South American Leaders Reject Elections Under Honduras Coup Regime
Just Foreign Policy News
August 10, 2009
Honduran Coup Decree Shows Coup "Justification" Was After the Fact
Supporters in the U.S. of the coup in Honduras have frequently made two claims to justify it which are demonstrably false, which have nonetheless been widely accepted in the U.S., because they have been largely unchallenged in the U.S. media: the Honduran Congress authorized Zelaya's removal, and the basis for that removal was Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, which forbids someone from being President if he has already been President, and says that anyone who advocates changing this provision will cease to be President. But the coup decree of the Honduran Congress is now online. The document never mentions Article 239.
The Minimum Wage and the Coup in Honduras
The coup in Honduras - and the at best grudging and vacillating support in Washington for the restoration of President Zelaya - has thrown into stark relief a fundamental fault line in Latin America and a moral black hole in U.S. policy toward the region: What is the minimum wage which a worker shall be paid for a day's labor?
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1) South American presidents say they will not recognize any leader elected while Honduras' coup-installed regime is in power and reiterated a call for the immediate return of President Zelaya, AP reports. Chilean President Bachelet announced the group's position Monday on the first day of a meeting of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur.
2) Military experts are warning that the US is taking on security and political commitments in Afghanistan will last at least a decade at a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war, the Washington Post reports. Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the US has spent $223 billion on war-related funding. Later this month, Gen. McChrystal is expected to present his analysis. The analysis could prompt an increase in U.S. troop levels to help implement Obama's new strategy. The House Appropriations Committee said in its report on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill that its members are "concerned about the prospects for an open-ended U.S. commitment."
3) Gen. McChrystal says the Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports. McChrystal warned that U.S. casualties, already at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
4) The coup regime in Honduras canceled and then rescheduled a trip by OAS envoys seeking to resolve a six-week-old political crisis caused by the ouster of President Zelaya, McClatchy reports. The coup regime had said it couldn't accept a delegation led by OAS Secretary-General Insulza.
5) Obama denied the US is planning to set up military bases in Colombia as part of an upgraded security agreement, Mercopress reports. "We have no intention of sending large numbers of additional troops into Colombia," Obama said. The new security arrangement would allow the Pentagon to lease access to seven Colombian military bases.
6) Fifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, the New York Times reports. US military commanders have told Congress the policy is legal under the military's rules of engagement and international law. NATO allies have raised questions about the strategy of killing individuals who are not traditional military targets. The US intelligence community believes the Taliban has been getting less money from the drug trade than previous public studies have suggested. The CIA and DIA estimate the Taliban obtains about $70 million a year from drugs.
7) The US may not be able to bring allegations against Ahmed al-Darbi to court because he was tortured while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, AP reports. Al-Darbi says US troops subjected him to beatings, excruciating shackling, painfully loud music, isolation and threats of rape, according to an affidavit obtained by AP.
8) The majority of Pakistanis say the US is the biggest threat to their country, Al Jazeera reports. 67 per cent say they oppose US military operations on Pakistani soil. 9 per cent support US drone attacks in Pakistan.
9) A UN report says there is growing evidence Karzai's government is abusing state resources to help him win this month's presidential election in Afghanistan, the Telegraph reports.
10) The head of the British Army stirred controversy with remarks taken by some to suggest that UK forces could be in Afghanistan for up to 40 years, the London Sunday Times reports. A Liberal Democrat MP dismissed the prediction on the grounds that "Britain is subordinate to the United States and you can bet your life Barack Obama will not wish to run a campaign for re-election as president with an openended obligation."
11) President Chavez announced he is sending his ambassador back to Colombia, signaling a willingness to ease a diplomatic impasse while not backing down from opposing Colombia's plan to open its military bases to a bigger U.S. presence, AP reports. A group of visiting Colombian opposition politicians was led by Sen. Jaime Dussan, who also condemned Colombia's plan to allow a larger U.S. military presence. Dussan said the group hopes that regular diplomatic and trade relations between Colombia and Venezuela eventually can be restored.
1) Union of South American Nations rejects elections under Honduran de facto regime
Associated Press, August 10, 2009
Quito, Ecuador - South American presidents say they will not recognize any leader elected while Honduras' coup-installed regime is in power and they have reiterated a call for the immediate return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the group's position Monday on the first day of a meeting of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur.
