Pubdate: Tue, 14 Jun 2011
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Luis Hernandez Navarro


Many Believe That Calderon's Drug Policies Have Been Imposed by The
US, Which Provides Aid Under the Merida Initiative

Cipriana Jurado is a Mexican activist who for years struggled to
assert the rights of maquila workers in Ciudad Juarez on the US
border. She directed the Centre for Research and Worker Solidarity
until, in mid-March 2010, she took refuge in the United States and
applied for asylum because her life was in danger. On Saturday 11 June
2011, the United States granted her political asylum.

Her asylum application was accepted on the basis of evidence that the
Mexican army persecuted her after she sought to defend a family from
which three members, including two women, disappeared in Chihuahua in
late 2009. The Mexican army has been used in Chihuahua as part of the
federal anti-drug strategy, and it has been repeatedly linked to human
rights violations.

Cipriana Jurado is the first human rights defender to receive
political asylum for being persecuted by the Mexican army - the same
army the United States is supporting to the tune of hundreds of
millions of dollars in the war against drugs.

Her asylum sets a precedent. It also illustrates the complex relations
between Mexico and the United States in the war on drugs. This
complexity, according to President Felipe Calderon, revolves around
"the fact that we live next to the biggest consumer of drugs in the
world and everybody wants to sell drugs through our door or our window
and additionally this same friend [the United States] sells weapons to
all the criminals".

Many Mexicans are convinced that Calderon's drug war has been imposed
by Washington, which aims to get Mexicans to resolve a US problem.
Instead of fighting drug trafficking in the territory of the United
States, Washington has persuaded or pressured the Mexican government
to do it within their country - "outsourcing" the fight against drugs.

Although there are many co-operation agreements in the fight against
drugs between the two nations, many of them long-standing, the most
recent international security treaty signed by Mexico and the US (and
also the countries of Central America) is the Merida Initiative. The
agreement was accepted by the US Congress in June 2008 with an aid
package pledge of $1.6bn (UKP1bn), over a period of three years. During
the first year, Mexico received $400m in equipment and training.

The assessment of this treaty has provoked a bitter debate within
Mexico. Just this past 11 May, Calderon thanked Congresswoman Nancy
Pelosi for aiding Mexico through the plan. However, former president
Vicente Fox - a member of the ruling National Action party - said on
13 June that the Merida Initiative is "nothing more than a 'tip' given
to us, paid in blood, death and violence - the task is theirs, to stop
drugs from circulating in the United States".

A citizens' movement, the National Movement for Peace, has recently
taken shape, challenging Calderon's drug war and opposing the
militarisation of the country. The poet Javier Sicilia started the
movement after the murder of his son on 28 March 2011. The movement
will include actions of peaceful civil resistance, including the
co-ordinated closings of border bridges and a trade boycott against US
companies, if the United States does not help to stop the violence.

Many members of this movement consider the Merida Initiative to be an
act by which Mexico is ceding its sovereignty to the US. The
initiative has formalised American intervention in Mexican national
security, intelligence, crime fighting, the training and command of
military forces and police, the patrol of Mexico's airspace, land and
sea, as well as logistics and procurement.

On 11 June, after completing a week-long peace caravan through the
parts of the country most affected by drug violence, Sicilia demanded
that Washington suspend the Merida Initiative and recognise that its
drug policy is destructive to Mexico and Central and South America.
The White House has responded by publicly supporting the government of
Felipe Calderon. But it has also winked at the National Movement for
Peace. Less than a week ago the state department spokesman Mark Toner
said the "US supports the caravan's message for peace, especially in
Mexico where society as a whole has been touched by violence".

Diplomatic relations between the United States have historically been
complex and difficult. The war against drugs will, undoubtedly, make
them much more turbulent. Last Saturday, President Calderon delivered
the keynote speech at Stanford university's graduation ceremony. While
delivering his speech to thousands of graduates, an aeroplane flew
over the university stadium, brandishing a sign that read: "No more
blood. 40,000 dead. How many more?". It's one more indicator that the
tone in US-Mexican relations has changed. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.