JFP News 7/16: Delahunt, McGovern Call for President Zelaya to be Restored

Just Foreign Policy News
July 16, 2009


LAWG: Call, Write to Support Democracy in Honduras
The Latin America Working Group urges Americans to contact Congress in support of the resolution (HRes 630) introduced by Rep. Bill Delahunt and Rep. Jim McGovern, calling for Honduran President Zelaya to be returned to office. The Capitol switchboard is 202.224.3121; or you can send an email here:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/625/t/8560/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1206

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Writing for the Center for International Policy, former US Ambassador Robert White recounts how Honduran President Zelaya turned for assistance to Venezuela after appeals for U.S. aid with skyrocketing oil prices were rejected. While President Chavez supplies cheap oil to favored regional allies, the US supplies funding for the war on drugs and military assistance, White writes. Civilian leaders are understandably skeptical of a drug war that only seems to have increased corruption and violence in their countries.

2) July is shaping up as the deadliest month of the Afghan war for U.S.-led international forces, with the number killed already matching the highest full-month toll of the nearly eight-year conflict, AP reports. The rate of deaths in July - about three a day - is approaching some of the highest levels of the Iraq war. Only two U.S. service members have died in Iraq this month - both from non-hostile causes, according to the Pentagon.

3) Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry are backing a "$1.75 Billion Boondoggle" - funding for F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon says it neither wants nor needs, writes the New York Times in an editorial.

4) CIA officials were proposing to activate a plan to train anti-terrorist assassination teams when agency managers brought the program to the attention of CIA Director Panetta last month, the Washington Post reports.

5) Defense Secretary Gates is weighing a possible temporary expansion of the US army to ease the strain from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, AFP reports.

Honduras
6) To many poor Hondurans, deposed president Zelaya was a trailblazing ally who scrapped school tuitions, raised the minimum wage and took on big business, the Washington Post reports. But among the country's small but influential establishment, what Zelaya did and said were cause for alarm. Those who support Zelaya are generally poor and those who oppose him tend to come from the middle and upper classes. Honduras is one of the poorest and most inequitable countries in Latin America. A 2008 U.N. report on poverty and social exclusion in Latin America said seven of 10 Hondurans were living in poverty, the highest poverty rate among 18 countries surveyed.

7) A Gallup survey in Honduras showed ousted President Manuel Zelaya remains more popular than coup leader Roberto Micheletti, AP reports.

Israel/Palestine
8) To senior Hamas officials, a recent meeting with former senior U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering represented an opening in relations with the Obama administration, the Washington Post reports. A June 25 speech by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, in which Meshal said the armed movement was ready to deal with the international community in order to reach an agreement with Israel, was considered an overture to Obama, the Post says. The IMF says recent changes in Israel's network of checkpoints, as well as improvements in security, have put the West Bank economy on track for growth of as much as 7 percent this year. Gaza's economy remains under an Israeli blockade, with unemployment estimated at 40 percent or more.

Iran
9) Germany's top spy agency said Iran could have an atomic bomb within four to six years, playing down a report in Stern magazine that the government in Tehran could detonate a nuclear device within six months, Bloomberg reports. The German prediction is in line with a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007, a spokesman for Germany's BND intelligence agency said.

Afghanistan
10) The prisoners at the Bagram U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells for at least the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment, the Washington Post reports. The prison-wide protest has been going on since at least July 1. Unlike at Guantanamo, the 620 prisoners at Bagram are not permitted to visit with their attorneys. Afghan government representatives are generally not allowed to visit or inspect the Bagram facility. Bagram became the destination for many terrorism suspects as Guantanamo came under more scrutiny through legal challenges. U.S. officials are building a bigger facility there that will hold nearly 1,000. The prison now holds close to 40 detainees who are not Afghan citizens, many of whom were not captured in Afghanistan.

Colombia
11) According to Colombia's Attorney General, over the last seven years the Colombian intelligence agency DAS systematically and without warrants tapped the phones and email of Colombia's major human rights groups, prominent journalists, members of the Supreme Court, opposition politicians, and the main labor federation, the Center for International Policy reports. The DAS also spied on their families, including their children. The U.S. government provides equipment for the intelligence-gathering activities of the DAS. U.S. Ambassador Brownfield claims U.S. equipment was not used in the illegal wiretapping, but it is not clear how Brownfield knows this.