Bachelet handed over the presidency of Unasur to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who called for Zelaya's "immediate and unconditional" return to power in Honduras.
The presidents plan to sign a declaration on the Honduran crisis later Monday.
2) Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly U.S. Campaign In Afghanistan
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Sunday, August 9, 2009
As the Obama administration expands U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, military experts are warning that the United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war.
Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding for that country, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion last year.
The costs are almost certain to keep growing. The Obama administration is in the process of overhauling the U.S. approach to Afghanistan, putting its focus on long-term security, economic sustainability and development. That approach is also likely to require deployment of more American military personnel, at the very least to train additional Afghan security forces.
Later this month, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is expected to present his analysis of the situation in the country. The analysis could prompt an increase in U.S. troop levels to help implement President Obama's new strategy.
Military experts insist that the additional resources are necessary. But many, including some advising McChrystal, say they fear the public has not been made aware of the significant commitments that come with Washington's new policies.
"We will need a large combat presence for many years to come, and we will probably need a large financial commitment longer than that," said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the "strategic assessment" team advising McChrystal. The expansion of the Afghan security force that the general will recommend to secure the country "will inevitably cost much more than any imaginable Afghan government is going to be able to afford on its own," Biddle added.
"Afghan forces will need $4 billion a year for another decade, with a like sum for development," said Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine who has chronicled the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bing said the danger is that Congress is "so generous in support of our own forces today, it may not support the aid needed for progress in Afghanistan tomorrow."
Some members of Congress are worried. The House Appropriations Committee said in its report on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill that its members are "concerned about the prospects for an open-ended U.S. commitment to bring stability to a country that has a decades-long history of successfully rebuffing foreign military intervention and attempts to influence internal politics."
3) Taliban Now Winning
U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Warns of Rising Casualties
Yochi J. Dreazen and Peter Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency's spiritual home.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the commander offered a preview of the strategic assessment he is to deliver to Washington later this month, saying the troop shifts are designed to better protect Afghan civilians from rising levels of Taliban violence and intimidation. The coming redeployments are the clearest manifestation to date of Gen. McChrystal's strategy for Afghanistan, which puts a premium on safeguarding the Afghan population rather than hunting down militants.
Gen. McChrystal said the Taliban are moving beyond their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan to threaten formerly stable areas in the north and west.
The militants are mounting sophisticated attacks that combine roadside bombs with ambushes by small teams of heavily armed militants, causing significant numbers of U.S. fatalities, he said. July was the bloodiest month of the war for American and British forces, and 12 more American troops have already been killed in August.
4) Effort to End Honduras Political Crisis Hits a New Roadblock
Tyler Bridges, McClatchy Newspapers, Sun, Aug. 09, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The de facto government of Honduras Sunday canceled and then rescheduled a trip by foreign envoys who're seeking to resolve a six-week-old political crisis caused by the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.
Honduras' interim government initially said Sunday that it couldn't accept a delegation led by Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, because of what it called his "lack of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism."
The interim government led by President Roberto Micheletti later said it had worked out its differences with the OAS over which foreign ministers would visit. It also said that Inzulsa had been downgraded to "observer" status.
The government's communique Sunday evening said it would settle on a new date for the visit "in the next two days."
Many independent observers give an OAS delegation the best chance to resolve the power struggle in this Central American nation that led the military to whisk Zelaya out of the country on June 28 and the Congress to replace him with Micheletti.
5) Obama denies the US plans to set military bases in Colombia
Mercopress, Saturday, August 8th 2009
President Barack Obama joined Friday a controversy boiling in South America by denying the United States is planning to set up military bases in Colombia as part of an upgraded security agreement with Bogotá. "There have been those in the region who have been trying to play this up as part of a traditional anti-Yankee rhetoric. This is not accurate," Obama told Hispanic media reporters.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims that the enhanced US-Colombian security plan could be a step toward war in South America. His accusation forced Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to a three day round of visits to talk with seven South American presidents.
"We have had a security agreement with Colombia for many years now. We have updated that agreement. We have no intent in establishing a US military base in Colombia," Obama said.
"This is continuation of assistance that we had been providing them. We have no intention of sending large numbers of additional troops into Colombia, and we have every interest in seeing Colombia and its neighbours operate peacefully."
