[News] The Three Amigos Summit

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Wed Aug 19 13:38:25 EDT 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/ross08192009.html
August 19, 2009


The Three Amigos Summit

By JOHN ROSS

Mexico City
Last week's "Three Amigos" Summit of North 
American heads of state in Guadalajara offered 
all the hair-raising excitement of watching 
Barack Obama and rightists Stephen Harper 
(Canada) and host Felipe Calderon sleepwalk through a minefield.

The fifth tri-lateral huddle of the presidents 
and/or prime ministers of Canada, U.S. and Mexico 
was held under the aegius of the North American 
Security & Prosperity Partnership (SPP or ASPAN 
in Spanish) that proposes to integrate energy and 
security mechanisms in the three NAFTA nations. 
Appropriately, the Three Amigos Summit came at a 
moment when both North American prosperity and 
security are gravely challenged by the deepest 
economic slide in the region since the Great 
Depression and cross-border security has been 
undermined by Calderon's reckless war on Mexican 
drug cartels that has taken 12,000 lives in the 
past three years and now threatens to spill over into the United States.

Indeed, the drug war was at the top of the 
Guadalajara pow-wow's agenda - the "War On 
Terror" which had dominated these séances during 
the Bush regime was markedly missing from the 
protocols.  One subtext of the drug war colloquy 
was Mexico's chronic failure to stem human rights 
abuses by its military and police that now 
imperils $1.4 billion of Washington's Merida 
Initiative funding to bolster security forces south of the border.

Under terms of the 2007 Initiative negotiated by 
George Bush and Felipe Calderon in Merida 
Yucatan, the U.S. congress must certify that 
Mexico is taking steps to mitigate the thousands 
of complaints of drug war abuses filed by 
citizens with the National Human Rights 
Commission (CNDH) and verified by international 
human rights organizations.  Failure to take 
corrective action would result in forfeiting 
15per cent of the funding, a stipulation that 
Mexican president Calderon has been reluctant to 
comply with, insisting that all alleged abuses 
have been addressed by a military justice system 
that has no civilian oversight.

The certification clause was embedded in the 
Merida Initiative after the Calderon government 
failed to resolve the murder of U.S. independent 
journalist Brad Will during 2006 civil unrest in 
the southern state of Oaxaca.  Despite front-page 
photographs of five plainly identified Oaxaca 
police officers firing on Will, Calderon's 
federal prosecutor and local officials under the 
thumb of Governor Ulysis Ruiz have refused to 
issue arrest warrants for the cops, instead 
accusing members of the Oaxaca Peoples Popular 
Assembly (APPO) of responsibility for Will's death.

Although forensic investigations by the CNDH and 
the Boston-based NGO Physicians for Human Rights 
(which was asked by the Will family to conduct an 
independent probe) established that the reporter 
was gunned down from 35 to 50 meters away 
presumably by the same police shown in the 
newspaper photographs, Calderon's federal 
prosecutor Eduardo Medina Mora and local 
authorities contend that Will was shot at close 
range by activists with whom he was standing 
during the October 27,  2006 confrontation.

APPO member Juan Manuel Martinez has been 
imprisoned for nearly a year after being fingered 
by two alleged eye-witnesses, both of whom 
concede they did not actually see Martinez fire 
the fatal shot. International NGOs such as Human 
Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the 
Committee To Protect Journalists decry Martinez's arrest as a frame-up.

This July 29, ten days before the Three Amigos 
Summit was gaveled to order in Guadalajara, the 
Federal Prosecutor's Office (PGR) sought to 
reaffirm its case against Juan Manuel Martinez 
and blunt the threatened loss of Merida cash by 
publishing the results of an investigation 
purportedly undertaken by the Royal Canadian 
Mounted Police that corroborated the Mexican 
government's disputed finding of APPO culpability 
in the shooting of the U.S. reporter.

