Tuesday, May 3, 2011

WNU #1078: Central American Militaries Arm the Drug Cartels?

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1078, May 1, 2011

1. Central America: US-Backed Militaries Arm the Drug Cartels?
2. Mexico: “Drug War” Has Intensified Violence Against Women
3. Haiti: Election Results Challenged, Media Threatened
4. Cuba: Rightwing Terrorist Bosch Dies in Miami
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Central America: US-Backed Militaries Arm the Drug Cartels?
Military officers in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have been selling significant amounts of heavy weaponry to drug trafficking organizations in Colombia and Mexico, according to US diplomatic cables and criminal charges filed in a US court against a retired Salvadoran captain. The sales have been made possible by what US diplomats called “lax controls” by military authorities and also by the authorities’ failure to bring criminal charges against officers who have been caught.

Some of these weapons were among those supplied by the US government to rightwing Central American armies at a time when they were fighting leftist rebels and social movements. The US is now spending $1.6 billion over a three-year period on a cooperation agreement known as the Mérida Initiative to fight drug trafficking in Central America and Mexico.

Secret US diplomatic cables from Oct. 2, 2008 and Oct. 17, 2008—released by the WikiLeaks group and acquired by McClatchy Newspapers—discuss 50 light anti-tank weapons (LAWs) that “were originally transferred to Honduras in 1992 as part of a US Foreign Military Sales program.” The Honduran military cannot account for 26 of the 50 LAWS. According to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), three of these weapons turned up Mexico City in January 2008, one was found in Ciudad Juárez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua in April 2008, and six were recovered in March 2008 on Colombia’s San Andrés Island, east of Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast.

The DIA also reportedly found that “at least two US-produced M433 40-mm grenades have been recovered in Colombia and Mexico.” These apparently came from a 1985 US military sale to Honduras.

A secret June 8, 2009 cable from the US embassy in Guatemala—also released by WikiLeaks—reported on “new information indicating rogue elements within the Guatemalan army are selling military-grade weapons and munitions to narco traffickers.” In April 2009 Guatemalan drug control agents raided a warehouse about 30 km south of Guatemala City containing “11 light machine guns, a light anti-tank weapon (LAW), 563 rocket-propelled grenades, 32 hand grenades, eight Claymore anti-personnel mines, almost 8,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, and three fully armored Suburbans.” US military analysts “were able to determine with a high degree of confidence that many of these weapons and munitions came from Guatemalan military stocks.” Some were made by the Guatemalan military industrial facility (IMG); the cable didn’t indicate whether any of the weapons might have come from the US.

“Twelve junior officers were recently relieved by their commanders for suspicion of selling armaments under their control to drug organizations,” the embassy wrote. The officers weren’t arrested, however--they were “sent home” pending an investigation.

El Salvador has less of a problem than Guatemala, Defense Minister David Munguia Payes told McClatchy Newspapers. But last year former Salvadoran captain Héctor Antonio Martínez Guillén (“El Capitán”) allegedly offered US undercover agents C-4 explosives, up to 3,000 hand grenades and several Russian-made Sam-7 shoulder-fired missiles, presumably from Salvadoran military supplies. The agents lured Martínez Guillén to the US and arrested him at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC, on Nov. 18. According to a Feb. 24 indictment, he thought he was dealing with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and expected to be paid in cocaine. (McClatchy Newspapers 4/21/11)

Although the report didn’t indicate that any of Martínez Guillén’s promised weapons came from the US, a US cable released by WikiLeaks in February reported that some fragmentation grenades used by drug traffickers in Monterrey came from shipments the US made to the Salvadoran military in the early 1990s [see Updates #1067, 1075].

Central American militaries are the main source of the Mexican cartels’ heavy weapons, the US embassy in Mexico wrote in a confidential Mar. 25, 2009 cable provided to the Mexican daily La Jornada by WikiLeaks. “At least 90% of military-origin weapons (such as grenades and light anti-tank weapons)” seized by security agents in Mexico “are traced to Central American military stocks,” according to the cable.

Small arms like rifles come directly from the US to Mexico, the embassy reported. “While estimates vary regarding the percentage of US commercial weapons recovered in Mexico, approximately 90% of all firearms seized and traced are from the United States.” (LJ 3/29/11)

CBS News reported on Apr. 25 that “the Mexican Government has retained an American law firm to explore filing civil charges against US gun manufacturers and distributors over the flood of guns crossing the border into Mexico.” (CBS News 4/21/11) [See Updates #1070, 1073 for information on the US government’s Operation Fast and Furious, which let firearms “walk” into Mexico.]

*2. Mexico: “Drug War” Has Intensified Violence Against Women
Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s militarization of the fight against drug trafficking has increased the level of violence against women, a leading Mexican feminist, María Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos, told the Spanish wire service EFE on Apr. 29. “Everything that is happening favors violence against women,” she said. Calderón’s strategy “cultivates a very violent culture” and “establishes an ideology of violence, of defeat, of war… That’s a very macho culture, very misogynist, and we women are left defenseless.”

A member of the Chamber of Deputies for the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) from 2003 to 2006 and now a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Lagarde is part of the movement to have femicide (misogynist murders) categorized as a special crime, not simply as murder or a hate crime [see Update #1076]. (EFE 4/29/11 via Latin American Herald Tribune)

Ciudad Juárez, near the US border in the northern state of Chihuahua, is one of the places that have suffered the most from femicide and from Calderón’s “drug war,” which has claimed some 35,000 lives since the beginning of 2007. In March this year the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that nationally some 230,000 people had been displaced by drug-related violence [see Update #1073]. A new report by María del Socorro Velázquez Vargas, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, gives an even higher number.

