Just Foreign Policy News
February 3, 2010
Eat Your Spinach: Time for Peace Talks in Afghanistan
When U.S. and British officials say the end of the war in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, it’s time for the talks to produce that agreement to start.
Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
At this writing, our proposal is in second place in change.org’s war and peace category. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the war supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
Health GAP: Aid Groups, Labor Call for Financial Transactions Taxes
The G-20 charged the IMF with preparing a report on options countries are considering for how the financial sector could make a fair and substantial contribution toward paying for burdens associated with government interventions to repair the banking system. Seventy aid, labor, development, and environemental organizations from around the world, including the AFL-CIO, Oxfam, RESULTS, Public Citizen, and Friends of the Earth, have called on the IMF to "tell the truth" about financial transactions taxes: FTTs are feasible, would raise significant revenue, and would discourage speculation.
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1) A proposal to swap the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium for fuel for a medical reactor appeared to be revived as President Ahmadinejad said Iran had "no problem" with a deal brokered by the IAEA, the Washington Post reports. U.S. officials reacted cautiously to Ahmadinejad’s remarks. "If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA," said a White House spokesman. The fuel is needed to operate a U.S.-supplied nuclear research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes crucial for diagnosis and treatment for an estimated 850,000 kidney, heart and cancer patients. Doctors in Iran warn that domestic production will dry up when the research reactor runs out of fuel, perhaps as soon as this spring.
2) Three US soldiers were killed in a bomb attack that marked the first fatal Taliban ambush on the US military in Pakistan, the Guardian reports. Dozens of teenage girls were caught in the blast outside their secondary school in Pakistan’s north-west; three girls were killed. The US embassy said the Americans had been assigned to help train the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force. Until now the only US soldier to die at the hands of the Taliban in Pakistan was an airforce engineer killed in the 2008 Marriot hotel bombing.
3) A report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that the IMF must reconsider its policies in Latvia, which likely won’t be able to escape its "Great Depression" unless it abandons its current exchange rate with the euro. Western European banks that made bad loans in Latvia must accept some of the losses that would come with a devaluation, CEPR says.
4) White House counterterrorism chief Brennan says none of about 48 Guantanamo detainees released or transferred by the Obama administration has participated or been suspected of participating in subsequent "recidivist" activity, the Washington Post reports, in contrast with 20 percent of about 540 detainees released by the Bush administration.
5) An Iraqi appeals court temporarily overruled the disqualification of hundreds of candidates in next month’s election for having ties to the Baath Party, the New York Times reports. The court ruled it would reconsider efforts to ban candidates after the vote. That raised the possibility of ousting newly elected members of Parliament. Some of those disqualified appeared to have only tenuous ties, if any, to the Baath Party, the Times says.
6) U.S. and Russian arms-control negotiators have reached an "agreement in principle" on the first nuclear-arms-reduction treaty in nearly two decades, the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal would bring down deployed nuclear warheads and limit the number of missiles and bombers that can deliver them. Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said the agreement is a milestone, the first arms-control treaty to not only set goals on warhead deployments but to establish strict limits, with verification measures to hold each side to those limits.
7) A high-ranking Israeli commander has acknowledged that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent reports. Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard said the commander’s acknowledgement was "a smoking gun." The revelation will put more pressure on the Israeli government to set up an independent inquiry, as demanded by the Goldstone Report, the Independent says.
8) Even after a recent increase, Afghan police are still paid less than the cost of living for a typical Afghan family, encouraging corruption, the New York Times reports. A fourth of the officers quit every year. The NATO general in charge of training the Afghan police mocked NATO claims that the Afghan National Police are "in the fight."
9) Advocacy groups and experts are calling on the U.S. to ends its practice of withholding aid to undermine elected leaders in Haiti that it doesn’t like, Inter Press Service reports. Monika Kalra Varma of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights cited the refusal of the Inter-American Development Bank to release funds earmarked for water projects, which would have benefited the poor. "The IDB is controlled by its largest donor – the U.S. – and the U.S. did not like Haiti’s government of the day," she said.
10) U.S. military aid to Colombia would be cut 20% in President Obama’s budget, according to Colombia Reports. Defense Minister Gabriel Silva will travel to Washington in February to lobby for the continuation of Plan Colombia.
