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JFP 7/12: House moots prosecuting journos; Senate plugs Mexico focus on law, not army
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 July 2012 - 7:23pm
Just Foreign Policy News, July 12, 2012
House moots prosecuting journos; Senate plugs Mexico focus on law, not army
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Action: Urge @Sweden to Oppose Extradition of Julian Assange for Publishing US Diplomatic Cables
Over seven thousand people have signed our petition to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa urging him to grant Julian Assange's request for political asylum from the threat of US prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his role in the publication of U.S. diplomatic cables.
Now we are appealing to people in Sweden to oppose the threatened extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing US diplomatic cables. Join us in our effort to engage Swedish public opinion.
CNN/Fortune: The truth about the Fast and Furious "scandal"
A Fortune investigation revealed that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious told Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: they say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
Glenn Greenwald: Excuses for assassination secrecy
The notion that we should trust the President with secret and unaccountable power to kill runs completely contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
NPR: El Salvador's Streets Safer, Thanks to Gang Truce
NPR's Maria Hinojosa talks with two activists connected to a gang truce that has succeeded in dramatically cutting El Salvador's murder rate.
635 days of cholera in Haiti
635 days, 7461 dead, 584,780 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still the UN refuses to apologize or take responsibility.
1) A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday discussed legislation that could allow journalists to be prosecuted for disclosing national-security information, McClatchy reports. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., urged criminal prosecutions of reporters. "Why not send a subpoena to the reporter?" Gowdy said. "Put them in front of a grand jury. You either answer a question or you're going to be held in contempt and go to jail, which is what I thought all reporters aspire to anyway."
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chair of the subcommittee, said in the next session the committee aims to revamp the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that sets up methods for prosecuting people who divulge sensitive information. Sensenbrenner said the potential to prosecute reporters must be considered.
2) A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concludes Mexico's deployment of its military to fight organized crime has been ineffective and may have increased sensational killings by fragmenting crime mafias, the Washington Post reports. The report urges that Congress spend $250 million annually over the next four years to continue the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative. But it pushes for a change in strategy, toward providing Mexico with U.S. trainers in police academies rather than Black Hawk helicopters and other military hardware.
3) International mediator Kofi Annan said Iran and Iraq supported a plan for a political transition in Damascus led by Syria and that they would use their influence to try to push all parties in that direction, Reuters reports.
4) The CBO says the Pentagon's basic budget for next year will be larger than in 2006 when adjusted for inflation even if automatic budget cuts take effect, Bloomberg reports. The CBO report buttresses the view of some independent budget analysts that sequestration wouldn't be the short-term budget disaster described by Pentagon and defense industry officials. The independent analysts said the automatic cuts would essentially reverse the buildup after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CBO said that even if automatic cuts took effect, military spending would still be greater than the average during the Reagan military buildup in the 1980s.
5) Billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates vowed to dedicate the rest of her life to improving access to contraception across the globe, the Guardian reports. Gates predicted that women in Africa and Asia would soon be "voting with their feet", as women in the west have done, and would ignore the Catholic Church's ban on artificial birth control.
6) A new GAO report which says the F-35 is 42% over budget actually severely understates the case, writes Winslow Wheeler in Time. Viewed from the correct baseline of 2001, acquisition costs have grown 70%. GAO notes that DOD's operating cost estimate of 1.1 trillion over 30 years. is "unaffordable and simply unacceptable." The F-35 should now be officially called "unaffordable and simply unacceptable," Wheeler writes.
7) The U.S. is deciding whether to keep two aircraft carriers in the waters around Iran through the end of the year in a move that risks inflaming tensions with the regime, CNN reports. A 2010 order to keep an extra carrier near Iran was justified on the basis of the troop drawdown in Iraq, so officials will need to come up with a new excuse, CNN says.
8) Americans of Iranian descent are being refused service by Apple simply because they are of Iranian descent, writes Jamal Abdi in the New York Times. But it's not only Apple's fault. The U.S. Treasury and State Departments, despite their zeal for enforcing expanded U.S. sanctions against Iran, need to clarify to companies that they shouldn't be refusing service to Iranian-Americans, simply because they are Iranian-Americans.
