Saturday, May 09, 2009
Against Plan Mexico
Mexican NGOs, Brigadier General,
Unite in Letter Against Plan Mexico
Human Rights Organizations Break from Amnesty International's 2008 Pro-Merida Initiative Letter
By Kristin Bricker May 7, 2009
Yesterday, 72 Mexican civil society organizations and a Brigadier General of the Mexican Army sent the following letter to US Congress demanding that all military aid to Mexico be immediately halted. The letter comes as the US House of Representative is considering more than doubling 2009 funding for the war on drugs in Mexico.
Human rights organizations from Mexico City and 21 of Mexico’s 31 states signed the letter.
The signatories express their serious concern that Mexican President Felipe Calderon seeks to further militarize Mexican society. They write, “President Felipe Calderón has introduced a package of proposed legislative reforms to our Congress which contemplate declaring states of emergency that would justify the takeover and control of the Mexican Army over civilian institutions…”
The signatories tell Congress, “The number of complaints for human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces registered by the National Human Rights Commission has increased six-fold during the last two years, reaching 1,230 in 2008.” They note that human rights crimes committed by soldiers are almost never punished: “There is an almost complete absence of transparency in cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers, due to the use of military jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute members of the armed forces responsible for such actions… To date we have no knowledge of any conviction or sentence in a case of human rights violations committed by the armed forces during the current presidential administration.”
Given the sharp increase in human rights abuses and the blanket impunity the military enjoys, the signatories write: “We respectfully request that the U.S. Congress and Department of State, in both the Merida Initiative as in other programs to support public security in Mexico, does not allocate funds or direct programs to the armed forces…. In particular, we urge the United States to consider ways to support a holistic response to security problems; based on tackling the root causes of violence and ensuring the full respect of human rights; not on the logic of combat.”
The letter marks a sharp divergence from an NGO letter drafted by Amnesty International and signed by many of the same signatories in May 2008. That letter, while expressing “profound concern over the human rights violations that have occurred in the last several months by the Mexican military and police within the context of the federal government’s fight against drug-trafficking and organized crime,” did not take a clear stance against the Merida Initiative and other US military aid to Mexico. On the contrary, it said, “We consider US cooperation on security matters to be appropriate and timely…”
The letter merely requested that human rights provisions be included in the Merida Initiative. Said human rights conditions apply to less than 15% of the total Merida Initiative package, and US Congress is currently considering doubling drug war aid to Mexico in 2009 even though the human rights conditions have not been met.
Amnesty International’s Mexico office told Narco News that they did not sign the following letter because they are still waiting for the Mexican government to comply with the human rights conditions they supported in last year’s letter.
With today’s statement, Mexican civil society and human rights organizations—based on their own lived experience with the consequences of Plan Mexico—have broken from the path of compromise urged on them last year by Amnesty, an organization that remains with a strategy now widely rejected South of the Border.
May 6, 2009
To: The Honorable Congress of the United States of America, United States House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate.
The signatory organizations listed below address you, honorable representatives of the Congress of the United States of America, following President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico on April 16 and 17, as well as the visits by high level public officials from the Obama administration in previous weeks; all of which represent a significant step forward in relations between our countries. In particular, in this letter we outline our concrete concerns regarding military assistance from the United States to Mexico.
We have closely monitored the impact of public security policies implemented by the current presidential administrations in both Mexico and the United States as well as bilateral assistance in this area. In this respect we make special mention of recent statements, such as those made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which high level officials of the President Obama administration have recognized the United States’ responsibility in the problem of drug trafficking- related violence in Mexico owing to factors such as the high demand for drugs in the United States.
Furthermore, we welcome recent comments by theSecretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, which affirm that strengthening civil institutions, not increasing militarization, is the answer to combating high levels of violence along the United States-Mexico border. We hope that this perspective is shared by the U.S. Congress when determining how to allocate funds for public security and to support Mexico.
We wish to emphasize the current reality in Mexico where President Felipe Calderón has introduced a package of proposed legislative reforms to our Congress which contemplate declaring states of emergency that would justify the takeover and control of the Mexican Army over civilian institutions when these are considered inadequate or inefficient and when such a measure is considered strategic for national security. These proposed reforms are concerning because of the abuses that can arise from the militarization of public security.