But the RCMP conclusions proved to be little more 
than a shabby fiction - the three supposed 
Mounties were in fact contractors-for-hire who 
were no longer employed by the Canadian 
police.  Their investigation was replete with 
factual errors (on some accounts the ex-Dudley 
Do-Rights did not read or speak Spanish) and was 
debunked by Will's parents.  Nonetheless, the 
ploy met with limited success: the incarceration 
of Juan Manuel Martinez appears to have softened 
any lingering doubts the U.S. State Department 
may have entertained about the dubious quality of 
Mexican justice and Brad Will's murder was never mentioned in Guadalajara.

Signing up fake Mounties to corroborate the 
Martinez frame-up comes at a low point in 
Mexico-Canada bilateral relations.  Protests by 
Mexican farmers and Indians at widespread 
environmental damage caused by Canadian mining 
corporations have surged here in the past 
months.  To further agitate the waters, Steven 
Harper's conservative government, citing 
thousands of Mexicans who arrive in Canada each 
month to petition for political asylum, clamped a 
visa requirement on visitors from the south this 
summer, bollixing the vacation plans of hundreds 
of families whose vehement protests outside the 
Canadian embassy here provoked stringent 
policing.  Despite Calderon's personal appeal to 
Harper at the Guadalajara head-to-head, the 
Canadian prime minister refused to back down on 
the visa requirements.  Instead, in the spirit of 
the Security & Prosperity Partnership, Harper 
offered a $15 million Royal Canadian Mounted 
Police program to train Mexican police chiefs.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, 
Barack Obama barnstormed the rust belt pledging 
to revise NAFTA chapters that are squeezing U.S. 
workers. But reopening the 15 year-old trade 
agreement was not on the Guadalajara agenda (in 
the campaign an Obama advisor had warned Canadian 
officials not to take his boss's campaign 
promises seriously.)  Although workers and 
farmers in the three NAFTA nations demand 
revision, opening up the free trade treaty is a 
non-starter for the three amigos in these economically perilous times.

In fact, the U.S. congress has unilaterally 
reneged on a NAFTA provision that would allow 
Mexican long haul drivers to operate on U.S. 
highways.  In retaliation, Mexico slapped $6.2 
billion in potential tariffs on 89 U.S. products, 
including dog food and Christmas trees.  No 
progress in resolving the trade dispute was 
registered at the Guadalajara summit.

With security at red alert levels, Obama flew 
into Guadalajara, the financial center for 
Mexico's six major drug cartels, aboard Air Force 
One escorted by five helicopter gunships.  Drug 
war paranoia was palpable and 5,000 police and 
army troops were mobilized to protect the three 
amigos during their brief stay in Mexico's second 
city.  The drama mounted when an operator for the 
Pacific Cartel in Sinaloa was captured after cops 
got wind of an alleged plot to assassinate 
Calderon at the Summit. Even as the three heads 
of state gathered in Guadalajara, Silvia Raquenel 
Villanueva, a legendary lawyer who made her bones 
defending drug kingpins, was gunned down at a 
posh Monterrey mall by unknowns. Raquenel, whose 
life is celebrated in popular narco-corridos, had 
survived four previous assassination attempts.

Obama's 20-hour visit was his second as U.S. 
president - last April, he traveled to Mexico 
City just as the swine flu epidemic detonated 
here although he was kept in the dark of the 
dangers of contagion by Calderon. An 
anthropologist who accompanied Obama on a tour of 
the National Anthropological Museum subsequently 
died of respiratory failure and a Secret Service 
agent was stricken.  This time around, El Baracko 
came equipped with a full medical team.

The U.S. president was also accompanied by his 
just-designated ambassador to Mexico, Carlos 
Pascual.  The scion of a well-connected Cuban 
family who fled the island in the first years of 
the revolution, Pascual is the highest-ranking 
Gusano on the Obama payroll but his anti-Castro 
roots will not sooth perpetually stressed 
Cuban-Mexican relations.  A Brookings Institute 
fellow, Pascual is said to be an expert on 
"failed states". A recent U.S. Joint Chief of 
Staff analysis (JOE 2008) posits that Mexico is 
at risk of becoming a "failed state."

While the drug war dominated the Guadalajara 
tete-a-tete, the coming swine flu season was much 
on the minds of the three amigos.  Last spring's 
outbreak in Mexico which is thought to have 
germinated in a U.S.-owned hog farm in Veracruz, 
spread north rapidly, triggering threats of 
quarantine and the scapegoating of Mexicans around the world.

