Tag: honduras

New Study on Mexico’s Drug Cartels and the Global War on Drugs

Yesterday, Juan Carlos Hidalgo pointed out that Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos became the latest world leader to recognize the need to rethink the prohibitionist policies that allow powerful drug traffickers to flourish. Santos called for a new approach to “take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking” and that governments around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, need to debate legalizing select drugs, such as cocaine.

From Colombia to Mexico, the drug war rages on. Despite two decades of U.S.-aided efforts to eradicate drug-related violence in Colombia, the problem persists. Indeed, the trickle-down effects from Mexico southward now threaten to engulf Guatemala. Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador are all experiencing alarming homicide rates at least partially related to drug trafficking. To address these spikes in violence and stem the flow of drugs, the United States has spent billions of dollars in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Sadly, there is little evidence that this policy has been successful, and the evidence mounts that it has been an outright failure.

A new policy is needed to stem the violence and consequences of the Mexican drug cartels pervasive power. In a new study released today, Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow, argues that the only lasting, effective strategy for dealing with Mexico’s drug violence is to defund the Mexican drug cartels. “The United States could substantially defund these cartels,” says Carpenter, “through the full legalization (including manufacture and sale) of currently illegal drugs.”

The new study, “Undermining Mexico’s Dangerous Drug Cartels,” is available here.

Hugo Llorens: U.S. Ambassador or Proconsul in Honduras?

New Wikileaks cables have surfaced on the role of U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens in the aftermath of the constitutional removal of Manuel Zelaya from power and the subsequent presidential election in that country. Written by Llorens himself, the cables show a disturbing pattern of interference and bullying from the U.S. diplomat in Honduras’s internal affairs.

The cables describe several meetings that Llorens had with Honduras’ president Porfirio Lobo after the general election of November 2009. In all instances, Lobo visited Llorens in his office or residence, not the other way around. During the meetings, they discussed the conformation of Lobo’s cabinet, as well as the circumstances under which Roberto Micheletti—who replaced Zelaya as president of Honduras—would leave power. Llorens insisted that Micheletti, whom he refers to as the “de facto regime leader,” had to depart “well before inauguration day,” even though he was the constitutional president of Honduras at the time. On a cable dated January 5, 2010, Llorens recalls telling then president elect Lobo that “if Micheletti continued to thumb his nose at the United States… there would be repercussions.” He specifically threatened to refuse U.S. visas to Micheletti and his supporters ever again.

Unfortunately, Lobo played well his role of subordinate leader of an otherwise independent nation. In a telling example, Llorens recalls how the president-elect asked him for suggestions on whom to appoint as Security Minister. Later, Llorens basically vetoed the appointment of Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, then head of the armed forces, as the new Defense Minister. Previously, Vásquez had been on Lobo’s “short list” of candidates for that position, but Llorens warned him of the “serious image problem” that his appointment would have since Vásquez was the head of the armed forces when Zelaya was removed from power.

In another cable dated February 16, 2010, Llorens describes another meeting in his residence where he pressed Lobo—already sworn in as president—“on the continued presence and participation in Lobo’s government of the regime [meaning, Micheletti’s previous administration] Minister of Defense Lionel Sevilla and Chief of Defense Romeo Vásquez Velásquez.” Llorens warned Lobo that “the clock was ticking” for the Honduran president to “make the needed personnel changes.” Llorens wanted any civilian or military figure from the Micheletti administration connected to the ousting of Manuel Zelaya out of the new government. It is later described how “Lobo appreciated the Ambassador’s straight forward and honest advice.” As to who should replace Vásquez as head of the armed forces, Llorens “discouraged” Lobo from appointing a general related to the ousting of Zelaya, and “suggested” the name of a different officer for that position. Llorens then told Lobo to make the changes in the armed forces “sooner rather than later.”

These revelations have created a great deal of controversy in Honduras. Columnist Juan Ramón Martínez of the Honduran daily La Tribuna wrote [in Spanish] about his country’s embarrassment after learning of President Lobo’s genuflecting attitude towards the U.S. Ambassador. Martínez says that “according to the reports sent by Llorens, the country’s sovereignty doesn’t lie on the people… but on the Ambassador of the United Sates, who has turned the president elected by the Honduran people into a personal employee…”

Martinez is right. Hugo Llorens doesn’t act as a U.S. Ambassador, but as a U.S. proconsul in Honduras.

