JFP 12/17: WaPo Changes its "AfPak" News Header...

Just Foreign Policy News
December 17, 2009


WaPo Changes its "AfPak" News Header
In November, members of Just Foreign Policy asked the Washington Post to change its "AfPak" news header. Stories about the US war in Afghanistan were preceded by the header, "The AfPak War: Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Just Foreign Policy noted that this news header editorialized in news stories, promoting the claims that 1) the US is "combating extremism" in Afghanistan and Pakistan and 2) Afghanistan and Pakistan are "one theater" of conflict. The Washington Post has now changed its news header, taking on board the second criticism but not the first. It now reads: "Obama's War: Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/433

Two Candles in Congress Against the Siege of Gaza
This week Members of the House are considering two actions that could have a real impact in improving living conditions for Palestinians on the ground. Reps. McDermott and Ellison are circulating a letter that calls on President Obama to press for an easing in the Israeli blockade of Gaza by making it easier for Palestinians, aid workers, and journalists to enter and leave Gaza, and by improving the access of Palestinian civilians to necessities such as clean water, food, fuel and medicine. Reps. Moran and Inglis are circulating a letter that focuses on the right of university students from Gaza to complete their studies. Urge your Rep. to sign these letters. The deadline is Friday.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/gaza

Borev: WSJ Claims Venezuelan Christian Arabs Evidence of Iranian Conspiracy
The blog BoRev.net calls out the Wall Street Journal for "racially profiling" Venezuelans descended from Lebanese Christians as proof of an Iranian consipiracy.
http://www.borev.net/2009/12/arab_with_a_capitol_a_that_rhy.html

Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your financial contributions to Just Foreign Policy help us create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a just foreign policy.
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Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) The United States and its allies are stepping up efforts to persuade Afghan insurgents to put down their arms by negotiating with representatives of Mullah Mohammed Omar and other Taliban commanders, the Washington Times reports. Officials said Saudi and Pakistani officials, acting with US encouragement, are talking with "second tier" Taliban leaders connected with Mullah Omar. A Western diplomat confirmed that Pakistani and Saudi officials are using their "connections and influence within Afghan Taliban to elicit some meaningful way to end the deadlock." [David Ignatius has argued that Obama relaxed US criteria for reconciliation with the Taliban in his West Point speech, see: "Ignatius Claims Obama Shift on Reconciliation with Taliban," http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/427 - JFP.]

2) Speaker Pelosi said President Obama will have to argue his own case to House Democrats as he seeks support for a surge of troops into Afghanistan, the Washinggton Post reports. Pelosi said there will be a test vote in January on support for the troop buildup. Rep. Kucinich has said he will offer a privileged resolution next month calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The vote is likely to fail because of broad Republican support for the war, but it could reveal the depth of the schism between Obama and his fellow Democrats on the new troop plan.

3) Two senior UN officials say former UN official Peter Galbraith proposed enlisting the White House in a plan to replace Afghan president Karzai, the New York Times reports. Karzai became incensed when he learned of the plan and was told it had been put forth by Galbraith, who had been installed in his position with the strong backing of US envoy Holbrooke. Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said Galbraith's proposal played a role in Galbraith's firing by the UN.

4) A House subcommittee has begun a wide-ranging investigation into allegations private security companies hired to protect Defense Department convoys in Afghanistan are paying off warlords and the Taliban to ensure safe passage, the Washington Post reports. Rep. John Tierney has written to Defense Secretary Gates requesting records on all the trucking contractors as well as their subcontractors and expenses for convoy security. He has requested that the documents be provided by Jan. 15.

5) A Pentagon health survey says one in four soldiers admit abusing prescription drugs, most of them pain relievers, USA Today reports. Painkiller abuse among troops has soared since 2005.

Honduras
6) The assassination of two anti-coup resistance members in Honduras in recent days has sent out fresh shockwaves, calling up grim memories of the death squads that roamed Honduras a generation ago, In These Times reports. Amnesty International said it fears "that [Walter Trochez'] killing may be a sign of worse abuses to come in the atmosphere of political instability and fear that has prevailed since the coup d'état in June."

Israel/Palestine

7) Israeli military assaults on Gaza, and the two-and-a-half-year-long blockade, has exacted a toll on almost every aspect of children's lives: schooling, housing, leisure time, what they eat, what they wear, how they see the future, The Guardian reports. A Gaza Community Mental Health Programme survey earlier this year found that about 75% of children over the age of six were suffering from one or more symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Almost one in 10 ticked off every criteria.