Also troubling the Guadalajara agenda: what to do 
about pesky Manuel Zelaya, the constitutional 
president of Honduras who was dislodged by a 
military coup at the end of June. While the 
events herald unwelcome destabilization in 
Central America as oligarchs and their cronies in 
the military take heart from Zelaya's overthrow, 
both Obama and Harper waffled on support for the 
Honduran president's reinstatement as mandated by 
the Organization of American States. Obama 
bristled at allegations that his government was 
not doing its part to facilitate Mel Zelaya's 
return to power, arguing that the same leftists 
who demand the Yanquis get out of Latin America 
insist that Washington increase pressure on the Honduran coup-makers.

Just days before the Guadalajara summit, the 
deposed Zelaya flew to Mexico to lobby Felipe 
Calderon and members of congress into supporting 
his return to Honduras. But the Honduran earned 
his Mexican counterpart's scorn when he spoke 
favorably of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador 
(AMLO) who continues to maintain that he beat 
Calderon in the fraud-marred 2006 presidential 
election here.  In retribution, Calderon's 
presidential guard prevented Zelaya from talking 
to the press when he exited the country.

The North American Security & Prosperity 
Partnership is the brainchild of Obama's 
predecessor George Bush and was designed to 
assure Washington of a secure oil flow from both 
Canada and Mexico that together comprise nearly a 
third of the U.S. energy tank.  Increased 
integration of security forces envisions the 
deployment of U.S. troops on Mexican soil to 
safeguard vital Caribbean oil fields from 
international terrorism. Washington and Mexico 
participated in war games that simulated 
terrorist attacks in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of July.

The U.S.'s renewed "outreach" to its southern 
neighbors forms one leg of a strategy to refocus 
Washington's attentions on Latin America after 
years of marginalizing the continent during which 
the anti-neo-liberal pendulum swung decisively to the left.

Other outcroppings of the renewed Yanqui 
strategy: the mobilization of the U.S. Fourth 
Fleet to patrol the Atlantic and Caribbean 
theaters and the establishment of seven U.S. air 
and naval bases in Colombia, one of Washington's 
few allies in the region, which, not 
surprisingly, has stirred alarm on the Latin American Left.

Meeting in Quito on the very days that the three 
amigos were palavering in Guadalajara, the 
12-nation UNASUR ("Union of Nations of South 
America"), a Bolivarian mutual defense system, 
exhorted Obama to support the return of Mel 
Zelaya to Honduras and robustly condemned the 
latest U.S.-Colombian adventure.

Ironically, the SPP-ASPAN with its implications 
of a new Pax Americana in Latin America, has 
become a red flag for right-wing gringo 
conspiracy buffs who most recently have been 
obsessed by Barack Obama's birth 
certificate(s.)  For the "birthers" and the "tea 
party patriots", the SPP-ASPAN is a subversive 
plot to overthrow the United States, nullify U.S. 
laws, and coin a new currency that will displace 
the Yanqui dollar.  Waving small American flags, 
an angry gaggle of "patriots" showed up in 
Guadalajara to denounce the conspiracy.

But the most pertinent gringo invasion of Mexico 
came post-Three Amigos when the U.S. soccer team 
stormed Mexico City to face off against Mexico's 
faltering national team in a do-or-die 
qualification match for the 2010 World Cup.  In 
23 previous outings at the gargantuan (105,000) 
Azteca stadium, the Americanos had never won a 
game and the August 12 contest was no exception 
with the Mexicans grinding out a narrow one-goal 
victory. The U.S. star Landon Donovan went down with Swine Flu.

The win over the hated Yanquis was perhaps the 
only positive result of the Three Amigos Summit 
for this distant neighbor nation.

John Ross is back in the maw of the 
Monstruo.  His chronicle, "El Monstruo - Dread & 
Redemption in Mexico City" will be published by 
Nation Books this November.  If you have further 
info write <mailto:johnross at igc.org>johnross at igc.org




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