The new security arrangement would allow the Pentagon to lease access to seven Colombian military bases for US support in fighting drug traffickers and guerrillas involved in the cocaine trade. The agreement would also increase the number of US troops in Colombia above the current total of less than 300 but not more than 800, the maximum permitted under the existing pact.
6) U.S. To Hunt Down Afghan Drug Lords Tied To Taliban
James Risen, New York Times, August 10, 2009
Washington - Fifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, reflecting a major shift in American counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, according to a Congressional study to be released this week.
United States military commanders have told Congress that they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military's rules of engagement and international law. They also said the move is an essential part of their new plan to disrupt the flow of drug money that is helping finance the Taliban insurgency.
In interviews with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is releasing the report, two American generals serving in Afghanistan said that major traffickers with proven links to the insurgency have been put on the "joint integrated prioritized target list." That means they have been given the same target status as insurgent leaders, and can be captured or killed at any time.
The generals told Senate staff members that two credible sources and substantial additional evidence were required before a trafficker was placed on the list, and only those providing support to the insurgency would be made targets.
Currently, they said, there are about 50 major traffickers who contribute money to the Taliban on the list. "We have a list of 367 ‘kill or capture' targets, including 50 nexus targets who link drugs and the insurgency," one of the generals told the committee staff. The generals were not identified in the Senate report, which was obtained by The New York Times.
The shift in policy comes as the Obama administration, deep into the war in Afghanistan, makes significant changes to its strategy for dealing with that country's lucrative drug trade, which provides 90 percent of the world's heroin and has led to substantial government corruption.
The Senate report's disclosure of a hit list for drug traffickers may lead to criticism in the United States over the expansion of the military's mission, and NATO allies have already raised questions about the strategy of killing individuals who are not traditional military targets.
The policy of going after drug lords is likely to raise legal concerns from some NATO countries that have troops in Afghanistan. Several NATO countries initially questioned whether the new policy would comply with international law.
"This was a hard sell in NATO," said retired Gen. John Craddock, who was supreme allied commander of NATO forces until he retired in July.
In a surprise, the Senate report reveals that the United States intelligence community believes that the Taliban has been getting less money from the drug trade than previous public studies have suggested. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency both estimate that the Taliban obtains about $70 million a year from drugs.
7) Afghan Jail Conditions Hamper Prosecutions
Ben Fox, Associated Press, Saturday, August 8, 2009 11:33 AM
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba - U.S. military prosecutors allege that Ahmed al-Darbi has met with Osama bin Laden, trained at an al-Qaida terrorist camp, and plotted to blow up a ship in the Strait of Hormuz or off Yemen.
But the government may never be able to bring those allegations to court because of the torture the prisoner says he suffered in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Al-Darbi says American troops subjected him to beatings, excruciating shackling, painfully loud music, isolation and threats of rape, according to a new affidavit obtained by The Associated Press. If al-Darbi's statements to interrogators were indeed obtained under such circumstances, they will likely be thrown out.
"I was frightened and there were times I wished I would die," the 33-year-old prisoner from Saudi Arabia said in the statement taken in July at Guantanamo, which was provided to the AP by his lawyer. "I felt that anything could happen to me and that everything was out of control."
The affidavit, which was provided to the AP by al-Darbi's lawyer, is an unusually detailed first-person account of the harsh conditions at the heart of the issue. In October, a military judge threw out the confession of Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed Jawad because it was given to U.S. officials in Afghanistan after Afghan authorities threatened to kill his family. Jawad had been charged with wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter with a grenade.
Al-Darbi was captured at the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2002. Several weeks later, the affidavit says, he was taken blindfolded to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, through which many if not most of the Guantanamo detainees have passed.
Al-Darbi was held for eight months at Bagram. For the first two weeks, he was kept in isolation when not being interrogated, according to the affidavit. Later, it says, he went through a litany of harsh tactics, including being kicked and dragged around a room by U.S. troops while music blared in the background. At times, he was forced to kneel with his hands cuffed above his head through the night and repeatedly interrogated, often while hooded. He also describes a process in which he was hooded, shaken violently and subjected to water poured over his head. "My view is that taken together all this treatment amounts to torture," said his attorney, Ramzi Kassem.