Argentina

8) Argentine parliamentarians reacted sharply to comments by US envoy Arturo Valenzuela that US investors were "concerned about legal uncertainty" in Argentina and that in 1996 they were "more enthusiastic about investing in the country," the Buenos Aires Herald reports. The head of the Victory Front bloc in the Lower House, Agustin Rossi, said he "thought the time in which a foreign official came to give us lessons had passed."

Haiti

9) The Obama administration should refuse to finance elections in Haiti in February from which 15 political parties have been excluded, argue Brian Concannon and Ira Kurzban in the Miami Herald. One-third of Haiti's Senate and the entire House of Deputies are at stake in the elections. The U.S. Embassy has warned that the exclusion would raise questions about the election's credibility; but if past practice is a guide, the US will pay for them anyway. If the exclusion is ratified, Haitians will likely seek in the street the redress they've been denied at the ballot box.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) U.S. Tries To Thin Taliban With Offers Of Jobs, Cash
Sara A. Carter and Raza Khan, Washington Times, December 17, 2009
http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/17/us-tries-to-thin-taliban-with-offers-of-jobs-cash/

The United States and its allies are stepping up efforts to persuade Afghan insurgents to put down their arms by negotiating with representatives of Mullah Mohammed Omar and other Taliban commanders and offering cash and jobs to low-level fighters, according to Pakistani, Middle Eastern and U.S. officials and analysts. The efforts, coupled with an increased U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, are meant to weaken the insurgency and promote a negotiated end to the region's violence.
[...]
Several Pakistani, Middle Eastern and U.S. officials said in interviews that Saudi and Pakistani officials, acting with tacit American encouragement, are talking with "second tier" Taliban leaders connected with Mullah Omar. The Washington Times reported recently that Mullah Omar has been hiding in the Pakistani metropolis of Karachi and was brought there with the knowledge of Pakistani intelligence. "You've got a lot of players involved in the effort," said a U.S. official with knowledge of the talks, "not just within the U.S. government, but foreign partners, too."

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, added: "U.S. intelligence isn't the lead on talking to members of the Afghan Taliban who may be interested in discussing reconciliation. But when it makes sense, the [U.S.] intelligence community is brought in for its expertise, relationships and judgment."
[...]
A Western diplomat based in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, who asked not to be named, confirmed that Pakistani and Saudi officials are using their "connections and influence within Afghan Taliban to elicit some meaningful way to end the deadlock."

A senior Pakistani official who is familiar with the talks and also asked not to be named said that "the U.S. is trying to leverage the Taliban in order to find a resolution to the war in accordance with President Obama's strategy."

Saudi Embassy officials in Washington declined to confirm or deny the talks. But Noel Clay, a State Department spokesman, said the Obama administration supports "efforts towards reconciliation with the Taliban as long as certain criteria are met."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton laid out those criteria in a speech in July. "We and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban who renounces al Qaeda, lays down their arms, and is willing to participate in the free and open society that is enshrined in the Afghan Constitution," she said.

[But note that David Ignatius of the Washington Post has argued that Obama relaxed these criteria in his West Point speech, see: "Ignatius Claims Obama Shift on Reconciliation with Taliban," http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/427 - JFP.]
[...]
Mr. Obama, in his speech last month outlining his new Afghanistan strategy, spoke of "reintegration" of Taliban fighters into the Afghan army and police.

In testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said a force reintegration cell had been created to try to identify fighters who could be induced to join Afghan security forces.

Mr. Katzman said the cell, under the command of British Maj. Gen. Richard Barrons, would try to "standardize what a Taliban person gets if he surrenders."
[...]
Mr. Karzai, whose re-election was certified last month, has said repeatedly that negotiations with the Taliban could help end the war.
[...]
Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister and presidential candidate, said that "there's a national consensus that we need a political framework for peacemaking."
[...]
Western diplomats in Pakistan said the Obama administration would allow the Taliban a role in the Afghan government but not a restoration of their harsh Islamic regime.
[...]
Pakistan, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to defend Pakistani interests in Afghanistan against rival India, clearly wants to preserve its long investment in the militants, said Imran Khan, an analyst based in Peshawar. "If Pakistan is ensured ... a friendly government in Kabul with minimum influence of India, it can do wonders to bring peace to Afghanistan," Mr. Khan said. He said Pakistani interests in Afghanistan could best be safeguarded if a government includes Taliban and Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami group.