9) Amnesty International has called on the Bahrain government to allow peaceful protests and stop violence against anti-government demonstrators, AP reports. Amnesty said the Shiite majority's main political bloc, Al-Wefaq, was denied permission to hold a demonstration planned for Thursday in Jablat Hibshi. In recent weeks, Bahrain has banned all rallies organized by opposition groups and responded with force when demonstrators attempted to defy the ban. Several protest leaders were injured at a June 22 demonstration. At least 50 people have died in unrest since February 2011.
10) A Palestinian official said Palestinians are being pressured by the U.S. and France not to launch an international probe into the 2004 death of Yasser Arafat, Xinhua reports. The debate about ex-leader's death renewed last week after Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera aired an investigative report indicating that Arafat was poisoned with toxic radioactive polonium.
11) Recent killings by the U.S. in the drug war in Honduras are linked to a new strategy reminiscent of counterinsurgency tactics used by the U.S. military on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, CNN reports. Critics in Honduras and the US oppose the new strategy and question why U.S. agents are killing anyone on foreign soil during peacetime.
1) Congress considers prosecutions of reporters over leaked information
Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers, Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Washington - In response to New York Times stories that relied on leaks of sensitive national-security information, a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday discussed legislation that could allow journalists to be prosecuted for disclosing such information.
Army Col. Ken Allard [Allard is retired from the Army, as McClatchy should have noted -JFP] testified to a House Judiciary subcommittee that the extent of national security leaks is "unprecedented" in American history. Recent examples include the Times' investigations of President Barack Obama's terrorist "kill list" and American cyberattacks on Iran.
According to Allard, such investigations threaten national security and serve only to promote the news media's self-interest. He charged that such investigations were carefully planned to help Obama's re-election chances and to advance the media's own agenda. An example, he said, was New York Times reporter David Sanger's new book, "Confront and Conceal," which details American cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Allard testified that Sanger was "systematically penetrating the Obama White House as effectively as any foreign agent," which he said exposed vital secrets to Iran and put the U.S. in danger of retaliation. "Far from advancing our rights as citizens – as a free press should – Mr. Sanger deliberately placed his country at significant risk for his own profit," Allard charged.
As the committee considers revising legislation that would prosecute leakers, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., also urged criminal prosecutions of reporters. "Why not send a subpoena to the reporter?" Gowdy said. "Put them in front of a grand jury. You either answer a question or you're going to be held in contempt and go to jail, which is what I thought all reporters aspire to anyway."
Other committee members said the First Amendment protected the media's right to publish such information. They also talked about the media's watchdog role, helping to hold the government accountable for illegal actions.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the chairman of the subcommittee, said whistleblower laws enabled holding the government accountable without going to the media, however. Such laws allow citizens to go directly to the federal government about instances of government wrongdoing.
The committee won't have time in this session of Congress to revise the laws that define actions that are subject to prosecution for those involved in disseminating leaked information, Sensenbrenner said. In the next session, however, he said, the committee aims to revamp the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that sets up methods for prosecuting people who divulge sensitive information.
Sensenbrenner said when the legislation was revamped it must address the over-classification of government information and create a standard of liability for those who leak classified information to someone without a security clearance. He said the potential to prosecute reporters also must be considered.
2) Senate report says Mexico must focus on cops, courts, not army
William Booth, Washington Post, July 11
Mexico City - A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be released Thursday concludes that Mexico's deployment of its military to fight organized crime has been ineffective and may have increased sensational killings by fragmenting crime mafias into warring bands.
The report was written to help guide the U.S. Congress in its strategic partnership with Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has suggested that his administration will focus more on reducing the violence that has left 60,000 dead, rather than capturing or killing crime lords and seizing the cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana headed to the United States, the most voracious drug consumer in the world.