Guatemala
12) Rep. Linda Sanchez and 39 other members of Congress sent a letter to President Colóm urging him to stop worker and union exploitation, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports. Sanchez said Guatemala had not kept its promise to enforce labor laws under the Central American Free Trade Agreement. In 2008 six Guatemalan unions and the [AFL-CIO] filed a complaint to the U.S Department of Labor's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs. In January the OTLA acknowledged the complaint made last year and found additional rights violations. The report set up a six month deadline for itself to reassess the situation. The OTLA has not done anything further with the six months almost up.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Why the Coup in Honduras Won't - and Shouldn't - Succeed
Robert E. White, Center for International Policy, July 14, 2009
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/6260

[White, former US ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, is president of the Center for International Policy.]

Honduras is notorious for its economic inequality. The very rich hold the reins of power and are literally above the law. Very few members of the country's military and economic elites have been brought to justice for destroying the environment, stealing land and resources from the poor, using the state for personal gain, or silencing journalists who try to expose their crimes.

In fulfillment of his campaign pledge, President Zelaya quickly pushed through major legislation designed to protect the forests of Honduras from the powerful logging industry, which had enjoyed the protection of previous governments. For help with the rest of his moderate reform program, Zelaya consulted the U.S. ambassador and sought assistance from traditional Washington sources such as the Agency for International Development and the Inter-American Development Bank. His cooperation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not begin until later.

Prior to Zelaya's election, I had helped found a Honduran nongovernmental organization called Democracy Without Borders, which was dedicated to making government more accountable and more responsive to the 60% of Hondurans who live below the poverty line. Decades before, I had served as chief of the political section in our embassy in Tegucigalpa. After Zelaya became president, I met often with him and his key advisers. Although foreign policy issues were discussed and sometimes hotly debated, there was never any mention of Venezuela or President Chavez.

Of the many crises that the Zelaya administration had to confront, it was the skyrocketing price of oil that pushed the Honduran economy toward the breaking point. Every week, bus lines and trucking companies demanded action, called work stoppages, and threatened strikes. President Zelaya decided he had to act. He took temporary control of foreign-owned storage terminals as part of a policy to check profiteering and lower gasoline prices. This initiative won Zelaya broad popular approval, but it brought down on him the collective wrath of the international oil companies.

While this drama was unfolding, a worried cabinet member asked me how President Zelaya should handle a surprise offer from President Hugo Chavez to supply oil to Honduras at subsidized prices. After learning all the details, I advised the minister to discuss the Venezuelan initiative with the U.S. ambassador. He should explain to him that the Zelaya administration had to act in the best interests of Honduras and ask him what Washington could do to help the government insure a dependable supply of oil at rational prices. Alas, the Bush administration offered Zelaya nothing - other than assurances that the right course was to trust in the long-term benefits of free-market capitalism.

The crisis in Honduras should remind the Obama administration that it has inherited an inadequate policy toward Central America. While President Chavez supplies cheap oil to favored regional allies, the United States supplies funding for the war on drugs and military assistance. Civilian leaders are understandably skeptical of a drug war that only seems to have increased corruption and violence in their countries. Elected presidents also worry that Washington's counter-narcotics program gives the militaries of Central America a license to intervene in the internal affairs of their nations - a role expressly forbidden by the constitutions of all countries in the region. Recent events in Honduras confirm that these fears are well founded.

The Honduran civilian and military officials who set this coup in motion have committed a collective act of political suicide. They have demonstrated that they are unfit to hold public office in a constitutional government. The future of democracy in Honduras will be brighter once they are gone.

2) July is deadliest for US-led forces in Afghanistan
Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, Wednesday, July 15, 2009 10:44 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071501896.html

Kabul - July is shaping up as the deadliest month of the Afghan war for U.S.-led international forces, with the number killed already matching the highest full-month toll of the nearly eight-year conflict, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

As of Wednesday, at least 46 international troops, including 24 Americans, had been killed in Afghanistan this month, according to statements by the U.S. military and the NATO command. That matches the tolls for the two previous deadliest months - June and August of 2008.