2) Pelosi Says She Will Not Seek Votes For Troop Surge
Paul Kane, Washington Post, Thursday, December 17, 2009; A04
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121604161.html

President Obama will have to argue his own case to House Democrats as he seeks support for a planned surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday, adding that she is finished asking her colleagues to back wars that they do not support. "The president's going to have to make his case," Pelosi told reporters at a year-end briefing on the legislative session.

While the next round of war-funding legislation is not likely to be considered until spring, Pelosi said there will be a test vote in January on support for the troop buildup. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said he will offer a privileged resolution next month calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The vote is likely to fail because of broad Republican support for the war, but it could reveal the depth of the schism between Obama and his fellow Democrats on the new troop plan.
[...]
The last real legislative effort to alter war funding came in June, when Republicans balked at the more than $100 billion supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because Obama asked Democrats to attach funding for the International Monetary Fund to the must-pass legislation. Most GOP lawmakers opposed the IMF funding as a "global bailout." With just five Republicans voting for the war measure, Pelosi had to beg Democratic colleagues who had long opposed the two wars to support the legislation, and she promised not to "ever ask them to vote for it" again.

Pelosi, who has warned of "serious unrest" among House Democrats about Afghanistan, said Wednesday that she intends to live up to that vow on the upcoming supplemental bill, which will require $30 billion to $40 billion for the additional 30,000 troops.
[...]
Some anti-war liberals in the House and Senate have demanded consideration of the supplemental funding early in 2010 so they can be on record opposing the surge before most of the new troops are sent, probably in March. But Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), head of the Pentagon subcommittee that will first consider the supplemental appropriation, has conceded that, though a majority of Democrats probably oppose the surge, there will not be enough votes to pull funding for the effort.

For now, Pelosi said she is hoping the vote on the Kucinich resolution will meet the demands from the anti-war wing of her party. "There are many members in the caucus who are eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan," she said. "This may satisfy that need. We shall see."
[...]

3) U.N. Officials Say American Aide Plotted To Replace Karzai
James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, December 17, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/world/asia/17galbraith.html

As widespread fraud in the Afghanistan presidential election was becoming clear three months ago, the No. 2 United Nations official in the country, the American Peter W. Galbraith, proposed enlisting the White House in a plan to replace the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to two senior United Nations officials.

Mr. Karzai, the officials said, became incensed when he learned of the plan and was told it had been put forth by Mr. Galbraith, who had been installed in his position with the strong backing of Richard C. Holbrooke, the top American envoy to Afghanistan. Mr. Holbrooke had himself clashed with the Afghan president over the election. Mr. Galbraith abruptly left the country in early September and was fired weeks later.
[...]
Mr. Holbrooke said he was unaware of the idea. "And it does not reflect in any way any idea that Secretary Clinton or anyone else in the State Department would have considered," he said.

Mr. Galbraith, a former American ambassador and an influential voice on Iraq, also came under scrutiny recently for his stake in an oil field in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Mr. Eide, who is set to leave his job as head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan by early next year, said Mr. Galbraith's departure from Afghanistan in early September came immediately after he rejected what he described as Mr. Galbraith's proposal to replace Mr. Karzai and install a more Western-friendly figure.

He said he told his deputy the plan was "unconstitutional, it represented interference of the worst sort, and if pursued it would provoke not only a strong international reaction" but also civil insurrection. It was during this conversation, Mr. Eide said, that Mr. Galbraith proposed taking a leave to the United States, and Mr. Eide accepted.

Mr. Galbraith's proposal would begin with "a secret mission to Washington," Mr. Eide wrote last week in a letter responding to a critical public report of his work by the International Crisis Group, a research organization.

"He told me he would first meet with Vice President Biden," Mr. Eide wrote. "If the vice president agreed with Galbraith's proposal they would approach President Obama with the following plan: President Karzai should be forced to resign as president." Then a new government would be installed led by a former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, or a former interior minister, Ali A. Jalali, both favorites of American officials.
[...]
Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said that he was aware of Mr. Galbraith's proposal to go to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and develop support for the plan, and later learned of Mr. Karzai's anger over the episode. Mr. Nambiar said it played a role in Mr. Galbraith's firing. "It was one of several factors," he said.
[...]

