Saturday, May 22, 2010

Links from the past week

An NPR analysis of Mexican government news releases finds surprisingly little mention of actions against Mexico's largest narcotrafficking organization, the Sinaloa cartel.
  • Mexican President Felipe Calderón paid a two-day official state visit to Washington, which included an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress (video / transcript). Calderón called on Congress to reinstate a lapsed ban on U.S. sales of assault weapons, thousands of which cross the border into Mexico and end up in the hands of violent drug cartels. He was also strongly critical of Arizona’s new illegal immigration statute, calling it “racial profiling.”

    While Republican legislators’ attendance at the speech was sparse, border-state Republicans criticized it harshly. “The Mexican government has made it very clear for many years that it holds American sovereignty in contempt and President Calderon’s behavior as a guest of the Congress confirms and underscores this attitude,” said one California congressman.

  • Of all the media coverage of Calderón’s trip, the story that probably caused the biggest stir was an investigative piece by National Public Radio contending that Mexico’s largest drug-trafficking organization, the Sinaloa cartel, is getting favorable treatment. It found “strong evidence of collusion between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the violent border city of Juarez.”

  • The Mexican military’s troubled record of impunity for human rights abuses was the subject of statements from Human Rights Watch and from WOLA, LAWG and three Mexican human rights groups.

  • Two relevant hearings occurred in the U.S. Senate last week. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Rule of Law discussed “Drug Enforcement and the Rule of Law: Mexico and Colombia.” The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight covered “Counternarcotics Contracts in Latin America.”

    The committee chair of the latter hearing, Sen. Clare McCaskill, was so disappointed with how little she learned about private contractors’ role in counter-drug aid that she issued a statement threatening to subpoena the State and Defense departments.

  • Polling for Colombia’s May 30 first-round presidential elections seems to show the challenger, former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus, no longer surging — though not exactly losing ground. President Álvaro Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, now holds a slim lead. However, as El Nuevo Herald notes, Mockus may have a second-round advantage, as polling seems to point to him getting most of the votes from people who support candidates likely to lose in the first round.

  • The OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission carried out follow-up work on an earlier report about the human rights situation in post-coup Honduras. Its press release voiced “deep concern” about waves of killings and threats against journalists, judges and human rights defenders critical of the June 28, 2009 coup. The release notes near-total government inaction when it comes to investigating or prosecuting these crimes:

  • The Commission was informed that only one person is being held in custody for human rights violations, only 12 have been charged, and the cases are not moving forward, among other reasons due to the lack of investigation by the various State bodies, particularly the security forces handling the investigations.

  • Rogelio Martínez, a victims’ rights activist in the municipality of San Onofre, Sucre, Colombia, was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle on May 18. San Onofre is known throughout Colombia for the discovery of a large number of mass graves dug by paramilitaries who carried out a string of massacres a decade ago. The graves’ discovery was made possible by the mid-2000s work of victims’ activists, who at the time had the support of the local military leadership. Threats against the victims' movement in San Onofre have since worsened.

  • Last weekend, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva brokered an apparent nuclear deal with Iran. Links to media coverage of the deal are here.

  • A Washington Post piece cites documents and testimony from former Colombian guerrilla leaders indicating that members of Spain’s Basque separatist terror group, ETA, may have trained at camps maintained by Colombia’s FARC guerrillas in Zulia and Apure, Venezuela.

  • The Just the Facts project obtained a copy of the Defense Department’s “Section 2011” report (PDF) documenting Special Operations Forces’ training with foreign militaries during 2008.