The rate of deaths in July - about three a day - is approaching some of the highest levels of the Iraq war.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell acknowledged that the U.S. has lost troops "at an alarming rate this month."

U.S. commanders have been expecting higher casualties since President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year to curb a resurgent Taliban that threatens not only the U.S.-backed Kabul government but also Afghanistan's nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan.

There are about 57,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, and the number is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of 2009.

Obama's decision has effectively shifted the focus on the global war against Islamic extremism from Iraq, where the United States still maintains about 130,000 troops. Only two U.S. service members have died in Iraq this month - both from non-hostile causes, according to the Pentagon.

3) $1.75 Billion Boondoggle
Editorial, New York Times, July 16, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/opinion/16thu2.html?scp=1&sq=boondoggle&st=cse

An unlikely alliance of senators - led by Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut - is backing an indefensible defense budget boondoggle: the wasting of $1.75 billion on seven additional F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon says it neither wants nor needs.

The plane, the most expensive jet fighter ever built, was designed for cold war aerial combat. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly argued that the Pentagon needs to phase out such high-cost, outdated programs so it can buy the kinds of weapons that American troops desperately need to complete their mission in Iraq and defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The F-22 has not been used in either war.


4) CIA Assassin Program Was Nearing New Phase
Panetta Pulled Plug After Training Was Proposed
Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Thursday, July 16, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071503856.html

CIA officials were proposing to activate a plan to train anti-terrorist assassination teams overseas when agency managers brought the secret program to the attention of CIA Director Leon Panetta last month, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The plan to kill top al-Qaeda leaders, which had been on the agency's back burner for much of the past eight years, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of proposals to initiate what one intelligence official called a "somewhat more operational phase." Shortly after learning of the plan, Panetta terminated the program and then went to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers, who had been kept in the dark since 2001.


5) US Considers Expanding Army: Pentagon
AFP, Wed Jul 15, 7:39 pm ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090715/pl_afp/usmilitaryarmy_20090715234023

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is weighing a possible temporary expansion of the US army to ease the strain from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his press secretary said on Wednesday. Gates was discussing the idea, backed by Senator Joseph Lieberman, with senior officers to add 30,000 troops to the active-duty army, press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

The possible expansion from the current strength of 547,400 would be designed "to get them through what is still a stressful period as we draw down in Iraq and continue to plus-up in Afghanistan," Morrell said.

Any expansion would be temporary but would carry a significant price tag, possibly more than a billion dollars, army officials said.


Honduras
6) In Deeply Split Honduran Society, a Potentially Combustible Situation
Juan Forero, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 15, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/14/AR2009071403320.html

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - To many poor Hondurans, deposed president Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was a trailblazing ally who scrapped school tuitions, raised the minimum wage and took on big business. "He met with us - the taxi drivers could go to the presidency and talk to him, the poor farmers, the women's groups," said Berta Cáceres, 38, an Indian rights activist who has been organizing pro-Zelaya rallies since his ouster last month. "The people liked him - liked him because he said things they knew were true but that no other president had said before."

But among the country's small but influential establishment, what Zelaya did and said were cause for alarm. That sentiment fueled not just the military coup that removed the populist leader from power June 28 but also solidified the de facto government's now intractable stance against any effort to reinstate him. "I don't want Mel Zelaya back in our country because of all the damage he did to our country," said Alan Licona, 42, an engineer who has rallied for the de facto government.

The two diametrically opposed views underscore the deep divisions and simmering anger evident in Honduras, where those who support Zelaya are generally poor and those who oppose him tend to come from the middle and upper classes. That has created something of a powder keg here as Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias, mediates talks between Zelaya and the de facto government.

Zelaya has said that if the de facto government does not agree to reinstate him at the next round of talks Saturday, he will resort to "other measures" to find his way back to power. In Guatemala on Tuesday, he called for "an insurrection," and diplomats say more violence of the type that has left at least one protester dead is possible. "I see a society profoundly polarized and divided," José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, said this month. "Without a doubt, there is a division. There is lots of tension."

