JFP News, 7/10: House Rebukes Obama on IMF Signing Statement
Just Foreign Policy News
July 10, 2009
Honduras' Coup Regime: Poster Child for Trade Sanctions
The U.S. has suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras, and warned an additional $180 million in U.S. aid could also be at risk. But the U.S. has not discussed trade sanctions, such as "smart sanctions" that would target wealthy supporters of the coup. Trade agreements are unlikely to be an obstacle, since any complaint by the coup regime could be ignored, as the OAS ignored the coup regime on Saturday.
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your financial contributions to Just Foreign Policy help us create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a just foreign policy.
1) On the eve of talks on restoring Honduran President Zelaya, the US had suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras, and added an additional $180 million in U.S. aid could also be at risk, Reuters reports.
2) OAS Secretary-General Insulza expressed concern that if the Honduran crisis is not resolved, it could leave the door open for other coups in Latin America, AP reports. Costa Rican President Arias said any resolution to the dispute must include Zelaya's reinstatement as president. AP says the U.S. has suspended more than $18 million in military assistance and development aid programs.
3) Over 35 scholars and experts on Latin America [currently 78 - JFP] sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging against the idea of early elections in Honduras, according to a press release from the organizers. Stating that "Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people," the signers urged Clinton to enact forceful sanctions on the coup regime to ensure Zelaya's prompt reinstatement. The signers include John Womack, Saul Landau, Hector Perla, Greg Grandin, Dana Frank, and Noam Chomsky.
4) The House of Representatives rebuked the Treasury Department over President Obama's signing statement objecting to restrictions on IMF funding, The Hill reports, voting overwhelmingly for an amendment forcing the administration to abide by Congressional constraints. Reps. Frank and Obey threatened that future requests for money could be in danger if the Administration continued to flout the law.
5) A State Department spokesman denied an Israeli newspaper report Washington had agreed to the continued construction of 2,500 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Reuters reports. "Our bottom line is - is the same. It has not changed. And that's that all parties in the region have to honor their obligations. And you know what our position is regarding settlements. This activity has to stop," the spokesman said.
6) Obama warned Iran on Friday the world will not wait indefinitely for it to end its nuclear defiance, saying Tehran had until September to comply or else face consequences, Reuters reports. Obama said he hoped Iran would enter negotiations on the issue and that leaders would review the situation again at a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September. But it remained unclear what further pressure could be exerted on Iran, Reuters says. Russia signed the G8 statement, but has been reluctant to tighten sanctions.
7) A top Iranian official said Iran "will not retreat even one step from its peaceful nuclear activity", Reuters reports. Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, charged that Britain and France "are after the complete stoppage of Iran's nuclear activity."
8) The US military released five Iranians in Iraq after holding them for more than two years on suspicion of orchestrating deadly attacks in Iraq, the New York Times reports. US officials said the release was not a diplomatic gesture, but was made to comply with the Iraq security agreement. Iran has said the five were diplomats and should never have been detained. The US military has not detailed its evidence against the men, so the extent of their involvement in violence in Iraq, if any, may never be known, the Times says.
9) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu refers to Obama advisers Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod as "self-hating Jews," Haaretz reports.
10) A top US commander in Afghanistan warned the expected victory of Karzai in next month's presidential elections will trigger a violent backlash from ordinary Afghans, the Guardian reports. "I think the people down here are disgruntled with the government because there feeling is, look, 'I'm just right to the south, I'm frigging 40 miles away and you couldn't help me?'" said Col. David Haight. "I think that apathy is going to turn into some anger because when the administration doesn't change, and I don't think anyone believes now that Karzai is going to lose ... I think there is going to be frustration from people who realise there is not going to be a change. The bottom line is they are going to be thinking: 'four more years of this crap?'" Haight said.
11) The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances and acts of torture in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims and human rights monitors, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. government has encouraged and, in part, funded using the Mexican army to fight drug cartels. Under the Mérida Initiative, 15 percent of the money cannot be released until the secretary of state reports that Mexico has made progress on human rights. The State Department's Mérida human rights report will be delivered to Congress within weeks, and it remains unclear whether the report will be enough to satisfy the conditions to release the money, a US official said.