"Mexico's presidential transition provides a new window to discuss and debate the best security strategies to deal with the serious violence plaguing Mexico," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. "As the political landscape continues to change in both countries, this report underscores the importance of continuity in two critical areas - judicial and police reform."
The report was compiled by the committee's majority staff at Kerry's request and was based on visits to Mexico and interviews with Mexican and U.S. officials, independent analysts, and human rights activists in both countries. The report urges that Congress spend $250 million annually over the next four years to continue the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative. But it pushes for a change in strategy, toward providing Mexico with U.S. trainers in police academies rather than Black Hawk helicopters and other military hardware.
"Heavy reliance upon the military to quell lawlessness and directly confront the narcotics syndicates appears to have been largely ineffective - and in some instances to have exacerbated the violence suffered by civilians," the authors write.
Human Rights Watch recently documented more than 230 cases of killings, disappearances and torture committed by soldiers and police during Calderon's tenure. In not one of those cases has an official been held accountable.
The congressional report questions whether Calderon's focus on taking down top cartel leadership was effective, noting that the strategy "has been widely criticized for de-emphasizing the daily security needs of average Mexicans."
In an interview last week, Peña Nieto said that he wants to expand his country's drug war partnership with the United States but that he would not support the presence of armed U.S. agents in Mexico. He also said he planned to pivot away from disrupting narcotics smuggling to concentrate more on fighting the crimes that most impact Mexicans. Peña Nieto said he would be judged by his ability to reduce the number of homicides, not the kilos of cocaine or marijuana seized.
The report says that Peña Nieto's approach makes sense - that Mexicans will demand an end to the fight against narcotics trafficking to the United States if they don't see a reduction in violence.
The Senate report states that the U.S. government should focus most of its billion-dollar aid package on helping to teach and vet the 350,000 poorly trained state and municipal police, who often are outgunned by crime groups -- some city cops share a single gun -- or corrupted by them.
Two percent of reported crimes in Mexico lead to convictions.
3) Iran backs plan for Syria-led transition: Annan,
Reuters, July 11, 2012
Geneva - International mediator Kofi Annan said on Wednesday Iran and Iraq supported a plan for a political transition in Damascus led by Syria and that they would use their influence to try to push all parties in that direction.
He was speaking to reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council on his trip to Syria as well as its ally Iran and Iraq, which has ties to Tehran.
4) Pentagon Would Keep 2006 Spending Power Under Cuts, CBO Finds
Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg, Jul 12, 2012 2:25 PM CT
The Pentagon's basic budget for next year will be larger than in 2006 when adjusted for inflation even if automatic budget cuts take effect, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Department of Defense's $526 billion request for fiscal 2013, not including war spending, reflects a reduction of $45 billion from previous plans. If automatic cuts known as sequestration take effect in January, the funding would be further reduced to $469 billion, the nonpartisan CBO said in a report released yesterday.
"Accommodating those automatic reductions could be difficult for the department to manage because it would need to be achieved in only nine months -- between the cuts taking effect and the end of the fiscal year," the congressional budget analysts wrote. "Even with that cut, however, DoD's base budget in 2013 would still be larger than it was in 2006," when calculated in 2013 dollars.
The CBO report buttresses the view of some independent budget analysts, such as Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center in Washington and Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, that sequestration wouldn't be the short- term budget disaster described by Pentagon and defense industry officials.
The independent analysts said the automatic cuts would essentially reverse the buildup after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Congressional Budget Office said defense spending in fiscal 2013 also would remain "larger than the average base budget during the 1980s" in the Reagan-era defense buildup if the automatic cuts take effect.
5) Melinda Gates challenges Vatican by vowing to improve contraception
Catholic philanthropist predicts women in Africa and Asia will soon ignore church teaching on birth control
Joanna Moorhead, Guardian, Wednesday 11 July 2012 07.59 EDT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/11/melinda-gates-challenges-vatican-contraception
The billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates, a practising Catholic, has thrown down the gauntlet to the Vatican and vowed to dedicate the rest of her life to improving access to contraception across the globe.
