Barack Obama spent July 4th in Montana, celebrating his daughter Malia's birthday and attending a parade link. Here on Daily Kos were are engaged in a massive fit of buyer's remorse and we want our primary vote back.now that we don't have the Clinton's to kick around any more, we seem to want to kick the nearest Democrat. Why oh why, when there is John McCain to mock?
Where in the world was John McCain on the Fourth of July, the only one he gets in his campaign for President? Why he was down Mexico way, Cindy and Joe Liebermann at his side (along with his Republican BFF, Lindsey Graham), celebrating how well the war on drugs is going these days and figuratively delivering a big giant check for 400 million dollars. And then back home to the McCain Compound in Sedona Arizona for a little campaign regrouping. link
Ending a three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico, John McCain praised Mexican drug-fighting efforts Thursday and hailed a U.S. aid package for security forces here as a key step in bilateral relations.
McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said the so-called Merida Initiative approved by Congress last week was an "important sign of progress and cooperation to fight the drug cartels and the flow of drugs into the United States."
The aid measure will provide $400 million to Mexico in police training and equipment next year.
Say what? Mexico and Columbia are winning the war on drugs like we are winning the surge in Iraq. McCain wants to show how much he is a foreign policy expert, so he goes off to visit two world leaders who will welcome him with outstretched collection basket: Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa, the President of Mexico and Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of Colombia. Uribe is the first Columbian President elected twice (after ammending to constitution to do so) and has actively fought both rebel group FARC and the drug cartels, with extensive financial assistance from the USA. Uribe effectively upstaged McCain by launching the daring rescue of 15 high profile hostages from the weakened FARC.
McCain was told of the raid the night before by Colombia's president and defense minister, but his visit had nothing to do with it, he said Wednesday night....Asked if he thought it was unusual that he was told of the plans beforehand, McCain said, "I have been informed as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee of plans for years and years and years about plans that are going to be carried out either by the United States or our friends and allies."
link White House spokesmodel Dana Perrino says it was just a coincidence too. Lieberman stated:
"I think it was a sign of confidence of President Uribe and the defense minister in Senator McCain — and maybe in the two of us — that they were prepared to share this information last night, which was highly classified, " Lieberman said. "They were quite detailed about what they were trying to do, and thank god they succeeded."
"Sign of confidence" that Uribe and the defense minister shared the classified information with McCain? Who am I to question this dog wagging? Barack Obama, who opposes Uribe and McCain's pet deal for a Colombian Free Trade agreement, was not informed about this raid in advance of course.
I consider this coordination of the rescue operation an intrusion by a foreign government to sway American political race, in an effort the agenda of Colombia rather than the Americans. It smells of quid pro quo not Colombian rosesto me. Of course American flower growers are currently suffering from cheap Colombian roses and would go under even faster if this trade agreement were promoted. But why should you care how much pesticide and fertilizer runnoff comes from Colombian greenhouses? link
Before the hostage rescue, the were many fun photo-ops for the travelers.
...the three senators and Cindy McCain received a briefing from Colombia Admiral Roberto Garcia Marques, Coast Guard Commandante Orlando Grisales and Captain Manuel Corbetta about the country's efforts to cut down on drug trafficking though its joint project with the U.S., Plan Colombia. Congress recently renewed Plan Colombia, a 10-year, $5 billion drug interdiction effort.
Then the McCains boarded a fast boat labeled "Midnight Express 39" with U.S. embassy officials, Colombian military and government officials and Secret Service. The boat belongs to a larger, 12-boat Midnight Express fleet of drug interdiction boats the Colombian Navy has purchased with Plan Colombia funds. The fleet is slated to double in the next year, according to U.S. officials, with the Colombian government paying for 10 boats and the U.S. paying for four of them, at a cost of $494,000 each.
Colombian naval and law enforcement officials operate the boats, which can go as fast as 60 knots, as they patrol state waters 24 hours a day. They focus on Cartagena Bay area and up near the Panamanian border in the Bay of Uriba, both of which embassy officials described as major exit points for drugs.
Lindsey Graham, dressed head to toe in coordinated khaki for the occasion was quite the quipster. First he challenged the McCain's boat to a game of chicken, and then offered a cut rate jungle tour, since he dressed the part.
So how is that "Plan Colombia" doing on drug reduction? Not so good, apparantly. It was started in 1999 as a "Marshall Plan" for Colombia, to fight drugs and support peaceful alternatives at the same time. The initiative principally supports the military rather than economic redevelopment, however. However, most of the funding (97.42% in 1999, 78.12% in 2000, 97.72% in 2001, 76.96% in 2002, 81.95% in 2003; 80.43% in 2004; 83.01% in 2005; 82.23% in 2006) goes to the military. Since 1999, a total of 4.178 billion went to Military and drug interdiction and only 0.890 billion to economic and development aid. Somehow, Plan Colombia transmorgified from being an anti-drug plan to being an anti-FARC plan.
The objectives of each country have evolved over time. This evolution became evident when President Uribe was elected on a platform of taking a tougher approach to the illegally armed groups (IAG) that operate in the country and benefit from participation in drug trafficking. He vowed not to negotiate with any of the armed groups until they declared a cease-fire and disarmed. In addition, Uribe implemented new laws giving the security forces increased powers, and instituted a one-time tax to be used to increase the troop strength and capabilities of the Colombian military. He increasingly equated the guerrillas with drug traffickers and terrorists, and initiated a military campaign, called Plan Patriota, to recapture guerrilla-controlled territory.
pdf link Bush government of course thought that was just fine, and has been funneling in the money for the war on Illegally Armed Groups and of course, Drugs.
