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1309_Time to Listen

1309_Time to Listen

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Published by Habla Guate
The Just the Facts project is pleased to present “Time to Listen,” our new report on U.S. defense and security trends in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report can be found in both English and Spanish here.
The Just the Facts project is pleased to present “Time to Listen,” our new report on U.S. defense and security trends in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report can be found in both English and Spanish here.

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Published by: Habla Guate on Sep 18, 2013
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Time to Listen:
TrendsinU.S.SecurityAssistancetoLatinAmericaandtheCaribbea
Latin AmericaWorking GroupEducation Fund
SEPTEMBER 2013
 A joint publication o theCenter or International Policy,Latin America Working GroupEducation Fund, and WashingtonOfce on Latin America
By Adam Isacson, Lisa Haugaard, Abigail Poe, Sarah Kinosian, and George Withers 
T
he list grows longer: sitting Latin Americanpresidents, including the United States’ principalallies; past presidents; the Organization oAmerican States; the Summit o the Americas; civilsociety leaders rom all nations. The clamor or drugpolicy reorm, including or a reormed U.S. drug policyin Latin America, is growing rapidly. But Washingtonisn’t hearing it.The Obama Administration’s counternarcotics strategyhas continued largely unchanged. In act, over the pastew years the United States has expanded its military,intelligence, and law enorcement agencies’ directinvolvement in counternarcotics operations in theWestern Hemisphere. This has been particularly truein Central America, where it has had disturbing humanrights impacts.Aid numbers do not tell the whole story. In dollarterms, assistance to most Latin American andCaribbean nations’ militaries and police orces hasdeclined since 2010, as Colombia’s and Mexico’s largeaid packages wind down. Today, only aid to CentralAmerica is increasing signicantly. For its part, theDeense Department is acing cuts and turning most oits attention to other regions.While the Pentagon’s current approach to LatinAmerica does not include major base constructionor new massive aid packages, however, the UnitedStates is still providing signicant amounts o aid andtraining to Latin America’s armed orces and police.In addition to large-scale counter-drug operations,the region is seeing an increase in training visits romU.S. Special Forces, a greater presence o intelligencepersonnel and drones (while countries are obtainingdrones, mostly not rom the United States), and rapidlygrowing use o military and police trainers rom thirdcountries, especially Colombia.Much o what takes place may not show up as largebudget amounts, but it is shrouded by secrecy, poorreporting to Congress and the public, and a migrationo programs’ management rom the State Departmentto the Deense Department. A lack o transparencyleads to a lack o debate about consequences andalternatives, or human rights, or civil-military relations,and or the United States’ standing in the region.On human rights, the Obama Administration has beenoccasionally willing to raise tough issues with allies.It has encouraged trials in civilian, not military, courtsor soldiers accused o committing gross human rights
Escalating Calls to Rethink Drug Prohibition 2Direct US Involvement inCounternarcotics Operations 6Central American Regional SecurityInitiative Expands 12Human Rights & USSecurity Assistance 15What Do the Aid Numbers Say? 19Military Engagement at a Time of Reduced Aid 21US Agencies Outsource Military &Police Training to Colombia 22Drones in Latin America 26Recommendations for USPolicy 28
 
2TimetoListen
abuses, especially in Mexico and Colombia. Ithas supported the Ríos Montt genocide trial inGuatemala, and has sided with countries andhuman rights groups that seek to maintain,not weaken, the current Inter-American humanrights system.But too oten, the human rights message isa negative one, as when the administrationdownplays drug-war allies’ abuses or promotesa greater Colombian role in oreign training. Thekilling o civilians during joint U.S.-Hondurancounternarcotics operations in 2012, as wellas the lack o transparent accountability andmechanisms to ensure such abuses are notrepeated, is deeply troubling. And o course,the United States’ ability to stand up or humanrights is undercut by its own fawed humanrights record: the ailure to close Guantanamo;the extensive surveillance programs; and a dronepolicy that justies extrajudicial executions.These do not pass unnoticed by Latin America’spress, governments and civil societies.One very positive development is that theObama Administration has welcomed andsupported Colombia’s peace process, the bestpossibility in decades or bringing Colombia’slong conct to an end. That commitment mustcontinue. But overall, looking over the last ewyears o U.S.-Latin American relations, we haveone overriding request o our government: It’stime to listen. Time to listen to the call or anew drug policy or ourselves and or the region.
Escalating Calls to Rethink DrugProhibition
Calls to rethink prohibitionist drug policies aregaining momentum throughout the WesternHemisphere. More than orty years ater the“war on drugs” was declared, consumptiono illicit drugs continues to rise, cultivation ococa, marijuana, and opium poppies remainshigh, violence and organized crime continueto spread, and imprisonment rates haveskyrocketed. Since 2000, the United Stateshas spent approximately $12.5 billion in LatinAmerica to stop drugs at the “source.”
1
Yet drugs continue to fow rom coca-producingcountries in South America into the UnitedStates, the region’s number one consumer, andincreasingly into second-place consumer Brazil.This eort has had little eect on the prices orpurities o drugs on U.S. streets: cocaine priceshave risen, but only to early 1990s levels.
2
 The estimated number o tons o cocaineproduced in the Andes has been reduced roma decade ago but only to levels seen in thelate 1990s (555 tons in 1998, 620 tons in2012, according to U.S. estimates
3
). And sincethe United States rst started estimating cocaproduction in the late 1980s, the number ohectares o coca under cultivation in Colombia,Peru and Bolivia has decreased by only 8percent (rom 176,000 hectares in 1987 to153,700 hectares in 2011
4
).This modest progress has come at a great cost.Drug-related violence has killed thousandso security-orce personnel, and many timesmore young, poor men and women. Existingpolicies have denied drug users access totreatment programs, targeted armers withno other means o survival, caught citizensin the crossre o conrontations with violenttrackers, crowded prisons with non-violentoenders, tolerated or ostered abusive policeand military practices, and overwhelmedcriminal justice systems.Faced with these actors, a new debateis brewing throughout Latin America andthe United States. The 2009 release o a“Latin American Commission on Drugs andDemocracy” report opened up space or a newdebate on drug policy in the region. Formerpresidents Cesar Gaviria (Colombia), FernandoHenrique Cardoso (Brazil), and Ernesto Zedillo(Mexico) called attention to the war on drugs’devastating consequences or Latin America.
5
We have one overriding request o ourgovernment: It’s time to listen. Time to listen tothe call or a new drug policy or ourselves andor the region.
 
