Friday, November 11, 2011

WOLA Report Calls Colombia a 'Cautionary Tale' For Mexico

Thursday, WOLA released a new report on how lessons from “Plan Colombia” can guide future U.S. policy in Mexico. The report warns against creating too close of a parallel between the Mexico and Colombia drug conflicts, then goes on to argue that repeating the Plan Colombia model in Mexico “would be a very a bad idea.”

The report presents six recommendations for overall U.S. strategy, beginning with the mandate that the U.S. must first “clean its own house” and prioritize domestic drug reduction efforts, as well as efforts to stem gun trafficking to Mexico. The report also warns against an “uncritical embrace” of the partner government, citing Colombia’s “false positives” scandal as an example of U.S. policymakers assuming a “timid” stance towards military misconduct.

The final six recommendations focus on human rights policy and are an interesting compliment to the conclusions laid out by Human Rights Watch earlier this week. WOLA notes that the judicial system is the Achilles Heel for both Mexico and Colombia, where cases move slowly and convictions are few. In order to speed things up, WOLA argues that U.S. policymakers should establish clearer benchmarks for how the judicial sector in these partner countries should pursue reform; and be more aggressive about withholding aid if these benchmarks are not met.

According to WOLA, among Colombia’s most important lessons for Mexico in terms of U.S. policy is the usage of human rights conditions as leverage. Pressure from the U.S. State Department led to a key reform in Colombia which allows military officials to be tried in civilian, rather than military, courts. This is one of the few examples of progress in judicial reform in Colombia, WOLA argues, and holds great relevance for Mexico, where human rights crimes are rarely prosecuted in military courts. Should the U.S. become more aggressive about withholding aid if human rights conditions are not met, this is a surefire way to ensure both Mexico and Colombia can more effectively pursue their security goals, the report concludes.

News Briefs

  • Analysis from the AP notes that the Zetas have all but launched a concerted campaign against their perceived enemies on the Internet. Business Week has another take.
  • Even though President Santos said Wednesday that he would withdraw an unpopular education reform bill, Bogota still saw large students protests the next day. The debate is an echo of the ongoing unrest in Chile: the government argues that the bill contains desperately needed reforms, the opposition maintains it will basically privatize and bankrupt the system. Santos said he will withdraw the bill if students cease protests and return to class, although it is possible he may try to push on with the reforms next year. But Santos has little to gain from such a battle with students, teachers, labor unions and even some elements of his own party, according to La Silla Vacia.
  • The kidnapping of a U.S. baseball player in Venezuela is proof of the nation’s ongoing violent crime crisis, argues Time.The LA Times notes the Wilson Ramos case is not the first time sportsmen have been targeted by kidnappers, although the AP says this is the first time a Major League player has been abducted.
  • In more coverage of Nicaragua post-elections, Upside Down World reports from a rural town where residents have benefited greatly from President Ortega’s poverty relief programs, while an opinion piece from Confidencial summarizes some of the top questions now faced by the opposition.
  • In a meeting with the Argentine ambassador to the U.S., President Christina Fernandez encouraged a rebooting of relations between the two countries, reports Mercosur.
  • An opinion piece for the Guardian argues that naming President Felipe Calderon as the 2012 chair of the G20 is an error, as the president “is a possible war criminal.” The New Yorker offers up similarly critical commentary not just on Calderon, but on the U.S. role in the conflict.