Taking this into account, we express our serious concerns and reservations regarding the military aid provided by the United States to Mexico. Instead, we urge for an approach that is more comprehensive and respectful of the human and civil rights of the Mexican population.
We take this opportunity to highlight the following points:
• Through the Merida Initiative, the U.S. Congress has approved the expenditure of 700 million dollars directed to Mexico during its first two years. The package includes a significant portion of foreign military financing; especially in the first year of funding.
• In 2008, the United States Department of Defense stated that it had designated almost 13 million dollars in assistance to Mexico under Section 1206 to strengthen the capacity of Mexican armed forces to carry out anti-terrorist operations.
• Recent statements by the Obama Administration and congressional leaders indicate that Congress will soon be contemplating sizeable increases in funding for “the war against drugs” in Mexico as part of the FY09 Appropriations Supplemental Request, including $350 million dollars for the Department of Defense for anti-drug operations and other security-related activities on the United States-Mexico border and over $400 million dollars in assistance for counternarcotics efforts in Mexico that will be channeled through the Department of State. We are concerned about the lack of clear information on the specific designation of these funds and the possibility that they will be utilized to support further military assistance inside Mexico or militarization of the border region.
• Funding for the Merida Initiative in the 2010 budget will soon be under discussion. In light of the previous points, it is critical to contextualize the problems implicit in foreign military funding in the current circumstances in Mexico:
• The deployment of the Mexican Army to carry out public security tasks that legally correspond to the civilian police has brought with it a significant increase in human rights violations in the last two years, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions and rape. In fact, the number of complaints for human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces registered by the National Human Rights Commission has increased six-fold during the last two years, reaching 1,230 in 20081.
• This situation owes itself in large part to considerations such as:
o The Army is not trained to carry out tasks that legally correspond to civilian institutions. On the contrary, the mentality of the armed forces is to confront an enemy force and not to protect the rights of the civilian population in the context of normal policing tasks.
o There is an almost complete absence of transparency in cases of human rights violations committed by soldiers, due to the use of military jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute members of the armed forces responsible for such actions.
According to information obtained through freedom of information mechanisms, in the first two years of the presidential term of Felipe Calderón, military authorities opened 170 investigations under military jurisdiction in which the victims were civilians; in this same period only 10 of these investigations resulted in indictments. To date we have no knowledge of any conviction or sentence in a case of human rights violations committed by the armed forces during the current presidential administration.
The involvement of the armed forces in policing tasks is not an effective response to combat drug trafficking and violence associated with organized crime. Military presence can at times result in an increase in the number of arrests; however, as an overall strategy it has not proven to be effective as it fails to address the factors that cause and perpetuate violence. An approach that takes the social factors that contribute to crime into account is urgently needed; instead of attacking crime with short-term approaches that respond only to situational contingencies.
We respectfully request that the U.S. Congress and Department of State, in both the Merida Initiative as in other programs to support public security in Mexico, does not allocate funds or direct programs to the armed forces. We believe that a change of paradigm is needed in order to combat the factors that cause drug trafficking and violence; instead of only combating their symptoms.
Any response to violence caused by drug trafficking must include measures to:
• Improve the access to drug treatment in the United States and implement other measures to reduce the demand for drugs in both countries.
• Reduce the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico.
• In terms of the possibility of providing funds to Mexico to improve the public security situation, any funding considered should take into account:
o Programs that address the root causes of insecurity such as poverty, inequality and the lack of access to educational and employment opportunities that allow the population to live a life of dignity.
o The strengthening of civil institutions, with civil and not military control; including the positive aspects of the judicial reform in Mexico such as the implementation of oral trials and an adversarial justice system.
Given the current considerations for the Merida Initiative 2010 budget and the possibility of more military financing to Mexico being channeled through the Department of Defense, we hope that the U.S. government takes into account the concerns and suggestions outlined in this letter in order to re-design assistance programs to Mexico. In particular, we urge the United States to consider ways to support a holistic response to security problems; based on tackling the root causes of violence and ensuring the full respect of human rights; not on the logic of combat.
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