Obama Worse Than Reagan
Heads-up, veterans of the nuclear freeze movement in the US, the anti-Euromissile campaigns in Western Europe, and the various anti-nuclear weapons efforts in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Incoming.
We spent much of the eighties resisting Ronald Reagan’s new Cold War, and his new nuclear weapons of all shapes and sizes. We pushed back against his giant ‘defense’ budgets and countered his harrowing rhetoric. We knew Star Wars was a scam, and the MX missile a danger. We grimaced at his appointments to key policymaking positions, and scoffed at his insincere arms control efforts.
In the end, we prevailed (after a sort). We get much of the credit for preventing planetary incineration that seemed frighteningly close at the time (Gorbachev deserves some too). Professional activists, Plowshares heroes, and a handful of stalwart others stayed in the anti-nuclear weapons movement trenches. Although nukes were not abolished with the end of the Cold War, most of the rest of us nonetheless moved on to fight other evils, and to work on one or more better world construction projects.
It’s time to return. President Obama released his FY 2015 budget on Tuesday, March 4. Ready for this? It asks for considerably more money (in constant dollars) for nuclear weapons maintenance, design and production than Reagan spent in 1985, the historical peak of spending on nukes: $8.608 billion dollars, not counting administrative costs (see graph below). The Los Alamos Study Group crunched the numbers for us.
Next year’s request tops this year’s by 7%. Should the President’s new Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative be approved, yet $504 million more would be available for warhead spending. The OGSI is $56 billion over and above the spending agreed to in the December 2013 two-year budget (unlikely to pass given that it’s an election year, would be paid for by increased taxes on the retirement funds of the rich, and reduced spending in politically dicey areas like crop insurance).
Increased lucre for the nuclear weapons complex maintains Obama’s inconsistency on the Bomb. He wrote his senior thesis at Columbia on the arms race and the nuclear freeze campaign. Two months after his first inauguration, he uttered these words in Prague: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The Pentagon’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review promised to avoid “new military missions or . . . new military capabilities” for nuclear weapons (don’t laugh, you’d be surprised how imaginative those guys can be). 2011 was even better: Obama signed the New START Treaty. It limits the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1550, a 30% decrease from the previous START Treaty, signed in 2002. New START also lowered limits on the number of launch platforms — ICBMs, ballistic missile launching subs, and nuke-equipped bombers.
At the same time, his State Department refuses—under first Hilary Clinton and now John Kerry—to present the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification out of timidity over expected resistance (never mind that the US has essentially figured out ways to circumvent the Treaty’s spirit if not letter; the CTB was once the ‘holy grail’ for arms control and disarmament advoates).
That same State Department refrains—under both Hilary Clinton and John Kerry—from getting tough with Pakistan over its years-long obstruction of United Nations-sponsored negotiations over a global ban on the stuff needed to make bombs. (Pakistan is the country building them faster than any other; how about: ‘we’ll ground the killer drones in exchange for a fissile material cut-off?’). And Obama now wants to outspend Reagan on nuclear weapons maintenance, design and production.
Winding down nuclear weapons spending, and eventually abolishing the things (for which no negotiations are underway) has been the right thing to do since the first bomb exploded in the New Mexico desert in 1945. State Department support for the coup in Ukraine and the resultant saber rattling (echoes of August 1914?) make it as urgent as ever.
Steve Breyman was 2011-12 William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Euro-Atlantic Security Affairs Office of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance at the US Department of State where he worked fruitlessly on reforming nuclear weapons policy.
A senior US State Department official has allegedly been caught giving an unexpected message to the EU while discussing Ukrainian opposition leaders’ roles in the country’s future government. The phone call was taped and posted on YouTube.
“F**k the EU,” Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland allegedly said in a recent phone call with US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, as the two were discussing a deal to end the crisis in Ukraine.
The four-minute video – titled ‘Maidan puppets,’ referring to Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital – was uploaded by an anonymous user. The origin of the recording is not clear. The video was first reported in the Kyiv Post.
The US State Department did not deny the authenticity of the video and stressed that Nuland had apologized for the “reported comments.”
The conversation is mainly focused on Ukraine’s government and President Viktor Yanukovich’s offer last month to make opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the new prime minister and Vitaly Klitschko deputy prime minister.
“I don’t think that Klitschko should go into the government. I don’t think it is necessary. I don’t think it is a good idea,” a female voice – allegedly Nuland – said.
“In terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework,” a male voice – believed to be Pyatt – replied. “In terms of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate democrats together,” he said.
