Report on International Human Rights Day delegations

NOTE: Important links and actions below in the body of the (short, 2 page) report. Ed.

Hey folks:

Thanks for all your great work!

Last week, your actions and those of a number of organizations aligned with our network against the Merida Initiative (aka Plan Mexico) made International Human Rights Day an unqualified success.

If you would like to skip the REPORT BACK and go straight to the NEXT STEPS we’re taking, please go to the end of this note.

REPORT BACK

We acted together to again issue a warning about the militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean under Plan Mexico. We explained what even Mexican commentator Jorge Chabat recognizes, even though less than a year ago he was heralding Plan Mexico as a sign of the end of the “historical lack of trust in Mexican police forces coming from the U.S.” Chabat typically adopts a cautious tone so his assessment of the results of Calderon’s militarized ‘solution’ to the “war on drugs” is noteworthy. He writes: “if there’s one thing worse than a corrupt and poorly equipped police corps its a corrupt and well equipped police corps.”

Indeed, the drug cartels’ penetration of Mexican law enforcement and government at virtually all levels is legendary.

Although we didn’t reach the 100 Congress member target we had set for ourselves we did – between our delegations which lobbied in D.C. and those in our networks who met with Congressional staffers in their home state offices – reach 69 legislators total!!!

We reached Congress people representing districts and states from Maine to Minessota to Texas, from Arizona and California to Illinois and New York . . . and many points in between.

Legislators and staffers we spoke with encouraged us to continue our efforts, saying that we were getting our perspective across and being heard.

One delegation to the Capitol visited offices with Gustavo Vilchis, the talented Mexican photographer and one of the witnesses to Brad Will’s murder. His powerful photographs document the teachers’ strike, the non-violent anti-corruption movement which which blossomed around it, and the violent repression by the Mexican government show a people standing strong for their human rights.

And you all are standing in solidarity with them, the people of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, Atenco, D.F. and throughout Mexico who are opposing corruption and militarization in the name of democracy, transparency, and economic opportunity for all.

You have reached out to Representatives and Senators and demanded that your tax dollars – and the government acting in your name – not be used to trample on the dreams of a better life of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, targeted under the Merida Initiative.

THANK YOU!

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, it is critical that you continue to let your Congress people know what you want (and keep letting us know what they say).

NEXT STEPS

We are urging Congress people to do the following FOUR tasks:

1. Sign the Dear Colleague letter circulated by Representative Manzullo (below) which mentions Brad Will’s murder and the Merida Initiative and rally their state Congressional delegations and Senators to sign on as well (note: the sign on is not yet being sent out but your Congressional Rep. or Senator can make inquiries about when it will be);

2. Sign the Dear Colleague letter to be circulated soon demanding the end of scapegoating of witnesses, activists, journalists, and other innocents by Mexican Federal and State Attorneys General for Brad Will’s murder and rally their state Congressional delegations and Senators to sign on as well;

3. Demand a stand alone bill be introduced for round two of funding and that new hearings allow opponents of Plan Mexico to be heard;

4. Ask Congress people to discover and publicize a) how USAID is funding the programs that are Merida-like but not Merida; and b) who is pushing these bills and why leadership thinks they are worthy of support (i.e. need all supportive documentation etc to counter).

As many organizations have come to recognize, Plan Mexico is a dangerous Bush security initiative, being proposed under the rubric of the “war on drugs” despite the abject failure of similar strategies to combat narco-trafficking in Colombia. The hastily assembled initiative risks having U.S.-supplied lethal aid turned against labor activists, dissenters and political opposition in Mexico and throughout Latin America, at a time when mobilization against neo-liberal trade policy is occurring in unprecedented numbers.

Please continue to reach out to church and labor organizations, peace and justice organizations, human rights groups etc. to ask them to issue statements against Plan Mexico. You can point them to Friends of Brad Will and we will put them in touch with experts focused on Latin America, Ivy league professors, Fulbright scholars, and leaders in the field of human rights who are willing to speak with them to explain in more details the risks Merida poses.