12) Nicaragua rejected sudden and "absurd demands" made by the IMF, EFE reports. President Ortega's top economic adviser said the IMF asked the government to eliminate tax exemptions on non-profit institutions. Bayardo Arce said that would mean churches and NGOs that bring donations which contribute to alleviating poverty would have to pay taxes. Arce also denounced IMF demands to eliminate pension increases for retirees.
1) Honduras dialogue has timid start, no breakthrough
Patrick Markey and Ana Isabel Martinez, Reuters, Thursday, July 9, 2009; 10:33 PM
San Jose, Costa Rica - The two rivals for power in Honduras started a dialogue through a mediator on Thursday, but there was no face-to-face meeting or breakthrough to solve the political crisis sparked by last month's coup.
On the eve of Thursday's talks, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa said Washington had suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras, and added an additional $180 million in U.S. aid could also be at risk.
2) Honduran rivals don't change stubborn positionsuu
Juan Carlos Llorca, Associated Press
Friday, July 10, 2009; 12:49 PM
San Jose, Costa Rica - Hopes for a quick resolution to the post-coup leadership crisis in Honduras have dimmed, with the two rivals fighting over the presidency refusing to meet. They emerged from talks in Costa Rica showing no signs of budging from hard-line positions.
Negotiating teams from both sides huddled behind closed doors again in the Costa Rican capital Friday, but Organization of American States' head Jose Miguel Insulza said Friday "there is lack of willingness to discuss things."
Both Zelaya and Micheletti left Costa Rica after their meetings with Arias. Zelaya traveled to the Dominican Republic, where President Leonel Fernandez received him with full military honors. Zelaya told reporters that he asked Fernandez to speak for him at the upcoming summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Egypt, the newspaper Clave Digital reported.
The coup crisis has become one of the biggest tests so far for the Obama administration in Latin America and OAS Secretary-General Insulza expressed concern that if the Honduran crisis is not resolved, it could leave the door open for other coups in Latin America. "I'm not going to mention countries," Insulza told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Zelaya was the first to arrive for the talks at Arias' home. Afterward, the leftist rancher who has allied himself with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez called for "the reestablishment of the state of law, democracy and the return of the president elected by the Honduran people."
Micheletti then met with Arias for almost three hours. On emerging, he only said that he was "satisfied." Back in Honduras, he said he was ready to see Zelaya come back - "but to be sent directly to the courts," referring to the 18 charges against Zelaya in Honduras, including treason and usurping public functions.
Arias said any resolution to the dispute must include Zelaya's reinstatement as president.
The United Nations also has demanded Zelaya be returned to power, imposing or threatening sanctions and aid cuts. Venezuela said it is canceling shipments of subsidized oil, and the U.S. suspended more than $18 million in military assistance and development aid programs. No other country has recognized the interim administration.
Arias said that negotiations aimed at resolving the crisis could last for several days more.
3) Latin America Experts Call on Clinton to Oppose Early Elections Option in Honduras
Anything Less Than the Urgent Restoration of Zelaya to Office "Would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people" They State in Open Letter
July 9, 2009, 3:19 PM
Washington - Over 35 scholars and experts on Latin America sent an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urging against the idea of early elections in Honduras as a possible resolution of the current crisis resulting from the June 28 military coup d'etat. Stating that "Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people," the signers urged Clinton to enact forceful sanctions on the coup regime to ensure Zelaya's prompt reinstatement. The signers include Harvard emeritus professor John Womack; scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker Saul Landau; Central America expert Hector Perla, and authors and Central America experts Greg Grandin and Dana Frank, among others.
"It's supremely important that we not make any concessions to those who have perpetrated military coups. By doing so, we establish a dangerous precedent," said Dana Frank, Honduras expert and professor of history at U.C. Santa Cruz.
The letter also notes that the coup regime has suspended civil liberties, thus eliminating conditions under which free and fair elections could take place in the near future. The signers also debunk the pretext for the coup - Zelaya's supposed plans for reelection - by pointing out that it would be almost impossible for Zelaya to be reelected before his successor assumes office next year, and that Zelaya stated before June 28 that he did not seek reelection.
