Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Report Slams Obama Military Approach to Latin America

Report Slams Obama Military Approach to Latin America
Latin American Herald Tribune - May 25

WASHINGTON – A new report criticizes the military focus of the Barack Obama government in its relations with Latin America and his “insufficient attention” to human rights in the region.

Waiting for Change, published Monday by the Center for International Policy, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund and the Washington Office on Latin America, concludes that 2009 was a “rough year” for U.S. policy in the hemisphere.

“In 2010, 47 percent of the United States’ more than $3 billion in aid to Latin America is going to militaries and police forces,” Adam Isacson, WOLA senior associate and one of the report’s authors, said.

“That’s the highest proportion in a decade, and it indicates an unbalanced approach. Add to that a new military-basing agreement signed last October with Colombia, and the main face that most of the region is seeing from the Obama administration is a military one,” Isacson said.

One of his co-authors, Latin America Working Group Education Fund Executive Director Lisa Haugaard, said that when it comes to human rights, the Obama administration’s policy toward to the region “has been missing in action.”

“With the weak, contradictory response to the coup in Honduras, and a stand-by-our-man approach towards allied governments in Mexico and Colombia, the first year has been disappointing,” she said.

The lack of any pressure being applied by Obama on his Latin American allies to assure respect for human rights, the Guantanamo prison still not closed down and a political agenda that does not include immigration reform are some of the more notable problems.

The document says that the Obama government is perpetuating the strategy and the tendency toward militarization of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, diminishing hopes for change.

Some of the report’s scant applause for the Obama administration is for the cutback in budgets for the toughest anti-drug programs in Latin America and for increased funding for drug treatment in the United States.

It also values the response to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti as another opportunity for change, recommending more of a push for a long-term assistance package.

Speaking of recommendations, the report urges a show of greater concern about protecting human rights, above all in Mexico and Colombia, and keeping military aid to Honduras suspended until “genuine steps” are taken to achieve justice.

Other proposals include allowing the free exchange of people and ideas with Cuba and that the U.S. State Department, not the military Southern Command, be the voice of Washington in the region. EFE

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