Plan Mexico Debate: “Clear and Present Dangers” and “Guerrillas in the Mist”

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The EPR in 2001.

… the Wall Street Journal today published an extensive report on the resurgence of the EPR, the Popular Revolutionary army, and its potential as a threat to the Mexican state as a whole.

On two occasions the hearing was interrupted by public demonstrations denouncing human rights violations and the impunity of “paramilitaries,” reminding lawmakers of the murder of journalist Brad Will in Oaxaca.

Demócratas y republicanos cuestionan ayuda a México vía Iniciativa Mérida: “U.S. Democrats and Republicans question aid to Mexico through the Mérida Intiative.”

La Jornada‘s front page headline: “U.S. Congress torpedos Plan Mexico, citing endemic corruption.”

See also

The L.A Times coverage is the first item on the subject I come across in Google News:

The W$J headline suggests it is now sharing its copy desk with the New York Post:

Guerrillas in the Mist

Rim shot.

The blasts — which occurred several months ago — are described as revealing a “dark side” to a “modernizing Mexico,” while the EPR is described as a “shadowy” revolutionary group.

Things are murky. No one really knows, or can know, anything. David Sasaki-style “fear and misinformation abound.” And other colorful, spooky language generally associated with the theology of The Force in the Star Wars trilogy.

The reporter, José de Córdoba, has published such gabbling nonsense before:

RCTV is not “feisty and independent.”

RCTV is an overflowing sewer of journalistic toxic sludge.

I understand that these people want to generate moral panic about Uncle Hugo there in Venezuela, but trying to depict Marcel Granier as a hero of world freedom does not really advance that end. Not with me, anyway.

All you need to do is actually listen to the guy talk on the boob tube for five minutes.

I am not particularly fond of Uncle Hugo myself — but then again, I am not a Venezuelan.

Listen to this hero of world press freedom gabble for a few minutes, though, and you have to acknowledge there may be a legitimate reason for his political dominance: The ruling elite that tends to hog the microphone there are a cartoonish bunch of gibbering, kleptocratic, sociopathic wing nuts.

If we must wage proxy wars, can we not at least select proxies with a modicum of credibility? “Moral equivalents of the Founding Fathers” who do not, for a change, take the cash and go running straight off the reservation, raping nuns and running drugs?

Washington, 14 de noviembre. La Iniciativa Mérida, caracterizada como ejemplo de un “nuevo paradigma” en la relación entre Estados Unidos y México, hoy fue sujeta a serios cuestionamientos tanto por legisladores liberales como conservadores, que manifestaron los obstáculos que enfrenta este programa de asistencia antinarcóticos.

The Mérida Initiative, characterized as a “new paradigm” for U.S.-Mexico relations, was today the subject of serious questioning by both liberal and conservative lawmakers, who demonstrated the obstacles that the antidrug assistance program faces.

Los legisladores expresaron dudas acerca de si la Iniciativa Mérida podrá cumplir con sus objetivos; cómo monitoreará el gobierno estadunidense a los mexicanos al emplear los fondos, equipo y capacitación; por la “endémica” corrupción política y en las fuerzas de seguridad pública de México; por los fracasos de la cooperación antinarcóticos en el pasado, los derechos humanos en el país vecino y hasta si la lógica de la guerra antinarcóticos en el extranjero funciona, entre otros puntos.

The lawmakers expressed doubts about whether the initiative could achieve its goals; about how the U.S. government would monitor Mexican use of the funds, equipment and training; about the “endemic” political and law enforcement corruption in Mexico; about the failure of antinarco cooperation in the past; about the state of human rights in the southern neighbor; and even about whether the logic of the war on drugs in other countries even works, among other points.

La solicitud inicial para el próximo año fiscal es de 500 millones de dólares (más 50 millones para países centroamericanos), como parte de un programa total de mil 400 millones de dólares, que sería el plan de asistencia antidrogas internacional más grande después del Plan Colombia, e incrementaría unas 10 veces el promedio de asistencia de Estados Unidos a México en años recientes.

The initial request for next year is $500 million (plus $50 million for Central American nations), as part of a total program of $1.4 billion, the biggest antinarco assistance program since Plan Colombia, and a tenfold increase on the average assistance to Mexico in recent years.

El secretario asistente de Estado para el hemisferio occidental, Thomas Shannon, fue convocado hoy ante el Comité de Asuntos Exteriores de la Cámara de Representantes para uno de los primeros debates sobre la llamada Iniciativa Mérida, la cual calificó de “nuevo paradigma” para la cooperación de seguridad regional.

The undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon, was summoned to testify today before the House Foreign Relations Committee in one of the first debates over the so-called Mérida initiatives, which he called “a new paradigm” for cooperation on regional security.

It’s always a “new paradigm” with these people.

