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  1. #1
    Senior Member NCByrd's Avatar
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    U.S. Anti-Drug Aid to Target Mexican Cartels

    U.S. Anti-Drug Aid Would Target Mexican Cartels
    Deal to Include Training, Gear

    By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Juan Forero
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Wednesday, August 8, 2007; Page A01

    MEXICO CITY, Aug. 7 -- The Bush administration is close to sealing a major, multiyear aid deal to combat drug cartels in Mexico that would be the biggest U.S. anti-narcotics effort abroad since a seven-year, $5 billion program in Colombia, according to U.S. lawmakers, congressional aides and Mexican authorities.

    Negotiators for Mexico and the United States have made significant progress toward agreement on an aid plan that would include telephone tapping equipment, radar to track traffickers' shipments by air, aircraft to transport Mexican anti-drug teams and assorted training, sources said. Delicate questions remain -- primarily regarding Mexican sensitivities about the level of U.S. activity on Mexican soil -- but confidence is running high that a deal will be struck soon.

    "I'm sure that it's going to be hundreds of millions of dollars," Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) said in an interview. "If we're going to be successful in cutting out this cancer over there, we're going to have to invest a large amount."

    Cuellar, who has already proposed legislation to increase aid to Mexico, predicted that an announcement could be made as soon as Aug. 20, when President Bush is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Quebec. A Mexican government source cautioned against projecting an exact timetable despite "advances" in the talks.

    The plans are being discussed at a time when Mexico is struggling to contain a war among major drug cartels that has cost more than 3,000 lives in the past year and has horrified Mexicans with images of beheadings and videotaped assassinations. Calderón has impressed U.S. officials by extraditing a record number of drug suspects to the United States and by dispatching more than 20,000 federal police officers and soldiers to fight the trafficking organizations, but that effort has failed to stop the violence.

    The anti-drug aid package would represent a major shift in relations after years of tension and mutual suspicion among law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border. "It's astonishing and a sea change," said a senior Republican aide who works on drug policy issues. "It's a real recognition that Calderón has a problem. And his success or failure will impact us. The days of the finger-pointing are over."

    The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he believes the program will be well received in Washington once it's unveiled.

    In Mexico, authorities have shied from talking publicly about the plan, concerned that the country's inherent suspicion of American meddling will prompt widespread rejection among Mexicans. The Bush administration has been developing the proposal quietly, so quietly that some people in Congress are beginning to complain about an aura of secrecy.

    "Who would Congress be providing assistance to, under what terms and conditions, and how would Congress know the support is not going to the very people who are engaged in this type of criminal activity?" asked Tim Rieser, a senior foreign policy aide for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. "There is bipartisan concern about the Bush administration's lack of meaningful consultation with Congress. They see Congress as their personal ATM machine, not as an equal branch of government."

    Persuading fellow legislators that the aid is vital and won't fall into the wrong hands, Cuellar said, is "going to be a marketing endeavor, or let me put it this way, an educational endeavor." Republican and Democratic aides said it is unclear whether the Bush administration will try to push for an emergency supplemental appropriation for next year's foreign aid budget or wait another year.

    Mexico already appears to be laying the groundwork to frame the plan not so much as an aid package but as the United States facing up to problems that are a consequence of American drug consumption. Calderón, often a cautious public speaker, has sternly called for the United States to pay more to combat the cartels.

    "The language that they're using is that the U.S. has a large responsibility for this problem," said Ana Mar*a Salazar, a former high-ranking Clinton administration drug official who was involved in implementing the U.S.-funded program for Bogota, known as Plan Colombia.

    U.S. lawmakers, who stressed that the initiative for Mexico is not modeled on Plan Colombia, have been traveling to Mexico to meet with legislators here in hopes of easing concerns. "We're seeing a Mexican Congress that's more engaged, that's willing and able for the first time in history to be a partner with the [U.S.] administration, and they're asking the questions about what the president's policies are, what the authorities need, and what are the implications of working closely with the U.S.," Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said in an interview. "We've been neighbors and allies but this takes that relationship to a new level."

    In an interview, Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, declined to discuss details of the plan. But he noted that Bush has recently met with Calderón and Central America leaders to discuss ways to work together to fight against drug traffickers and gangs that have besieged the region.

    Central America is a major transshipment point for Colombian cocaine that arrives by sea; Mexican cartels funnel tons of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across the border into the United States.

    "All three of us, the United States, Mexico and the Central American countries, had to find a way to coordinate our activities and work better together and develop a regional strategy to combat the problems that we face," Shannon said.

    The Mexican government cringes at comparisons with Colombia, which unlike Mexico is locked in a 40-year-old guerrilla war and also is the world's largest cocaine producer. As part of Plan Colombia, which began in 2000, the United States provided Black Hawk helicopters, sensitive intelligence-gathering technology, military, police and intelligence training, and a fleet of crop-dusters to help the Colombian government push back Marxist guerrillas and eradicate drug crops. [b]Though that program helped President

  2. #2
    Senior Member CCUSA's Avatar
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    In Mexico, authorities have shied from talking publicly about the plan, concerned that the country's inherent suspicion of American meddling will prompt widespread rejection among Mexicans.

    They worried about American meddling! Please! I'm not in favor of any aid package to help Mexico anymore! By all means! Take care of your own problems.