Gates, who with her husband, Bill, the founder of Microsoft, is one of the world's biggest players on development issues, predicted that women in Africa and Asia would soon be "voting with their feet", as women in the west have done, and would ignore the church's ban on artificial birth control.
Gates, who was a speaker at the London Summit on Family Planning organised by her foundation in conjunction with the UK government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that since she announced her new direction a few weeks ago she had been inundated with messages of support from Catholic women, including nuns.
Gates said that in the west the bishops said one thing, but ordinary Catholics did another. "In my country 82% of Catholics say contraception is morally acceptable. So let the women in Africa decide. The choice is up to them."
Wednesday's conference, which brings together 250 delegates from around the world including Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania, Chantal Compaoré, first lady of Burkina Faso, and the Bangladeshi minister of health, AFM Ruhal Haque, is the launch of what the Gates Foundation is billing "a groundbreaking effort to make affordable, lifesaving contraceptive, information, services and supplies available to an additional 120 million girls and women in the world's poorest countries by 2020". Gates announced on Wednesday that her foundation was pouring $560m over the next eight years into improving access to birth control.
6) How the F-35 Nearly Doubled In Price (And Why You Didn't Know)
Winslow Wheeler, Time Magazine, July 9, 2012
On June 14 - Flag Day, of all days - the Government Accountability Office released a new oversight report on the F-35: Joint Strike Fighter: DOD Actions Needed to Further Enhance Restructuring and Address Affordability Risks. As usual, it contained some important information on growing costs and other problems. Also as usual, the press covered the new report, albeit a bit sparsely.
Fresh bad news on the F-35 has apparently become so routine that the fundamental problems in the program are plowed right over. One gets the impression, especially from GAO's own title to its report, that we should expect the bad news, make some minor adjustments, and then move on. But a deeper dive into the report offers more profound, and disturbing, bottom line.
As F-35 observers know and as the table shows, the cost documentation of the F-35 program started in 2001, not 2007. There has been a lot more cost growth than the "$117.2 billion (42 percent)" stated.
Set in 2001, the total acquisition cost of the F-35 was to be $233.0 billion. Compare that to the current estimate of $395.7 billion: cost growth has been $162.7 billion, or 70%: a lot more than what GAO stated in its summary.
However, the original $233 billion was supposed to buy 2,866 aircraft, not the 2,457 currently planned: making it $162 billion, or 70%, more for 409, or 14%, fewer aircraft. Adjusting for the shrinkage in the fleet, I calculate the cost growth for a fleet of 2,457 aircraft to be $190.8 billion, or 93%.
The cost of the program has almost doubled over the original baseline; it is not an increase of 42%.
Now, you know why DOD loves the rubber baseline. Reset the baseline, and you can pretend a catastrophe is half its actual size.
GAO is also correct to point out DOD management's declaration that the current F-35 operating cost estimate, "$1.1 Trillion for all three variants based on a 30-year service life," (page 10) is "unaffordable and simply unacceptable in the current fiscal environment" (page 11).
The F-35 should now be officially called "unaffordable and simply unacceptable." All that is lacking is a management that will accept - and act - on that finding.
7) U.S. considering whether to extend stay of aircraft carriers in waters around Iran
Mike Mount, CNN, July 12, 2012
The U.S. is deciding whether to keep two aircraft carriers in the waters around Iran through the end of the year in a move that risks inflaming tensions with the regime, according to U.S. officials.
The decision entails extending the mandate to maintain an extra carrier in the region by three months, according to U.S. officials.
A 2010 directive by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates added an additional carrier to the Persian Gulf region where the U.S. typically has kept only one carrier while not in actual full combat operations.
The directive is set to expire in September of this year, but the officials said the White House, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and top Navy officials are mulling over whether to extend the presence at a time when Iran continues its saber rattling with threats to close the main oil tanker route out of the Arabian Gulf at the Strait of Hormuz as well as its continued insistence to pursue a nuclear program.
