JFP News 7/28: Obama Revokes Some Visas of Honduras Coup Leaders
Just Foreign Policy News
July 28, 2009
Rep. Grijalva Urges Greater U.S. Pressure on the Coup Regime in Honduras
Rep. Raul Grijalva is circulating a letter to President Obama, calling on him to denounce the repression in Honduras by the coup regime, and to freeze U.S. assets and suspend U.S. visas of coup leaders. Signers of the letter include Reps. McGovern, Conyers, and Serrano. Urge your Representative to sign the Grijalva letter calling for more U.S. pressure on the coup regime.
Scholars, NGOs Respond to Hillary's "Reckless" Attack on President Zelaya
When talks in Costa Rica broke down due to the intransigence of the coup regime in Honduras - responding to a lack of US pressure - President Zelaya tried to return, prompting Secretary of State Clinton to denounce President Zelaya as "reckless." Scholars and NGOs respond to Secretary Clinton in a public sign-on statement, charging her with giving a green light to the coup regime for repression. You can view the statement and sign-on here.
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1) The U.S. revoked diplomatic visas of four members of Honduras' de facto government Tuesday, trying to force it to back down and allow the return to power of ousted President Zelaya, Reuters reports. [This is a good step, but it is an extension of the existing policy of not recognizing the coup government, rather than a new policy of excluding coup leaders from the U.S., as Rep. Grijalva and our alert have called for. Nonetheless, at a time when many have questioned the U.S. commitment to stated policy of restoring the democratically elected government, it's a positive step - JFP.]
2) Afghan President Karzai offered peace talks to Taliban militants if they renounce violence and called for a new relationship with the West if he wins a second term in next month's presidential election, AP reports. Karzai said he wants operations at Bagram re-evaluated and inmates released unless there is evidence linking them to terrorism. He said arrests are turning ordinary Afghans against U.S. and NATO forces. Karzai said the Afghan government was "completely against the mushrooming of private security firms" and that the money would be better spent training and equipping Afghanistan's own army and police force.
3) NIKE, Adidas, Gap, and Knights Apparel - companies that have products made in Honduras - sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton calling for the restoration of democracy in Honduras. They urged "an immediate resolution to the crisis and that civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected."
4) Strains between the U.S. and Israel surfaced publicly on Monday, as Defense Secretary Gates tried to reassure Israelis U.S. overtures to Iran were not open-ended, and Israeli Defense Minister Barak expressed impatience with the U.S. for wanting to engage Iran at all, the New York Times reports. Gates reiterated Obama was hopeful Iran would accept the offer of talks at the time the UN General Assembly convened in late September. Obama has set a further deadline of the end of the year for Iran to show some progress on the issue.
5) Lawmakers are voicing concerns about the Pentagon's strategic communications programs, the Washington Post reports. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee, in approving the fiscal 2010 defense funding bill, said that it had identified 10 strategic communications programs that had grown from $9 million in fiscal 2005 to a "staggering $988 million request for fiscal 2010." The committee said many of the costlier programs appear as "alarmingly non-military propaganda, public relations, and behavioral modification messaging." Several of the 10 classified programs "should be terminated immediately," said the panel.
6) An op-ed in the Baltimore Sun faults the Obama Administration for proposing cuts in drug abuse treatment and prevention initiatives. An estimated 20 million Americans need treatment but are unable to get it. [The U.S. has promised Mexico and other supply countries it would get serious about dealing with U.S. demand - JFP.]
7) Hundreds of Hondurans dodged arrest and braved the elements to make the trek to join President Zelaya on the Nicaraguan border, the New York Times reports. The Times notes that Zelaya's "political theater" has kept pressure on the coup regime and Washington.
8) A poll published by the Independent in London says more than half of Britons think military operations in Afghanistan are futile and want troops to be withdrawn immediately, AFP reports.
9) Wealthy landowners who fled the Taliban in Swat are so far refusing to return, the New York Times reports. About four dozen landlords were singled out over the past two years by the militants in a strategy intended to foment a class struggle, the Times says. U.S. officials fear the landlords' absence will solidify peasant support for the Taliban. "If the large landowners are kept out by the Taliban, the result will in effect be property redistribution," said Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to U.S. envoy Holbrooke. "That will create a vested community of support for the Taliban that will see benefit in the absence of landlords."
