021

Vienna (Reuters) - Iran plans to soon start moving nuclear material to an underground site for the pursuit of sensitive atomic activities, diplomatic sources say, a move likely to add to Western fears about Tehran's intentions.

They said a first batch of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) -- material which is fed into machines used to refine uranium -- would be transferred to the Fordow site near the holy city of Qom in preparation for launching enrichment work there.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or provide material for bombs if processed to a higher degree, which the West suspects is its ultimate goal.

Iran's main enrichment plant is located near the central town of Natanz. But the country announced in June it would move its higher-grade activity to Fordow, a subterranean facility offering better protection against any military attacks.
[...]

Kashmir
8) Kashmir to Lift Reviled Security Law
Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, October 21, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/22/world/asia/kashmir-to-lift-reviled-security-law.html

New Delhi - A much-despised law that suspends basic rights and shields security forces from prosecution in the disputed province of Kashmir will be lifted in some areas in the next few days, officials said Friday.

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, said in a speech to police officers that the situation in many areas of Kashmir had become peaceful enough to warrant removing the law, which is known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Human rights activists have long argued that the act, which gives government security forces wide latitude in areas where insurgents operate, has led to widespread abuses. The discovery of thousands of unidentified bodies in mass graves in the region this summer seemed to underscore the impunity the law allowed.

Security officers cannot be prosecuted for acts committed while on duty in areas covered by the act without permission from the Home Ministry, and such permission has almost never been granted, even in cases where rape and murder were alleged.

The law was put in place in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir in 1990, when the state was in the grip of insurgents - partly fueled by Pakistan - who sought to wrest it free of India. After British India was broken in two and granted independence in 1947, Kashmir was also split between India and Pakistan. The countries have fought two wars over the region.

The insurgency petered out in the late 1990s, and the past few years have been largely free from armed struggle. But the act has remained in force and was a crucial catalyst for unarmed protests that have swelled in Kashmir almost every summer in recent years. Last year more than 100 people died in protests, most of them killed by security officers who fired into rock-throwing crowds.

But this summer was largely tranquil, and the state government has been slowly reducing the visibility of its security presence in the region, removing heavily armored bunkers and taking machine-gun-toting security officers off the streets.

Honduras
9) Honduras' top court clears army generals who toppled ex-president
Associated Press, October 20
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/honduras-top-court-clears-army-generals-who-toppled-ex-president/2011/10/20/gIQAu3y60L_story.html

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Honduras' Supreme Court has cleared six army generals accused of toppling former president Manuel Zelaya and flying him to Costa Rica in 2009. The Supreme Court voted 12-3 to reject abuse of authority charges againts now-retired Gens. Romeo Vasquez, Luis Prince, Venancio Cervantes, Miguel Garcia, Juan Pablo Rodriguez and Carlos Cuellar.

The court said in a news release Thursday that all six have been released from detention.

Soldiers escorted the left-leaning Zelaya out of Honduras in June 2009 after he defied a Supreme Court order to drop plans to hold a referendum on reforming the constitution.

Zelaya says the court decision is "unjust" but expected. He says "it's bothersome that those behind the coup are being protected."

-

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