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Judi Lynn

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Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from “Policy Roundtable: Reagan and Latin America” from our sister publication, the Texas National Security Review. Be sure to check out the full roundtable.

“Drugs are bad, and we’re going after them,” Ronald Reagan declared during his first term as president. “We’ve taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we’re going to win the war on drugs.” He wasn’t referring only to highly addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine, but also to marijuana, which he deemed “a dangerous threat to an entire generation.” Reagan’s sense of moral certainty and his tendency to view the world in black and white manifested in the way his administration waged the drug war both at home and abroad. Embracing an overly simplistic notion of the problem, he targeted Latin American countries that were producing these drugs with crop eradication, and admonished Americans to “just say no,” enacting exceedingly harsh penalties for those who failed to comply. It has now been over three decades since Reagan pledged to win the drug war, and yet the trafficking of heroin and cocaine continues to be a monumentally profitable and violent criminal enterprise that wreaks havoc on some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The United Nations estimates that between one fifth and one third of the income of transnational organized crime groups comes from the production and trafficking of drugs. While the prohibitionist approach clearly failed to eliminate the scourge of drug trafficking, it was highly successful in creating a domestic political environment conducive to the pursuit of counterinsurgency in Latin American countries at a time when the support of the American public for Cold War military interventions was at an all-time low.

The War on Drugs

Though a prohibitionist ethos had already permeated the U.S. government’s official attitude toward narcotics, and punitive measures had been implemented long before Richard Nixon’s rise to power, Nixon was the one to formally declare a war on drugs. For him and other conservative culture warriors, the “get-tough” approach to crime and drugs was a response to the social upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As racial tensions erupted into riots in the inner cities, and massive anti-Vietnam war protests opposed U.S. foreign policy, drug use became inextricably linked in the public imagination with radical students, urban blacks, and the counterculture. Just as the Nixon administration sought to deflect responsibility for atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam by blaming it on drug use, U.S. officials located the source of domestic opposition to the power structure in the abuse of mind-altering drugs. In subsequent decades, the war on drugs was waged by a number of powerful interests: politicians on both sides of the aisle looking to score with their constituents, presidents in need of a scapegoat issue, prison guards’ unions, private companies with a financial stake in punitive measures, concerned parents of unruly teenagers, and a profit-driven news media seeking good copy.

It was Reagan who revived the war on drugs, which for all intents and purposes, had become moribund under the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Though Carter decided not to wage the domestic drug war, choosing instead a “harm reduction” approach that sought to provide medical and psychiatric treatment to addicts, supply-side anti-narcotics efforts continued. Supply-side policies essentially placed the responsibility for domestic drug use on the countries supplying the drugs, many of which complained that the United States was blaming them for its social ills. These efforts became the primary focus of the Reagan administration’s drug war in Latin America. At the same time, Reagan abandoned the Carter administration’s focus on medical treatment for addicts in favor of a punitive approach that in some cases constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Though it is difficult to determine how personally invested Reagan was in the drug war, it was certainly consistent with his own deeply held sense of American identity, traditions, and values.

The Politics of Narcoterrorism

The punitive approach to drugs was not just a domestic phenomenon. It was reflected in the Reagan administration’s supply-side anti-narcotics foreign policies, which sought to eliminate the supply of drugs at the source. In Latin America, this involved the extensive use of herbicides, usually applied aerially, to destroy opium, marijuana, and coca crops. Because virtually all the world’s cocaine is processed from coca grown in the Andes, the countries of Peru and Colombia were among the highest priority targets of crop eradication. These two countries also suffered from the depredations of radical left-wing guerrilla movements that exerted increasing control over drug production and trafficking. The supply-side strategy therefore aimed to strengthen the Peruvian and Colombian armed forces in their struggle against the guerrillas.


Scientists lobby Mexico president over endangered porpoise

Mark Stevenson, Associated Press
Updated 7:08 pm CST, Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Photo: Rebecca Blackwell, AP
FILE - In this July 8, 2017 file photo, a woman with the World Wildlife Fund carries a paper mache replica of the critically endangered porpoise known as the "vaquita marina" during an event in front of the National Palace calling on the government to take additional steps to protect the world's smallest marine mammal, in Mexico City. The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise, and lives only in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez. Experts say as few as 15 of the marine mammals remain in the wild, and none have ever been held in captivity.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A group of prominent scientists issued an appeal Wednesday to Mexico's new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, calling on him to take the unprecedented step of outlawing the possession of gill nets in the upper Gulf of California to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

The vaquita is the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, and lives only in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez. Experts say as few as 15 of the marine mammals remain in the wild, and none have ever been held in captivity.

The vaquita is the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, and lives only in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez. Experts say as few as 15 of the marine mammals remain in the wild, and none have ever been held in captivity.

The vaquita has been driven to the brink of extinction by gill nets set illegally to catch totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder commands astronomical prices and is considered a delicacy in China. Vaquitas become entangled in the totoaba nets and drown.