10) Iraqi police and soldiers raided the Camp Ashraf MEK camp on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. Gen. Odierno said the US had no advance knowledge of an Iraqi raid, but he said that as long as Iraqi troops acted humanely, the US wouldn't object to the assault on the camp. The MEK, which opposes the government of Iran, is labeled as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
11) President Calderón is under growing pressure to overhaul a U.S.-backed anti-narcotics strategy that many political leaders and analysts said is failing, the Washington Post reports. There are now sustained calls in Mexico for a change in tactics, even from allies within Calderón's political party, who say the deployment of 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels is a flawed plan that relies too heavily on the blunt force of the military. A polling organization said public support for the military deployment was lowest in the states where the military was actually deployed.
12) The Obama administration has pulled the plug on an electronic billboard outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana that was used to tweak the Cuban government, the New York Times reports. The unplugging of the billboard, which was done quietly last month, follows a loosening of travel restrictions and the beginning of migration talks with the Cuban government.
1) U.S. revokes four visas of de facto Honduras government
Sue Pleming, Reuters, Tuesday, July 28, 2009 2:07 PM
The United States revoked diplomatic visas of four members of Honduras' de facto government on Tuesday, trying to force it to back down and allow the return to power of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
"We don't recognize Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras, we recognize Manuel Zelaya, and so in keeping with that policy of nonrecognition, we have decided to revoke official diplomatic visas, or A visas, of four individuals who are members of that regime," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
He did not name the individuals but said the said the diplomatic visas of other members of the government were also being reviewed.
"It is part of our overall policy to the de facto regime," he said, adding that the measure was taken to support mediation efforts to end Central America's worst crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has mediated talks between both sides but the negotiations have failed as Micheletti refuses to agree to Zelaya's return to power. He has instead insisted the leftist leader will be arrested if he sets foot in Honduras.
Zelaya has in recent days questioned whether the U.S. government was doing enough to push for his return, and he urged President Barack Obama to impose sanctions against the coup leaders and members of Micheletti's government.
2) Karzai: Afghans want rules for troops changed
Robert H. Reid and Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, Monday, July 27, 2009 3:07 PM
Kabul - A confident President Hamid Karzai on Monday offered peace talks to Taliban militants if they renounce violence and called for a new relationship with the West if he wins a second term in next month's presidential election.
Karzai is considered the favorite in the Aug. 20 vote. But his chances could hinge on his fellow Pashtuns in the turbulent south and east, where U.S. and British forces this month have suffered some of their highest casualties of the eight-year war.
His only serious competition in the 39-candidate field is believed to be former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who could force a runoff if a low turnout among the Pashtuns, the country's biggest ethnic group and the heart of the Taliban ranks, prevents Karzai from claiming a majority of the votes.
In an interview with The Associated Press in his modest office, Karzai reached out to disaffected Pashtuns, calling for a dialogue with Taliban members who are not affiliated with al-Qaida and who are willing to repudiate violence "and announce that publicly."
But the president said he was not yet prepared to discuss the key Taliban demand - a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops - because he contends their continued presence is in the national interest.
Afghan authorities have long complained that the Taliban exploit public discontent over the issues of civilian casualties and searches of private homes. Discontent runs highest in Pashtun areas that have seen most of the fighting since the hardline Islamic movement rebounded from its ouster from power in the U.S.-led invasion of 2001.
During the interview, Karzai also said he wants operations at the U.S.-run prison at Bagram Air Base, where about 600 Afghans are held, re-evaluated and inmates released unless there is evidence linking them to terrorism. He said arrests are turning ordinary Afghans against U.S. and NATO forces.
Instead, both sides should work toward a relationship in which foreign troops show greater sensitivity to Afghan culture and the Afghans display "better management of governmental affairs," Karzai said.
Karzai also the Afghan government was "completely against the mushrooming of private security firms" which played a major role in the Iraq war. U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan are considering hiring a private contractor to provide around-the-clock security at dozens of bases and protect vehicle convoys moving throughout the country.
But Karzai said reliance on private contractors "runs counter to the growth and development of our own institutions" and that the money would be better spent training and equipping Afghanistan's own army and police force.
3) Letter to Secretary Clinton Regarding Honduras
Nike, Inc., July 27, 2009
Dear Secretary Clinton:
As companies that have products made in Honduras, we are deeply concerned about recent events in that country. We understand that serious disagreements exist between the elected President, Congress and the Supreme Court, but these should be resolved through peaceful, democratic dialogue, rather than through military action.