The officials, who could not be named because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the discussions, said one of the hang-ups in the decision-making process is the justification for keeping an extra carrier in that region.
The 2010 Gates order to put the additional aircraft carrier presence in the Arabian Sea around Iran was to support the Afghanistan troop surge and troop draw-down in Iraq.
With U.S. troops now out of Iraq and a little more than two years before the final U.S. troops leave Afghanistan amid high tensions with Iran, a more diplomatic reason to keep two carriers might be needed.
8): Sanctions at the Genius Bar
Jamal Abdi, New York Times, July 11, 2012
[Abdi is the policy director at the National Iranian American Council.]
Imagine if your ethnicity determined which products you were able to buy. Or if sales clerks required you to divulge your ancestry before swiping your credit card. Some of us don't have to imagine.
Last month, Sahar Sabet, a 19-year-old Iranian-American woman, was improperly prevented from buying an iPad at an Apple store in Alpharetta, Ga. After she had gone over the various options with two Apple sales clerks, a third clerk, who had overheard Ms. Sabet speaking Persian to her uncle, intervened. He asked what language they were speaking and, when he found out it was the language of Iran, he said she could not buy anything because "our countries do not have good relations" - never mind that she intended to give it to her sister in North Carolina. A local news account had Ms. Sabet describing a cousin in Iran as the intended recipient, an inaccuracy that was propagated last week in a Wall Street Journal opinion article defending Apple's discriminatory behavior.
An isolated episode could be dismissed as the work of one bigoted, or misguided, employee. But there have been other recent reports of Apple employees refusing to sell to customers of Iranian descent.
In Santa Monica, Calif., two friends looking to buy an iPhone were asked whether they were speaking Persian and promptly informed, "I am sorry, we don't sell to Persians." In Sacramento, an Iranian-American man looking to buy Apple products for personal use mentioned that he was also thinking about buying an iPod for his nephew in Iran and was told he could not buy anything, even for himself. An Iranian student in Atlanta, and his Iranian-American friend, were not permitted to buy an iPhone after the friend, under questioning, mentioned that the student planned to return to Iran for the summer.
Apple has not been taken over by xenophobes. The discrimination is one result of trying to enforce flawed and haphazard United States export controls against countries, like Iran, that are under sanctions. Retail employees are left to interpret and implement federal policy, and racial profiling results.
At the moment, nearly all exports to Iran are prohibited. Traveling to Iran with items like computers and smartphones is illegal. Apple's own policy, stated on its Web site, makes it very clear that its products can't be sent there.
But it is also illegal in the United States for a private company to discriminate against individuals based on race, color, religion or national origin under the Civil Rights Act. This protection extends of course to retail stores.
The Treasury and State Departments have significantly stepped up pressure on private companies and banks in America and around the world to abandon commercial activity with Iran as tensions between the two countries increase. Often, these private entities decide that it is simply not worth the risk of violating sanctions to continue facilitating even perfectly valid transactions.
Meanwhile, goals like Internet freedom, so central to pro-democracy and human rights movements, are being undermined in Iran because companies, including Google, Yahoo and certain Web hosts, deny services to computers with Iranian I.P. addresses.
The potential for abuse is great unless companies like Apple enact policies to prevent discrimination, and American policy makers act to stop illegal enforcement activities. Congress and President Obama have ratcheted up sanctions and now must confront the inevitable unintended consequences. Sanctions are no longer just choking off Iran but jeopardizing the values and basic civil liberties of some American citizens.
9) Amnesty calls for Bahrain to allow peaceful demonstrations, stop violence against protesters
Associated Press, Thursday, July 12, 2:58 PM
Manama, Bahrain - Amnesty International has called on the Bahrain government to allow peaceful protests in the tense country and stop violence against anti-government demonstrators.
The New York-based rights group said in a statement that the Shiite majority's main political bloc, Al-Wefaq, was denied permission to hold a demonstration planned for Thursday in Jablat Hibshi.
In recent weeks, Bahrain has banned all rallies organized by opposition groups and responded with force when demonstrators attempted to defy the ban. Several protest leaders were injured at a June 22 demonstration.