Honduras is one of the poorest and most inequitable countries in Latin America. A 2008 U.N. report on poverty and social exclusion in Latin America said seven of 10 Hondurans were living in poverty, the highest poverty rate among 18 countries surveyed.

They are people like the family of Isi Obed Murillo, a 19-year-old Zelaya supporter shot and killed by soldiers at a raucous rally at the Tegucigalpa airport when the deposed president tried to return from Washington to regain power. Murillo's family members live in shabby hillside districts where streets are unpaved, roofs leak and hopes faded long ago.

Rebeca Murillo, 22, said that she and her siblings saw the possibility of a new beginning with Zelaya - and that that is why she, Isi and two other brothers went to the airport to rally for him. Gunfire then rang out, she said, and the next thing she recalls was seeing Isi's lifeless body. "Mel Zelaya wanted to improve things. He asked us what we wanted and what we did not want," she said. "What divides us here is money, and we saw Zelaya as the guy who could take us out of our misery."

Eduardo Maldonado, a popular television and radio commentator who supports Zelaya, said he thinks that the ousted president had been hoping to change the constitution to make it more inclusive. "The coffee exporters have congressmen, the bankers have congressmen, the fast-food interests have congressmen," Maldonado said. "That's why the country has been in these difficult conditions . . . because there is not a congress that permits people to participate."

Political commentators, analysts and diplomats say Zelaya, whose family made its fortune from logging, remained friendly to some power brokers. But his drift to the left soon alarmed the conglomerates that own hydroelectric plants, the established media, coffee interests and the influential fast-food market.

The de facto government and its supporters say Zelaya's populist measures were designed to build support so he could manipulate the constitution and remain in power. But those who support him say he was justified in moving forward against the wishes of those whom Cáceres, the rights activist, called "the perfumed ones."

"He broke with those old schemes," she said. "That gave confidence to the people, that he broke with the traditional side and came closer and closer to the social movements."

7) Honduras ousted president tops poll
Associated Press, July 15, 2009
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2009/07/15/10147601-ap.html

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - More results from a Gallup survey in Honduras were published Wednesday, showing ousted President Manuel Zelaya remains more popular than his interim replacement Roberto Micheletti.

The nationwide survey - which was done after Zelaya was sent into forced exile in a military coup - shows Zelaya with 46 per cent favourable opinion and 44 unfavourable, compared to 30 favourable and 49 unfavourable for Micheletti.

Earlier findings from the same poll were released to The Associated Press by Gallup after La Prensa, a leading Honduran newspaper, published some of the results on Thursday. They showed that 46 per cent of Hondurans opposed Zelaya's removal, 41 per cent approved of it and 13 per cent were unsure or declined to answer.


Israel/Palestine
8) Ex-U.S. Diplomat Talks With Hamas
Officials of Islamist Group See an Opening, but Washington Says Nothing's Changed
Howard Schneider and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Thursday, July 16, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071503791.html

Jerusalem, July 15 - To Hamas officials Bassem Naim and Mahmoud al-Zahar, a recent meeting in Switzerland with a former senior U.S. diplomat represented an opening in relations with the Obama administration, and a path to easing the Islamist group's isolation.

"I hope it will be the beginning of addressing some of the mistakes of the last three years," Naim said of his talks with Thomas R. Pickering, a former undersecretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "This was a first meeting to investigate the positions in general terms of both parties without any commitment on any side."

U.S. officials say they see the previously undisclosed June meeting between Pickering and the two senior Hamas officials differently. They said Pickering had not been asked to approach Hamas and had no official standing; U.S. officials learned of the meeting only afterward. Policy toward the Islamist group, they said, remains what it was under President George W. Bush: that Hamas is a terrorist organization with which the United States will not even sanction a meeting.

Before Hamas can participate in peace talks, "we have made it clear, both publicly and privately, through all kinds of pronouncements, that we would expect Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday in Washington.

Still, the Pickering meeting took place in the context of Obama administration efforts to reach out to forces in the Middle East that were shunned under Bush. It was held in between President Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo, in which he acknowledged popular support for Hamas among Palestinians, and a June 25 speech by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, in which Meshal said the armed movement was ready to deal with the international community in order to reach an agreement with Israel. Pickering, co-chair of the nonprofit International Crisis Group, would not comment.