While we do not and will not support or endorse the position of any party in this internal dispute, we feel it is necessary in this case to join with the President of the United States, the governments of countries throughout the Americas, the Organization of American States, the UN General Assembly and the European Union in calling for the restoration of democracy in Honduras.
We are also very concerned about the continuation of violence if this dispute is not resolved immediately, and with restrictions on civil liberties under the July 1 Emergency Decree. We urge for an immediate resolution to the crisis and that civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected.
We welcome the participation of the contending parties in mediation talks and are hopeful they will achieve a prompt and just solution to all issues in dispute.
NIKE, Inc. The adidas Group Gap Inc. Knights Apparel
4) Gates Says U.S. Overture To Iran Is 'Not Open-Ended'
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, July 28, 2009
Amman, Jordan - Strains between the United States and Israel surfaced publicly in Jerusalem on Monday, as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tried to reassure Israelis that American overtures to Iran were not open-ended, and as Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel expressed impatience with the Americans for wanting to engage Iran at all.
Israel has been anxious for months about the Obama administration's willingness to engage Iran in talks, but Monday was unusual in that the tensions crept into public view at a news conference of the top defense officials of both countries.
After traveling on to Amman on Monday, Gates said at a news conference that he had received assurances from the Israelis that as long as there was a time limit on the outreach to Iran, "the Israelis were prepared to let it go forward."
Gates, apparently in an attempt to smooth over anxieties, reiterated at the news conference in Jerusalem that President Obama was hopeful that Iran would accept the offer of talks at the time that the United Nations General Assembly convened in late September. Obama has set a further deadline of the end of the year for Iran to show some progress on the issue.
Still, Gates acknowledged that "we're very mindful of the possibility that the Iranians would simply try to run out the clock." In Amman, he said that if engagement with Iran did not work, the United States was prepared to press for tougher economic sanctions against it. Iran is already the subject of United Nations sanctions. "Our hope still remains that Iran will respond to the president's outstretched hand in a positive and constructive way, but we'll see," Gates said.
5) Congressional Committees Raise Concerns Over Pentagon's Strategic Communications
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Lawmakers are voicing concerns about the Pentagon's strategic communications programs, through which the military aims to win over civilians and erode support for adversaries in countries around the world.
The programs have grown too fast and are spread through the Defense Department budget in a way that hampers oversight, complain the House and Senate Armed Services committees and the House Appropriations Committee. They also suggest that the military is producing propaganda and other materials that mask U.S. government sponsorship and focus "far beyond a traditional military information operations."
The Pentagon spends nearly $1 billion a year on its strategic communications, its contribution to the "war of ideas" that until recent years had been the sole province of the State Department's public diplomacy effort. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the military getting money more easily than the diplomatic corps, and the dominance of military personnel in those countries has led to an increasing military role in information operations.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee, in approving the fiscal 2010 defense funding bill, said that it had identified 10 strategic communications programs that had grown from $9 million in fiscal 2005 to a "staggering $988 million request for fiscal 2010." The committee said many of the costlier programs appear as "alarmingly non-military propaganda, public relations, and behavioral modification messaging."
Several of the 10 classified programs "should be terminated immediately," said the panel, and it threatened to withhold funding for all 10 for next year until Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reports to the committee about their "target audiences, goals, and measures of effectiveness." It also cut $500 million from the Pentagon's overall total for strategic communications.
6) Drug War's Wrong Focus
When it comes to treatment, the White House should put its money where its mouth is
Robert Weiner and Zoe Pagonis, Baltimore Sun, July 27, 2009
[Weiner is former spokesman for the White House National Drug Policy Office.]
In Baltimore last week, new U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske made the case for expansion of drug courts to treat rather than imprison addicts and called for drugs to be considered a "public health crisis." Why, then, is the Obama administration proposing to spend an even higher percentage of its anti-drug resources on law enforcement than the administration of George W. Bush?
Kerlikowske has said, "It is only through a balanced approach - combining tough but fair enforcement with robust prevention and treatment - that we will be successful in stemming both demand and supply of illegal drugs." Yet, in the 2010 budget, there is a 3.3 percent reduction in treatment and prevention initiatives since 2008, exacerbating the bias toward enforcement, which now represents 65.6 percent of the budget, even higher than the last administration's 62.3 percent.