. . .

So the scientists are calling in an open letter to Lopez Obrador's top environmental officials that the government ban possession of the nets in the whole area. The researchers also called for land patrols and inspections of boats setting out to sea to enforce the ban. At present, authorities patrol the area but poachers often flee in high-powered boats and make it to shore.


Trump business deal in the Dominican Republic 'may be unconstitutional'

Source: Ekklesia.co.uk

By agency reporter
DECEMBER 19, 2018

Global Witness has revealed that US President Donald Trump is forging ahead with what appears to be a new business deal in the Dominican Republic. This deal poses a conflict of interest for the President and may expose him to violations of the US Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

“After a failed 2007 deal in the Dominican Republic, the Trumps are now back in business with their former Dominican partner, the Hazoury family and their company”, said Eryn Schornick, Senior Policy Advisor at Global Witness. “Trump’s company previously sued the Hazourys alleging ‘text book fraud' on such a wide scale.”

Global Witness went undercover in the Dominican Republic to get details about the suspected new Trump project. Posing as a representative to a wealthy investor looking to buy property, the undercover investigator met with senior brokers and sales representatives at the Cap Cana resort – owned by the Hazourys – on the Dominican Republic’s eastern shore.

A sales representative confirmed that the Trumps are going back into business with the Hazourys and stated that Trump Organisation is the developer of a commercial and residential project on the beach at the Cap Cana resort, and has the requisite permits to start building.

Read more: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/27402

The Tropical Trump? Bolsonaro Follows Closely The US President's Style

The Brazilian president-elect seeks access to Trump through flattery and contacts with people in the US president's inner circle

Dec.18.2018 1:06PM

Rodrigo Borges Delfim

A while back, a street art showing a kiss between president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and the US president Donald Trump appeared on a wall in the outskirts of Fortaleza, Ceará. It was quickly painted over, but it wasn’t random; Bolsonaro is a self-professed fan of Trump’s antics and he has been trying to bring his future administration closer to the White House.

So far, the Brazilian president’s tactics consist in flattering Trump and meeting with people from the American president's inner circle — like the National Security Advisor John Bolton, who stopped in Rio de Janeiro on his way to the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires to have breakfast with Bolsonaro, a few weeks ago.

See comparisons between the two:

Outsiders in the political ecosystem

Trump: A businessman and TV personality, Trump never held any kind of political office until he ran for the Republic primaries in 2016.

Bolsonaro: Although he has held a representative seat since 1990, Bolsonaro never worked in the Executive branch or presided any commissions in the Brazilian Lower House.


Indigenous leader urges EU to impose sanctions on Brazil

Source: Guardian

Europe told if it does not act it will be ‘turning blind eye to genocide’ under Bolsonaro
Arthur Neslen
Tue 18 Dec 2018 01.00 EST

Brazil’s foremost indigenous leader has called on the EU to impose trade sanctions to prevent ecological disaster and a “social extermination” by her country’s far-right president-elect, who takes office on 1 January.

Jair Bolsonaro has terrified indigenous communities by promising to take every centimetre of their land, designate rights activists as “terrorists” and carve a motorway through the Amazon, which could deforest an area larger than Germany.

Sônia Guajajara, the leader of Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APBI) which represents more than 300 Brazilian indigenous groups, said: “We are afraid of a new genocide against the indigenous population and we are not going to wait for it to happen. We will resist. We will defend our territories, and our lives.”

Before his election, Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s military dictators, called for minorities to bow to the majority will or disappear. He once said: “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/18/indigenous-leader-urges-eu-to-impose-sanctions-on-brazil

"No One Listened to Us!" The Ixiles of Guatemala

“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala
By Jan Lundius

Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS) - According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

WaPo: Trump Needs to Destroy Venezuela to Save It

DECEMBER 17, 2018

Tamara Taraciuk Broner of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Johns Hopkins professor Kathleen Page took to the pages of the Washington Post (11/26/18) to whitewash Donald Trump’s successful efforts to make Venezuela’s economic crisis much worse. Appropriately enough, at the end of the piece, the Post recommended four other articles (11/23/18, 9/11/18, 6/20/18, 8/21/18) that either attacked Venezuela’s government or stayed conspicuously silent about the impact of US economic sanctions.

Propaganda works primarily through repetition. The vilification of Venezuela’s government in the Western media has been relentless for the past 17 years, as Alan MacLeod pointed out in his book Bad News From Venezuela.

NGOs like HRW play an important role in framing the Western imperial agenda from a supposedly “independent” and “humanitarian” perspective, as dramatically illustrated after the death of Sen. John McCain (FAIR.org, 8/31/18) when several HRW officials joined the US media in sanctifying an overtly racist warmonger. In contrast, a few hours after Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, HRW rushed out a statement vilifying Chavez’s years in office, displaying total indifference to his achievements in reducing poverty and improving health outcomes, despite the violent, scorched-earth tactics of his US-backed opponents to prevent this from happening. No such statement was rushed out by HRW to attack George H.W. Bush—the recently departed butcher of Panama and initiator of the decades-long mass slaughter in Iraq, to mention only a few of his crimes.