Shannon advirtió que los narcotraficantes y otras organizaciones criminales han crecido a tal grado que buscan “socavar e intimidar” a instituciones gubernamentales en México, y han generado una ola de violencia. Esta iniciativa es urgente, dijo, ya que responde a una amenaza, “mientras el crimen organizado intenta abrumar la estabilidad y bienestar de los estados democráticos en México y Centroamérica”.

Shannon warned that narcotraffickers and other criminal organizations have grown to the degree that they are seeking to “undermine and intimidate” government institutions in Mexico, and have generated a wave of violence. This initiative is urgent, he said, because it comes in response to a threat, “while organized crime tries to wreck the stability and welfare of democratic states in Mexico and Central America.

You mean to say it represents … a “clear and present danger”?

I think I have seen that movie before.

On why some observers tend to titter acidly at solemn expressions of concern over the welfare of Latin American democracy, see also

Subrayó que el presidente Felipe Calderón, “en un paso sin precedente”, solicitó este programa de cooperación con Estados Unidos, e indicó que el gobierno estadunidense reconoce su responsabilidad de enfrentar la amenaza común del crimen organizado trasnacional.

She underscored that President Calderón, “in an unprecedented step,” solicited this program of cooperation with the U.S., and indicated that the U.S. government recognizes its responsibility to confront the menace of transnational organized crime.

And reportedly failed to notify the Mexican congress that it he was doing so, igniting major institutional Sturm und Drang. As you read above.

Shannon enfatizó que el gobierno de Calderón ha demostrado una “determinación y compromiso históricos, y los resultados iniciales son impresionantes”.

Shannon emphasized that the Calderón government has demonstrated “an historic determination and commitment, and the initial results are impressive.”

El secretario asistente de Estado para asuntos de narcóticos, David Johnson, quien se presentó junto a Shannon ante la audiencia legislativa, detalló algunos logros del gobierno de Calderón, como el despliegue de 24 mil militares para apoyar operaciones antinarcóticos en 10 estados, la extradición de un número récord (79) de presuntos delincuentes a Estados Unidos; la confiscación de drogas ilícitas, que superan montos anteriores; la depuración de policías y funcionarios de seguridad pública, que dio como resultado el despido de mil 600, y la suspensión de casi 2 mil empleados, entre otros avances.

The undersecretary of State for [narcotic affairs], David Johnson, who accompanied Shannon to the hearing, detailed some of the accomplishments of the Calderón government, such as the deployment of 24,000 soliders to support antinarco operations in 10 states; the extradition of a record number (79) of criminal defendants to the United States; the confiscation of illegal drugs superior to previous amounts; the purging of police forces and public security official, resulting in the dismissal of 1,600 and the suspension of nearly 2,000; among other advances.

On those “record seizures,” see also

Johnson indicó que la Iniciativa Mérida complementará algunos programas de asistencia actuales. Por ejemplo, dijo, Estados Unidos ha capacitado a 4 mil 627 oficiales policiacos mexicanos en 2007 y tiene planes para 5 mil 800 en 2008. Agregó que la Iniciativa Mérida considera ampliar estos esfuerzos, junto con apoyos en los rubros de comunicaciones, patrullaje, monitoreo, equipo de investigación y computadoras.

Johnson indicated that the Mérida Initiative would supplement current aid programs. For example, he said, the U.S. has trained 4,627 Mexican police officers in 2007 and plans to train 5,800 in 2008. He added that the Mérida plan envisions widening those efforts, along with support in the area of communications, patrolling, monitoring, investigative equipment and computers.

You can train the Iraqi — I am sorry, Mexican — police all you want, but these poor bastards cannot eat training, can they? You might be better off simply using the money to subsidize police salaries.

Un dato que surgió en el intercambio con los legisladores es que 208 millones de los 500 millones de dólares para este primer año serán destinados para otorgar helicópteros a México.

One figure that arose in the questioning by lawmakers is that $208 million of the $500 million for the first year would be destined for providing Mexico with helicopters.

Sin embargo, representantes de ambos partidos –como conservadores y liberales dentro de cada uno– se mostraron escépticos sobre la iniciativa. El presidente del comité, el demócrata Tom Lantos, preguntó a Shannon si ese plan es correcto y si el enfoque “es más sobre el síntoma –el flujo masivo de drogas desde América Latina a Estados Unidos– que sobre la cura, la cual claramente sería el desarrollo económico equilibrado a largo plazo de la región”.

However, lawmakers of both parties — conservatives and liberals alike from each party — showed themselves to be skpetical about the project. Committee chair Lantos asked Shannon whether this is the correct plan and whether it does not focus “more on the symptom — the massive flow of drugs from Latin American to the U.S. — rather than on the cure, which is clearly the balanced economic development of the region in the long term.”

Lantos opinó que “es ingenuo” pensar que la “legendaria corrupción del aparato policiaco mexicano” de alguna manera se desvanecerá. Cabe recordar que oficiales de México altamente capacitados se han sumado como sicarios de narcotraficantes en el pasado, señaló. “La capacitación puede ser peligrosa, porque puede hacer más efectivas fuerzas corruptas”, advirtió. También preguntó en qué condiciones se otorga equipo, como helicópteros, a México y cómo se monitoreará su uso.