With 20.8 million Americans needing treatment but unable to get it - by some estimates, 30,000 in Baltimore alone - Congress should double the $5 billion currently budgeted for prevention and treatment. If we can spend $6 trillion to shore up our financial institutions and a trillion on Iraq (only to discover that al-Qaeda is actually in Afghanistan), increasing drug treatment to stop the main catalyst of crime and save families would be an extraordinarily rational policy shift.
Treatment is cost-effective. According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Army, for every dollar invested in drug treatment, taxpayers save upward of $7 in crime-related reductions due to less incarceration and hospitalization. This $5 billion investment thus translates to real savings of $35 billion for American taxpayers.
7) A President Kicked Out, but Not Alone in Defiance
Blake Schmidt, New York Times, July 28, 2009
Ocotal, Nicaragua - When Ángel Hsiky, a farm worker, heard his ousted president's call for supporters to help him return to Honduras, he threw a change of clothes in a knapsack, kissed his wife and 9-month-old boy goodbye and headed to the Nicaraguan border.
Defying a military-enforced curfew, Hsiky and a caravan of about 200 supporters of the deposed Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, crossed precipitous hillsides covered with coffee plantations and dense cloud forest, skirting military roadblocks by taking dirt back roads. When that became impossible, the group abandoned cars and trucks and walked through mud and rain to the mountain-ringed outpost of Las Manos, Nicaragua. "We've come to bring our president back home," said Hsiky, 23, who is from Zelaya's Olancho Province in central Honduras.
Since Zelaya arrived here on Friday to taunt the de facto government that exiled him a month ago, hundreds of Hondurans have answered his call to join him just across the border in Nicaragua. Arriving here in mud-caked jeans and ripped shirts, after sleeping on soaked mountaintops and hiding among the coffee plants from patrolling helicopters, they have set up camps in the border towns of Las Manos and Ocotal.
They are teachers, students, the self-employed and laborers. Many said they came to support Zelaya because his policies benefit the poor.
In the weeks after Zelaya was awakened by soldiers on June 28 and put on a plane to Costa Rica, he tried to regain his presidency through international diplomacy. He jetted around Central America and the United States, addressed the United Nations, attended regional summit meetings and was received with the pomp of a president.
But negotiations with the de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti have stalled, and the attention of the international community seems close to spent. Zelaya is here because he has little place else to go. Hard against the border, he can rally Hondurans here to try to keep some internal pressure on those who ousted him and stage political theater that, laced with an implicit threat of violence, helps keep the crisis from falling off Washington's radar.
About 30 mayors and other political leaders have driven groups of supporters across the border. "We're putting pressure on the acting government until it restores Zelaya," said Marco Antonio Mendoza, the mayor of San Marcos de Colón. "The Micheletti government has no support. It can't sustain itself. It will run out of aid and money to pay government workers."
Tension mounted Saturday morning when the body of a protester from El Paraíso was found near the site of a protest. Zelaya's supporters accused the authorities of being involved in the death of the man, who had been stabbed in the back and was last seen by friends at protests here in Ocotal on Friday.
The mayor of El Paraíso, Alan Funes, appeared with Zelaya on Sunday and offered fighting words. "We will take back El Paraíso," he said. "We won't let the military install itself there. If it's our turn to die, so be it, but the coup leaders will die first."
One protester, Johnny Rodriguez, a teacher who followed a guide on a nine-hour hike across the border, said that, like many others, he would stay as long as he felt he was needed. "It's frightening to leave behind your family," he said, "but when you're scared, you have to remember what's really best for them and understand that it requires an effort."
8) Most want troops out of Afghanistan: survey
AFP, Mon Jul 27, 10:05 PM
London - More than half of Britons think military operations in Afghanistan are futile and want troops to be withdrawn immediately, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday. Fifty eight percent see the offensive against Taliban extremists in Afghanistan as "unwinnable" and only 31 percent disagree, according to the poll conducted for the Independent newspaper.
The poll showed 52 percent want troops out while 43 percent would like them to stay put. Some 75 percent believe British troops lack the equipment they need to perform their role in Afghanistan safely, compared to 16 percent who think they have adequate resources, it said.
However 60 percent of those polled do not think more troops and resources should be sent to the front line, according to the ConRes survey of 1,008 Britons polled over the phone earlier this month.
The poll comes as Britain on Monday announced the end of a major bloody offensive against the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan, while the Ministry of Defence said two more soldiers had been killed there.