. . .

The idea that “most sanctions” have “no impact on the Venezuelan economy” is appalling nonsense (FAIR.org, 3/22/18). Trump has extended Obama’s cynically declared “national emergency” over Venezuela, and escalated by directly threatening holders of Venezuelan government bonds, making it it impossible for Venezuela to “roll over” any bonds governed under US law (i.e., borrow to pay off principal when a bond comes due, as governments usually do). In January, a Torino Capital report on Venezuela’s economy stated that “all foreign-currency bonds are denominated in dollars, and all are governed by New York law.” Trump also prohibited the Venezuelan government–owned CITGO corporation, based in Texas, from sending any profits or dividends back to Venezuela.


Nuqanchik: Peruvian news and the politics of language

Quechua is one of South America's oldest languages and now some journalists are challenging its marginalisation.
17 Dec 2018 07:41 GMT

As a Chilean, when I travel to Latin America to cover a story, I usually understand what my interviewees are telling me. I am able to pick up on the finer points and ask follow-up questions that get me nearer to the story. But this time round, I didn't understand a word, because my interviewees were speaking in Quechua - one of the main indigenous languages in Peru.

I was speaking to Clodomiro Landeo and Marisol Mesa, presenters of the news show 'Nuqanchik', which means "us" in the Quechua language. 'Nuqanchik' has been broadcasting in Quechua for the past year. The show is part of a drive on Peru's public TV channel to counter the racist consequences of colonial representational power.

When it comes to representation on the public stage, Peru's indigenous populations are, at best, fetishised, commodified, orientalised. At worst, they are spoken about, spoken for, spoken at - even laughed at. But there are signs that this could be changing, albeit at a snail's pace.

This week, a comedy show called 'La Paisana Jacinta' (Jacinta, the Peasant), which had been ridiculing indigenous women for years, was taken off air and off line, after a judge ruled in favour of a group of indigenous women from Cuzco who had accused the show of violating their human rights.


The Political Expansion Of Evangelical Churches In Latin America - Analysis

December 17, 2018 Elcano Royal Institute
By Elcano Royal Institute

By Carlos Malamud*

The presence of evangelical churches in the political life of various Latin American countries has increased notably in recent years, clearly seen in the outcome of the many elections held in the region. Among the most prominent elections contested in 2018, particularly striking developments in this respect include the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Fabricio Alvarado’s progress to the second round of voting in Costa Rica and the role played by the Social Encounter Party in Mexico, which has allied itself with Andrés Manuel López Obrador and helped his election as President .

The decline of politics, traditional parties –especially those on the left– and democratic institutions, together with the retreat of the Roman Catholic Church in the greater part of the region, have contributed to this development. Another factor is the emphasis placed on a values-based discourse and support for the family as central strands of the evangelical rhetoric. Thanks to this, and with considerable popular endorsement, they have succeeded in boosting conservative prospects in large parts of Latin America.

The boundary between religion and politics, or between divine and temporal power, has never been clear and remains blurred to this day. The conflict between the two powers has been a recurring feature throughout history and at times has been accompanied by acute tension and even violence. Christian democratic parties in both Europe and Latin America were a permanent feature of the 20th century, and they frequently succeeded in securing power, as in Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Guatemala. In our own day, certain strains of radical terrorism take on an Islamist cloak, while a range of religious fundamentalisms vie to increase their presence in the most varied parts of the world. A simultaneous development in Latin America has been the emergence of political movements of an evangelical nature that have acquired considerable heft in the political affairs of their countries and have even become a phenomenon of wider regional significance.

These days it is possible to find an evangelical church or place of worship in virtually any part of the continent, however poor or marginalised it might be. The strong and permanent bond between the pentecostal and neo-pentecostal churches on the one hand and the popular sectors and the poorest strata of their societies on the other has enabled them to impinge on regional politics in a way that no other party or movement has been able to achieve. If this is combined with their particular ideological orientation it may be concluded, as Javier Corrales has done, that evangelical churches are ‘giving conservative causes [in Latin America], and especially political parties, new strength and new constituencies’.


This article is well worth the time reading it, if you have a few minutes.

A young star caught forming like a planet

A young star caught forming like a planet
December 14, 2018

Astronomers have captured one of the most detailed views of a young star taken to date, and revealed an unexpected companion in orbit around it.

While observing the young star, astronomers led by Dr John Ilee from the University of Leeds discovered it was not in fact one star, but two.

The main object, referred to as MM 1a, is a young massive star surrounded by a rotating disc of gas and dust that was the focus of the scientists' original investigation.

A faint object, MM 1b, was detected just beyond the disc in orbit around MM 1a. The team believe this is one of the first examples of a "fragmented" disc to be detected around a massive young star.

"Stars form within large clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space," said Dr Ilee, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds.

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