Lantos called it “ingenous” to think that “the legendary corruption of the Mexican police” will simply vanish. It must be remembered that highly trained Mexican police officers have gone to work as narcotraffic sicários in the past, he pointed out. “The training may be dangerous, because you may be creating more capable forces of corruption,” he warned. He also asked under what conditions equipment, such as helicopters, would be supplied to Mexico, and how their use would be monitored.

El representante Eliot Engel expresó sus preocupaciones acerca de si el gobierno de George W. Bush en verdad está comprometido en asumir su responsabilidad, particularmente sobre cómo revertir la tendencia de años recientes e incrementar fondos para la reducción de demanda de drogas ilícitas en este país, así como en el control del flujo de armas de Estados Unidos a México.

Rep. Eliot Engel expressed concern about whether the Bush government is really committed to taking responsibility, especially with regard to how to reverse the trends of recent years and increase funding for the reduction of demand for drugs in the U.S., as well as how to control the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico.

El republicano conservador Dana Rohrbacher sorprendió a los funcionarios al opinar que ha observado la guerra contra las drogas durante 20 años y concluyó que es “un fracaso colosal”. Dijo que es mejor dedicar los recursos a esfuerzos para reducir la demanda y no en asistencia al exterior.

Conservative Republican Dana Rohrbacker suprised the officials by saying that he has observed the War on Drugs for 20 years and concluded that it is “a colossal failure.” He said it is better to dedicate resources to efforts to reduce demand, rather to foreign assistance.

There have always been card-carrying members of the reality-based community in the GOP, God bless ’em.

Let’s root for those people to purge the Moonies and get serious again. We are going to need them to help us keep Queen Hillary I honest.

Case in point:

El republicano ultraconservador Tom Tancredo no decepcionó las expectativas. Ofreció una de sus clásicas frases: “En México no se sabe dónde termina el gobierno y dónde comienzan los cárteles”, y expresó su oposición a otorgar fondos a un gobierno “corrupto e indigno de confianza”. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen defendió al país vecino: “México no es un cártel de drogas”, afirmó, eso es un “insulto”.

Ultraconservative republican Tom Tancredo did not defy expectations, offering a classic phrase: “In Mexico you do not know where the government ends and the cartels begin,” and expessed his opposition of funding a government that is “corrupt and untrustworthy.” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen defended the neighboring country: “Mexico is not a drug cartel,” she said, calling this an “insult.”

Tancredo on the 9/11 attacks:

I believe that what we are fighting here is not just a small group of people who have hijacked a religion, but it is a civilization bent on destroying ours.

For a strikingly similar expression of gibbering, grandiose moral panic, see

Otros legisladores expresaron preocupaciones sobre el respeto a los derechos humanos y laborales en México, y cuestionaron si debe considerarse ofrecer asistencia a un país con serias violaciones de las garantías básicas.

Other lawmakers expressed concerns over respect for human rights and labor rights in Mexico, questioning whether assistance should be offered to a country with serious violations of basic guarantees.

En dos ocasiones la audiencia fue interrumpida por intervenciones del público, que denunció violaciones de derechos humanos y la impunidad de fuerzas “paramilitares”, al recordar el homicidio del periodista Brad Will en Oaxaca.

On two occasions the hearing was interrupted by public demonstrations denouncing human rights violations and the impunity of “paramilitaries,” reminding lawmakers of the murder of journalist Brad Will in Oaxaca.

Por otra parte, el sindicato siderúrgico nacional (USW) manifestó su oposición al plan en una carta que circuló entre líderes legislativos. “Sin reformas institucionales fundamentales en México, y compromisos concretos del gobierno mexicano para cesar sus violaciones de derechos laborales y humanos, creemos que los fondos solicitados por el gobierno servirán para reforzar un patrón de impunidad”, escribió el presidente del USW, Leo Gerard.

On one hand, the national steelworkers union, the USW, expressed opposition to the plan in a letter circulated to congressional leadershiop. “Without fundamental institutional reforms in Mexico, and concrete commitments by the Mexican government to stop violating labor and human rights, we believe the funds requested will only serve to reinforce the standard of impunity,” wrote USW president Leo Gerard.

Por otro lado, The Wall Street Journal publicó hoy un extenso reportaje sobre el resurgimiento del Ejército Popular Revolucionario, y su potencial como amenaza al Estado mexicano en esta coyuntura.

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal today published an extensive report on the resurgence of the EPR, the Popular Revolutionary army, and its potential as a threat to the Mexican state as a whole.

They did?

La Iniciativa Mérida se intenta vender como un “nuevo paradigma”, pero el debate que apenas comienza ya contiene viejos elementos de las discusiones sobre la relación con el país vecino.

The Mérida Initaitive is being sold as a “new paradigm,” but the debate that is just beginning contains many time-worn points from previous debates over U.S.-Mexico relations.

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