The full text of the letter follows:
4) House Overwhelmingly Rejects Signing Statement
Walter Alarkon, The Hill, 07/09/09 06:48 PM [ET]
The House rebuked President Obama for trying to ignore restrictions to international aid payments [IMF funding - JFP], voting overwhelmingly for an amendment forcing the administration to abide by its constraints.
House members approved an amendment by a 429-2 vote to have the Obama administration pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards and require a Treasury Department report on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) activities. The amendment to a 2010 funding bill for the State Department and foreign operations was proposed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), but it received broad bipartisan support.
The conditions on World Bank and IMF funding were part of the $106 billion war supplemental bill that was passed last month. Obama, in a statement made as he signed the bill, said that he would ignore the conditions.
They would "interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the Congress prior to such negotiations or discussions," Obama said in the signing statement.
Senior Democrats and Republicans railed against the notion that the president could ignore a law they had passed and he had signed. "We do this not just on behalf of this institution, but on behalf of this democracy," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). "There's kind of a unilateralism, an undemocratic, unreachable way about these signing statements."
President George W. Bush had used signing statements to ignore a number of provisions in bills that he signed into law, frustrating Democrats in Congress. One Bush signing statement allowed the administration to ignore a provision banning the torture of terror detainees in situations threatening the nation's security.
Frank and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said that one way they could get presidents to stop issuing signing statements casting aside laws would be to refuse to fund their priorities. The amendment passed Thursday seeks to nullify Obama's signing statement by withholding funds from any agreement involving the Treasury Department that doesn't follow the conditions set out in the supplemental bill. "The signal we send to the Treasury is very clear: Ignore statute at your peril," Kirk said.
The U.S. funding for the IMF, which will come in the form of a $108 billion credit line, was a sticking point in negotiations over the war supplemental bill. House Republicans opposed the legislation despite their support for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan because they viewed the IMF funding as an unnecessary "global bailout." House and Senate leaders included constraints on the IMF and World Bank funding as a way to ensure support from lawmakers skeptical over sending more money abroad, said House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.).
"Sometimes, the only way the votes can be found to provide the funds the admin wants is to provide certain limitations on the money," Obey said Thursday in a floor speech criticizing Obama's signing statement.
The State Department and foreign operations appropriations bill that contained the amendment was expected to win passage late Thursday. Both Democratic and Republican appropriators spoke in support of it during the floor debate Thursday afternoon.
5) U.S. Denies Israeli Report Of Deal on Settlements
Reuters, July 8, 2009, 3:42 p.m. ET
Jerusalem - A U.S. official denied an Israeli newspaper report Wednesday that Washington had agreed to the continued construction of 2,500 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, despite its calls for a freeze.
The report in Israel's Maariv daily followed Defense Minister Ehud Barak's talks in London Monday with U.S. envoy George Mitchell on ending a rift with Washington over its demand to stop the building in land that Palestinians seek for a state.
Asked in Washington whether the report was true, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly replied: "No, that report in the Israeli media outlet is incorrect."
"Our bottom line is - is the same. It has not changed. And that's that all parties in the region have to honor their obligations. And you know what our position is regarding settlements. This activity has to stop," Kelly said.
Western officials said the United States was moving in the direction of making allowances so Israel could finish off at least some existing projects which are close to completion or bound by private contracts that cannot be broken.
Israel estimates that 2,500 units are in the process of being built and cannot be stopped under Israeli law. Maariv reported the units are in 700 buildings in various settlements and that Washington had agreed to their completion.
Palestinian leaders have said U.S.-backed peace negotiations with Israel could not resume unless there was a complete halt to settlement activity in the West Bank, Israeli-occupied territory where they hope to establish a state.
While in London, Barak told reporters that he presented to the Americans "the scope of current construction work, which from a practical point of view can't be stopped."
Netanyahu, under U.S. pressure, has pledged not to build new settlements in the West Bank or expropriate more land.