Lula’s Diplomatic Embarrassment in Honduras

One of the big losers from yesterday’s successful election in Honduras has been Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who demonstrated that under his presidency, Brazil is not ready to play a positive leadership role in the hemisphere.

Not only did Lula seem to be complicit in smuggling deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya into the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa—an irresponsible move that risked the possibility of major confrontations and bloodshed in that country—but he stubbornly refuses to recognize yesterday’s election as legitimate.

Lula’s grandstanding has nothing to do with a supposed commitment to democracy, of course. After all he continues to lavish praise on the Castro brothers’ dictatorship in Cuba, has said that Hugo Chávez is the best president Venezuela has had “in one hundred years” and was one of the first world leaders in congratulating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s blatant rigged election in Iran. Indeed, the same week he announced his refusal to recognize the elections in Honduras, he gave Ahmadinejad a warm welcoming in Brasilia.

Some had hoped that due to its size and recent assertiveness in world affairs, Brazil could play a constructive role in Latin American affairs. It’s quite clear that this won’t happen under Lula’s watch.

Instead, Lula continues to be much more responsible on domestic matters—supporting market democracy in Brazil—and reckless in foreign affairs. Or, as Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner says, a sort of Dr. Jekyll y Mr. Hyde.

What Does the State Department Not Want Us to Know about Honduras?

Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina recently traveled to Honduras and found—no surprise—a peaceful country and broad support for the ouster of President Zelaya among members of civil society, the supreme court, political parties and others. In an op-ed in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, DeMint describes his trip in light of Washington’s continuing support of Zelaya and its condemnation of what it calls a “coup.” U.S. policy is mystifying since the ousted president’s removal from office was a rare example in Latin America of an institutional defense of democracy as envisioned by the constitution and interpreted by the Supreme Court that ruled that the president be removed. (For independent opinions on the case, see here and here.)

However, the Senator reports a legal analysis at the State Department prepared by its top lawyer that apparently has informed Washington’s policy but that has not been made public nor even released to DeMint despite his repeated requests. In the interest of democracy and transparency, the State Department should immediately release its legal report. Maybe then we (which includes much of the hemisphere) will be less mystified about what is driving Washington policy toward Honduras. Or at least we’ll have a better insight on the administration’s understanding of democracy.

Honduras’ Interim Government Falls Into Zelaya’s Trap

Once again, and as a response to the return of deposed president Manuel Zelaya to Tegucigalpa, the interim government of Honduras has overreacted by decreeing a 45-day suspension of constitutional guarantees such as the freedom to move around the country and the right to assemble. The government is even imposing some restrictions on freedom of the press. More disturbingly, today the army shut down a radio station and a TV station supportive of Zelaya.

As I’ve written before, these measures are unnecessary, counterproductive and unjustified. While Zelaya’s supporters are known for repeatedly relying on violence, their actions have been so far contained by the police and the army. Zelaya himself is secluded at the Brazilian Embassy, and while he is using it as a command center to make constant calls for insurrection, the authorities have so far been in control of the situation.

One of the most troubling aspects of the suspension of constitutional guarantees is that they effectively obstruct the development of a clean, free, and transparent election process. Let’s remember that Honduras is holding a presidential election on November 29th, and many regard this electoral process as the best way to solve the country’s political impasse, particularly at an international level.

There can’t be a free and transparent presidential election while basic constitutional rights have been suspended. By adopting these self-defeating measures, the interim government of Honduras is lending a hand to Zelaya and his international allies in their effort to disrupt the country’s election process.

New Report: Honduras Acted Constitutionally

A new report by the non-partisan Law Library of Congress now publicly available reviews the legal and constitutional issues surrounding Honduran President Zelaya’s removal from office. The report concludes that both the Supreme Court of Honduras and the Congress acted in full accordance with the constitution in removing the president from power. The study, first reported by Mary O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal this Monday, is consistent with the point she, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, and others have made with regard to Washington’s unbelievable policy of undermining Honduras’ rule of law by insisting on Zelaya’s return to power, calling his removal a coup, and otherwise sanctioning the small nation’s Supreme Court by suspending the visas of its justices.