11) Mexican President Felipe Calderon said drug violence in Mexico reflects demand for narcotics in the U.S. and easy access to weapons, Bloomberg reports. "We are right next to the biggest drug consumer in the world," Calderon told reporters in Tokyo. The U.S. also "doesn’t have the least objection, any scruples, about selling all the arms it can to our country." The remarks followed the killing of at least 16 students in Ciudad Juarez. More than 90 percent of guns used in violent crimes in Mexico are brought in illegally from the U.S., according to the US ATF.
12) Reporters Without Borders said Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for the press, after a third journalist was reported killed within a month, EFE reports. "The authorities are failing to respond adequately to a wave of threats against media personnel by presumed drug traffickers and, in some cases, by local officials," RSF said. 61 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000.
1) Ahmadinejad Backs Deal To Remove Uranium
Thomas Erdbrink and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, February 3, 2010; A06
Tehran – A long-dormant proposal to remove the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium from the Islamic republic appeared to be revived Tuesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had "no problem" with a deal initially brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The deal, which Iran formally rejected weeks ago, would swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. "If we allow them to take it, there is no problem," Ahmadinejad said on state TV. "We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched ones after four or five months."
U.S. officials reacted cautiously to Ahmadinejad’s remarks, which came a day after France assumed the presidency of the U.N. Security Council. France, along with the United States, Britain and Germany, are pushing hard for additional Security Council sanctions against Tehran for failing to agree to talks on its nuclear ambitions; any sudden interest in diplomacy by Iran might be intended to persuade China, a skeptic of sanctions, to block them, diplomats said. U.S. officials had viewed the proposal involving the research reactor as a test of whether a broader diplomatic deal could be broached on Iran’s nuclear programs.
"There is a still a deal on the table. The question is: Is he prepared to say yes," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He noted that when Iranian diplomats met with U.S. officials in Geneva in October, "they said yes, and then they said no."
Crowley said he was "unaware of a formal response" by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency changing its stance. "If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA," said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.
[…] Ahmadinejad has made positive remarks before about the nuclear swap, which was initially supported by Iranian nuclear negotiators – who officially report to him as head of the Supreme National Security Council. In October, after the Geneva meeting, Ahmadinejad called the negotiations "positive" and "a step forward," according to Iranian state television’s Web site.
After the proposal was made public, it was severely criticized by influential lawmakers, the leading pro-government newspaper and the former top nuclear negotiator, who said the West would keep the low-enriched nuclear material to sabotage Iran’s atomic progress.
In response, the Foreign Ministry asked the United States, France and Russia – the countries involved in the deal – for more guarantees that the enriched fuel would be delivered. Iran first said it wanted to swap the material inside Iran. Later it proposed sending a smaller amount of low-enriched uranium in batches to third countries.
After the Security Council reprimanded Iran in November, saying it had been slow to report a second nuclear enrichment site, Ahmadinejad called the initial swap idea "a lost opportunity" and demanded a trade inside Iran. "We cannot trade the prestige of the Islamic Republic and squander it," Ahmadinejad said during a TV interview broadcast on state television.
The fuel is needed to operate a 40-year-old U.S.-supplied nuclear research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes crucial for diagnosis and treatment for an estimated 850,000 kidney, heart and cancer patients. Doctors, nuclear scientists and officials in Iran warn that domestic production will dry up when the research reactor runs out of fuel, perhaps as soon as this spring.
2) US soldiers and teenage girls killed in bombing near Pakistan school
Villagers pull injured pupils from rubble after Taliban fighters kill seven in military convoy attack
Declan Walsh, Guardian, Wednesday 3 February 2010 20.06 GMT
Islamabad – Three American soldiers were killed and two others injured today in a bomb attack that marked the first fatal Taliban ambush on the US military in Pakistan. Dozens of teenage girls were caught up in the blast outside their secondary school in Lower Dir, in the country’s north-west. Three girls were killed along with one paramilitary force member. The father of one wounded girl likened the scene to "doomsday".
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack. "We will continue such attacks on Americans," Azam Tariq told Reuters.
The US embassy said the Americans had been assigned to help train the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force deployed in the tribal belt along the Afghan border. Local reporters initially mistook them for western journalists as they were wearing civilian clothes and carrying cameras.
