Sep 15, 2017

The end of DACA would be 'a big win for Mexico,' foreign secretary says

By Ann M. Simmons - september 14, 2017

Relations between the United States and Mexico have been strained since the inauguration of President Trump, who has threatened to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement, vowed to make Mexico pay for a border wall and — during his campaign — called Mexican immigrants rapists.

But Mexico has not given up hope that relations can improve, said its foreign secretary, Luis Videgaray.

“For us this is the most important relationship in the world,” he said in an interview with The Times’ editorial board and reporters. “We believe also for America, Mexico is a very important relationship as well, and it's in the best interest of both sides to work it out in a constructive way.”

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Sep 4, 2017

When Mexicans Crossed Our Border to Feed Americans in Need

By Stephen R. Kelly August 28, 2015

Stephen R. Kelly, a former U.S. diplomat who served in Mexico from 2004 to 2006, teaches at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

In a scene that would have given Donald Trump heart palpitations, 200 flag-waving Mexican troops breached the U.S. border outside Laredo, Tex., 10 years ago and advanced unopposed up Interstate 35 to San Antonio.

It was the first time a Mexican army had marched on San Antonio since 1836 when Gen. Santa Ana massacred besieged Texas independence fighters at the Alamo.

How Pentagon Officials May Have Encouraged a 2009 Coup in Honduras

By Jake Johnston - August 29, 2017

FORT MCNAIR, one of the oldest U.S. military posts in the country, is nestled on an outcropping of land where the Anacostia and Potomac rivers meet in Washington, D.C. There, within the National Defense University, is the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, where hundreds of Hondurans took courses over the years. In mid-July 2009, Honduran military officials sought the center’s help to solve a problem that had recently arisen.

The Honduran military had just dispatched of its previous problem, President Manuel Zelaya, with a military coup. Now, the Central American military was facing international and regional condemnations for a brazen display of 1970s behavior in the 21st century. The military officials needed friends in the U.S. to rally behind it, but the Americans were wary of open shows of support. The U.S. had just revoked visas from top Honduran civilian and military officials, and suspended some security assistance.

Aug 2, 2017

There Could be an Upside to Tillerson Dropping Democracy, Justice and Human Rights From State Department Mission

The Washington Post reports today that it obtained a draft of the new mission, purpose and ambition statements for the State Department, under orders to review its definitions from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. According to the daily, the drafts read:

  • The State Department’s draft statement on its purpose is: “We promote the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally.”
  • The State Department’s draft statement on its mission is: “Lead America’s foreign policy through global advocacy, action and assistance to shape a safer, more prosperous world.”
  • The State Department’s draft statement on its ambition is: “The American people thrive in a peaceful and interconnected world that is free, resilient and prosperous.”
That's a pretty big change from the past, where key American values included goals for building the kind of world the United States would be inserted in. Peace, justice, democracy and human rights figured in specific references.

There's a good and a bad side to these changes. First, obviously, is the bad side. The exclusive focus on U.S. interests of security and prosperity means that the concepts of mutual respect and self-determination, as well as the above values, have formally been dumped.

It can be argued that the Obama administration set these aside shortly after proclaiming them to be the pillars of his foreign policy at the Trinidad Summit in 2009. From there he and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated the permanence of the coup in Honduras and continued intervention in various forms in other parts of the world.

However, despite the hypocrisy, the U.S. government has occasionally been a voice for human rights, if at least to point out where violations exist. One of the ways the State Department  has pushed foreign countries to respect international norms is by documenting and recognizing concerns for violations in the presentation of the annual State Department Human Rights Reports, which Tillerson significantly decided to snub this year. Its foreign aid continues to be legally conditioned on respect for human rights through the Leahy Law and also loosely linked to the democratic legitimacy of its international partners.

The abandonment of these pillars could have real and long-lasting repercussions in the structure of the State Department and the operation of U.S. foreign policy. It allows relations with abusers like Russia to flourish without limitations as long as there is "prosperity" to be gained, and eliminates the need to censure financial allies like Saudi Arabia.

It could also spell the end to State Department programs like those of the Office of Global Women's Issues, which now lists no upcoming events, or the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. As the Post article notes, after years the website has now been moved to the low-profile URL web address,

Good Riddance to Democracy Promotion?

