Friday, November 30, 2007
From the Folks Who Brought You
Plan Colombia, the $5,000,000,000 drug war boondoggle cooked up in 1999 by Bill Clinton and then-Colombian president Andres Pastrana and subsequently transmographied into a War on Terror adjunct by George Bush and Alvaro Uribe brought U.S. troops, fleets of helicopter gun ships, spray planes spewing poisons, and a vast array of human rights abuses to that troubled Latin American country. It also made Colombia the third largest recipient of Washington's foreign aid and the number one repository of U.S. military aid in the western hemisphere.
But Plan Colombia failed to stem the flood of cocaine pouring across U.S. borders nor has it even eradicated much Colombian coca acreage - 144,000 hectares continue to thrive under coca cultivation in Colombia concedes the U.S. State Department's Office of International Narcotics Enforcement in its 2006 annual report, and while spraying massive doses of glysophate did force some farmers out of business, production simply moved south, spreading throughout the Andean region.
Indeed, the price of cocaine on U.S. streets dipped slightly last year and supply and quality remained constant, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. For the first time in five years, the DEA registered an increase in first time users. 90% of the cocaine confiscated in the U.S. last year continues to be Colombian-based.
Despite the abysmal results, the U.S. Congress has again budgeted $367,000,000 for Plan Colombia in 2008 although some congressional reps appear to be tiring of fighting this losing war and are beginning to call for an exit strategy. With the Democrats in titular control of both houses, doubts about Plan Colombia forced consideration of a bi-lateral free trade agreement to be shelved this spring. President Uribe, in Washington to lobby for the pact, complained to the press that he was being treated as "a pariah."
Despite Plan Colombia's fading allure, the Bush administration is about to debut a sequel: Plan Mexico, an interdiction strategy to confront the increasing "Colombian-ization" of Mexico by bi-national (Colombian and Mexican) drug cartels who have managed to spread their brand of mayhem into every nook and cranny of this distant neighbor nation.
The finishing touches for a Plan Colombia-like joint venture were worked out at the early June G-8 summit in Germany during a meeting between Bush and Mexico's freshman president Felipe Calderon, a special guest at the conclave. According to insiders in both camps as reported in the U.S. and Mexican media, Calderon will make a formal application for increased anti-drug assistance from Washington come August. Mexico currently receives $40,000,000 in drug moneys from the White House.
If you liked Plan Colombia, you are going to love Plan Mexico.
Like Plan Colombia, Mexico will be gifted with tons of military equipment, whiz-bang technology, and billion buck grants to battle the cartels, although U.S. troops will be held out of the package (for now) because of Mexico's long-standing resistance to such deployment. The U.S. military has invaded Mexico eight times since both countries won their independence from Europe 200 years ago.
Fumigation of Mexican drug crops will also meet with hard-core resistance on this side of the border. Whereas U.S. spray crews have been dousing southern Colombia for seven years with the virulent defoliant glysophate, poisoning food crops, streams, farm animals, and farming populations, Mexico was painted with Paraquat in 1969 when Richard Nixon launched his bonehead "Operation Intercept" to destroy Mexican marijuana plantations without first asking the Mexican government's permission. One dazzling result of Operation Intercept was to incite domestic marijuana cultivation in the U.S. - the U.S. now produces more marijuana than Mexico.
Mexico halted its U.S.-financed spray program several years ago when it could no longer obtain replacement parts for the planes, with no noticeable increase in drug cropping. Mexico is not suited to coca cultivation and is used by the cartels principally as a "trampoline" to move Colombian cocaine across the U.S. border. Opium poppy cropping, as in Colombia, accounts for single digit percentages of U.S. heroin imports, 90% of which have their origin in Washington's War on Terror partner Afghanistan.
Plans for Plan Mexico were inadvertently leaked at a June 8th - 9th bi-lateral meeting of Mexican and U.S. lawmakers in Austin Texas by Democratic congressperson Silvestre Reyes, now chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee and a former U.S. Border Patrol honcho who pioneered construction of the first wall between Mexico and the United States back in the mid-90s. As top dog on the House Intelligence committee, Reyes is a heavy hitter in the Bush terror war and Plan Mexico is seen as much of a War on Terror tool as it is a drug interdiction strategy.
Officials in both Washington and Mexico City have remained tightlipped about the joint endeavor, implying that Reyes' revelations may have tipped off the cartels.
Since taking office December 1st, Calderon, whose election was as shady as George Bush's Florida 2000 sham victory, has been prepping Mexico for the nation's new enhanced role in Washington's War on Terror. Within the first week of his chaotic swearing-in, Calderon sent 30,000 Mexican troops into nine drug-saturated states in a virtual declaration of martial law to combat the five Mexican-Colombian cartels that dominate the drug trade here. Civil rights were suspended and abuses abounded but precious little cocaine was confiscated.
The new president followed up the military offensive by moving a draconian anti- terrorism measure in the Mexican congress. The so-called "International Terrorism Law" which actually criminalizes domestic dissent, passed both houses with only token opposition from the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and mandates 40 year prison sentences for "terrorist" activities defined as "the use of violence against persons, things, or public services that spread alarm or fear in the population or any part thereof in order to threaten national security or pressure authorities to take certain determinations."
This Mexican "U.S. Patriot Act" in effect transforms social change movements as diverse as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Greenpeace, and Oaxaca's Popular Peoples' Assembly (APPO) into terrorist organizations. The first application of the new law against Ignacio Del Valle, a leader of the machete-wielding farmers of San Salvador Atenco, resulted in a 67-year prison sentence. Del Valle's "terrorist" crime? Locking the door during a meeting of Mexico state school officials and local farmers so the officials could not abandon the room.