The explosion, which appeared to be a remote-control roadside bomb, happened as the force’s convoy passed the Koto girls’ high school, where teenagers were streaming out for their mid-morning break.
Television footage showed distressed villagers scrambling to pull wounded girls from the rubble of collapsed buildings amid scattered books and bags. "What was the fault of these students?" said Muhammad Dawood, a rescuer quoted by Associated Press.
[…] The bombing shone a light on a little-publicised American military programme. The US defence department sees the Frontier Corps as a key element of Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban in North West Frontier province, and has quietly pumped in millions of dollars and dozens of personnel to improve the force’s capability. In most cases US personnel train senior Frontier Corps officers.
The attack also highlighted an even less well-known civilian aid scheme: a retired US official said the defence department had been discreetly funding development projects such as schools in North West Frontier for years. The targeted soldiers could have been going to the school in Dir as "a show of solidarity" with their Pakistani colleagues, he said.
Until today the only American serviceman to die at the hands of the Taliban in Pakistan was an airforce engineer killed in the 2008 Marriot hotel bombing.
The risks of the convoy todaywere vividly apparent in retrospect, with Lower Dir being one of the most volatile areas of the province. Last year the district saw fierce fighting between the Pakistan army and Taliban fighters spilling out of the Swat valley. Dir is home to Sufi Muhammad, a Taliban ideologue whose son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, is the fugitive leader of the Swat Taliban. After the fighting the army declared Dir clear of militants.
3) Fixed Exchange Rate Has Produced World’s Worst Recession In Latvia, Says New CEPR Report
Recovery Hampered by Peg to Euro
Center for Economic and Policy Research, February 3, 2010
Washington – The Latvian economy has suffered the worst two-year decline in output on record and will have trouble recovering with its currency tied to the euro, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The report, "Latvia’s Recession: The Cost of Adjustment With An ‘Internal Devaluation’", argues that maintaining the fixed exchange rate has prevented the government from adopting the necessary macroeconomic policies to exit from the world’s worst recession.
"The European Union and the IMF are going to have to reconsider their economic strategy for Latvia," said economist Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and lead author of the report. "The social and economic cost has been staggering, and this can’t go on indefinitely."
Weisbrot added that the Western European banks that made bad loans in Latvia during the bubble years preceding the crash are going to have to accept some of the losses that would come with a devaluation. Western European banks, led by Austria and Sweden, and including Belgium, the Netherlands and France, have hundreds of billions of dollars in loans in Central and Eastern Europe. A devaluation in Latvia, if followed by other countries, could have implications for their loans throughout the region.
Latvia’s economy has already shrunk more than 25 percent in two years. The IMF projects another 4 percent drop this year and predicts that the total loss of output from peak to bottom will reach 30 percent. This would make Latvia’s loss more than that of the U.S. Great Depression downturn of 1929-1933.
The current IMF program, which the government has signed on to, calls for a fiscal tightening of 6.5 percent of GDP for 2010. This would be accomplished through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The IMF acknowledges that this fiscal tightening "will likely cause continued demand weakness through early 2010."
Expansionary monetary policy also runs counter to the need to maintain the fixed exchange rate. The end result, the authors argue, is that the economy is trapped in a deep recession in which all of the major macroeconomic policy variables – the exchange rate, fiscal policy and monetary policy – are either pro-cyclical or cannot be utilized to help stimulate the economy. This makes it very difficult for Latvia to get out of its recession.
4) Drop Cited In Recidivism Among Former Detainees
Brennan says no recidivism among Guantanamo detainees released by Obama Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Wednesday, February 3, 2010; A03
None of about 48 Guantanamo Bay detainees released or transferred elsewhere by the Obama administration has participated or been suspected of participating in subsequent "recidivist" activity, compared with 20 percent of about 540 detainees released by the George W. Bush administration, according to White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan."We believe that significant improvements to the detainee review process have contributed to significant improvements in the results," Brennan said in a letter Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The 20 percent, or about 117 former detainees, is considerably higher than an estimate of 14 percent the Pentagon made last year.
In his letter, written in response to questions lawmakers raised last month in the wake of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, Brennan said 9.6 percent of all released prisoners were "confirmed recidivists" while 10.4 percent were "detainees who the Intelligence Community suspects, but is not certain, may have engaged in recidivist activities."