As Nuland sees it, Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk should be in charge of the new government and Klitschko would not get along with him. “It’s just not going to work,” she said.
Nuland added that she has also been told that UN chief Ban Ki-moon is about to appoint the former Dutch ambassador to Kiev, Robert Serry, as his representative to Ukraine.
“That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN glue it and you know, f**k the EU,” she said in apparent reference to their differences over policies.
“We’ve got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it,” Pyatt replied.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on the tape’s contents, but did not deny its authenticity.
“I did not say it was not authentic,” she said, adding that Nuland had apologized to her EU counterparts for the reported comments.
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney alleged that the fact that it had been “tweeted out by the Russian government, it says something about Russia’s role.”
In the conversation, it sounds like the two officials are playing a game of chess; strategizing on how to put together the government of another country, RT’s Marina Portnaya said while commenting on the report.
Foreign policy expert Nebojsa Malic told RT that even though Nuland apologized for the reported comments, she did not admit her fault in trying to overthrow the government in Ukraine.
“What she hasn’t apologized for is the plans to midwife a new government in Ukraine. In other words, she is apologizing for cussing up the EU, but she is not apologizing for trying to overthrow the government in Kiev, calling it popular democracy,” Malic said. “I don’t think anybody in the US establishment is sorry for what they are trying to do. I think they are very proud of it and they are going to pursue it.”
The leaked chat fuels earlier allegations that Washington is heavily meddling in the Ukrainian political crisis by manipulating the pro-EU opposition and helping it in its efforts to oust President Viktor Yanukovich.
Back in December, Victoria Nuland was spotted in the cradle of the anti-government protests – Kiev’s landmark Independence Square – distributing cookies to demonstrators. Later in the month, Senator John McCain arrived in Kiev to show his support for the opposition. Addressing protesters on Independence Square, he stated that Ukraine’s future was with Europe, adding that the country would “make Europe better.”
We are receiving an almost daily bombardment of security warnings about the Sochi Olympics from the U.S. State Department, various U.S. military agencies and members of Congress. Many of them are appealing for a larger U.S. role to help protect the Games and those attending.
Security, of course, must be the highest priority at such a high-profile event. But it should not be taken to the level of repetitive “scare mongering,” particularly when it comes from parties with prominent commercial ties to the military–industrial complex.
This same cast of characters protest too much, and they do it every time someone else tries to host a party. We saw it at Athens 2004, where primarily U.S. and Israeli defense industry interests stirred up such post 9/11 paranoia to drive attendees away and blow the budget by several billion in last minute security equipment expenditure.
It was less at Beijing 2008 because the Chinese had it well under control and gave short shrift to anyone suggesting otherwise.
During the London Games in 2012, U.S. alarm over security and organizational matters prior to the Games tried British patience. When presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised his “grave concerns” about the Games during a visit, even quality English broadsheets branded him “Mitt the Twit” on their front pages.
These security concerns always come from interested parties connected with the “war machine” who seem to think that only U.S. security apparatus and hardware can save the world from evildoers. They forget the fact that the last terrorist attack on an Olympic site in the past 40 years was at Atlanta 1996.
But in this week’s and next week’s newspapers, when you read even more about security concerns in Sochi, check the background of those speaking and recall former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s prophetic warning about the military-industrial complex.
We have heard enough about security concerns for the Games. Thank you, everyone gets it.
Earlier this week, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske gave a talk at the Institute of the Americas in San Diego. During the Q and A, audience member Aaron Montenegro asked her about the May 11, 2012 DEA-related shooting incident in Ahuas, in Honduras’ Mosquitia region in which four local, unarmed villagers were killed and several others wounded. (As Americas Blog readers know, CEPR has co-authored two in-depth reports on the incident with Rights Action, based on evidence and interviews with survivors, witnesses, and various U.S. and Honduran officials; and on a review of official investigations. And we have blogged about ongoing developments regarding the case as well.)