The result? Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in Latin America, repressing labor and trade unionists (at least 28 killed this year) as well as other "extrajudicial executions" or hit squads as we know them. Colombians are increasingly refugees within and outside their country. So free trade with a country that permits the execution of their labor leaders seems to be not a great idea. McCain spoke with Uribe about human rights allegations privately, he said. link Was that discussion the same night they told him about the upcoming raid to liberate prisoners?
But its working, right? Colombian cocaine is going down in the USA after all this spraying and military intervention?
Well, no, not so much. Colombia supplies 90% of the cocaine supply and quite a bit of high quality heroin The government estimates the supply by using the USA street price as an estimate. The street price and thus estimate of supply have remained stable. pdf link.
The UN also monitors world drug production in the World Drug Report 2008, by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) which was released last week.
Meanwhile in Colombia, coca cultivation jumped by 27 percent in 2007, mainly in areas held by leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, UNDOC said. Its report said that despite this marked rise in coca cultivation, cocaine production in Colombia, the world's leader, remained unchanged because of lower yields.
In 2007, coca cultivation in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru rose by 16 percent.
Costa noted that the Colombian government has launched a successful campaign against armed groups and drug traffickers over the past few years, notably through massive aerial eradication of large-scale coca plots.
"In the future, with the FARC in disarray, it may become easier to control coca cultivation," he added.link
So when FARC is in disarray, cocaine production will go down and everyone will grow roses and ship them to the USA for cheap while we sell them something else, at least according to John McCain. And privately, he will have a word with Uribe about not killing the labor leaders so much or so he says.
So what does this have to do with Mexico? Well Plan Colombia was sooooo successful and all, that we now have embarked on Plan Merida for McCain's other big foreign buddy, Calderón. He was elected in the contested 2006 presidential elections. Most Mexicans think there was something a little fish going on there (sort of like most Americans in 2000). Plan Merida was just signed into law by Bush last week.
What is the Merida Initiative?
The Merida Initiative demonstrates the United States’ commitment to partner with governments in Mexico and Central America to confront criminal organizations whose actions plague the region and spill over into the United States.
The Initiative’s Scope
The Merida Initiative is a multi-year proposal to provide equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. Last year, President George W. Bush requested an initial $500 million for Mexico and $50 million for Central America, which is included in the FY08 Supplemental request. The FY09 budget proposal includes $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America. State Department Link
Plan Merida didn't go down too well with Limbaugh and Malkin in February 2008, who viewed it as money to fix the mexican borders while doing nothing to secure America's borders.
Mexico's president says he plans to use the recently approved package of U.S. anti-drug aid to improve the country's police force.
Sounds like the war on drugs is a bit brisk right now. The New York Times reports that
the day Senator McCain arrived, Wednesday, was particularly gruesome: Four decapitated bodies were found near a threatening message against one of Mexico’s top drug lords in the northern city of Culiacán, where the battle over drugs has centered. The police later killed four gunmen in a shootout in Culiacán and recovered an arsenal of weapons in a safe house.
President Felipe Calderon praised the US$400,000 U.S. aid package in a telephone call with U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday.
Calderon told Bush that "one of his main aims is to improve the technology and capacity of the federal police, in order to continue dismantling the financial and operational networks of organized crime."link
So Calderon is having his own little Plan Mexico to help him with his security concerns. If he uses it like Uribe has used Plan Colombia, drugs will not decrease, but repression of dissent will become enabled. They will get training like this?
The video shows US security mercenaries training Mexican Police in possible torture techniques. The report from AP also notes Project Merida doesn't include human rights safeguards.
And what does McCain get for visiting our neighbor to the South on this Independence Day Week? Maverick Street Cred for naked pandering to Hispanic Voters by having his picture taken with the Virgin of Guadeloupe for future campaign backdrops (but not with his companion on the visit, Jeb Bush)? Maverick Street Cred for naked pandering to anti-immigrant Republicans by promising no immigration reform until we build a fence? Maverick Street Cred by promising to back up NAFTA for American corporations? Maverick Street Cred for his fabulous international experience? An endorsement from the Mexican Newspaper El Universal? All of the above? None, because they are pretty much mutually contradictory?
Another Mexican Newspaper has noticed, even if most Americans haven't.
''It seems this candidate tells everyone what they want to hear,'' Concepción Badillo, a columnist for the Mexico City daily La Crónica wrote this week. ``To conservative groups he talks of the necessity to guard the border while with the Latino community he talks about the urgent need for guest worker programs.''link
Stephen Lendmanwrote a blistering opinion piece about Plan Colombia and Plan Mexico in the Baltimore Chronicle recently. which is also recommended reading for any who have made it through this diary.
And for those who just can't resist criticizing Obama in a diary, he hasn't differentiated himself on Project Colombia and Project Merida link link
Sorry this is so long. I am voting for Barack Obama and I have no buyer's remorse. I have faith he will realize there are better ways to fight the war on drugs than to give a blank check to Colombia and Mexico.