9) With Stubborn Unrest In Swat, Landowners Remain In Exile
Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, New York Times, July 28, 2009
Islamabad, Pakistan - Even as hundreds of thousands of people stream back to the Swat Valley after months of fighting, one important group is conspicuously absent: the wealthy landowners who fled the Taliban in fear and are the economic pillar of the rural society.
The reluctance of the landowners to return is a significant blow to the Pakistani military's campaign to restore Swat as a stable, prosperous part of Pakistan, and it presents a continuing opportunity for the Taliban to reshape the valley to their advantage.
About four dozen landlords were singled out over the past two years by the militants in a strategy intended to foment a class struggle. In some areas, the Taliban rewarded the landless peasants with profits of the crops of the landlords. Some resentful peasants even signed up as the Taliban's shock troops.
About two million people have fled Swat and surrounding areas since the military opened its campaign to push back the Taliban at the end of April. The United Nations said Monday that 478,000 people had returned to Swat so far, but it cautioned that it was unable to verify the figure, which was provided by the government.
Assessment trips by United Nations workers to Swat scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled for security reasons, and the United Nations office in Peshawar that serves as the base for Swat operations was closed Monday because of a high threat of kidnapping, a spokesman said.
The landlords, many of whom raised sizable militias to fight the Taliban themselves last year, say the army is again failing to provide enough protection if they return.
Another deterrent to returning, they say, is that the top Taliban leadership, responsible for taking aim at the landlords and spreading the spoils among the landless, remains unscathed.
If it continues, the landlords' absence will have lasting ramifications not only for Swat, but also for Pakistan's most populated province, Punjab, where the landholdings are vast, and the militants are gaining power, said Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Holbrooke, the American envoy.
"If the large landowners are kept out by the Taliban, the result will in effect be property redistribution," Nasr said. "That will create a vested community of support for the Taliban that will see benefit in the absence of landlords."
10) Iraqi Police Crack Down on Opposition Camp
Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 28, 2009 3:23 PM
Baghdad, July 24 - Iraqi police officers and soldiers on Tuesday raided a camp near Baghdad that is home to an Iranian opposition group that has supplied intelligence information to U.S. forces but that has long been an irritant to Iran.
Officers used batons, hoses, pepper spray and sound grenades during the raid at Camp Ashraf, home to the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq. The United States had protected the camp until about three months ago, and the raid came a day after the Iraqi government announced it would assume complete responsibility of the camp and vowed to "protect the people inside the base."
The raid appears to have caught U.S. officials off guard, and it marks one of the boldest moves by the Iraqi government since U.S. forces nominally withdrew from the country's cities late last month. The crackdown coincided with a surprise visit to Iraq by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
The opposition group members have provided U.S. intelligence officials with information about Iran's nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials have urged the Iraqi government to treat the group's members humanely - and the U.S. pressure on the Iraqi government is widely believed to have prevented it from taking aggressive steps to expel the residents, as Iran has long urged it to do.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the United States had no advance knowledge of an Iraqi raid, but he said that as long as Iraqi troops acted humanely, the United States wouldn't object to the assault on the camp.
The Iraqi government and MEK leaders had been in negotiations in recent weeks to put a police station inside the camp to keep a closer eye on the camp's followers, but those talks failed, Odierno said.
The U.S. military has maintained a presence at the camp since 2003, when the group, an erstwhile ally of Saddam Hussein, agreed to disarm. The camp and its people have long been an irritant in Iraq's relationships with Iran and the United States; Iran has accused the group of carrying out numerous terrorist attacks.
Although the group has provided intelligence to U.S. forces, the MEK is labeled as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
11) New Strategy Urged in War on Drug Cartels
Calderón's U.S.-Backed War Against Drug Cartels Losing Political Support
William Booth and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Mexico City - President Felipe Calderón is under growing pressure to overhaul a U.S.-backed anti-narcotics strategy that many political leaders and analysts said is failing amid spectacular drug cartel assaults against the government.
There are now sustained calls in Mexico for a change in tactics, even from allies within Calderón's political party, who say the deployment of 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels is a flawed plan that relies too heavily on the blunt force of the military to stem soaring violence and lawlessness.
"The people of Mexico are losing hope, and it is urgent that Congress, the political parties and the president reconsider this strategy," said Ramón Galindo, a senator and Calderón supporter who is a former mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a border city where more than 1,100 people have been killed this year.