A recording of the revealing exchange is posted here, and a full transcript follows:
Question: I’d like to mention something that you didn’t talk about, and that’s the Ahuas case in Mosquitia and the lack of cooperation coming from the U.S. Embassy. For those of you who don’t know, in indigenous territory, the Mosquitia, there was a massacre that took place in the name of fighting narcotráfico, and this was taking place with U.S. State Department helicopters, with DEA agents and subcontracted Guatemalan pilots. And there has been a refusal to participate within this investigation as far as the ballistic tests are concerned. So I would just like for you to maybe address that and why there hasn’t been so much forward participation with that if you are talking about impunity. And then, another question I would like to
Moderator: Wait a minute, let’s do that one…
Kubiske: OK, Ahuas. I don’t share that characterization that you just gave. There was a program. It ran for a very short period of time, called “Operation Anvil” or yunque in Spanish, and it was, it was part of a regional aviation air interdiction program – so drug interdiction program by air. In that program, which was basically a program that was lending U.S. helicopters to Hondurans as they learned to do aerial interdiction — so it was a capacity building thing — they had one incident in Ahuas in which the Honduran people on board, Honduran police, in self-defense, shot at people on the ground. And in that back and forth four people — they didn’t shoot from the air, they shot down on the ground — when people were coming at them in a way that looked like the people were trying to recover drugs that had been delivered illegally into Honduran airspace and down into Ahuas. The goal was not to have anybody killed, obviously. People were killed, and it was a tragedy. And in looking at that program there are lessons learned about how to do that program if it were to happen in the future so that it would be safer, but it was a case in which there were investigations both in Honduras and in the United States. Those reports– at least one of those reports, is circulating in Washington, and it should be available from your congressman, probably. It’s not a case of impunity. It was a case in which there was a perceived threat.
There was — I’m going to go a little further and say it was not at all clear what was going on with the people. There was a boat coming at the boat that had the authorities. It was not at all clear that the people in the other boat were innocent or not innocent — still not clear — and it was very unfortunate. It happened in a community that was well armed, which people can see from the videos that exist of the event. So it was actually quite a dangerous interdiction as it happened.
And so one thing we learned is that when those drugs arrive in Gracias a Diós, which is a relatively unpopulated place — Ahuas has about 60…600 people I think — that these are not innocent communities. These are communities in which a lot of people find it not dangerous, perhaps, to help the drug traffickers who live there. And afterwards I think we know that many more people began to think that it was dangerous. We’ve seen some changes in behavior. That’s not to justify what happened. It’s a tragedy that four people died.
Ambassador Kubiske’s comments are disturbing for several reasons. Despite interviews with survivors and deceased victims’ relatives in The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Real News and other outlets – and despite several reports on the incident (including ours), she again presents a version of the events first made by U.S. officials immediately after the shootings, but the veracity of which has been called into question by both official and unofficial investigations. As we have described previously, these accounts have been contradicted by the National Commission of Human Rights (a Honduran government agency), by the Honduran officers involved, and even by DEA and other U.S. officials.
Kubiske states that “Honduran police, in self-defense, shot at people on the ground,” but then adds the qualification that “they didn’t shoot from the air, they shot down on the ground…” Yet the forensic evidence – bullet holes in the villager’s boat and gunshot wounds suffered by victims – is consistent not with a horizontal (and two-sided) fire-fight, but with shots fired from above. The survivors and other witnesses as well as the Honduran police officers, former DEA chief in Honduras Jim Kenney, and an unnamed U.S. official (speaking to the New York Times just days after the incident) have said that the boat passengers were also fired on from the helicopter.
To bolster her version of what happened, Kubiske cites secret evidence – a video, supposedly taken by a Customs and Border Protection P-3 surveillance plane (also previously described in our “Collateral Damage of a Drug War” report). Although she says that “people can see from the videos that exist of the event” that the “community [was] well armed” and that it was “a dangerous interdiction,” in fact “people” have been unable to see this supposed video evidence. It has, to our knowledge, been seen by few outside of certain congressional offices and a few journalists. (Other journalists – from major media outlets – who have requested to see the video have had their requests denied.)
Kubiske’s description of a “well-armed” community is part of what is most disturbing about her response to the question: she again blames the victims, people who the evidence suggests have nothing to do with drug trafficking but who were returning home that night along a major traffic route in the area – the Patuca river – as is common. She comes back to this theme, to reiterate that the shooting victims may have been partly to blame, at least: “It was not at all clear that the people in the other boat were innocent or not innocent — still not clear,” and even more chillingly says
…these are not innocent communities. These are communities in which a lot of people find it not dangerous, perhaps, to help the drug traffickers who live there. And afterwards I think we know that many more people began to think that it was dangerous. We’ve seen some changes in behavior. That’s not to justify what happened.
Kubiske never notes, of course, that one of those shot dead in the operation was Juana Jackson, who was pregnant, and that another was Hasked Brooks Wood, a 14-year-old boy, and whether, therefore, the State Department and/or DEA wouldn’t find it strange for pregnant women and children to be involved in the drug trade. Kubiske has previously denied that any of the shooting victims were pregnant, even though a doctor’s report and statements by numerous individuals in the community – as well as eyewitnesses to her (unprofessional and insensitive) open-air autopsy — attest to the fact that Jackson was pregnant.