4) Congress investigating charges of 'protection racket' by Afghanistan contractors
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Thursday, December 17, 2009; A21
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121604126.html

A House oversight subcommittee said Wednesday that it has begun a wide-ranging investigation into allegations that private security companies hired to protect Defense Department convoys in Afghanistan are paying off warlords and the Taliban to ensure safe passage.

"If shown to be true, it would mean that the United States is unintentionally engaged in a vast protection racket and, as such, may be indirectly funding the very insurgents we are trying to fight," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described the same situation before a Senate committee while discussing the truck convoys that bring supplies into landlocked Afghanistan. "You offload a ship in Karachi [Pakistan]. And by the time whatever it is - you know, muffins for our soldiers' breakfast or anti-IED equipment - gets to where we're headed, it goes through a lot of hands," she said. "And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

A preliminary inquiry by Tierney's investigators determined that the allegations warranted a full-scale inquiry, focused initially on eight trucking companies that share a $2.2 billion Defense Department contract to carry goods and material from main supply points inside Afghanistan - primarily Bagram air base - to more than 100 forward operating bases and other military facilities in the country. The eight companies have completed 40,000 missions since May, carrying food, water, fuel, equipment and ammunition, according to Tierney.

The congressman has written to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates requesting records on all the trucking contractors as well as their subcontractors and expenses for convoy security.

In addition, he has sought the records of the Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate, the unit within the military's Afghanistan command that is responsible for overseeing private security companies. Tierney sent letters Wednesday to the companies that share the trucking contracts, three of which have offices in the Washington area.

Tierney is seeking access to their records for the contracts, including those related to security and the companies' possible use of licensed or unlicensed private security providers. He has requested that the documents be provided by Jan. 15.
[...]

5) U.S. Troops Admit To Abusing Prescription Drugs
Gregg Zoroya, USA Today, 2009-12-16
http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-12-16-milhealth_N.htm

Washington - About one in four soldiers admit abusing prescription drugs, most of them pain relievers, in a one-year period, according to a Pentagon health survey released Wednesday.

The study, which surveyed more than 28,500 U.S. troops last year, showed that about 20% of Marines had also abused prescription drugs, mostly painkillers, in that same period. The findings show the continued toll on the military from fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Those wars have required troops to serve multiple combat deployments.
[...]
The survey showed that pain relievers were the most abused drug in the military, used illicitly at a rate triple that of marijuana or amphetamines, the next most widely abused drugs. About 15% of soldiers said they had abused prescription drugs in the 30 days before they were questioned for the survey. About 10% of Marines said the same thing.
[...]
Painkiller abuse among troops has soared since 2005, the last time a similar study was conducted. The 2005 survey showed that 4% of soldiers had abused painkillers in the previous 30 days, compared with 13% in 2008. Abuse within the previous year was 10% in 2005 compared with 22% in 2008.

The authors of the report released Wednesday said different questions were used in 2008 compared with previous years. That makes an exact comparison difficult. The 2008 survey asked more specific questions, such as whether troops were engaged in any non-medical use of the drugs they were prescribed.

Prescription drug abuse among the civilian population dropped in 2008 compared with 2007, a federal report released in September shows.

USA TODAY reported last year that narcotic pain-relief prescriptions for injured or wounded U.S. troops jumped from 30,000 a month to 50,000 since the Iraq war began.
[...]
Other survey findings include:

- The percentage of troops showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder increased during the war years. In a 2005 survey, 7% of the servicemembers described symptoms suggesting PTSD. That increased to 11% in the 2008 study.

The largest increases were within the Army and Marine Corps, the two service branches doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rate of soldiers who described problems suggestive of PTSD increased from 9% in 2005 to 13% in 2008, and from 8% to 15% among Marines, the survey results show.

- Nearly 60% of Marines admit engaging in binge drinking. The rate of heavy alcohol use - defined as five or more drinks per occasion once a week - among all servicemembers ages 18 to 35 remained higher than in the civilian population.

- Servicemembers admitting that they had thoughts of suicide during the year prior to being surveyed doubled from 1% in 2005 to 2% in 2008.

Honduras
6) Honduras' Human Rights Crisis
After controversial election, country rocked by violence, including brutal deaths of anti-coup resistance members.
Jeremy Kryt, In These Times, December 17, 2009
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/5334/honduras_human_rights_crisis/

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The military-backed, de facto government of Honduras had hoped that the November 29 presidential election would quell a political standoff that had lasted for more than five months. But, just over two weeks later, it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. The vote itself was marred by fraud and deception, and many countries in the world have refused to recognize its legitimacy.