At least 50 people have died in unrest since February 2011 on this strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Hundreds have been arrested as part of pressure on protesters seeking a greater voice in Bahrain's affairs.
10) Palestinians pressured not to seek international probe into Arafat's death
Xinhua, July 10
Ramallah - The Palestinians' efforts to launch an international probe into the 2004 death of ex-leader Yasser Arafat face serious obstacles, a Palestinian official said Tuesday.
The obstacles stem from the opposition by some countries including the United States and France, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The United States has put pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to seek such an investigation because it can lead to some negative consequences on the Middle East peace process, which has been stalled since 2010, according to the official.
The amount of pressure mounted on the Palestinian leaders might foil their efforts to stage an international probe into Arafat's death, the official added.
The debate about ex-leader's death renewed last week after Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera aired an investigative report indicating that Arafat was poisoned with toxic radioactive polonium.
11) Behind deadly confrontations in Honduras, a new anti-drug strategy
Mariano Castillo, CNN, 9:48 AM EDT, Thu July 12, 2012
A spate of deadly shootings during anti-drug operations in Honduras -- including two in which U.S. agents killed suspects -- is linked to an aggressive new strategy to disrupt a preferred corridor for traffickers.
Operation Anvil, as the multinational mission is known, differs from past efforts because of its reliance on military outposts close to the front lines to provide quick responses. It is a strategy reminiscent of counterinsurgency tactics used by the U.S. military on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a two-month span, six people have been killed in the operation, including possibly four innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, critics in Honduras and the United States oppose the law enforcement strategy and question why American agents are killing anyone on foreign soil during peacetime.
The pair of shootings by DEA agents follow an episode in May in which villagers in the country's Mosquitia coastal region say Honduran forces aboard American helicopters mistakenly fired on a civilian riverboat, killing four, including two pregnant women.
A U.S. official with knowledge of the incident said that the preliminary Honduran investigation, as well as a video of the incident, raises doubts about claims by those on the riverboat that they were innocent victims. The official asked not to be named because the a final report has not been issued.
"I think this is a disheartening sign of the escalation of U.S. involvement in Honduras without clear goals and guidelines," said Dana Frank, a Honduras expert and history professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. "There is no clear oversight from Congress over what is going on," she said. "It's not clear under what terms the DEA is there, operating in killings."
Anvil's major innovation is the use of military outposts closer to the drug trafficking routes, known as forward operating locations, for quicker deployment by Honduran police and their DEA advisers.
Anvil appears modeled after counterinsurgency tactics used by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the Hondurans say the suggestion to use the forward operating locations came from them.
About 600 American troops are located in Honduras, mostly at Soto Cano Air Base. Officials say they have seen a decreased role in Operation Anvil as the DEA team has stepped up, but a limited number of U.S. troops remain at the forward operating locations.
The most controversial of the Anvil-related confrontations has been the May 11 incident near Ahuas in the Mosquitia region.
Hilda Lezama, the owner of the boat that was attacked, told reporters last month that she was carrying passengers before dawn when helicopters appeared and opened fire, wounding her and killing four.
The State Department, however, has indicated that the Honduran forces were justified in firing in self-defense. DEA agents were present, but did not fire their weapons, officials say.
The Honduran government is investigating the incident, but critics don't believe the government has the capacity to fairly assess itself.
"What happened in Ahuas is unbelievable. They claim they combat crime but they cover up their own crime?" said Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, a Honduran historian and former minister of culture, arts and sports.
Pastor is one of 40 Honduran scholars, joined by 300 from outside the country, who signed a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking that the United States cease all military and police aid until corrupt agencies are cleaned up.
For the Americans, "the collateral damages are related to an equation that supposes that the high price paid to keep drugs from reaching its market is in some way beneficial and worth it. For us who gain no benefit, these costs are unacceptable," Pastor said.
They wrote the letter, he said, because Hondurans are "fearful of the prospect of militarization without end."
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