As we have previously noted, in addition to obstructing Honduran investigations into the incident, the U.S. government has failed to provide any assistance to the surviving victims of the incident — some of whom needed significant medical attention – nor the families of the deceased victims.
Kubiske also states that this “was a case in which there were investigations both in Honduras and in the United States. Those reports– at least one of those reports, is circulating in Washington, and it should be available from your congressman, probably.” But as we have previously demonstrated, these reports themselves contain inconsistencies, and were based on improper investigations (as some authorities involved in the investigations have come forward to reveal). The public report to which Kubiske is referring is probably the Honduran Attorney General’s report, which has been sent to the U.S. State Department and congressional offices. It is this investigation that was the focus of our “Still Waiting for Justice” report released earlier this year, co-authored with Rights Action, and which we found had “serious flaws including major omissions of key testimony and forensic exams, a one-sided description and analysis of events, and ‘observations’ (in lieu of conclusions) that aren’t supported by the evidence that is cited.”
The U.S. report that Kubiske mentions is likely the DEA’s internal report on the incident, which has not been made public, and which has not been shared with Congress. Unfortunately, this remains the only U.S. probe into the shootings to have been conducted, as the State and Justice departments have refused to conduct an independent investigation despite calls from members of Congress for them to do so.
It is also worth noting that Kubiske never addressed Montenegro’s actual question regarding the reports that the U.S. didn’t cooperate with Honduran Public Ministry officials who carried out the official investigation of the Ahuas killings. Indeed, though Kubiske cites the Honduran investigation to support her version of events, the U.S. government hasn’t allowed the Public Ministry to question the ten DEA agents and various State Department contractors involved in the Ahuas operation, nor allowed them to perform ballistic tests on these agents’ firearms. The irony would be laughable if four lives hadn’t been lost: the State Department and the DEA have themselves severely undermined the very investigation that they rely on to defend their deadly operation in Ahuas.
The Dallas law office representing a State Department whistleblower was broken into and robbed during the first weekend of July. Three computers were stolen and the firm’s file cabinets had been searched, but valuables were left untouched.
“It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation,” attorney Cary Schulman of the Schulman & Mathias law office told Foreign Policy Magazine’s The Cable.
The burglars left behind silver bars, video equipment and other valuables, causing Schulman to believe that they were looking to find information on the case of former State Department inspector general investigator Aurelia Fedenisn, who leaked government documents last month. Fedenisn provided CBS News with documents that accuse the State Department of covering up criminal investigations involving its diplomats and employees, including offenses such as illicit drug use, sexual solicitation of minors and prostitutes, and sexual harassment.
The documents state that US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman “was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.”
Schulman believes that the perpetrators of the burglary may have been politically motivated supporters of the Obama administration, but the suspects have not yet been identified.
“It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information,” Schulman told The Cable.
Last month, lawyers representing Fedenisn told The Cable that the State Department tried to silence her by threatening her and her family. Law enforcement officers allegedly camped in front of her house, harassed her children, and tried to make Fedenisn incriminate herself.
Schulman believes that officials are trying to force Fedenisn to sign papers admitting that she stole the documents – a crime that the former investigator denies.
The law office does not believe the State Department authorized a break-in, but suspects that supporters of the administration may be to blame.
“It wasn’t professional enough,” he said. “It is possible that an Obama or Hillary supporter feels that I am unfairly going after them. And the timing of this is right after several weeks of very public media attention so it seems to me most likely that the information sought is related to that case. I don’t know for sure and I want the police to do their work.”
Local Fox affiliate KDFW aired a surveillance video of the two suspected burglars, who can be seen walking out of the office carrying computers.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki claims the agency had no involvement in the break-in.
“Any allegation that the Department of State authorized someone to break into Mr. Schulman’s law firm is false and baseless,” she said.
The US State Department may have hushed up allegations of misconduct by its employees worldwide that range from soliciting prostitutes to getting narcotics from a drug ring, a report says.
The CBS News uncovered on Monday a memo that showed the department’s security force, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), tried to cover up sex and drugs charges against agents and diplomats working for the State Department.
The DSS is responsible for protecting nearly 70,000 employees at the State Department and 275 US embassies around the world.
The memo by the State Department inspector general made direct reference to eight specific cases in which inquiries into alleged criminal activities by diplomatic security agents or contractors were “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” by more senior officials.
The cases included an unnamed US ambassador who repeatedly solicited prostitutes, a security official “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards in Beirut, and the members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security team who “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries.”
