Mexican Civil Society Groups Say “No” To Drug War Militarization

By Tania Arroyo

Mexico’s rapid increase in violence in recent years has generated the emergence of new social movements and civil organizations. Groups have begun to speak out, but their efforts have still been based on spontaneity and improvisation. Despite this, civil organizations and social movements alike have adopted a common stance against the Mexican administration’s acquiescence to the U.S. government: “No to the militarization of the country.”

In this context, representatives of SERAPAZ and SIPAZ, both civil organizations working in the establishment of peace, expressed their concerns about Mexico’s militarization in an event entitled “A Pact of Mexican Civil Society: For a Peaceful Mexico with Justice and Dignity” that was held at the John Hopkins of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) last week.

“A result of this war against drugs has been a criminalization of social movements. Under the pretext of killing criminals, activists are being murdered,” said Thomas Zapf, a political analyst and writer for SIPAZ. Miguel Alvarez, president of SERAPAZ, pointed out that while Mexico appreciates the support given from the United States, he believes that “both the NAFTA and the Merida Initiative have brought more problems than benefits. It is with these cooperation agreements that the militarization of the country has been exacerbated.”

Finally, Mauricio Salazar, special counsel for SERAPAZ, stated that the government’s strategy to deal with organized crime should first consider attacking unemployment and the lack of education, “However,” he said, “the government seems to be doing the opposite. Recently 44,000 workers took to the streets when, by decree, the NGO Compañía de Luz y Fuerza del Centro disappeared. That is how the government is creating the future migrants, and I’d add the future criminals, because lack of employment opportunities forces young people to join organized crime. ”

In general, the three leaders spoke out strongly against the militarization of the country – and rightly so. By conservative estimates, this war has cost the country 1.16 billon pesos – approximately $9.5 billion – equivalent to 8.9% of GDP. At least 35,000 people have lost their lives since President Calderon took office.

More than a democratic state, Mexico is now a militarized state controlled mostly by organized crime. Although the last two presidents of Mexico have been supporters of U.S. foreign policy mainly based on the war against organized crime, this militarized strategy doesn’t seem to be yielding any results. Now Mexico has soldiers in the streets but little chance of ensuring respect for human rights – a prerequisite for any democracy.

However, civil society organizations in Mexico and the social movements that are now emerging with force, like the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, should work on a joint strategy that allows them to incorporate more and more effective participation in society to put pressure on governments to heed social justice. Although few in Mexico outside the government seem to be supporting this “war on drugs,” the Report on the Americas reports that only 6.4% of people actively participated in a social protest in 2010. This is not nearly enough to reach our objective.

As Miguel Álvarez said, to find an accurate solution to the problem of violence in Mexico, Mexican and U.S. civil society need to work together. “We need your help,” he said, “to develop more accurate diagnosis and to redefine our concept of peace. Hopefully this can help Mexican citizens understand that to ensure peace and reverse the militarization of the country is not just a matter of government, but also a matter in which the participation of society is fundamental.”

U.S. Conference of Mayors Passes Resolution to Bring War Dollars Home

Great news from our friends at the Bring Our War Dollars Home campaign:

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has just done something it hasn’t done since Vietnam, passing a resolution that supports efforts to speed up the ending of our current wars and calls on the President and Congress to “bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs.”

Ask Congress and the President to listen.

Events are snowballing. The President is about to announce whether he will violate his commitment to a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan in July. The House of Representatives is passing amendments blocking funding for the Libya War, and 10 congress members have sued the president in court to end it. Iraq, we are told, may soon “request” a continued occupation into next year. A CIA war in Yemen is ramping up, along with that in Pakistan.

Enough is enough. Robert Gates just told the New York Times these are wars of choice. Let’s make a different choice.

Ask Congress and the President to listen to the public and our cities’ mayors now.

US Defense Budget Amendments

Here’s a list of amendments approved for the latest US defense budget, courtesy of our friends at the New Priorities Network:

1. Dicks (D-WA) The amendment inserts report language expressing concern about the prospect of human rights abuses in connection with military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, and directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Congressional Defense Committees on any suspected incidents of Human Rights abuses. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

2. Wolf (R-VA) The amendment makes $1 million in DoD funds available for an independent Afghanistan and Pakistan study group to access the situation on the ground in these countries and report on the consequences for U.S. interests. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

3. Kaptur (D-OH) The amendment inserts report language expressing concern over the unemployment rate for veterans and requires a report by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on recommendations to address this problem. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

4. Granger (R-TX) The amendment inserts report language expressing the importance of the Joint Strike Fighter airplane program and its unique place in military operations. The amendment provides language supporting the program and calling for continued oversight, and commits to working with the Secretary of Defense to ensure the success of the program. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

5. Hinchey (D-NY) The amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to report on military energy requirements, expresses concerns regarding energy efficiency and fuel costs, and encourages the consideration and study of alternative energy sources. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

6. Bonner (R-AL) The amendment inserts report language encouraging the Secretary of the Army to pursue improvements to the M1 Abrams Tank engine to increase fuel efficiency and reliability. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

7. McCollum (D-MN) The amendment limits DoD funding for military musical groups to $200 million. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

8. Graves (R-GA) The amendment inserts report language requiring the Defense Logistics Agency to report on the status, challenges and deployment timeline for the Common Food Management System (CFMS). The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

9. Flake (R-AZ) The amendment requires of Defense the Secretary notify the relevant Defense Committees of the intent to obligate any funds in excess of the 25 percent from the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

10. LaTourette (R-OH) The amendment inserts report language instructing DoD to delay the shift to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) concerning freight contracts until the Inspector General completes a review of the program. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

11. Flake (R-AZ) The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to report on the approximate $100 billion in “efficiency savings” previously announced, including specifying the details of the savings, and where they were reinvested. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

12. McCollum (D-MN) The amendment prohibits funds for contracts or agreements with entities with unpaid Federal tax liabilities that have not entered into payment agreements to remedy the liability. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

13. McCollum (D-MN) The amendment prohibits the government from entering into contracts or agreements with any corporation that was convicted of a felony criminal violation under any Federal law within the preceding 24 months. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Be sure to take NPN’s poll on budget priorities if you haven’t already! It only takes a minute to get your voice heard.

DoD Cybersecurity Spending: Where’s the Beef?

As the US defense budget is seeing targeted cuts, one area that seems to be getting more money is cybersecurity. The US military has announced plans to spend billions on technology to secure its networks.

In response to this shift in priorities, traditional defense contractors, such as BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have been on a buying spree, snatching up cybersecurity firms left and right. At the same time, a number of these companies have proven vulnerable to cyber attacks themselves, with some analysts seeing a tie to a security breach at RSA, which provides technology for remote access of employees to their corporate networks.

Read the whole article here.

September 29 – October 2 WRI event in Barcelona

From our friends at War Resisters International:

WRI has teamed up with the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) to organise this important seminar. The aim of this seminar is to bring together campaigners involved in work against war profiteering from all over the world, to learn from each other and see how we can better cooperate. The seminar will analyse the new trends in this deadly business, but also share tools for our campaigning. We have chosen a programme structure that prioritises participatory sessions and also uses what we call “theme groups”, groups which will meet every day of the seminar to work on one particular issue in more depth. We will also look at particular country/region cases such as: Israel, Libya, Afghanistan, Latin America, Africa, etc.

We invite you to register for this seminar, and look forward to seeing you in Barcelona.