So it appears there will be no pretence that the United States actively supports democracy, justice, human rights or peace in the world. This throws the nation back into a neo-realist foreign policy that assumes conflict to be the normal state of humankind and pragmatic self-interest to be the sole guidepost for action. As CEOs fixated on the bottom line and market domination, it's no surprise that Tillerson-- and Trump--naturally buy into this philosophy.

It works for their interests, as a set of dualisms: I Win/You Lose, Good/Bad, In/Out, Friend/Enemy, Victory/Defeat, Might/Weakness that allow insecure people to latch on the supposedly unambiguous demonstrations of superiority.  It embodies a brute male-ness that undermines more traditionally feminine concepts of cooperation, trust and respect, which are considered weak and naive in the framework. It also funnels billions of dollars to private-sector Trump allies in the military-industrial complex and draws new dividing lines between "us" and "them".

What's the possible upside of such a cynical policy in a precarious world?

The possible end to U.S. "democracy promotion" programs.

This term has been an oxymoron since first adopted. Democracy is "rule by the people" with the clear presumption that the people ruling are the people to be ruled. Democracy promotion by a foreign nation is intervention. While a foreign nation may decide to withdraw support or limit its own contact with a government it considers undemocratic, if it attempts to meddle in internal affairs, it is undermining, not promoting democracy.

That's why there was something encouraging in Trump's inauguation speech when he said, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow."

If they believed it, many foreign nations that have suffered U.S. "democracy promotion" programs-- ranging from interference in their elections to attempted assassination of their leaders-- would have sighed in relief.

Setting aside other criticisms of the new agenda, minimal coherence with the "America First" and foreign policy of self-interest should dictate an immediate cut off of the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and related institutions. Even their innocuous-sounding programs willfully interfere with grassroots democracy and peace-building and apply highly politicized definitions of democratic action based on U.S. political interests.

Ending these programs once and for all would actually be a huge step forward in fomenting real democracy in the world. And it's a logical step within the framework Tillerson is laying out.

If it doesn't happen, it means the State Department has finally recognized "democracy promotion" for what it has always really been--anti-democratic inteventionism in support of U.S. military and economic interests.

In that case, at least the mask is off.

Jul 31, 2017

Mexico’s ruling party is in free fall

By Christy Thornton - Washington Post, jul 27
Earlier this month, a massive sinkhole opened suddenly in the middle of a new expressway south of Mexico City, swallowing a car and killing the two passengers inside. There could hardly be a more apt metaphor for the cratering legitimacy of Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

In the context of a global wave of anti-establishment politics, it’s hard to imagine a more establishment party than the PRI, which controlled Mexico with its soft-authoritarian, one-party structure for most of the 20th century. Now the party, once the glue that held the Mexican political system together, fastened tightly to a strong executive branch, is quickly losing its grip.

Jul 19, 2017

Fuel Theft in Mexico has Reached Industrial Scale

By Mark Stevenson - SFGATE, jul 15
TEPEACA, Mexico — The police officers gripped their assault rifles tightly as they stared at the men filling plastic tanks and loading them onto a dozen pickup trucks in a cornfield in central Mexico. Even though a crime was being committed in front of them, the officers said it was too dangerous to move in.

They had to wait until the army arrived to advance because the suspects were better-armed than they were and an earlier attempt to arrest them had been repelled by gunfire, officials said.

Jul 13, 2017

False Suspicions Arbitrary Detentions By Police In Mexico

Amnesty International, july 13

Arbitrary detention is an everyday occurrence in Mexico and is very often the starting point for persistent serious human rights violations such as torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. Consequently, the study of arbitrary and illegal detention – a form of deprivation of liberty that can affect anyone – also helps inform an analysis of the conditions that facilitate other human rights violations.

This research analyses the way in which police forces in Mexico carry out arrests,1 in particular in cases where the authorities allege that an individual was caught red-handed; that is, in the act of committing a crime (in flagrante delicto).

Amnesty International’s research found that in Mexico the arrest of people allegedly while they were in the act of committing a crime is not a genuine response aimed at dealing with crime. Rather, it is a means used illegally by the authorities to target those who have historically faced discrimination, in particular young men living in poverty.

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