The ambassador involved in the case was called to Washington D. C. to have a meeting with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy about the issue but was permitted to go back to his regular duties, the report said.
The document also revealed details of an alleged “underground drug ring” close to the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which provided the DSS staffers with drugs.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday did not deny any of the allegations in the CBS report, but refused to go into details.
“We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or are under investigation,” she said.
CEPR has released a new paper, along with the human rights organization Rights Action, examining the Honduran Public Ministry’s official report on the May 11, 2012 shooting incident last year in which four local villagers were killed in Ahuas in Honduras’ Moskitia region during a counternarcotics operation involving U.S. and Honduran agents. This is also the first time that the Public Ministry’s report has been made available to the public, posted to Scribd in English here, and Spanish here.
The Honduran Public Ministry’s report deserves special scrutiny because thus far it represents the official version of events according to the Honduran authorities. And since the U.S. government has declined to conduct its own investigation – despite the wishes of 58 members of Congress – it also represents by default the version of events tacitly endorsed by U.S. authorities as well. The DEA and State Department didn’t allow Honduran investigators to question the U.S. agents and contractors that participated in the May 11 operation. At the same time a U.S. police detective working for the U.S. Embassy reportedly participated in the Public Ministry’s investigation, so the U.S. also bears some responsibility for the report’s flaws.
The CEPR/Rights Action paper found that the Public Ministry’s report:
- Makes “observations” (not conclusions) that are not supported by the evidence cited;
- Omits key testimony, that would implicate the DEA, from police who were involved in the May 11 incident;
- Relies on incomplete forensic examinations of the weapons involved, improper forensic examinations of the victims’ bodies and other improperly gathered evidence;
- Does not attempt to establish who is ultimately responsible for the killings;
- Ignores eyewitness reports claiming that at least one State Department-titled helicopter fired on the passenger boat carrying the shooting victims;
- Does not attempt to establish whether the victims were “in any way involved in drug trafficking” as both Honduran and U.S. officials originally alleged;
- Does not attempt to establish what authority was actually in charge of the operation;
- Appears to be focused on absolving the DEA of all responsibility in the killings.
The CEPR/Rights Action report represents the first such public critique of the Public Ministry’s report. As we have previously noted, there are significant discrepancies between different accounts of the May 11 events, including those of Honduran police officers who participated in (and say the DEA was in charge of) the operation. These discrepancies – cited in a separate report published by the Honduras National Commission of Human Rights (CONADEH) – are not mentioned in the Public Ministry report. Nor does the report include police testimony indicating that a DEA agent ordered one of the State Department helicopters to open fire on the passenger boat in which four people were killed.
The report concludes by calling for the U.S. government to carry out its own investigation of the Ahuas incident to better determine what occurred and to determine what responsibility, if any, DEA agents had in the killings. It also calls on the U.S. government to cease being an obstacle to an already flawed investigation by making the relevant DEA agents, weapons and documents – including an aerial surveillance video of the Ahuas operation in its entirety – available to investigators.
The new CEPR/Rights Action paper follows the “Collateral Damage of a Drug War” report released last year which was based on eyewitness testimony and other evidence the authors obtained in Honduras and concluded that the DEA played a central role in the shooting incident.
- Obama Administration Refuses to Investigate Alleged DEA Killing of Women and Child in Honduras (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the US over its plan to continue financing certain Russian NGOs. Moscow has accused Washington of meddling in its domestic affairs.
“We consider the statement by the US State Department official representative Victoria Nuland, saying the US is going to continue financing some of Russia’s NGOs through intermediaries in third countries, avoiding the Russian legislature, a blatant interference into our internal affairs,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement on Saturday.
Mass audits of Russian NGOs started on March 21, on orders from the Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office.
The checks immediately sparked criticism in the international rights community, which labeled them an attempt to pressure activists. Russia has maintained the checks are regular inspections to see if NGO work complies with Russian law – legislation was recently amended to require that NGOs receiving foreign funding register as ‘foreign agents.’
Victoria Nuland, US State Department spokesperson, said that Washington’s NGO funding will continue unabated: “We are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organizations that continue to want to work with us,” she said at a Thursday briefing.
The Russian Foreign Ministry believes the US is engaged in “direct instigating of certain non-governmental and public structures to violate legislation related to the work of non-governmental organisations in the Russian Federation,” according to Lukashevich’s statement.
Russian diplomats were also incensed by Victoria Nuland’s description of the NGO raids as a “witch hunt.” Lukashevich’s statement described his American counterpart’s choice of words as “cynical and provocative.”