The democratically-elected president, Mel Zelaya, remains besieged in the Brazilian Embassy, surrounded by hundreds of troops and riot police. Repression by authorities continues, and the country has endured a dramatic spike in violence, with mass shootings and robberies becoming even more prevalent.

But the circumstances surrounding the violent assassination of two anti-coup resistance members in recent days has sent out fresh shockwaves, calling up grim memories of the death squads that roamed Honduras a generation ago.

On December 11, the decapitated body of Corrales Garcia was found about 50 kilometers east of the capital of Tegucigalpa, according to a report by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras. Garcia was last seen in police custody, after being picked up December 5 in a mass raid against nonviolent resistance members near the capital. "What's going on in the country is a low-density attack strategy," said Andres Pavon, president of CODEH. "The authorities aren't assassinating the masses, they're killing selected individuals, or small groups of people. In that way it's very much like the [nineteen] eighties," Pavon said.

The other case involved the death of Walter Trochez, 27, a well-known resistance member and gay activist, who was shot twice in the chest on Sunday evening in downtown Tegucigalpa. Trochez, who was HIV-positive, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting while on his way home from distributing AIDS awareness literature. Witnesses reported the motorcycle involved was a police model, and that the men wore police uniforms.

"Amnesty International fears that Walter's killing may be a sign of worse abuses to come in the atmosphere of political instability and fear that has prevailed since the coup d'état in June," stated the world's foremost human rights organization, in a press release this week that confirmed Trochez had been previously targeted for his human rights work.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
7) Childhood in ruins
Last December, Israel began a 23-day bombardment of Gaza, killing around 1,400 people. One year on, a generation of children is growing up amid the wreckage of that attack, traumatised - and radicalised - by the experience
Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, Thursday 17 December 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/17/gaza-israel-invasion-children-traumatised

Ghiada abu Elaish's fingers twist in her lap and her eyes cloud over as she recalls the day an Israeli shell killed four of her cousins and left her in a coma for 22 days. She has had almost 12 months to reflect on the tragedy, a time in which hatred and anger might have consumed the 13-year-old. Remarkably, though, not only has she survived shocking injuries and a dozen operations, with many more to come, but she has retained both her sweet nature and faith in a bright future.

Which makes it all the harder for her to return each day after school, dressed in the ubiquitous Palestinian uniform of blue-and-white-striped smock over jeans and trainers, to the scene of the massacre - her family home.
[...]
The attack was one of countless assaults during Israel's 23 days of war on Gaza - Operation Cast Lead - that began on 27 December. But it was also one of the most notorious because Ghiada's uncle - Aya's father - was a doctor who worked in Israeli hospitals and was well known to Israeli viewers for advocating peace and reconciliation. All through the conflict, Dr Izzeldin abu Elaish gave regular eyewitness accounts by phone in fluent Hebrew to Israeli television. Within minutes of the attack on his own family, he was back on the phone to a journalist in a Tel Aviv studio, weeping and begging for help as Israeli viewers listened: "My daughters have been killed."
[...]
The shelling of the Abu Elaish family was unusual in that it caught the attention of the Israeli public, but what Ghiada continues to endure 12 months on is shared by many of Gaza's 750,000 children - half of its population.

More than 1,400 Gazans were killed in the 23 days of the Israeli assault, including several hundred children. The actual number is in dispute. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented 313 deaths, almost 40% of them less than 10 years old. Other Palestinian groups say the toll was much higher. More than 1,600 children were injured.

But the 23-day war is only part of the story. The long history of Israeli assaults on Gaza, and the two-and-a-half-year-long blockade of the territory after Hamas took power, has exacted a toll on almost every aspect of children's lives: schooling, housing, leisure time, what they eat, what they wear, how they see the future.

A Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) survey earlier this year found that about 75% of children over the age of six were suffering from one or more symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Almost one in 10 ticked off every criteria.

"The majority of children suffer many psychological and social consequences," says Dr Hasan Zeyada, a psychologist with GCMHP. "Insecurity and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness are overwhelming. We observed children becoming more anxious - sleep disturbances, nightmares, night terror, regressive behaviour such as clinging to parents, bed wetting, becoming more restless and hyperactive, refusal to sleep alone, all the time wanting to be with their parents, overwhelmed by fears and worries. Some start to be more aggressive."
[...]