8) Pakistanis see US as biggest threat
Exclusive Gallup Pakistan Poll
Owen Fay, Al Jazeera, Monday, August 10, 2009
A survey commissioned by Al Jazeera in Pakistan has revealed a widespread disenchantment with the United States for interfering with what most people consider internal Pakistani affairs.
The polling was conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of the Gallup International polling group, and more than 2,600 people took part.
When respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11 per cent of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years.
Another 18 per cent said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947.
But an overwhelming number, 59 per cent of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US, a donor of considerable amounts of military and development aid.
When people were asked if they would support government-sanctioned dialogue with Taliban fighters if it were a viable option the numbers change significantly.
Although the same 41 per cent said they would still support the military offensive, the number of those supporting dialogue leaps up to 43 per cent.
However, when asked if they support or oppose the US military's drone attacks against what Washington claims are Taliban and al-Qaeda targets, only nine per cent of respondents reacted favourably.
A massive 67 per cent say they oppose US military operations on Pakistani soil.
Forty-one per cent of Pakistanis say they support the offensive against the Taliban
"This is a fact that the hatred against the US is growing very quickly, mainly because of these drone attacks," Makhdoom Babar, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan's The Daily Mail newspaper, said.
"Maybe the intelligence channels, the military channels consider it productive, but for the general public it is controversial ... the drone attacks are causing collateral damage," he told Al Jazeera.
9) UN: Hamid Karzai's government using state resources to swing Afghan election
Ben Farmer, Telegraph, 09 Aug 2009
The United Nations said there is growing evidence that Hamid Karzai's government is abusing state resources to help him win this month's presidential election in Afghanistan.
An election report released said monitors had received increasing reports officials were biased and were using their resources to campaign for Mr Karzai.
Rival candidates were being denied access to national state television and government cars or lorries were being used to ship people to rallies.
The report, by the UN mission to Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said: "These reported breaches of impartiality tended to be in favour of presidential candidate Karzai."
10) New Army Chief Under Fire Over ‘40 Years' Claim
Michael Smith, Sunday Times, August 9, 2009
The new head of the British Army was last night under pressure from ministers to backpedal on suggestions that UK forces could be in Afghanistan for up to 40 years.
General Sir David Richards, who takes up his post this month, is at the centre of a row over the war after claiming that Britain will be committed to the region "in some manner" for the next three to four decades.
The prediction also provoked an angry reaction from opposition politicians, who warned that public opinion would never support a military commitment of that length.
Last night the Ministry of Defence was trying to persuade Richards to "clarify" his remarks, suggesting they had been taken out of context.
In an interview published yesterday, Richards warned that it would "take time" to save Afghanistan: "This is nation-building - not the starry-eyed type, but nation-building none the less. It is not just reconstruction; jobs and simple governance that works are the key ... The army's role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 or 40 years."
The prediction was also dismissed by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat MP, who insisted that a much earlier withdrawal would be necessary. "Forty years may be the military estimate, but political opinion in this country will never support a commitment of that length," he said.
"In Afghanistan, Britain is subordinate to the United States and you can bet your life Barack Obama will not wish to run a campaign for re-election as president with an openended obligation."
11) Venezuela orders ambassador back to Colombia
Jorge Rueda, Associated Press, Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:24 AM
Caracas, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez announced he is sending his ambassador back to Colombia, signaling a willingness to ease a diplomatic impasse while not backing down from opposing Colombia's plan to open its military bases to a bigger U.S. presence.
Chavez said as he met with a group of Colombian opposition politicians Saturday night that he still firmly opposes President Alvaro Uribe's plan to allow American troops to use at least seven Colombian military bases, calling it a threat to Venezuela and the region. "The decision to freeze relations with Uribe's government remains," Chavez told reporters. "We have plenty of reasons to be highly concerned."
Chavez told Ambassador Gustavo Marquez earlier Saturday to return to Bogota, 11 days after he ordered the diplomat home amid the dispute. It remained unclear how soon the Marquez would return.
Colombian officials have said Venezuela has no reason to be concerned, and that the U.S. forces would help fight drug trafficking. Colombian officials also say the proposed 10-year agreement would not boost the presence of American troops and civilian military contractors above the 1,400 currently permitted by U.S. law.
The group of visiting Colombian opposition politicians was led by Sen. Jaime Dussan, who also condemned Colombia's plan to allow a larger U.S. military presence. Dussan said the group hopes that regular diplomatic and trade relations eventually can be restored.
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