    They should take their own advice! Don't meddle in America either.
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    Senior Member NCByrd's Avatar
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    ccusa........

    THE U.S. IS THE PROBLEM.......all those who shoot up, snort, smoke,or whatever all you do with drugs. This has to be the most drugged up country in the world!!!!

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    Senior Member Sam-I-am's Avatar
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    I wonder how much of this money will just end up going to fund Mexican corruption? I wonder how much of this money will just end up in the hands of the Mexican Drug Cartels. You might as well just throw this money down the toilet as give it to the Mexican government.
    por las chupacabras todo, fuero de las chupacabras nada

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    CCUSA said it best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NCByrd
    ccusa........

    THE U.S. IS THE PROBLEM.......all those who shoot up, snort, smoke,or whatever all you do with drugs. This has to be the most drugged up country in the world!!!!
    Drugs minister responds to Drugs Health Alliance Guardian article

    Last week Transform director Danny Kushlick had an op-ed published in the Guardian to mark the launch of the Drugs & Health Alliance, a group of organisations and individuals who are calling for a more evidence-based, public health-led approach to dealing with illegal drugs. Today sees a response in the Guardian from the Minister with the drugs brief, Vernon Coaker. Titled Its not moral panic. drugs really do destroy communities.

    The first thing to say is that it's welcome to see a response from the minister, and whilst it comes across as tad defensive it hopefully points to a window of opportunity for some sort of engagement as the new drug strategy is being put together. Whilst definitely more engaged and marginally less waffly, a lot of the content in the piece is similar or identical Coaker's comments in this week's Drink and Drug news which I critiqued in detail here and don't need to be rehash. There are a couple of things that warrant comment however.

    One is the way that again Coaker portrays Government policy as a reasonable compromise between two extreme poles:


    "Too often the drugs debate is characterised by polarised viewpoints: those arguing for harm reduction versus those arguing for greater prohibition and tougher punishments for dealers and drug users. The drugs debate, however, is more complex, and I do not see this as an either/or issue."
    In the Drink and Drug news version this had a slightly different slant:

    "I am keenly aware the debate over drugs remains highly charged and the challenge for government is to navigate a way through competing demands. I fully understand the strong emotions involved; but too often the debate is framed in extreme terms – some people argue for legalisation while others argue for tough enforcement – leaving little space for a rational debate in the centre ground. For example, in recent months we have heard from people who think drug legalisation would be the answer to solving the social problems associated with drug misuse. On the other hand, I do not have to go far to hear from people who call loudly for even tougher enforcement against drug dealers and drug users."

    I assume that the way 'legalisation' as extremism has morphed into 'harm reduction' as extremism is a mistake by whoever actually wrote the piece; the Government has been very clear in its support for (some) harm reduction initiatives (if less open about its role in creating those harms in the first place), and indeed Coaker expresses his support for harm reduction in the previous sentence. No, what is more odd is that Coaker is playing the navigating-between-extreme-positions card at the same time as perpetuating the entirely unevidenced policy of prohibition, a position that could only be described as extreme, involving as it does; mass criminalisation of 40% of the population and gifting control of multi-billion pound markets in dangerous drugs to violent criminal cartels (not to mention 40+ years of quite staggering failure).

    I find it ironic that the figurehead of the horribly outdated, failed, and ideologically extreme policy of prohibition, would refer to a group calling for a greater public health focus and evidence based approach to drugs as 'extreme'.

    For Coaker and the Home Office prohibition remains the elephant in the room. If they cannot acknowledge that the illegal markets prohibition creates are the significant driver of drug related crime and drug related harms, then any dialogue can only be a superficial one.

    The other paragraph that jumps out at me is the second to last:

    "Danny also recommended that we look to other countries - the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal among them - which adopt a public-health approach to tackling drug use. We can always learn from abroad, but we have to be wary of making assumptions and comparisons. Ultimately, each country has to tailor its own strategy appropriate to its history, traditions and culture, through open and honest discussion about the problems it faces."
    The striking thing here is that the US does not get a mention. It is both the spiritual home of the enforcement led 'war on drugs', and also the role model for the UK's tough approach. Whilst the UK has arguably the worst drug problem in Europe, the US has the worst in the Western world. Perhaps this is no coincidence, yet still we choose to ape their approach, at least in terms of the political discourse, with our obsession with 'toughness' and all the the ludicrous trappings of zero tolerance; three strikes you're out, mandatory minimums, drug testing and sniffer dogs in schools, ever harsher sentencing, a ballooning prison population of non violent drug offenders, drug tsars - the whole shebang.

    Coaker wants to have it all: the perceived political benefits of a tough talking 'war on drugs', as well a the real world benefits of a public health/harm reduction approach to drugs. Unfortunately he can't. A distinction needs to be made between harms related to drug use itself and harms created or exacerbated by the governments obsession with using criminalisation as its primary tool for managing drugs in society. If he can't do this then the genuine debate he claims to want will be anything but.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NCByrd
    ccusa........

    THE U.S. IS THE PROBLEM.......all those who shoot up, snort, smoke,or whatever all you do with drugs. This has to be the most drugged up country in the world!!!!
    'Britain has worst drug problem in Europe

    uncle sam Has the best enforcement

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