Congress Holds 3rd Hearing on Mexico Foreign Policy Scheme

Opposition growing to Bush’s Proposed “Merida Initiative”

Friends of Brad Will write: Opposition to the President’s ebbing “Merida Initiative”, a scheme to give $1.4 Billion in military aid to Mexico’s police and military forces implicated in widespread human rights violations, has led to an extraordinary 3rd oversight hearing by Congress. On May 1st, the AFL-CIO, the powerful U.S. parent union, sent letters detailing their opposition to the Merida Initiative to Democratic Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Congressman Delahunt Chair of a subcommittee on human rights, urging the Democratic Congress members to reject the Bush Administration’s request for military aid to Mexico. Yet critics questioned the witnesses Congress has called to testify before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere as being uncritical boosters or vaguely indicating support under a pretense of concern and questions. Not a single opponent of the Merida Initiative has been called to testify.

“Labor organizations like the AFL-CIO and the US Steelworkers have demanded that Congress not fund this “Plan Mexico”, said Robert Jereski of Friends of Brad Will, likening it to the notorious failures of “Plan Colombia”. “We are extremely disappointed that a few inside the beltway human rights organizations have yet to issue statements against it.” Jereski went on to single out the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), invited to testify today (for the second time), as providing cover for the Bush Administration’s militarized approach to foreign policy. WOLA has stated, “To be clear, we are neither for it nor oppose the initiative.”

Advocates are also troubled by another invited witness from the Creative Associates International Inc (CAII), which is linked to the former military dictatorship of Haiti and the drug-trafficking Contras of Nicaragua. In 2003, the company came under close scrutiny by Congress and the press for receiving its Iraq contracts without competitively bidding for them. The no-bid contract with CAII was one of a number of no-bid contracts benefiting U.S. corporations including Bechtel (which has been subcontracted by CAII to build schools), Halliburton, and others that profited from rebuilding in Iraq. Ninety percent of CAII funds come from USAID. USAID is a federal government agency that receives foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. “Congress must begin to exercise its independent oversight role by inviting a range of voices to explore potential ramifications for our foreign policy and the outstanding human rights violations in Mexico, including the murder of U.S. reporter Brad Will” said Harry Bubbins.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) observed that the Merida Initiative had been ”concocted” under the “old war on drugs paradigm.” Calling for an effective approach to be explored, he declared “the Merida Initiative will never succeed.”

If Congress were to rubber stamp this scheme in the President’s waning days, U.S. foreign policy options would be severely curtailed for decades to come. The Merida Initiative would arm unaccountable, corrupt and brutal military and police; contribute to the erosion of civil liberties in one of our largest trading partners; increase violence and instability in Mexico; and waste U.S. taxpayer money to benefit a few connected military contractors.

“Instead of defending a largely ineffective human rights certification process and opining whether 80% or 65% of lethal aid is justified, advocates on the Hill must stand up and Just Say No to Plan Mexico” concluded Robert Jereski.

Friends of Brad Will is a nationwide network of activists, friends and family members of Brad Will, the U.S. journalist who was murdered by Mexican government paramilitaries in broad daylight in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2006. Despite numerous eye witnesses and photographic/video evidence, no one has been held accountable. Friends of Brad Will has been educating, organizing, and pressuring the U.S. government to work on behalf of Brad Will and to reject the Merida Initiative.

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Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives

You are respectfully requested to attend the following OPEN hearing of the
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, to be held in Room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Thursday, May 08, 2008
10:00 AM
“The Merida Initiative”

Panel I
The Honorable Thomas A. Shannon
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Panel II
Mr. Harold Sibaja
Regional Director, Alliance for Prevention
Creative Associates International, Inc.

Mr. Geoff Thale
Program Director
Washington Office on Latin America