Moscow has said that its NGO policy is in line with generally accepted international practices. So far, auditors have reported no infractions in the activities of non-governmental groups, apart from one incident. On Thursday, ‘For Human Rights’ leader Lev Ponomaryov refused to turn over working documents to inspectors, saying that his organization had already been subjected to a recent check.
Law enforcers said the act was a refusal to comply with lawful demands, and started an administrative case against the activist.
President Putin on Friday asked Russia’s top Human Rights Commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, to monitor the situation with the NGO raids. “I would like to rule out any excesses there,” Putin said.
Associated Press reporters Alberto Arce and Katherine Corcoran have written a follow up article to Arce’s investigative feature last week on the continuation of death squad activity by the Honduran police. The new article, which appeared in the New York Times and various other media over the weekend, suggests that U.S. State Department officials may have deceived members of Congress in order to illegally fund Honduran police units even though some police – under the command of National Police Director General Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla – may be involved in death squads.
The article begins:
The U.S. State Department, which spends millions of taxpayer dollars a year on the Honduran National Police, has assured Congress that money only goes to specially vetted and trained units that don’t operate under the direct supervision of a police chief once accused of extrajudicial killings and “social cleansing.”
But The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the “Tiger,” who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.
Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the director general, according to a top Honduran government security official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity. He said that is true in practice as well as on paper.
Celso Alvarado, a criminal law professor and consultant to the Honduran Commission for Security and Justice Sector Reform, said the same.
“Every police officer in Honduras, regardless of their specific functions, is under the hierarchy and obedience of the director general,” he said.
Congress has already withheld some funding ($30 million) to the Honduran police under the Leahy Law over concerns about Bonilla’s alleged past death squad involvement, but the State Department has continued with some other funding and just announced a new $16.3 million commitment to the Honduran police during a visit to Honduras by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield last weekend. AP noted that “Some of the U.S. money will go to the Gang Resistance Education and Training program under the director of community policing, who also told the AP that he reports directly to Bonilla.”
As the AP article states, “U.S. support goes to Honduran forces working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on anti-narcotics operations, and anti-gang, anti-kidnapping and border-security units, according to an embassy official who was not authorized to speak on the record.” We have detailed how U.S.-assisted counternarcotics operations have involved the killings of civilians and what seems to be a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach by some Honduran forces in the past that led to the U.S. to temporarily suspend radar assistance to Honduran authorities.
Arce and Corcoran note that they tried to ask Brownfield questions regarding the police assistance when he was in Honduras, but Brownfield declined to answer.
The AP article includes additional statements from Honduran officials regarding the chain of command, which goes up to Bonilla:
When asked by AP if the specially vetted Honduran police units working with the U.S. Embassy still report to Bonilla, the Honduran security official said: “Yes, that’s how it works, because of personal loyalty and federal law.”
“I only report to the director general, all of the programs of the Honduran police are directed personally by him,” said Otoniel Castillo, a police sub-commissioner. “He has a personal and intense closeness to all projects of international cooperation, especially because of his good relationship with the U.S. Embassy.”
In the wake of the AP’s revelations, the big question is how will Congress react? While State Department officials are likely to claim plausible deniability or a different interpretation of Honduran law and how it relates to police supervision and accountability, State Department officials’ past responses to Congress indicate that human rights concerns may be less of a priority than they are for the members of Congress who have spoken out on this issue. The unwillingness of senior officials such as Brownfield to answer questions from reporters also does not signal credibility.
Arce and Corcoran noted that the State Department has not been forthcoming with information to Congress that would explain the discrepancy:
That information so far has not been provided by the State Department, and the AP’s findings have prompted more questions.
“Senator Leahy has asked the State Department to clarify how they differentiate between what they told the Congress and what is being said by those within Honduran police units under his authority,” Leahy aide Tim Rieser said Friday. “Sen. Leahy, like others, made clear early on his concerns about Gen. Bonilla and the conduct of the Honduran police.”
- World Bank Must End Support for Honduran Palm Oil Company Implicated in Murder
- Step by Step: Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty
- Reporting on Romer’s Charter Cities: How the Media Sanitize Honduras’s Brutal Regime
- Killings Continue in Bajo Aguán as Report Documents Abuses by US-Trained Honduran Special Forces
Tibisay Lucena, the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) rejected statements on Sunday by U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for Latin America Roberta Jacobson, who said it would be “a little difficult” for Venezuela to have “clean and transparent elections,” next month on April 14.
