No $ To Mexico Until Accountability on Human Rights!
November 14, 2007 – Friends of Brad Will write: The Friends of Brad Will, a network of friends and associates of Brad Will, the U.S. journalist, have urged Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Representative Tom Lantos and Representative Eliot Engels, the Chair of the Western Hemispheric Affairs Subcommittee to oppose U.S. support for Mexican military and police forces. Mr. Will, the 36-year-old reporter, was murdered in Oaxaca, Mexico a year ago, on October 27th, 2006. Witnesses and photographic evidence implicate members of the Mexican government, including a police chief.
On 10-21-07, President Bush quietly announced a $1.5 billion dollar “security cooperation initiative” proposal for Mexico that the President tucked into the Iraq supplemental spending package submitted to Congress. The initiative allows for the sharing of U.S. military intelligence information with Mexican military counterparts and provides weaponry and training with the notoriously corrupt and brutal Mexican military and police.
Brad Will’s family and friends denounced plans to fund a “Plan Mexico” that would be more costly than the controversial “Plan Colombia” while in attendance at the 11-14-07 hearing. They pointed to the lack of any credible investigation into the murder of the U.S. journalist, who was in Mexico covering the protests of a popular movement of teachers and their supporters facing paramilitary violence deployed by the Mexican government and the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
“One year after the murder of Brad Will, no one has been arrested. Under the guise of stopping drug trafficking, US taxpayers could be funding human rights violations, corrupt local officials and Blackwater-style mercenaries in Oaxaca and elsewhere. This is exactly the wrong message to send at this time.” said Harry Bubbins, a media representative for Friends of Brad Will.
The United Steel Workers announced their opposition to Plan Mexico yesterday, declaring that “without fundamental institutional reforms in Mexico, and concrete commitments on the part of the Mexican government to cease its violations of labor and human rights, we believe that the money requested by the Administration will serve to reinforce a pattern of impunity.” The union notified Congressional committees and subcommittees handling the Bush Administration’s request for money, predicting that “the repression of labor unions and human rights organizations will likely lead even more Mexicans to conclude that their only future lies in migration to the U.S.”
“We are confident that Congress will ask hard questions about the murder of US reporter Brad Will, and not just rubber stamp this military aid package that could lead to further human rights abuses.” stated Robert Jereski, a Congressional liaison for Friends of Brad Will.
Garry Leech, an independent journalist who has covered the effects of Plan Colombia on that country, declared that ‘drug war’ program an expensive failure. “The Colombian state’s direct role in human rights abuses such as extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and disappearances has increased under Plan Colombia.” What is needed, he added, is to strengthen judicial institutions and respect for human rights in Mexico, and cut drug demand in and weapons flow from the United States.
Activists with Friends of Brad Will were present at Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on November 14th at 10 a.m. in Room 2172 of Rayburn Building and suggested questions for members of the committee to ask the Administration’s witness, Undersecretary of State Shannon:
• What will the full price tag be for this 20 year initiative?
• What makes you believe that a country whose police and military are recognized every year in US State Department country reports to be serial abusers of human rights should be lavished with US taxpayer-funded lethal weaponry and training?
• What signal are you sending the Mexican authorities by proposing Plan Mexico a year after Brad Will, the U.S. journalist was murdered by Mexican security forces, a year during which there has been no accountability?
• Why do you believe this lethal power will not be leveled against activists and ordinary Mexican citizens as has been the case in the past in Atenco, Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca?
• What has been learned from ‘Plan Colombia’ which makes you think that this aid package will have a good effect on human rights, corruption, and narco-trafficking? What percentage of the Plan Mexico funding will be for law enforcement and how much for social and economic programs? For the past seven years, more than 70 percent of Plan Colombia funding has gone to the military and police and there has been little emphasis on addressing the social and economic problems that have led many poor Colombians to participate in the drug trade. This militaristic law enforcement approach has failed to diminish the amount of cocaine reaching US shores. Furthermore, according to the US government’s figures, coca cultivation in Colombia has increased each of the past three years. Given that the eradication of coca is the principal stated objective of Plan Colombia, these figures suggest that the militaristic law enforcement approach is ineffective.