But Calderon was not done yet with converting his regime into a doppelganger of the Bush administration's perversion of justice. This April, the President, who, much like George Bush, is considered a usurper by over 50% of the Mexican electorate, foisted a constitutional amendment on his congress that would grant him carte blanche powers to tap phones and break into private homes without first obtaining a search warrant from a court. The amendment, which has not yet passed the legislature, bears a startling resemblance to George Bush's unconstitutional eavesdropping and surveillance of millions of U.S. citizens but with one notable caveat - Calderon, at least, went to his congress to modify the Constitution to allow such intrusions. Bush simply imposed his illegal operation in violation of his country's Magna Carta.
One purported benefit of Plan Mexico will be technology transfer, affirm boosters like Mexican attorney general Eduardo Medina Mora. Bankrolled by a $3,000,000 U.S. State Department grant, Mexico is upgrading its eavesdropping capabilities even without congressional approval of the constitutional amendment. The installation of a super-duper "communication interruption" system will allow the government to tap into landline telephones, cell phone traffic, and electronic mail. The new system is designed by Verint Technologies ("actionable intelligence for a safer world") and features automatic voice identification. Verint, a Nee York-based start-up that provides spy technology to everyone from Domino's Pizza to the National Security Agency, has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from Bush's terror war.
The Verint system will intercept tens of thousands of calls from the U.S. to Mexico and visa versa each day. Although these conversations will be officially recorded by Mexican authorities, the chatter will be admissible evidence in U.S. courts. Mexico's monopoly telephone company, Telmex, owned by Carlos Slim, the third richest man on the planet, tells reporters that it will comply with the government's eavesdropping plans.
Plan Colombia has sunk Colombia in a morass of corruption and human rights abuses. The drug war offensive was endorsed from its inception by the paramilitary "Autodefensa Unida de Colombia" or AUC, which, along with the long-lived leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are prominent players on the Bush White House's terrorist list. The AUC, which is held responsible for 9000 extrajudicial killings since Plan Colombia kicked in (one leader, Salvatore Mancuso, boasts of 300 personal kills) shared the U.S. largesse in building up its arsenal and financed itself by drug running and extorting transnationals like Hyundai and Chiquita Banana Brands.
Now AUC leaders, whose 31,000 strong private army was granted amnesty in 2004, are spilling the beans to the Colombian Supreme Court about the extent of the paramilitaries' backing from the Uribe government and the military - 12 generals and 14 legislators in the national congress are under indictment in the escalating scandal that has severely eroded Uribe's presidency.
But Mexico's armed forces will not have to take lessons from their Colombian counterparts when it comes to violating human rights. In the latest of several such homicidal "incidents", Mexican troops opened fire on a family of five at a Sinaloa checkpoint June 2nd, killing three children. Rather than extending sympathy to the bereaved family, Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Ramirez Acuna insisted that such tragedies are "the price we have to pay for our vigilance."
Details for the implementation of Plan Mexico were hammered out at a hush-hush June 9th closed door meeting in Morelos state just south of the capital that involved beleaguered U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, White House drug czar John Waters, and the attorney generals of Mexico and Colombia - Eduardo Medina Mora and Mario Iguaran. Iguaran recently replaced Luis Camilo Osorio as his nation's chief prosecutor - Osorio who is accused of whitewashing AUC's murderous activities is now his country's ambassador to Mexico.
As George Bush's only other Latin American ally besides Alvaro Uribe, Felipe Calderon borrowed a page from the faltering Colombian president's playbook by extraditing a dozen long-sought (but largely out of the loop) Mexican capos to the U.S. soon after taking office, an early signal that Mexican was ready to sell its sovereignty to Washington.
Both U.S. and Mexican authorities strongly deny that U.S. troops will be on the ground in Mexico anytime soon, a clear violation of Mexico's national sovereignty. Under Plan Colombia, U.S. forces grew to 800 "trainers", including 70 Green Beret Special Forces, and 600 private "contractors" (mercenaries.) Actually, Mexican troops receive extensive U.S. military training at Fort Bragg North Carolina's Center for Special Forces and Fort Benning, Georgia, the site of the infamous School of the Americas. Some of the trainees have since defected to the narco gangs, banding together in a truly terrorist brigade known as the "Zetas" who function as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel.
With Plan Colombia as a model, Plan Mexico would also open the door to the use of private military contractors like Blackwater, on the ground here.
Mexican police agencies, long gangrenous with corruption, are already being trained in country by the U.S. FBI. Washington is pushing for the development of a hemispheric police force that will be able to cross borders. The International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador is a kind of School of the Americas for cops, which reportedly employs former Salvadoran death squad members as trainers.
Since the U.S. and Mexico achieved nationhood two centuries ago, Washington has had designs on annexing its nearest neighbor to the south. The United States invasion of 1846-48, the so-called Mexican War, deposed Mexico of all of its northern territories that today comprise 13 U.S. western states. Since then, Washington has invaded and annexed Mexico from afar. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement in effect annexed Mexico's economy. Beginning with World War II and extending through the Cold War, the War on Drugs, and now the War on Terror, the U.S. has sought to annex Mexico's security apparatus. Plan Mexico is, in fact, a plan to lock in the annexation of Mexico.
John Ross is the author of "The Annexation of Mexico - From the Aztecs to the IMF" (Common Courage 1998.) He is again in residence in Mexico City cogitating the future.
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