Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plan Mexico Vote Imminent

May 16 Update from Friends of Brad Will: Some Republicans are calling for a stand-alone bill and we're pushing Cornyn (R-Texas) and Leahy (D-Vermont) to remove the so-called Merida Initiative from the Iraq Supplemental bill and introduce it as a stand-alone to be evaluated on its own merits.

Please call the following Senators and tell them that the Merida Initiative should either be defeated or introduced as a stand-alone bill separate from the Iraq Supplemental bill:

Senator Leahy: (202)-224-4242
Senator Cornyn: (202)224-2934

***
Letter to Rep. Castle (R-Del.): Remove Merida Initiative funding from Iraq supplemental appropriations bill

Witness for Peace put out an
action alert to call the congressional representative for your district regarding the Merida Initiative/Plan Mexico. The vote is any day now. Seeing as though long-distance calls from Mexico are a little pricey, I wrote Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) a letter.

Dear Rep. Castle:

I'm writing to ask that the Merida Initiative funding be eliminated from the supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq.

The Merida Initiative, also known as "Plan Mexico," will fund a brutal army known for its human rights abuses and use of paramilitaries, and a corrupt and brutal police force.

I'm asking that you oppose the Merida Initiative funding because I am a journalist working in Mexico. Mexico is already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, and this funding will only increase the risks I take in doing my work every day.

Paramilitaries murdered my colleague Brad Will in the state of Oaxaca in October 2006 while he was working as a journalist. Brad filmed his own murder, and his shooters are clearly visible and identifiable in photographs taken at the time of the murder. Some of the shooters were off-duty police. Others were government officials.

Police also gang raped several of my friends in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico, in May 2006. While some police were convicted of "lewd conduct," the government quickly overturned their sentences. Furthermore, many more have not been tried at all.

Please do not provide more funding and equipment to such corrupt and brutal "security" forces. Mexico needs our support, but not this kind of support.

***
Action Alert:

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
initiatives.

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 with repression.

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 (mexico@witnessforpeace.org).

WFP Mexico
Witness for Peace
202-547-6112
www.witnessforpeace.org
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