As the Obama administration's Middle East diplomacy intensifies - with U.S. officials jetting to capitals such as Damascus that were off limits at the end of the Bush administration, and offering dialogue with Iran - Hamas remains one of the most significant outliers.

The International Monetary Fund reported Wednesday that recent changes in Israel's network of checkpoints, as well as improvements in security, have put the West Bank economy on track for growth of as much as 7 percent this year. Gaza's economy remains under an Israeli blockade, with unemployment estimated at 40 percent or more.

In an interview after touring the West Bank this week, special Middle East envoy Tony Blair said that, if current trends continue, Hamas would soon "have a choice" as Gaza's 1.5 million residents slip further behind Palestinians in the West Bank.

A recent lull in rocket fire and other attacks, coupled with Meshal's speech and a visit to Gaza by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, has led to speculation that Hamas is trying to earn a place at the negotiating table. Others argue that the group is simply pausing to rearm and will never accept the conditions laid out by the United States and others - including a renunciation of violence and acceptance of earlier Palestinian agreements acknowledging Israel.

Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's internal security organization, Shin Bet, said at a closed briefing in May that he saw practically no chance of a political compromise and that Israel would ultimately have to overthrow Hamas in Gaza, according to an account of his comments provided by someone who attended the briefing.

Meshal's speech, delivered from Damascus, the Syrian capital, was considered an overture to Obama. "The purpose of the speech was to convince the West that Hamas is a partner for dialogue," retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, director of the Israeli-Palestinian Relations Program at Tel Aviv University, wrote in a recent paper. "The speech will make it easier for elements in Western Europe and within Obama's administration that support dialogue with Hamas to advance their position."


Iran
9) German Spy Agency Says Iran Bomb Years Off, Plays Down Report,
Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg, July 15, 2009
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aGLwpj6pwp3c

Germany's top spy agency said Iran could have an atomic bomb within four to six years, playing down a report in Stern magazine that the government in Tehran could detonate a nuclear device within six months.

The German prediction is in line with a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007, a spokesman for Germany's BND intelligence agency said today in a telephone interview. He declined to comment on the report on Stern's Web site.

Stern cited an unidentified agent at the BND as providing the six-month timeline. Agency experts told the magazine Iran could test a device underground, as North Korea has done.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, said last month that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at giving the country the option of developing weapons. Iran denied the allegation.

Iran "definitely" wants "the technology that would enable it to have nuclear weapons if they decide to do so," ElBaradei told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The U.S. estimate from 2007 determined Iran probably would be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb between 2010 and 2015, though probably not before 2013.


Afghanistan
10) At Jail In Bagram, A Detainee Protest
Indefinite Incarceration by U.S. at Issue
Greg Jaffe and Julie Tate, Washington Post, Thursday, July 16, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071503156.html

The prisoners at the largest U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells for at least the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment, according to lawyers and the families of detainees.

The prison-wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and family visits were being canceled.

Although the prisoners are refusing to leave their cells to shower or exercise, they are not engaging in hunger strikes or violence. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for Yemeni national Amin al-Bakri, said detainees are protesting being held indefinitely without trial or legal recourse.

Unlike at Guantanamo Bay, where detainees have access to lawyers, the 620 prisoners at Bagram are not permitted to visit with their attorneys. Afghan government representatives are generally not allowed to visit or inspect the Bagram facility.

In recent years, Bagram became the destination for many terrorism suspects as Guantanamo Bay came under more scrutiny through legal challenges. The last significant group transfer from the battlefield to the prison in Cuba occurred in September 2004, when 10 detainees were moved there; in September 2006, 14 high-value detainees were transferred to Guantanamo Bay from secret CIA prisons. Since then, six detainees have been moved there.

The Bagram prison population, meanwhile, has ballooned. U.S. officials are building a bigger facility there that will hold nearly 1,000.

The Bagram facility includes inmates from Afghanistan as well as those arrested by U.S. authorities in other countries as part of counterterrorism efforts. The prison now holds close to 40 detainees who are not Afghan citizens, many of whom were not captured in Afghanistan.

