UPDATE Jun 14 '08: the fate of Plan Mexico is still in play...
UPDATE Mar 22 '08: Plan Mexico Passed in the US House of Representatives... bad news, REALLY bad news. In other news, SOA Watch has won a victory in the House and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have brought another fast food giant, Burger King, to the table.
Also, I've got a whole lot of good stuff coming soon, including some original pieces and an update on the post below, but I'm just waiting for the final drafts to come thru... stay tuned! And if you are in NYC: Sign up now for the "class" I'll be leading every Wednesday in June from 6:30 to 8:30p at the Brecht Forum entitled "Enter the Intergalactic! Zapatismo in the US and the World" - it'll be mind-blowing and explorational, but only if you sign-up!
Urgent: Stop "Plan Mexico"
from Witness for Peace
Congress to vote this week on Merida Initiative
As early as tomorrow,
Congress will vote on a bill
to continue funding two failed wars:
Iraq and the "war on drugs."
This week Congress will likely vote on a supplemental appropriations
bill dominated by Iraq war funding. The bill, in addition to pouring
billions more into the devastating occupation of Iraq, would include
the notorious Merida Initiative. This security assistance package,
popularly dubbed "Plan Mexico," would provide hundreds of millions of
taxpayers' dollars to Mexican and Central American security forces in
the name of combating drug trafficking and crime. Proposals thus far
would spend the bulk of the money on military equipment for Mexican
forces known for consistent human rights violations.
We at Witness for Peace know that arming foreign militaries will not
solve our drug problem, a fact now painfully obvious in Colombia.
After eight years and over five billion dollars of Plan Colombia, the
massive anti-drug experiment has failed remarkably. The single goal of
U.S. drug policy in Colombia was to see a 50 percent reduction in the
production of coca, the raw material for cocaine. Today there is as
much coca growing in Colombia as there was the year Plan Colombia
began. There is no reason to believe that sending helicopters to stop
drug traffic in Mexico will work any better than sending helicopters
to stop drug production in Colombia. Let's learn from our mistakes
instead of repeating them. (For further background and analysis
please see the talking points below.)
TAKE ACTION: The Time is Now!
To prevent passage of this senseless military package, we need to
pressure our Congressional representatives NOW. With the vote just
days away, this may be our last opportunity to stop it.
Call the offices of your representatives and ask that the Merida
Initiative funding be eliminated from the supplemental appropriations
bill. Use the talking points below. To reach your representatives'
offices, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to be
connected to your House or Senate member (give your state and zip code if you're not sure who it is).
Call the office of Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs
committee, to say you oppose authorization of the Merida Initiative:
202-225-4695. If your representative is on the committee, also ask
them to oppose Berman's steps towards authorization. Click here to
find out if your rep is a member.
Talking Points for Opposing the Merida Initiative
A. The initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking
The Merida Initiative would fail to have a lasting impact on drug
trafficking for three key reasons:
1. Military interdiction efforts have a "balloon" effect. In
Colombia, U.S. military efforts to stop coca production and
trafficking in key locations have simply shifted production and
trafficking to new locations. The resulting proliferation is evident:
the number of coca-producing states in Colombia has jumped from 8 to
24 over the course of Plan Colombia. The Merida Initiative would
likely have a parallel effect on drug trafficking. As stated by the
Centro Pro, a national human rights organization in Mexico City,
"History has proven time and time again that such law enforcement
efforts merely divert trafficking routes, creating a geographic
shuffle of social and criminal problems."
2. The Merida Initiative ignores a root cause of the problem: U.S.
demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug trafficking a
lucrative business. Colombia has taught us that so long as demand
remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution will
fail. Even the right-wing RAND Corporation has concluded that far-
flung attempts to stop drugs at their source is 23 times less cost
effective than domestic drug treatment at home. Yet, according to the
current budget, the Merida Initiative destines not a single penny of
its funds to state-side drug demand reduction programs.
3. The Merida Initiative model also fails to recognize poverty as
another root cause of drug trafficking. Fifty million people in
Mexico live in poverty, creating conditions for intense migration and
powerful black markets. Minimum wage is barely five dollars per DAY,
which is by all standards unlivable, and many people don't even make
that. The U.S. has played a role in shaping this desperate reality
through structural adjustment and trade policies that have exacerbated
unemployment and added to the cost of living for many. So long as
such poverty persists in Mexico, some Mexicans will continue to choose
drug-running as a lucrative alternative to migration or unemployment.
So long as the U.S. implements policies that perpetuate Mexico's
poverty, it will be working at odds with its own counter-narcotics
B. The initiative further threatens human rights
Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations
have expressed concern that counter-narcotics aid for Mexico's
military and police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights
violations. According to Centro Pro, "Past experience has shown
policies like the Merida Initiative to be financially costly and to
broaden the mandate of military operations, violating the human rights
of civilians, all the while failing to achieve sustainable gains in
human security." At root is the fact that counter-narcotics
operations in Mexico have a recorded history of human rights abuses.
Amnesty International reports that over the last decade it has
documented "abuses committed by military personnel in counter-
narcotics operations in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and
Coahuila." Espacio Civil, a civil society coalition comprised of 52
Oaxacan organizations, adds that in 2007 "the army committed severe
human rights violations in their supposed counter-drug operations. We
are concerned that the funding from the U.S. government will
ultimately make this situation worse."
C. The initiative could likely be used to suppress
legitimate political expression
Many Mexican groups fear, with good reason, that the US military
hardware and training in the Merida Initiative would be used directly
against citizens participating in acts of legitimate political
expression. Mexican military and public security forces have
consistently been deployed to stop and often brutally repress popular
protest. Perhaps the most alarming example of late is the crackdown
of the Oaxacan social movement that began with a teacher's strike in
2006. Both federal and state security forces brought an iron fist
down on the demonstrations, leaving a wake of human rights violations
that include over 20 assassinations (including U.S. journalist Brad
Will), hundreds of arbitrary detentions, and torture. The cases
against the security forces, which have been well documented by
Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, remain unresolved in Mexico. A sizeable portion of the money
from the Merida Initiative would support the very security forces
responsible for these violations. Many in Oaxaca fear that with this
support, legitimate protest in Mexico will continue to be answered
Our representatives urgently need to know what you now know. Please
do not delay in contacting them. Thank you for calling for a more
just U.S. policy towards Mexico. Feel free to contact the Mexico team
with questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Witness for Peace