6) Obama uses G8 debut to issue warning to Iran
Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, Friday, July 10, 2009; 3:13 PM
L'aquila, Italy - U.S. President Barack Obama warned Iran on Friday the world will not wait indefinitely for it to end its nuclear defiance, saying Tehran had until September to comply or else face consequences. Obama, speaking at the end of a G8 summit in Italy, said leaders had sent a message condemning the "appalling" events surrounding Iran's disputed presidential election and expressing solidarity against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
He said he hoped Iran would enter negotiations on the issue and that leaders would review the situation again at a G20 meeting of developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh in September.
"If Iran chooses not to walk through that door, then you have on record the G8, to begin with, but I think potentially a lot of other countries that are going to say we need to take further steps," Obama told reporters. "We also say we're not going to just wait indefinitely and allow for the development of a nuclear weapon, the breach of international treaties, and wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act," he said.
Obama made clear he was sticking to his strategy of trying to engage Iran diplomatically, a departure from his predecessor George W. Bush, who pursued a policy of isolation.
But Obama's approach has been complicated by Iran's June 12 presidential election, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor by a wide margin and security forces cracked down violently on protesters who claimed voting fraud.
Obama, who sharpened his line against Tehran after being criticized at home for a cautious approach in the election aftermath, wanted to forge a united front at the summit. He said that he and others had sought only the strong condemnation that the G8 delivered and not for the summit to embrace new sanctions against Iran, despite news reports to the contrary.
But it remained unclear what further pressure could be exerted on Tehran, which has rejected international demands to suspend a nuclear program the West believes is for developing weapons but which Tehran says is for electricity generation. Though Russia signed up to the G8 statement, it has usually been reluctant to tighten sanctions on Iran, a key trading partner and arms customer.
7) Iran won't back down "one step" in atom row
Reuters, Thu Jul 9, 2009 8:57am EDT
Tehran - Iran will not back down "even one step" over its nuclear work, a senior adviser to the country's top authority said in remarks published on Thursday, making clear Tehran's continued defiance in a row with the West.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday Group of Eight major powers would give Iran until September to accept negotiations over its nuclear ambitions or else face tougher sanctions.
Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, said Western countries did not want the Islamic state to have peaceful nuclear activities, state broadcaster IRIB said on its website.
"Britain and France would want a weakened Iran at the negotiating table and are after the complete stoppage of Iran's nuclear activity," Velayati said.
But, he said "the Islamic Republic of Iran will be present at the scene even more strongly than yesterday and will not retreat even one step from its peaceful nuclear activity."
8) Americans Release Iranian Detainees to Iraq
Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, July 10, 2009
Baghdad - The American military here unexpectedly released five Iranians on Thursday after holding them for more than two years on suspicion of orchestrating deadly attacks in Iraq. Iraqi officials promised to turn them over to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad after Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki met with them in his office.
The American military and a senior aide to President Obama offered few details about the release or its timing. A military spokesman here, Capt. Brad Kimberly, said in a statement that the release had come "at the request of the government of Iraq" and complied with the security agreement between the United States and Iraq which requires the eventual transfer of all detainees in American custody.
Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser traveling with Obama in L'Aquila, Italy, for meetings of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, said the release was not a diplomatic gesture toward Iran, which the administration has sought to engage on some contentious issues, like the country's nuclear program, so far unsuccessfully. "It's simply a decision based on that agreement," McDonough said, referring to the security pact.
Maliki, who has both cultivated ties with Iran and criticized its interference in Iraqi affairs, clearly sought to exploit the situation diplomatically. In his meeting with the five Iranians, the prime minister asked "about their health," said a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hassan Qashqavi, according to the Iranian state-owned television network Al Alam. The men were also allowed to call their families.
The Iranians, who the Americans say were senior operatives of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, have been a point of contention among the United States, Iran and Iraq ever since they were seized in a predawn raid on an Iranian office in the northern Kurdish city of Erbil in January 2007. Iran said the men were diplomats - three from a consulate in Erbil and two from the embassy in Baghdad - who should have been protected by diplomatic immunity.
American and some Iraqi officials have since argued that they did not have proper diplomatic credentials and that the building the American forces raided had not officially become a consulate, which would be sovereign Iranian territory. The American military has released other Iranians with diplomatic passports it has detained in some cases.