Argentina
8) Rossi rebuffs Obama's envoy comments
Buenos Aires Herald, Thursday, December 17, 2009
http://www.buenosairesherald.com/BreakingNews/View/20205

The head of the Victory Front bloc in the Lower House, Agustin Rossi, said he "thought the time in which a foreign official came to give us lessons had passed" and he added that "to compare the present with the years of menemism and claim that we were doing better is a lie, proven by the damages that decade has brought on us."

Obama's envoy, Arturo Valenzuela, claimed yesterday that US investors were "concerned about legal uncertainty" in Argentina and added that back in 1996 they were "more enthusiastic about investing in the country".

"It is clear - Rossi added - that Argentina is going through a time of economic strenght and certainty, that's why we created the Bicentennial Fund, to ensure that we will cancel our debt due by 2010 and further advance our policy of getting rid of all debts.

Regarding the meetings Valenzuela had with vice president Julio Cobos and city mayor Mauricio Macri, Rossi said that "he has the right to meet whoever he chooses to, since it doesn't change anything for us", but he warned that what does raise concerns is having such a high ranking foreign official "telling the press about how Argentina should go back to the past".

Haiti
9) Don't honor tainted election
Brian Concannon Jr. and Ira Kurzban, Miami Herald, Fri, Dec. 11, 2009
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-views/story/1376563.html

[Concannon served as an OAS election observer and U.N. human rights officer in Haiti and directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. Kurzban was U.S. legal counsel for the Haitian governments under presidents Préval and Aristide from 1991-2004.]

Late last month, Haiti's government took the undemocratic and dangerous step of excluding 15 political parties, including Haiti's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, from parliamentary elections scheduled for February and March 2010. The decision threatens not only Haiti's democracy and stability, but billions in foreign investments financed by taxpayers in the United States and elsewhere.

The Obama administration, along with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, needs to step up and head off this disaster by refusing to finance the electoral charade.

The February/March elections are important because one-third of Haiti's Senate and the entire House of Deputies is at stake. Fanmi Lavalas' participation is important because the party is by far Haiti's most popular. It has won every election it has contested, including 90 percent of the seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections.

Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) claimed that a mandate sent by the party's exiled leader, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from South Africa, is not authentic. In fact, Fanmi Lavalas presented an original mandate, authenticated by a Haitian notary that complies with Haitian law. Aristide sent a fax of the mandate directly to the PEC, and confirmed its authenticity in a radio interview.

The PEC not only lacks a good reason for removing Fanmi Lavalas from voters' ballots, it also lacks the constitutional legitimacy to do so. The Council is a Provisional Council hand-picked by Haiti's President, René Préval, not the independent Permanent Council required by Haiti's 1987 Constitution.

The PEC tried the same thing earlier this year, and got away with it. The Council disqualified Fanmi Lavalas and other parties from elections held in April and June for 11 Senate seats. When the disqualifications were first announced, the United States, the U.N. and the OAS denounced them as undemocratic.

The U.S. Embassy warned that the exclusion would "inevitably" raise questions about the election's credibility.

But the PEC called the international community's bluff and kept the excluded parties out. The international community blinked by not only accepting the flawed elections, but paying for them, too: International donors supplied $12.5 million, 72 percent of the election's cost.

Haitian voters, knowing a fraud when they see one, boycotted. The PEC's official participation rate of 11 percent for the April elections was low enough, but most observers put the real figure at 3 percent to 5 percent.

By dropping their principled objections to the April election's flaws, the international community gave the PEC a green light to keep excluding the government's political rivals. This light is still green: the United States, OAS and U.N. let last week's exclusion pass without public criticism or any threat to withhold the $18 million promised for the February voting.
[...]
Experience in Haiti and elsewhere demonstrates that preventing citizens from challenging government policies through the ballot box inevitably will lead to challenges outside the ballot box.

If the Council does not change course, President Préval's allies may control Parliament, but Haiti's streets will be filled with angry protestors confronting U.N. troops and blaming the United States for supporting yet another undemocratic regime. Social unrest will stall development projects and scare investors.

Americans and Haitians deserve a better return on their money spent to stabilize and develop Haiti. The Obama administration can guarantee a better return by immediately cutting off all funding for the electoral charade and insisting that it will neither finance, nor recognize, elections that are not fair and inclusive.

-
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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