InsideUSA with Avi Lewis on Al-Jazeera English (July 26)
Watch this interview with footage from the drug war and a rooftop Mexico City
interview with Laura Carlsen and Jorge Chabat on Plan Mexico, the war
on drugs and the human rights casualites of militarization:
Part One (15 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyDHNeJxazU
Part Two (8 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz8k39p8z4U
From "A Primer on Plan Mexico":
The NAFTA Connection
The "Merida Initiative" received its name from a meeting between Presidents Bush and Calderon in Merida, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, in March 2007. The official story is that President Calderon, already committed to a "war on drugs" that relies heavily on the use of the army in supply interdiction, requested U.S. assistance at the Merida meeting and, after negotiations on the details, the U.S. government acceded.
With the emphasis on counter-narcotics efforts, in the lead-up to the October announcement of the package, both governments marshaled studies and statistics to support the contradictory thesis that drug-trafficking and related violence in Mexico had reached a crisis point, and that Calderon's offensive against the drug cartels was working.
This is not the real story of the plan's origins. The Bush administration's concept of a joint security strategy for North America goes back at least as far as the creation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) as an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).4 When the three North American leaders met in Waco, Texas in March of 2005, they put into motion a secretive process of negotiations between members of the executive branches and representatives of large corporations to facilitate cross-border business and create a shared security perimeter. Subsequent meetings, including the April 2008 trilateral summit in New Orleans, extended these goals amid mounting criticism.5
Through the SPP, the Bush administration has sought to push its North American trade partners into a common front that would assume shared responsibility for protecting the United States from terrorist threats, promoting and protecting the free-trade economic model, and bolstering U.S. global control, especially in Latin America where the State Department sees a growing threat due to the election of center-left governments. While international cooperation to confront terrorism is a laudable and necessary aim, the Bush national security strategy6 entails serious violations of national sovereignty for its partner countries, increased risk of being targeted as U.S. military allies, and threats to civil liberties for citizens in all three countries.
Moreover the counterterrorism model, exemplified by the invasion of Iraq, has by all accounts created a rise in instability and terrorist activity worldwide.
Extending the concept of North American economic integration into national security matters through the closed-door SPP raises grave questions about how security is defined and who does the defining.
Thomas Shannon, sub-secretary of Western Hemisphere affairs for the State Department put it bluntly in a speech on April 8, saying that the SPP "understands North America as a shared economic space and that as a shared economic space we need to protect it, and that we need to understand that we don't protect this economic space only at our frontiers, that it has to be protected more broadly throughout North America. And as we have worked through the Security and Prosperity Partnership to improve our commercial and trading relationship, we have also worked to improve our security cooperation. To a certain extent, we're armoring NAFTA."7
The SPP effort seeks to lock in policies that do not have consensus and have not been debated among the public and within Congress. Citizen groups in all three countries have called for a halt to SPP talks due to the lack of labor, environmental, and civilian representation, and transparency to the public. On the security front, the Bush administration's concept of military-based rather than diplomacy- and social policy-based security is strongly questioned in the United States and outright rejected among the vast majority of Mexicans and Canadians.
In this context, instead of reviewing policies and opening them up to public debate, the Bush administration has launched its boldest advance yet within the SPP context—Plan Mexico. Speculation was that the plan would be announced at the Montebello SPP meeting in August of 2007, but perhaps because of the presence of SPP protestors at that meeting President Bush delayed the official unveiling of the "Merida Initiative" several months. However, the last two SPP meetings have included discussions of Plan Mexico and the State Department has been clear about its crucial role within the overall SPP economic and security framework.
It is important to understand the roots of Plan Mexico in the Bush administration's deep integration agenda. The plan implies much more than a temporary aid program for fighting drug cartels. It structurally revamps the basis of the binational relationship in ways meant to permanently emphasize military aspects over much-needed development aid and modifications in trade and investment policy. The scope of the Regional Security Cooperation Initiative demonstrates that it goes far beyond a joint war on drugs and cements into place failed policies on immigration enforcement, militarization of the border, economic integration policies, counterterrorism attacks on civil liberties, and the intromission of security forces into social policy and international diplomacy. To do this, the outgoing Bush administration has relied on the support of two economically dependent allies to try to assure that its policies will be irreversible under a Democratic presidency in the United States.8