“We roundly reject the naïve statements of Ms. Roberta Jacobson, for their meddling and disrespectful content,” Lucena said during a speech at the CNE headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela. “Jacobson said that the elections in Venezuela should be free and fair, causing some to believe that Venezuelan elections do not comply with the basic conditions, when our electoral system has been recognized nationally and internationally, both by voters at home and abroad by experts like former President Jimmy Carter, who said that ‘Venezuela has the best electoral system in the world,’” she said.
Lucena called the statements imprudent, “especially when they come from the United States, a country with a fragile and unsafe electoral system that increasingly excludes minorities and low-income sectors.”
She said that Venezuela has an electoral system that guarantees the sovereign decision of voters “and while we audit 54% of the electoral booths at the end of the day, in the United States the results aren’t audited. For a long time, citizens’ groups have been fighting to be allowed to audit three to five percent of the booths after voting.”
She said that Venezuela’s fully automated electoral system, “more than just a technological platform, is the instrument of the expression of all our people.”
Lucena also announced Sunday that tests have already been carried out on the electoral platform ahead of the April 14 presidential vote “and we can guarantee that the machinery is working properly.”
“We guarantee trustworthy, transparent results and the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral system,” she said.
During the testing of the voting equipment, Lucena added, electoral accompaniers were present from the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
The CNE announced the date of the upcoming elections on March 9, and began accepting candidacies the next day. Campaigning will occur from April 2 to 11 at midnight.
- New Venezuelan Presidential Elections Set for 14 April (venezuelanalysis.com)
The United States has announced it will withdraw from a joint rights working group with Russia.
“The working group was not working,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.
The working group was part of the US-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission established in 2009 by US President Barack Obama and his then-Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to “reset” US-Russian ties.
Nuland said the Russian government’s recent restrictions on civil society prompted Washington to take the measure.
In July, Russia’s lower house of parliament passed a bill, forcing non-governmental organizations (NGO) involved in political activity with foreign financing to be classed as “foreign agents.”
The new legislation would force the NGOs to publish a report of their activities twice a year and carry out an annual financial audit.
“These new restrictions the Russian government is placing on civil society were increasingly calling into question whether maintaining this government-to-government mechanism was useful or appropriate,” she added.
However, Nuland said Washington would continue to work with Russia on different issues, including defense, counterterrorism, and nuclear security.
On Friday, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s point man on human rights issues, said that the US State Department had not informed its counterparts in Moscow of the US withdrawal from the working group.
Nuland also lashed out at Russia’s lower house of parliament for passing a Friday draft law banning “homosexual propaganda.”
The United States is “deeply concerned” about the legislation, Nuland said.
Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated over the past months.
Last year, Washington angered Moscow by implementing the Magnitsky Act that imposed visa restrictions on and froze the US bank accounts of Russian officials who were allegedly linked to the death of Russian lawyer Magnitsky at a Russian prison in 2009.
On December 28, US President Barack Obama enacted the so-called “Countering Iran in Western Hemisphere Act” which seeks to undermine Iran´s growing relations with Latin America, a region that has traditionally seen by the United States as its backyard and sphere of influence.
The Act, passed by congressmen earlier this year, requires the US Department of State to develop a strategy within 180 days to “address Iran´s growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America. The Act points out that “Iran´s business and diplomatic ties are a threat to US national security”. It is seen, however, as another anti-Iranian move fabricated by the Zionist lobby in the US.
Shortly before, in July 2011, Robert F. Noriega – former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, former US ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) and current Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the main neoconservatives -controlled entities in the US – said in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence that Iran was carrying out “an offensive strategy” in Latin America.
The Iranian presence in the Latin America has also been harshly attacked by the pro-Israeli hawk Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and self-appointed bulwark against the alleged “Islamo-Boliviarian threat” to US security. She was co-star of a so-called “documentary” entitled “La amenaza iraní” (The Iranian Threat), in which she said, without blushing, that the US should attack Iran in order to “avert bomb explosions in various Latin American capitals”. The film was aired by Univision, a US broadcast network, which is owned by someone who has hosted galas in honour of the occupying Israeli army.
In 2009, another ridiculous “documentary” released by Univision involved the Venezuelan consul in Miami, Livia Acosta, in an absurd cyber-plot against the US allegedly promoted by “Iranian diplomats and Mexican computer hackers”. This was the pretext used for expelling her from the United States in a move that was widely seen as an American political revenge for Venezuela´s independent foreign policy.
Actually, the US Act rudely violates Latin American countries´ sovereignty and contains some stupid claims such as that the opening of Iranian embassies or cultural centers is to “spread terrorism”. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also echoed those views by claiming, in a recent visit to Colombia, that Iranian attempts to expand its influence in South America amounted to expanding terrorism. Of course, no real evidence has ever been shown to support that laughable allegation.
