Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bush and Calderon on outs; 'Merida Initiative' may not pass Congressional muster

It sounds like President Bush may already be suffering from buyer's remorse regarding the proposed $1.4 billion anti-drug aid package, according to a Mexican political reporter. In the paper-only English-language magazine Voices of Mexico, published at UNAM, a large university in Mexico City, Proceso correspondent J. Jesus Esquivel gives quite a different view of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's relationship with President Bush and the prospects of the US aid package than I've seen in the American press. Writes Esquivel (Issue 50, p.p.47-49):
President Felipe Calderon has developed a strategy of criticizing and blaming the US government for the violence inflicted on the Mexican people by the drug cartels, saying it is not doing all it can to reduce drug consumption domestically and it is neglecting the fight against drug trafficking. As a result, some members of Bush's cabinet and several federal legislators have responded very negatively and now look at Mexico more cautiously and are less interested in bilateral cooperation.
A US State Department official told Esquivel that Calderon "made a big mistake" by criticizing President Bush, who has apparently taken such populist appeals personally. The Mexican President's "mistake in the bilateral struggle against organized crime," Esquivel writes, "may be criticizing the US openly when it is headed up by the most conservative, vengeful and unilateralist president in recent history."

As a result, an anonymous DEA agent assigned to the Texas Mexico border told Esquivel that:
For now, unfortunately drug traffickers are the only ones capable of stopping or slowing down drug-related violence in Mexico. These criminals control a large part of the state and municipal police forces in northern Mexico and that makes them practically invulnerable to President Calderon's offensive.
We also get from the article a little more insight into why the aid request is so heavily laden on the front end with military hardware. He quotes a Mexican diplomat who says that:
the Mexican military is taking advantage of the fact that Calderon needs it, and not the reverse, to demand that he get sophisticated offensive hardware from the United States. They demand this without realizing that, politically, this requires the intervention of Capitol Hill.
Congressman Tom Lantos questioned the inclusion of millions for new helicopters, and the VOM article sheds more light on that request: The Mexican diplomat criticized "the Mexican army's demands and disregard for the details of their political consequences" for creating a package that may not be politically viable. "Mexico's armed forces dream of US combat helicopters and highly sophisticated weapons to meet head on the country's drug kingpins," writes Esquivel, "who undoubtedly have a better arsenal than our police forces."

But the demand invites a feud with Congress, said Esquivel, because the Pentagon requires US trainers and oversight when giving foreign armies new weapons systems. This creates a conflict, because "the presence of foreign military personnel in Mexico is unthinkable given the nationalist legislation that the Calderon administration subscribes to and Mexico's Congress very jealously defends."

(An aside, flattering a Texas reporter: Esquivel called Dallas News correspondent Albert Corchado "perhaps the US reporter with the greatest knowledge about how Mexican drug traffickers operate." It's true: Corchado routinely may be found on the front lines where other media sources are silent.)

Neither Bush nor Calderon consulted with their respective legislative branches before they came up with the contents of the proposed $1.4 billion aid package. If Bush and Calderon are now really on the outs, and if the "Merida Initiative" as proposed can't pass muster with both the US and Mexican Congresses, it doesn't seem likely that Bush will expend much political capital during his final lame-duck year on behalf of his Mexican counterpart.

A few weeks ago the aid proposal received a lot of attention and appeared to have momentum, then ground to a halt before the holidays. I'd attributed that to winter doldrums, but perhaps some of these dynamics had more to do with the legislation's slow down.


Jason said...

Everyone knows the system down there is corrupt. At least when corruption is exposed in our system something is done about it. Down there, it's expected and allowed and encouraged.

Anonymous said...

That picture of Bush and Calderon looks like Stephen Colbert with his Mexican friend! Look at the expression on Calderon's face! Priceless.

Anonymous said...

Mexico wants to win the "War on Drugs" about as much as the US does. That is, neither of them want to win because then they couldn't justify the huge budgets and expenditures they currently enjoy.

Clearly the participants have nothing better to do! So the status quo will remain. It would seem Mr. Calderon doesn't understand campaign season in the US and it's impact upon his request for..........limitless help.

