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Sunday readings

8 June 2008

Mexico’s War on Drugs is a Sham says Gardenia Mendoza of Florida’s La Prensa (translation in New American Media)

“This is the experience of 107 countries: If you only go after gangsters without attacking the financial structure or political protection, what happens is a paradox: you add more troops, prosecutors and police, and the criminal groups put more money into corruption,” says Edgardo Buscaglia, advisor to the UN and academic at Mexico’s Autonomous Technological Institute (ITAM).

“This creates an escalation of violence because criminals respond by bribing high-level officials in order to protect themselves against the state’s actions,” he adds.

It has happened in Lebanon, Pakistan, Colombia… and now it is happening in Mexico…

On the other hand, Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times thinks that war could be “won” by following the example set by the Italian government’s war on the Marfia:

Is there something in the way the Americans and Italians worked together that could be applied to a partnership with the Mexicans? Certainly it is in the interest of the United States to seek such an alliance to stop the flow of drugs, guns and crime across the border, just as the Italian alliance helped stop that flow across the Atlantic. Indeed, President Bush has been pushing Congress to approve the first $500 million installment of a crime-fighting aid package to Mexico. Last week, American border governors met in Mexico with President Felipe Calderón to rally support for the effort and praise him for focusing on the drug lords.

Think Bush was bad for Latin America? Wait til Anheiser-Busch gets into the act! Nicholas Kozloff writes on John McCain (Cindy McCain is the heiress to a beer distribution fortune), U.S. Latin-American policy … and Budweiser at CounterPunch:

For Modelo, a strong incentive for entering the deal with Anheuser-Busch was the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA: under the accord, U.S. import duties on Mexican beer were eliminated. As a Senator, McCain has been a big booster of economic globalization which has made consolidation of the beer industry possible. The Republican presidential hopeful supports NAFTA and has in fact assailed Barack Obama for his criticism of free trade. According to labor unions, NAFTA has cost the U.S. at least one million jobs, a fact of little apparent concern to the Arizona Senator. Though the agreement has led to a social and ecological disaster in Mexico, McCain does not support special provisions which would protect workers and the environment. In recognition of his efforts, the right wing Cato Institute gave McCain a 100% ranking when it came to promoting the free trade agenda.

Speaking of McCain, Quico, on the Venezuelan blog “Caracas Chronicles” looks at both U.S. candidates and who his (Groucho) Marxist president should support:

Now, from a Venezuelan perspective, the main difference between Barack Obama and John McCain isn’t what they are likely to do, but rather how they’re likely to play into Chávez’s strategy of internal-control-through-US-bashing. With his military background, tough-guy image, testosterone fueled rhetoric and penchant for humming tunes about bombing Iran, it’s easy to see how Chávez’s rhetoric could transition smoothly from Bush-whackery to McCainicide. Wouldn’t miss a beat.

But what if a black guy who opposed the Iraq War from the start and pledged to talk directly to him took office? Now things get interesting. An Obama presidency stands to completely scramble Chávez’s key strategy for internal control.

The Texas Association of Counties website (not my usual reading… a sombrero tip to Scott Henson) discusses the unforeseen consequence of expecting local officials to handle immigration arrests, especially when juveniles are involved, and there is no criminal violations (immigration violations are an administrative matter, not criminal one):

… what does a local official or law enforcement officer do when nobody is willing to accept responsibility for a juvenile suspected of being in this country illegally? And with the strengthening of immigration reform, will more situations like this occur and place unfunded mandates on local governments?

When asked … if ICE accepts juveniles into their custody, Mr. Reginald Sakamoto, Acting Chief of ICE’s Juvenile, Family and Residential Unit located in Washington, D.C., suggested local law enforcement “follow the directions provided in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as it applies to unaccompanied alien children.”

The Uruguayan environmental magazine Tierramérica (available in Spanish, English and Portuguese) has an article by Mario Osava on modern agriculture’s over-dependence on too few crops:

Over the course of human history, people have consumed more than 7,000 species of plants. But in the last 100 years, about 75 percent of food crops have fallen by the wayside and now just three staples — wheat, maize and rice — make up about 70 percent of our caloric intake, according to United Nations figures.

Many ancient crops, like amaranth (Amaranthus) and quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), both promising Latin American species, are grown by few farmers today, while rice and wheat cultivation continue to expand.

As the older crops disappear, the knowledge associated with them vanishes too, weakening farming and nutrition, say experts.

Food shortages? A local television station in Utah offers a novel way to stretch the family budget:

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