"Iran condemns this flagrant attack on its diplomats in Iraq in the first place," Qashqavi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in his remarks on Thursday. "This was against all international laws and conventions."
The American military has not detailed its evidence against the men, so the extent of their involvement in violence in Iraq, if any, may never be known.
9) Netanyahu's paranoia extends to 'self-hating Jews' Emanuel and Axelrod
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 17:53 09/07/2009
Netanyahu appears to be suffering from confusion and paranoia. He is convinced that the media are after him, that his aides are leaking information against him and that the American administration wants him out of office. Two months after his visit to Washington, he is still finding it difficult to communication normally with the White House. To appreciate the depth of his paranoia, it is enough to hear how he refers to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Obama's senior aides: as "self-hating Jews."
"He thought that his speech at Bar-Ilan would become mandatory reading at schools in the United States, and when he realized that Obama gave no such order, he went back to being frustrated," one of his associates said.
10) Karzai Victory May Trigger Afghan Violence, US Commander Warns
David Haight, a top US colonel in Afghanistan, said he is concerned that apathy from ordinary Afghans may turn to anger
Jon Boone, Guardian, Thursday 9 July 2009
The expected victory of Hamid Karzai in next month's presidential elections in Afghanistan will trigger a violent backlash from ordinary Afghans, a top US commander in the country has warned.
Although the Taliban have threatened to disrupt polling day itself, David Haight, the US colonel who is in charge of pacifying two strategically vital provinces on the southern doorstep of the capital, Kabul, says he is far more concerned about the aftermath of the election.
"I think the people down here are disgruntled with the government because there feeling is, look, 'I'm just right to the south, I'm frigging 40 miles away and you couldn't help me?'" said Haight.
"I think that apathy is going to turn into some anger because when the administration doesn't change, and I don't think anyone believes now that Karzai is going to lose ... I think there is going to be frustration from people who realise there is not going to be a change. The bottom line is they are going to be thinking: 'four more years of this crap?'" Haight said.
An opinion poll last month suggested support for Karzai had slumped in the four and a half years since he became Afghanistan's first democratically elected leader, but most western diplomats still believe he will easily win, possibly in the first round.
11) Mexico Accused of Torture in Drug War
Army Using Brutality To Fight Trafficking, Rights Groups Say
Steve Fainaru and William Booth, Washington Post, Thursday, July 9, 2009
Puerto Las Ollas, Mexico - The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, acts of torture and illegal raids in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims, their families, political leaders and human rights monitors.
From the violent border cities where drugs are brought into the United States to the remote highland regions where poppies and marijuana are harvested, residents and human rights groups describe an increasingly brutal war in which the government, led by the army, is using harsh measures to battle the cartels that continue to terrorize much of the country.
In Puerto Las Ollas, a mountain village of 50 people in the southern state of Guerrero, residents recounted how soldiers seeking information last month stuck needles under the fingernails of a disabled 37-year-old farmer, jabbed a knife into the back of his 13-year-old nephew, fired on a pastor, and stole food, milk, clothing and medication.
In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, two dozen policemen who were arrested on drug charges in March alleged that, to extract confessions, soldiers beat them, held plastic bags over their heads until some lost consciousness, strapped their feet to a ceiling while dunking their heads in water and applied electric shocks, according to court documents, letters and interviews with their relatives and defense lawyers. The officers were detained at a military base for more than a month.
Mexican officials acknowledged that abuses have occurred in the fight against traffickers but described the cases as isolated. In some instances, drug traffickers may be accusing the army of torture and other human rights violations as propaganda and to deflect attention from the government's efforts to dismantle their operations, the officials said.
Mexican security forces have long had a spotty human rights record, but the growing number of abuse allegations appears to be a direct response to the savagery unleashed by the cartels after President Felipe Calderón put the military in charge of the drug war in December 2006. Most of the violations have occurred in regions where the sight of dismembered bodies of soldiers and police is remarkably common. In the state of Michoacán, investigators with the government's National Human Rights Commission concluded that the army committed abuses against 65 people over three days - including several cases of torture and the rape of two girls - after five soldiers were killed in an attack in May 2007.