"I want to underscore the fact that all of these cases relate to detainees released during the previous administration and under the prior detainee review process," he said. He described the current review process as "robust" and far more intensive than that under the Bush administration, during which he said classified information held by one intelligence agency often was not available to other agencies.
5) Iraqi Court Overturns Ban on Hundreds of Candidates
Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, February 4, 2010
Baghdad – Iraq once again stepped back from a political crisis of its own making when an appeals court on Wednesday temporarily overruled a controversial step to disqualify hundreds of candidates in next month’s election for having ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
The initial effort to knock more than 500 candidates off the ballot – both Sunnis and Shiites, but mostly those viewed as rivals to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s bloc – created a political furor and prompted warnings from American and United Nations officials that the credibility of Iraq’s election was at stake.
The ruling by a panel of seven judges appeared at first glance to be an exercise of judicial independence in a still-young democracy. It followed weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations and diplomacy, especially from the Obama administration, which dispatched Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the midst of the turmoil.
At the crisis turned to impasse, Iraqi, American and United Nations officials all looked to Iraq’s judiciary to resolve a crisis that its politicians could not. "This decision will strengthen the integrity of our judiciary," said Aliyah Nasyif, a member of Parliament who was among those initially barred.
The court’s ruling averted a threatened election boycott by at least one prominent coalition most affected by the initial ban: Iraqiya, led by a former Shiite prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The coalition includes an array of Sunni and secular parties and is widely seen as the most formidable challenger to Mr. Maliki’s bloc and a second, largely Shiite alliance.
A Sunni boycott of Iraq’s first parliamentary election in 2005 fueled disenfranchisement and the insurgency itself, and American officials especially feared a repeat could in the worst case reignite violence even as tens of thousands American soldiers begin to withdraw this year.
[…] Even as it resolved the immediate crisis, only days before the official opening of a monthlong campaign ahead of the vote on March 7, the court also planted the seeds of a new one.
According to officials informed of the decision, the court ruled that it would reconsider the commission’s efforts to ban candidates after the vote. That raised the possibility of ousting newly elected members of Parliament should their ties with the now-banned Baath Party be established.
Iraqi law does not have a provision for unseating elected officials, however. An election official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to criticize a court decision, warned that disqualifying anyone duly elected would violate popular will.
[…] Some of those disqualified appeared to have only tenuous ties, if any, to the Baath Party, the only official political entity allowed under Mr. Hussein’s government and one that dominated social and economic life. The process for establishing those ties dates to the early months after the American invasion in 2003 when the party was banned after Mr. Hussein’s fall.
6) U.S., Russia Close In on Nuclear Treaty
Jonathan Weisman, Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2010, 6:29 A.M. ET
Washington – U.S. and Russian arms-control negotiators have reached an "agreement in principle" on the first nuclear-arms-reduction treaty in nearly two decades, administration and arms-control officials said Tuesday. The deal, which was widely expected, would bring down deployed nuclear warheads and sharply limit the number of missiles and bombers that can deliver them.
Rose Gottemoeller, the Obama administration’s lead negotiator, flew to Geneva Monday to help draft the final text and begin what could still be an arduous process of translating the agreement into treaty language, an administration official said. "There may be finessing and fine-tuning, but the issues, from our perspective, are all addressed," the official added.
The deal would bring the ceiling for deployed nuclear weapons down to between 1,500 and 1,675 per side, from the 2,200 agreed to in 1991, but nuclear-delivery systems would fall more sharply, to between 700 and 800 each from the current limit of 1,600. In fact, both sides have already reduced their nuclear-armed bombers, submarines and missiles to below 1,000.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the agreement is a milestone, the first arms-control treaty to not only set goals on warhead deployments but to establish strict limits, with verification measures to hold each side to those limits.
7) Israeli commander: ‘We rewrote the rules of war for Gaza’
Civilians ‘put at greater risk to save military lives’ in winter attack – revelations that will pile pressure on Netanyahu to set up full inquiry
Donald Macintyre, The Independent, Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Jerusalem – A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.
The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as "means and intentions" – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of "literally zero risk to the soldiers".