The Merida Initiative/Plan Mexico is opposed by the AFL-CIO, Witness for Peace, Tikkun, the United Steelworkers and many many other religious, labor and human rights organizations across the country (see link below). We have many contacts with. There’s also more information on the Merida Initiative here.

The Dear Colleague letter below being circulated by Representative Manzullo insists that Mexican security forces and government to which our government would send US taxpayers’ hard earned money under the Merida Initiative be held accountable for Brad Will’s murder and its subsequent cover-up before any money is invested in non-existent law enforcement cooperation. Again please urge your representatives to sign onto this letter and to urge all members of their state Congressional delegation to do so as well.

Besides the problems of fueling corruption, impunity and instability, a lethal aid package delivered to the current unpopular Mexican President at this time risks destabilizing the fragile secular democracy South of our border and undermining its history of religious tolerance. Mexican President Calderon has appointed to the highest Cabinet posts of his government members of the extreme right-wing anti-semitic and anti-women’s rights movement known as El Yunque. These forces should not be further empowered using U.S. taxpayer-donated lethal aid. Please see the investigative piece mentioned in this link for more about El Yunque.

Our human rights delegations in D.C. and across the country encountered much support among Congress people for (y)our campaign for justice for Brad Will and against continuing to lavish U.S. taxpayer-funded lethal aid on corrupt governments in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. Many recognized the serious risk that US-subsidized impunity posed to the stability of the region, an especially troubling prospect given our shared border with Mexico.

Your work is paying off. Now, in solidarity with activists like you who are being targeted by Mexican federal and state prosecutors and police, let’s keep moving forward until we win this one!

Getting signatures for the Dear Colleague letter below is our next step. Please let us know what your legislator says and whether they would like more information.

In peace and solidarity,

Robert Jereski
Congressional Liaison
Friends of Brad Will
www.friendsofbradwill.org

From: The Honorable Donald A. Manzullo
Sent By: nien.su@mail.house.gov

Date: 12/9/2008

No More Funding for the Merida Initiative

December 9, 2008

Dear Colleague:

On December 3, the United States signed a Letter of Agreement to give $197 million of American taxpayer funds to the Mexican Government as part of the Merida Initiative. While the ostensible purpose of this assistance package is to help Mexico fight organized crime, I remain seriously concerned that this important goal cannot be achieved while corruption continues to run rampant in that country.

Over two years have passed since Mr. Bradley Will, whose parents are my constituents, was tragically killed in Oxaca, Mexico. During this time, the Mexican Government has done nothing to bring those responsible for Mr. Will’s death to justice. Regular law enforcement cooperation between the U.S.and Mexico cannot continue as long as the Mexican government refuses to finish investigating the murder and prosecute those truly responsible for Mr. Will’s death.

On April 20, 2008, the Attorney General of Mexico, the Honorable Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza, informed me personally that the investigation into Mr. Will’s death was to be completed “within weeks.” Eight months later the investigation remains unfinished, and Mr. Will’s family still does not have any answers. Sadly, the unwillingness of Mexican justice system to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into this case casts doubts over their ability to use the Merida Initiative funds properly. Why should the U.S. Government give money to a government to “fight organized crime” when the very Mexican officials trusted with spending this money, including the Mexican Attorney General, refuse to cooperate with officials of the U.S. Government concerning a U.S. victim of a Mexican criminal act?

I recently wrote to the committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate to request that they hold hearings as soon as possible to examine whether funding and equipment provided under the Initiative has been misused. It is also extremely important to hold hearings on the status of Mr. Will’s investigation. Notwithstanding the Mexican Government’s assurances we need to ensure that American tax dollars are not used to support a corrupt system. If misuse is found, further payments under this flawed agreement must be stopped. I hope you will join me in this effort.

Sincerely,

/S/

Donald A. Manzullo

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