U.S. officials said they now believe Mexico faces a longer and bloodier campaign than anticipated and is likely to require more American aid. U.S. and Mexican officials increasingly draw comparisons to Colombia, where from 2000 to 2006 the United States spent $6 billion to help neutralize the cartels that once dominated the drug trade. While violence is sharply down in Colombia, cocaine production is up.
Mexico, nearly twice Colombia's size, faces a more daunting challenge, many officials and analysts said , in part because it sits adjacent to the United States, the largest illegal drug market in the world. In addition, at least seven major cartels are able to recruit from Mexico's swelling ranks of impoverished youth and thousands of disenfranchised soldiers and police officers.
Lawmakers in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, debated this month whether Calderón's surge was "a total failure." Antonio Andreu, president of the state legislature's commission on security, said it appears that drug gangs have infiltrated the military's intelligence networks and figured out how to circumvent the gauntlet of security forces in Juarez.
Héctor Hawley Morelos, the state forensics chief for Juarez, said he expects this year to be bloodier than the last. He said the soldiers don't help solve crime cases and often get in the way of investigations.
Calderón appears to be increasingly isolated in Mexico, weakened by his party's defeat in recent mid-term elections and by the relentless carnage. The cover of the influential news magazine Proceso this week featured a photo of the 12 federal agents, their bound and mutilated corpses in a pile, beneath the headline: "Calderón's War."
"The president feels alone, and he told me that personally," said Galindo, the senator, who belongs to Calderón's conservative National Action Party.
Galindo said he urged Calderón to change course. Instead of relying on the army to destroy the cartels, he said, the federal government should work to strengthen local communities that are most vulnerable to the traffickers. "Every day that we delay making these communities more self-sufficient, it is going to become more difficult to find good people prepared to serve as mayor in any city - no matter how large or small - because it's like a death sentence," he said.
Dan Lund, president of the MUND Group polling organization, said public support for Calderón's strategy appears to be weakest in the places where the federal government needs it most. "In a series of national surveys, polls consistently have found a reasonable but cautious level of support for using the military in the front lines against the cartels," he said. "But in all the states where the military is actually deployed, the support goes down, sometimes dramatically."
The situation has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis, which has cast millions of Mexicans into poverty. José Luis Piñeyro, a Mexican military analyst who maintains close ties with the armed forces, said rising unemployment and poverty "is creating what I call an 'army in reserve,' " for the traffickers.
Carlos Heredia, a former Michoacan official who now works as an analyst at a Mexico City think tank, said the government's iron-fisted approach is a recipe for failure in regions where mistrust of the government is high.
"You don't have the hearts and minds of the local population," Heredia said. "And if the local drug lords play Robin Hood, then you are lost. Because the people are ultimately going to say, 'What do those officials in Mexico City care about us? They despise us. And these drug guys, at least they give us something.' "
12) U.S. Turns Off News Billboard Atop Its Mission in Havana
Marc Lacey, New York Times, July 28, 2009
Mexico City - The Obama administration has pulled the plug on an electronic billboard outside the American diplomatic mission in Havana that was used to tweak the Cuban government with pro-democracy messages and became a symbol of the bad blood between the two countries.
When the billboard went up in 2006, some saw it as an innovative diplomatic stick in the eye of the government of Fidel Castro. Others, though, considered the 25 electrical panels installed by the Bush administration in the fifth-floor windows of the American Interests Section to be fundamentally silly.
Castro, who ceded the presidency to his brother Raúl last year, was clearly not amused by the bright red messages, many of which criticized his government for human rights abuses.
In response, he blocked the message board with huge black flags hanging on 100-foot-high flag poles and erected billboards nearby that denounced President George W. Bush. Cuban security guards were also stationed in strategic spots to shoo away any Cubans who might gaze upward at the five-foot-high news ticker, which overlooked the Malecón, Havana's coastal highway.
President Obama, while keeping in place the economic embargo of Cuba, has taken a series of steps to improve relations with the government. The unplugging of the billboard, which was done quietly last month, follows a loosening of travel restrictions and the beginning of migration talks with the Cuban government.
"We believe that the billboard was really not effective as a means of delivering information to the Cuban people," the State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said Monday. He noted that the Cuban government had removed some of its negative billboards around the mission earlier this year, which he said the United States viewed as "a positive gesture."
"Taking down the billboard has permitted both sides to act like mature adults," said Robert A. Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University. "That's the most hopeful thing we've seen."
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