The officers’ revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander’s acknowledgement – if accurate – was "a smoking gun".
8) With Raw Recruits, Afghan Police Buildup Falters
Rod Nordland, New York Times, February 3, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan – The NATO general in charge of training the Afghan police has some tongue-in-cheek career advice for the country’s recruits. "It’s better to join the Taliban; they pay more money," said Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio, from Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri force.
That sardonic view reflects a sobering reality. The attempts to build a credible Afghan police force are faltering badly even as officials acknowledge that the force will be a crucial piece of the effort to have Afghans manage their own security so American forces can begin leaving next year.
[…] One in five recruits tests positive for drugs, while fewer than one in 10 can read and write – a rate even lower than the Afghan norm of 15 percent literacy. Many cannot even read a license plate number. Taliban infiltration is a constant worry; incompetence an even bigger one.
After eight weeks of training, an average of 5 percent of recruits cannot pass firearms tests – but are given a gun and sent out to duty. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan National Police have the highest casualty rates of all the security forces fighting the Taliban; 646 died last year, compared with 282 Afghan Army soldiers and 388 NATO troops, according to NATO figures.
The death rate, poor pay and lack of equipment are among the reasons that a fourth of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government’s lofty goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve.
"They say the numbers prove ‘the Afghan National Police are in the fight,’ " said General Burgio, quoting a frequently heard mantra from NATO officials. "This is not true. Usually the police are killed in ambushes, not because they were sent out to fight, but because they have no armored vehicles, for instance."
[…] General Burgio said the countries that were supposed to be building up Afghanistan’s security had not followed through on their promises to send enough qualified instructors.
[…] DynCorp, the American company that provided retired police officers to do much of the training, has been told its contract will not be renewed. But it has appealed that decision, holding up the changeover until the appeal is decided, by March 24.
That has left NATO struggling to augment the police trainers with active-duty police officers from European countries. "As of Jan. 12, we require 4,245 trainers to meet our goal of training 134,000 police by 2011," said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, during a visit here on Jan. 13. "I think it’s inexcusable."
General Burgio declined to say which countries had yet to contribute. He contended that one of the biggest failings of the training program was the State Department’s overreliance on private contractors, whom he described as often over age and undermotivated, and expensive.
"For the cost of 10 DynCorp, I can put 30 Carabinieri trainers in and save money," he said. He warned that if DynCorp won its challenge, it would "set us back six to nine months.
[…] There have been some positive changes recently. Police pay is increasing to $165 a month, and police officers assigned to hostile areas can make as much as $240 a month, according to Brig. Gen. Anne F. Macdonald, the American in charge of police training and program development at the ministerial level.
That is better than the pay for Taliban insurgents, who typically make $200 a month. But even the new pay is lower than the cost of living for a typical Afghan family, encouraging corruption among many officers, NATO officials say.
[…] The recruits’ visit to the range comes during the seventh week of their eight-week course, and they have three days to qualify by managing to hit a man-size target 42 times out of 60 shots, a bit more than two-thirds of the time. If they cannot, they still graduate – with a certificate that says they are not competent to shoot – but are issued a weapon anyway.
"They’ll be out there on a checkpoint with an automatic weapon in a couple weeks," said one of the trainers, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press. "I wouldn’t want to be an innocent civilian downrange of them."
9) Time to Build a Just Society in Haiti, Rights Groups Urge
William Fisher, Inter Press Service, 1 Feb http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=2819
New York – In the wake of last month’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, prominent advocacy groups are calling on the U.S. and the international community to reverse decades of racial and political discrimination and build relief and reconstruction efforts on human rights principles, transparency, and respect for the dignity of all Haitians.
The director of one of the groups, Monika Kalra Varma of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights, told IPS, "Over the years, help for Haiti has been shaped by ideological politics and broken promises."
"Generally, the international community has made pledges to Haiti and not fulfilled them. Donor states have human rights obligations in Haiti as well – they must do no harm," she said. "When states pledge funds to Haiti which the Haitian people and government rely on in figuring out how to meet the needs of its people, particularly when you’re talking about monetary pledges to strengthen water, education, and health systems, and that money doesn’t come in, the donors have violated their human rights obligations," she said.
