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Panama

Tag Archives | Panama

Panama’s Untold Story: Security and Police Forces Step up their Game

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Xinhua
Xinhua

Xinhua

To say Latin America is not considered a safe area would be an understatement. Indeed, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime paints Latin America as the most dangerous spot in the world and the only place where homicide rates keep rising. However, is the region really to blame for its years of violence and bloodshed?

It all began with the infamous “war on drugs” announced by Richard Nixon in 1971, rooted in the belief that all drugs are evil and that we must ensure their ultimate destruction using any means necessary. More than 4 decades and some $1 trillion later, US drug policy is now more militarized than ever, focused solely on conducting army and police operations. The results are usually expressed in cold numbers linked to the area of drug crops destroyed or the unprecedented number of arrests made after each operation. But is this enough?

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America’s Goals and Opportunities in Latin America

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President Barack Obama participates in the CEO Summit of the Americas panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel, Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens - all our citizens - the United States will not be going in this direction.” – President Barack Obama, speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia

President Barack Obama participates in the CEO Summit of the Americas panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel, Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

This past December marked the 190th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 policy declaration by President James Monroe that essentially made Latin America the exclusive reserve of the United States. And if anyone has any doubts about what lay at the heart of that Doctrine, consider that since 1843 the U.S. has intervened in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay, Grenada, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In the case of Nicaragua, nine times, and Honduras, eight. Sometimes the intrusion was unadorned with diplomatic niceties: the U.S. infantry assaulting Chapultepec Castle outside Mexico City in 1847, Marines hunting down insurgents in Central America, or Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing pursuing Pancho Villa through Chihuahua in 1916.

At other times the intervention was cloaked in shadow—a secret payoff, a nod and a wink to some generals, or strangling an economy because some government had the temerity to propose land reform or a re-distribution of wealth. For 150 years, the history of this region, that stretches across two hemispheres and ranges from frozen tundra to blazing deserts and steaming rainforests, was in large part determined by what happened in Washington. As the wily old Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz once put it, the great tragedy of Latin America is that it lay so far from God and so near to the United States.

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Democratic Speed Bumps in Latin America

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Supporter of Manuel Zelaya being detained by police.  Orlando Sierra/AFP

After a decade of growing popularity, democracy has hit a slump in Latin America.

Supporter of Manuel Zelaya being detained by police. Orlando Sierra/AFP

A recent Latinobarómetro poll cited by The Economist in late October underscores this point. In all but three Latin American countries, fewer people than last year believe that democracy is preferable to any other type of government. In the cases of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, the drop in support for democracy is significant.

The 2009 removal of democratically elected Manuel Zelaya and the post-coup human rights abuses of the government of Porfirio Lobo are obvious indicators that Honduras is on the wrong track. Dozens of political murders have taken place in Honduras, and there has been little outrage from Washington. Additionally, November’s presidential elections in Nicaragua and Guatemala (and recent polling on Mexico’s 2012 election) reinforce the notion that many in the region have grown skeptical about democratic governance.

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Free Trade Agreements in Limbo

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President Barack Obama applauds during the heads of state retreat at the last session of the Summit of the Americas on April 19, 2009. Pete Souza/White House

The Obama administration recently named Gary F. Locke as ambassador to China replacing Ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. Huntsman who is stepping down for a presumed presidential run against his soon to be former employer.

President Barack Obama applauds during the heads of state retreat at the last session of the Summit of the Americas on April 19, 2009. Pete Souza/White House

The nomination of Gary Locke leaves the position of Commerce Secretary vacant for the foreseeable future. Senate Republicans have threatened to block the confirmation of a replacement until President Obama submits, for Senate consideration; the Panamanian and Columbian free trade agreements. The Obama administration has yet to do this. The United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) has been finalized but is being held up until the other two are finished and submitted to the Senate.

With Republicans holding 44 seats in the Senate, if the caucus can remain united, they will succeed in forcing the administration’s hand. Former trade representative under President Bush, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), suggested of the Republican strategy, “We’re trying to help the president to do what he has talked about, of doubling exports over the next five years.” Portman continued, “We can only do it by opening more markets to U.S. workers and farmers and service providers. And these three agreements are a great way to do it.”

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