EscalatingCallstoRethinkDrugProhibition3
Presidents rom across the region’s politicalspectrum are now supporting calls to moveaway rom prohibition and eradication policies,and move towards a public health approachwhile regulating illicit crops or legal uses.Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguayhave decriminalized possession o certain drugsor personal consumption; Uruguay is debatinga bill that would regulate the production anddistribution o marijuana; and two U.S. states,Colorado and Washington, voted in 2012 tolegalize and regulate marijuana.In the past year and a hal, thanks to LatinAmerican initiatives, drug policy has beenon the agenda at the United Nations,Summit o the Americas and Organizationo American States (OAS). In October 2012,three sitting presidents—Juan Manuel Santos(Colombia), Otto Pérez Molina (Guatemala),and Felipe Calderón (Mexico)—issued astatement to the United Nations calling ora meeting to debate global drug policy anddiscuss alternatives, saying an urgent reviewo the current approach was needed.
6
Thepresidents o Honduras, Costa Rica and Belizelater added their support. The UN GeneralAssembly voted in avor o the proposal inNovember and plans to hold the debate in2016. “Alternative Strategies or CombatingDrugs,” meanwhile, was the theme o the OASannual General Assembly meeting in Antigua,Guatemala in June 2013, where the Secretary-General presented a report, commissionedat the Summit o the Americas meeting inApril 2012, on the results o drug policiesin the Americas, and possible scenarios orreorm. This cautious but thoughtul reportound “it would be worthwhile to assessexisting signals and trends that lean towardthe decriminalization or legalization o theproduction, sale, and use o marijuana.”
7
For its part, the Obama Administration hasreiterated that it does not support legalizationand will continue to oppose marijuanainitiatives at the national level. In response tothe OAS report, a spokesman or the WhiteHouse’s drug czar said, “any suggestion thatnations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine,marijuana, and methamphetamine runscounter to an evidenced-based, public healthapproach to drug policy and are not viablealternatives.”
8
The “Declaration o Antigua,” issued by theoreign ministers assembled at the June 2013OAS meeting, while alling ar short o anyclarion call or reorm, urged governments to“encourage broad and open debate on theworld drug problem so that all sectors o societyparticipate,” emphasized “that drug abuse isalso a public health problem and, thereore,it is necessary to strengthen public healthsystems, particularly in the areas o prevention,treatment, and rehabilitation,” and underscoredthat “drug policies must have a crosscuttinghuman rights perspective consistent with theobligations o parties under international law.”The declaration also singled out the impact orearms tracking, declaring that “to reducethe levels o violence associated with the worlddrug problem and related crimes it is essentialto implement and strengthen more-eectivemeasures to prevent the illicit manuacturingo and tracking in rearms, ammunition,explosives and related materials and their illicitdiversion to organized criminal groups.”
9
More vocal calls or drug policy reorm are alsocoming rom civil society. In summer 2012,110 victims o Mexico’s violence drove in a“Caravan or Peace with Justice and Dignity”rom Mexico through the United States, endingup in Washington, DC. They called or a newapproach to the tragic violence that has claimedover 60,000 lives in Mexico. They asked or theUnited States to take responsibility or stoppingthe fow o assault weapons that arm the cartels;to end a “militarized” approach to drug policy;to pass comprehensive immigration reorm;and to support policies that would protect theircommunities, not escalate the violence.
Over 100 victims o Mexico’s violence drove ina “Caravan or Peace with Justice and Dignity”rom Mexico throughout the United States,calling or a new approach to the violence thathas claimed over 60,000 lives in their country.

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