Some development experts who have worked in Haiti for years spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity because they have friends and family members involved in the relief effort.
"There have been hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance that has gone to benefit Haiti’s elites – government, business and the military – at the expense of the country’s common people," one source said. "These elites have abused international aid, and have done nothing to create an education system, a public health system or any meaningful infrastructure."
[…] Another Haiti expert, Prof. Robert Maguire of Trinity College in Washington, D.C., told IPS that the history of aid to Haiti has been a complex combination of corruption among the government and business elites of the country and the selfish interests of private sector international investors who "wanted to maintain the status quo" and who viewed Haiti only as "a low-wage and stable dictatorship" able to manufacture basic garments and other textile products.
He is proposing a 700,000-strong national civic service corps made up of Haitian youth, who he calls the "wellspring of creativity, talent and potential."
"A civic service corps would get the young and able out of the tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince and into work. They could start with the once-iconic centre of the capital, but also could begin planting trees, working the fields and providing services in Haiti’s countryside," said Maguire, who is an advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
[…] The Kennedy Centre’s Kalra Varma noted that multilateral aid has frequently been marked by stop-start-stop politics, with aid stopping when Haiti elects a leader not favoured by donors.
She cites the refusal of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to release funds earmarked for water projects, which would have benefited the poor. "The IDB is controlled by its largest donor – the U.S. – and the U.S. did not like Haiti’s government of the day," she said.
10) Plan Colombia not mentioned in US 2011 budget proposal
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Monday, 01 February 2010 17:45
Plan Colombia, the U.S. financial and military aid program to help Colombia fight drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas, was not mentioned in President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposal to Congress. Colombia will receive military and economic aid, but 20% less than in 2009.
While Obama plans to spend $58 billion in foreign assistance programs, Plan Colombia, which has cost some $7 billion since it was first approved in 1999, is not mentioned anywhere. Support missions in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are explicitly mentioned.
According to justf.org, Colombian military aid will be 20% down to $228 million, 20% less than it received in 2009. Economic aid will slightly be diminished and is proposed to be worth $239 million. Despite the proposed cuts in aid, Colombia remains the largest recipient of aid in Latin America.
Earlier on Monday, Colombia’s vice president, Francisco Santos, warned that cuts in U.S. military aid to Colombia would jeopardize the achievements that the Andean nation has made over the last decade in the fight against drug trafficking.
Also on Monday, the Colombian embassy announced that Defense Minister Gabriel Silva will travel to Washington in February to meet with U.S. Congressmen and lobby for the continuation of Plan Colombia.
11) Calderon Says Mexico Violence Stoked by U.S. Weapons
Patrick Harrington, Bloomberg, Feb. 2
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said drug violence in his country reflects demand for narcotics in the neighboring U.S. and easy access to weapons. "We are right next to the biggest drug consumer in the world," Calderon told reporters in Tokyo today during a visit to Japan. The U.S. also "doesn’t have the least objection, any scruples, about selling all the arms it can to our country."
The remarks followed the killing of at least 16 students attending a party in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez over the weekend by masked gunman. Calderon, who has used the military to crack down on drug gangs since taking office in December 2006, won a promise from President Barack Obama last year to push for the ratification of an arms-trafficking treaty.
Obama said he would press the U.S. Senate to ratify the stalled treaty, which was adopted by the Organization of American States in 1997. More than 90 percent of guns used in violent crimes in Mexico are brought in illegally from the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
12) Mexico Said Most Dangerous for Journalists in Latin America
EFE, February 1, 2010
Paris – Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for the press, Reporters Without Borders said Monday after a third journalist was reported killed within a month in that country. "The authorities are failing to respond adequately to a wave of threats against media personnel by presumed drug traffickers and, in some cases, by local officials," RSF, as the Paris-based organization is known, said in a statement.
Jorge Ochoa Martinez, editor of the daily El Sol de la Costa and the weekly El Oportuno, was fatally shot last Friday in Ayutla de los Libres, a town in the southern state of Guerrero. RSF noted that the family of the 55-year-old victim said he may have been killed for reasons relating to his work.
With the death of Ochoa Martinez, 61 journalists have now been slain in Mexico since 2000. Mexico sunk to 137th place out of 175 in RSF’s 2009 global press freedom index.
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