“The paranoid nature of these estimations, and the scant evidence presented for them, are eerily reminiscent of the kind of broad-strokes, hawkish fear-mongering on display in the lead up to the war in Iraq. The testimony comes from a group bent on hyping security threats and, as Noriega admitted in the testimony, is not even in agreement with the State Department or intelligence agencies”, wrote John Glaser in a recent report.
The US accusations against Iran are also a way of targeting and casting suspicion on Latin American Muslims. In the Act, Washington speaks of “isolating Iran and its allies” and US officials accuse Iran or other pro-Iranian forces of “establishing mosques or Islamic centers throughout the region” in order to advance violent jihad “on our doorstep”.
US declining influence in Latin America
However, Latin American people know well that for over a hundred years it was the United States, and not another country, which wrought terror, war, poverty and repression throughout Latin America in the form of CIA-orchestrated military coups and support of paramilitary crimes, terrorism and dictatorial regimes. Military personnel found guilty of the worst violations of human rights in Latin American countries were trained in the notoriously famous School of Americans by US officers.
Actually, the Act is more evidence that US influence in Latin America is rapidly waning. Latin American countries have developed their own policies and set up independent blocks -ALBA, UNASUR and CELAC- while the Organization of American States, which includes the US and Canada, has been declining due to its submission to US policies on issues such as Cuba´s participation in its summits.
Iran has been seeking to increase its relations with Latin America in a bilateral way and in the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement and other international organizations. This has irritated Washington, which still seems to consider Latin American countries as vassals not having the right to pursue an independent foreign policy or seek its own friends and partners. Any agreement between Latin American states and Iran –or Russia and China- always arouses suspicion in the US.
Several Latin American countries have enhanced their diplomatic and trade ties with Iran in recent years, while their relations with the US have been downgraded amid popular demands for an end to dependence on Washington. Although the United States is still the largest economic partner of many Latin American countries, its economic and financial crisis has adversely affected them. This has led some nations, such as Mexico, to announce their intention to diversify their commercial partners in the next years.
As an international partner, the Islamic Republic is one of the best positioned to help Latin American countries develop their economies and their scientific and technological skills in many fields. The Iranian industry is highly developed. It has remarkable expertise in oil and gas exploitation and other sectors including health, defence, agriculture and space technology.
Iran has helped Venezuela build unmanned drone aircraft as part of their military cooperation. Referring to a Spanish media report that US prosecutors were investigating drone production in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said: “Of course we are doing it, and we have the right to. We are a free and independent country.”
In a televised speech to military officers at Venezuela´s Defense Ministry, Chavez said the aircraft only had a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. He said that Venezuela planned to soon begin exporting the unmanned drone. Moreover, Iran and Venezuela have mutual investments of about $ 5 billion in factories to make cement, satellites and tractors and the Iranians have helped the Latin American country build 14,000 houses.
Tehran has forged significant economic and political relations with the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia and with that of Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Iran´s links with Argentina, where Zionist circles have unsuccessfully tried to blame Iran for the AMIA attack in 1994, are also rapidly improving, as the government of President Cristina Fernandez is promoting a more conciliatory line towards Tehran.
Latin American countries, especially those that follow an independent foreign policy, trust Iran because they know that the Iranians cannot be pressured into betraying an agreement that disturbs the US or its allies. This is a main reason of Iran´s rising popularity in Latin America despite the propaganda of Zionist-owned media outlets and the US political and diplomatic actions.
HispanTV, the Spanish-language channel similar to the English-language Press TV channel, is also feared by the US establishment and Zionist circles because it is giving Latin American audiences accurate information about the Middle East and international developments that exposes the lies of Zionist-controlled agencies and media. The recent expulsion of Hispan TV from the Spanish-owned Hispasat channel is, in this sense, a desperate attempt to prevent the channel from reaching mass audiences. However, this move, as other similar ones in the past, is doomed to failure.
Therefore, Latin American nations won´t allow the US to dictate their foreign policy on the issue of their relations with Iran or any other country. In fact, Washington has already had a sign of this when it tried to pressure these countries to vote against Palestine’s bid to gain the status of a non-member state at the United Nations. Only one country, Panama, whose government has strong links with the Zionist entity and the local Zionist lobby voted against it.
- US, Israel instill fears over Iran’s growing influence in Latin America (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ecuador to maintain foreign policy, ties with Iran: FM (alethonews.wordpress.com)