Using a survey by Juárez’s municipal government and statistics from Chihuahua’s State Investigation Agency and the federal government’s National Statistics and Geography Institute (INEGI), Velázquez Vargas estimates that 273,000 people were displaced during 2008, 2009 and 2010 in Juárez alone—a full 21% of the municipality’s population. (El Diario (Ciudad Juárez) 4/17/11)

*3. Haiti: Election Results Challenged, Media Threatened
As of Apr. 30 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the US were all pressuring Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to change 18 questionable decisions in the Mar. 20 runoff races for Parliament.

On Apr. 20 the CEP announced final results for the long-delayed second round of the 2010 presidential and legislative elections. As expected, the CEP confirmed the victory of conservative presidential candidate Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”). However, the final results for legislative seats changed from the preliminary count in 19 cases, and critics questioned the decisions for 18 of them: 17 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and one in the Senate. All but two of the changes awarded the seats to candidates from the centrist Unity party of outgoing president René Préval. The CEP didn’t offer any explanation for its decisions, which would give Unity a majority in the 99-member Chamber and a strong position relative to president-elect Martelly, since the party already had a majority in the Senate [see Update #1075].

An Apr. 29 statement by an OAS-CARICOM observer mission “recommend[ed] a return to the preliminary results in each of the 18 cases examined.” On the same day, US senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the influential chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, sent an open letter to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton questioning the CEP’s final results. Saying that “Haiti's future depends on a Parliament that is recognized as legitimate,” Leahy urged the State Department “to take appropriate steps to convey our concern, including assessing the visa suitability and the lawful permanent status in the United States of Haitians officials who may be involved in election fraud.”

According to the Haitian radio station Radio Kiskeya, Leahy also intervened on Martelly’s side in December when questionable CEP results in the Nov. 28 elections gave Unity presidential candidate Jude Célestin second place, eliminating Martelly from the runoffs. (Leahy press release 4/29/11 via Sun Herald (Biloxi, Gulfport and South Mississippi); Radio Kiskeya 4/29/11; AlterPresse (Haiti) 4/30/11)

In a statement published on Apr. 29, the French-based organization Reporters Without Frontiers called on Martelly to “defuse” tensions and to “promise to guarantee pluralism, civil liberties and basic constitutional principles” when he assumes office on May 14. A number of Haitian journalists have accused Martelly of threatening the local media [see Update #1075]. (AlterPresse 4/29/11)

*4. Cuba: Rightwing Terrorist Bosch Dies in Miami
Far-right Cuban activist Orlando Bosch died in Miami on Apr. 27 at the age of 84. He had “a long and painful illness,” according to a statement by fellow rightwinger Pedro Corzo.

Although accused of involvement in a number of terrorist actions targeting Cuba’s leftist government, Bosch was only convicted of one: a Sept. 16, 1968 rifle attack on a Polish freighter docked at the Port of Miami. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but fled the US after getting parole. In 1976 Venezuelan prosecutors charged Bosch and longtime US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Luis Posada Carriles [see Update #1075] in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana de Aviación jetliner; 73 people died in that attack. A Venezuelan military court acquitted Bosch and Posada in 1980, but they remained in prison pending a prosecution appeal to a civilian court. Posada escaped in 1985 and went on to work in US operations to supply the rightwing contra rebels in Nicaragua. The Venezuelan civilian court acquitted Bosch in 1987.

Bosch returned to Miami in 1988 and served three months in federal prison for violating parole in the 1968 case. Legally he could have been deported from the US as a convicted felon, but apparently the US refused to repatriate him to Cuba and no other country would accept him. This left Bosch free to live in Miami until his death, openly raising money for a campaign he called “Mortar for Masons.” “We’re not talking about flowers or hot meat pies,” Bosch explained in an interview the Miami Herald published in 1993. (Miami Herald 4/28/11)

In 1997 Bosch denied that he and Posada were involved in the bombings of Cuban hotels that year that left one Italian tourist dead. “The last news I had from [Posada] was about three months ago,” Bosch told Miami’s daily El Nuevo Herald. “I sent him money from some paintings of his that I sold here in Miami.... “We have nothing to do with these attacks. Besides, if we did, we'd still be denying it, since that's illegal in this country” [see Update #405].

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Haiti

Mexico, Colombia, Peru & Chile Look To Integrate Their Economies And Expand Trade With Asia

Argentina’s Qom-Toba Community Call for an End to Repression and Discrimination

MST Leader: Brazil Doesn’t Need Poisons to Maintain Food Production

Bolivia to enshrine "rights of nature" in law

The Law of Mother Earth: Behind Bolivia’s Historic Bill

Peru: one dead as strike paralyzes Puno

No Justice, No Peace: Canadian Mining in Ecuador and Impunity

FARC Car Bomb Kills Two Colombian Police Officers; Separate Attack Kills Two More

Deportation of Alternative Journalist Becerra Causes Protest in Venezuela

Libyan Delegation in Venezuela to Find Peaceful Solution

Director of Radio Uno Survives Assassination Attempt (Honduras)

Globalizing the Struggle: Women’s Voices from the Mesoamerican People's Forum in Mexico

Mexico: rights activists threatened as more mass graves unearthed

Mexico’s House of Deputies Likely to Approve Police State Law

Mexico’s National Security Law Can’t Be Evaluated, Says PRI’s Navarrete

Union-Busting Bill Stopped by Union Action—in Mexico

Martelly-Clinton Seal Deal for Next Wave of Disaster Capitalism in Haiti

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