Anonymous said...

I see that no mention is made of the Mexican government's desire to use that sophisticated weaponry in suppressing the indigenous populations who have no love for the central government.

Since the most violent anti-government actions by the indigs to date have also been in states the narcos practically control (i.e. Michoacan), this will dovetail very nicely with the central government's intentions to eliminate opposition to it.

And a lot of innocent campesinos will, of course, wind up in the gunsights. Gunsights manufactured in the US, a point which is not lost on those indigs, who will have even more reason to hate el Norte. Which will cause more unrest...and more northward migration to flee a de facto war zone.

Don't we ever freakin' learn?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good point, kaptinemo. VOM is an incredibly moderate mag, so i'm not surprised they didn't go there. I thought this article was pretty rad for them.

JT Barrie said...

Anyone who seriously believes we can "win" the War on Drugs please email a comment so I can post it on my website along with the zeroes of people who believe police and schools don't lie to kids about banned drugs.

Our chances of victory are as abysmal as our chances of winning the Cold War: we didn't "win" that one either; an adult took charge of the USSR and decided that the war was too stupid to continue. That will not happen because there is too much profit in banned drugs and use of drugs for social bonding is as old as prostitution - and lying about indiscretions. We can only win if the leaders of our country make the same decision that the computer in War Games did about nuclear war: let's play a nice game of chess. We need a lot more adults in office instead of the petty children that run our country.

Zman said...

The look on Calderons face says to me that he now thinks stealing the past election might not hold all benefits he'd thought.If you don't think that violence/corruption should be a way of life end the prohibition.Unfortunatly the simple solution to this "drug" problem escapes these two dodo's.

name said...

Friends of murdered U.S journalist and activist, Brad Will are working to expose the Bush administration’s plan to get Congress to approve a 1.5 billion dollar military aid package to Mexico under the pretext of fighting the widely criticized “war on drugs.” The “Merida Initiative” or Plan Mexico is a secret
“security pact” to expand the
‘drug war’ in Mexico and would provide weapons - including helicopters, (previously used by Mexican police forces to shoot civilians at protests) and surveillance equipment, and lethal “counter-insurgency” training to brutal
Mexican security forces and corrupt
government institutions that have been widely condemned for human rights abuses. Much more
information is available

The friends of Brad Will are seeking accountability for his murder in October 2006 and justice for other civilians and activists killed by the same security
forces and covered up by the same government institutions that would be rewarded by 1.5 billion dollars in U.S taxpayer revenue.

On Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 10:00 a.m, a congressional subcommittee in D.C will convene to discuss “U.S. Obligations under the Merida
Initiative.” Americans are not aware of Plan Mexico which must be made fully public. We demand fair Congressional hearings that actually provide opportunities for serious public concerns about the dangers of Plan Mexico to inform Congressional inquiry. Serious reforms of the Mexican judiciary and police forces must precede any military aid being given to Mexican government institutions.

We are asking activists to call relevant U.S. committee chairs to demand accountability for Brad Will and the murders of many Mexican teachers and
civilians. Accountability must precede any U.S. taxpayer-funded lethal aid to Mexican security forces that have enjoyed impunity for murder of Brad Will in addition to numerous human rights abuses.


★Congress member Elliot Engel
Chair of Western Hemispheric Affairs Subcommittee: 202-225-2464

★Congress member Tom Lantos
Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee: 202-225-3531

★Congress member Nita Lowey
Chair of Foreign Operations Subcommittee:202-225-6506

Unknown said...

February 12, I just called my US representive and both senators they know nothing about this $1.4 billion dollar give away to Mexico to "secure their southern border"..

Please call your rep. and senators in washington to put a stop to this.

We need to build the fence between the USA and Mexico. Please remind them of that commitment.

Unknown said...

February 12,, I just called my USA representive and both senators,, they do not have a clue as to what is going on.

Giving 1.4 billion dollars to secure their southern border, is insantiy.

Please call you rep. and senators to tell them no support for this .

Also remind them that they promised to build a fence on our border with Mexico.

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