The U.S. government has encouraged and, in part, funded, Calderón's risky strategy of using the army to fight the cartels that handle 90 percent of all cocaine that enters the United States. U.S. officials said Calderón has initiated reforms that they think ultimately will increase respect for human rights among soldiers and police.
However, U.S. officials warned that the abuse allegations could lead Congress to withhold more than $100 million in anti-narcotics assistance.
Under the Mérida Initiative, a $1.4 billion counter-narcotics package that President George W. Bush requested in June 2007, 15 percent of the money cannot be released until the secretary of state reports that Mexico has made progress on human rights. The requirements include the prosecution of suspected human rights offenders, the prohibition of testimony obtained through torture and regular consultations with independent human rights groups.
The State Department's Mérida human rights report will be delivered to Congress within weeks, according to a U.S. official involved in the process. The official described Mexico's human rights record as "a mixed bag" and said it remains unclear whether the report will be enough to satisfy the conditions to release the money. "This is the hardest part" of Mérida, the official said.
At least $90.7 million allocated to Mexico to fight drugs cannot be released unless Congress accepts the State Department's findings. An additional $24 million is also subject to Mérida's human rights conditions in the supplemental budget package that President Obama signed on June 24. Part of the Mérida funding is for inspection equipment, police training and support for the Mexican military.
With the Mexican government and governors from U.S. border states clamoring for more assistance - drug violence killed 769 Mexicans in June, one of the worst months since Calderón took office, in December 2006 - the State Department is hoping that Congress will release the money despite human rights concerns, according to the U.S. official, who expressed frustration that the Mexican government has not provided more information about the army's progress, including the number of human rights cases that have been prosecuted.
The Mexican government has long opposed the human rights conditions included in the Mérida agreement, and U.S. officials expect a backlash if Congress refuses to release the money. Many Mexican human rights activists do not support the conditions, noting that they were imposed by a U.S government widely accused of torturing prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "It really takes a lot of cynicism, a lot of hypocrisy, for the United States to say, 'We will give you money to fight drug trafficking as long as you respect human rights,' " said José Raymundo Díaz Taboada, director of the Acapulco office of the Collective Against Torture and Impunity, which documents abuses in Guerrero.
At the same time, human rights groups have lobbied the U.S. government to send a blunt message by withholding the money. A letter that a consortium of U.S. and Mexican organizations sent to the State Department in January concluded: "Mexican authorities have in no way adequately met the human rights requirements established in the Mérida Initiative."
"You can't just write a blank check," said Abel Barrera, director of Tlachinollan, one of the most prominent human rights groups in Mexico. "It's the citizens who end up suffering. These kinds of programs just encourage impunity."
12) Nicaragua Rejects "Absurd" IMF Demands. EFE
EFE, July 8, 2009
Managua - The leftist government of Nicaragua declared Tuesday that the International Monetary Fund suddenly had made "absurd demands" that would have a traumatic effect on the Central American country.
President Daniel Ortega's top economic adviser, Bayardo Arce, said at a press conference that the IMF asked the government to eliminate all tax exemptions on non-profit institutions and entities. "This means that Catholic and Protestant churches, non-governmental organizations, civil associations that bring donations into the country, which contribute to alleviating the situation of poverty confronting our people, could not continue bringing those donations if they don't pay taxes," he said.
Arce emphasized that a single group, the American-Nicaraguan Foundation, funnels more than $100 million per year in aid to the country in the form of food, medicine and medical equipment, and that logically it would not be disposed to pay taxes for this cooperation.
He added that another "absurd and out-of-bounds" demand made by the IMF was to "disappear" pension increases for retirees. "The policy of President Daniel Ortega has been to revalue the pensions of retirees and of all sectors protected by Social Security because there are people who were receiving $20 per month as a pension," Arce said.
These demands are "absolutely unacceptable," Arce insisted, going on to say that the government reached the conclusion that "there's nothing that can be done" with regard to the IMF technical mission that just wrapped up a visit to Managua. Therefore, he said, the government's strategy is to send a mission to Washington comprised of government officials, businessmen and civic leaders to meet with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Just Foreign Policy
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.