In April, a D.C. district judge ruled that the Supreme Court decision that extended habeas corpus rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay also applied to a certain set of detainees held at Bagram - those who were not arrested in Afghanistan and who are not Afghan citizens. The Justice Department has appealed the decision.

The indefinite detention of Afghan prisoners also has been a source of anger among Afghan citizens, human rights advocates say. "U.S. detention policy is destroying the trust and confidence that many Afghans had in U.S. forces when they first arrived in the country," said Jonathan Horowitz, a consultant at the Open Society Institute, which seeks to promote democracy around the world.

Colombia
11) Far Worse Than Watergate
Lisa Haugaard and Millie Moon, Center for International Policy, July 13, 2009
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/6253

As President Uribe visited the White House on June 29, a major scandal regarding the Colombian intelligence agency, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS, Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad), was widening daily. According to Colombia's Attorney General, over the last seven years the DAS systematically and without warrants tapped the phones and email of Colombia's major human rights groups, prominent journalists, members of the Supreme Court (including the chief justice and the judge in charge of the parapolitics investigation), opposition politicians, and the main labor federation. Not only did DAS personnel spy on their targets, they spied on their families. This includes taking photos of their children, investigating their homes, their finances, and their daily routines. DAS even wrote a detailed manual of spying methods for personnel to follow.

International and U.S.-based human rights organizations that communicated with Colombian human rights groups and journalists were also affected by this espionage, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

This spying is even more horrifying because the DAS had a role in a government protection program for some of these individuals, many of whom regularly received death threats. Still unknown is the extent to which the DAS went beyond surveillance to dirty tricks and worse: a June 14 El Tiempo article claims that the DAS was responsible for sending a bloody doll to a José Alvear Restrepo Collective lawyer, Zoraya Gutierrez, in 2005 with a note saying, "You have a pretty daughter. Don't sacrifice her."

The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said it is "concerned about the illegitimate use that could be made of the information collected in illegal surveillance and the possible grave consequences for the affected people. Moreover, the public perception that there is illegal wiretapping can create self-censorship in the exercise of freedom of expression and communication, for fear of reprisals."

This is only the latest of several scandals for the DAS. Former DAS director Jorge Noguera was accused of handing over names of union leaders and other activists to be killed to paramilitary leaders in 2005. It's a welcome step that the Attorney General is investigating - but there are no assurances the illegal activity has ended.

The U.S. government provides equipment for the intelligence-gathering activities of the DAS, as Ambassador Brownfield admitted to the Colombia press, asserting that "we have collaborative relationships between the DAS and various U.S. law enforcement agencies, I don't deny it, on the contrary I'm proud of it …" While the ambassador went on to claim that U.S. equipment was not used in the illegal wiretapping, we are left wondering how he could possibly be confident that U.S. aid and equipment was not used.

Guatemala
12) Sanchez, other reps protest Guatemala's treatment of workers
Carmen Hernandez, (Long Beach, CA) Press-Telegram, 07/14/2009
http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_12836812

Long Beach - Rep. Linda Sanchez and 39 other members of Congress sent a letter to Guatemala President Alvaro Colóm Caballeros on Monday urging him to stop worker and union exploitation.

The members of Congress gave their support to [Colom] in addressing issues of labor justice in Guatemala. Sanchez said in a media release that Guatemala had not kept its promise to enforce labor laws under the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

CAFTA was passed by Congress in 2005 under former President George W. Bush and went into effect in 2006. Sanchez said she wants to change the trade model set up by CAFTA to include better enforcement and labor provisions.

In the letter, Guatemala was reminded of their obligations to uphold labor laws and regulations when they ratified the CAFTA. The agreements to enforce labor laws have not been upheld since the enforcement of the trade agreement in July 1, 2006, the letter continued.

In 2008 six Guatemalan unions and the [AFL-CIO] filed a complaint to the U.S Department of Labor's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs asking the United States to demand that the Guatemalan government put an end to the suppression and violence on trade unionists .

On January of this year the OTLA acknowledged the complaint made last year and found additional rights violations. The report included recommendations for Guatemala on addressing the situation and set up a six month deadline for itself to reassess the situation. The OTLA has not done anything further with the six months almost up.


-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

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.

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