Abbas rejects call from US to start direct negotiations

Abbas rejects call from US to start direct negotiations

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbasrejected a call by US special envoy George Mitchell on Saturday to hold direct negotiations with Israel, Fatah memberMohammed Dahlan said.

During the three-hour meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mitchell “did not give Israeli responses to the Palestinian questions regarding borders and security,” the Fatah Central Committee member said in a statement.

“Going to direct negotiations requires that there should be progress and clear Israeli answers regarding borders and security (…) In the absence of an Israeli response to these two issues, Fatah has not changed its position regarding its refusal to hold direct negotiations,” Dahlan said.

US President Barack Obama had urged Abbas in a telephone call last week to move from the current indirect or proximity talks to direct negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority said it would start direct negotiations, suspended since December 2008, only after progress in the proximity talks on borders and security.

In an interview with a Jordanian newspaper, Abbas said Saturday that he would be ready to enter direct negotiations if Israel accepted a third party or international force to maintain security of the borders with the Palestinian state.

Mitchell said the aim of his visit was to press on with Obama’s vision for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, “which must begin with an agreement between Israel and Palestine that will provide for two states living side by side in peace and security.”

That vision also includes peace between Israel and Syria and normalization of relations between Israel and “all the countries in the region,” he said.

Mitchell said he looked forward to continuing his talks with all parties in the near future, adding he was “heartened by the discussion that we had here today and in the past several days.”

The US envoy met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday.

Mitchell said he would be visiting “several other countries” in the region in an effort to gain support for the US peace plan.

The envoy also met Saturday with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who arrived in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad.

Ashton started a three-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza by announcing 40 million euros (52 million dollars) in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

During her second visit to the Gaza Strip this year Ashton is to inspect a summer camp and a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, which is set to receive an additional 1 million euros in EU funding.

However, meetings with leaders of the Islamist Hamas group, which runs the Gaza Strip, are excluded from Sunday’s schedule.

Israel normally shuts off the Palestinian enclave from international contact to avoid contact with Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the EU and the United States.

Ashton is also set to meet Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Sunday.

Israeli media reported this week that Lieberman would be ready to make a proposal to Ashton to allow the international community to conduct security inspections of goods and people entering Gaza by land and sea.

Regarding supervising the crossings, Ashton said the EU will be willing to do that. She said, “We are ready to engage in work at the crossing only if there is a clear role for the EU.” She said the “flow of people and goods is important to support business and the economy in Gaza.”

Ashton will visit Ramallah again on Monday to meet President Abbas.

The unprecedented crop failure in northern Kazakhstan

The unprecedented crop failure in northern Kazakhstan

A. Karatajev:

Unprecedented crop failure

The current drought old-timers compared to the drought of 1975. Then Aktobe had to procure coarse and succulent fodder far beyond, in the course was even chiliga.
Grain canceled
In Kobdinskom area this year were sown spring crops more than 56 thousand hectares instead of the planned 68.

Some farmers even before the spring sowing campaign refused to take risks. According to Acting Chief of District Department of Agriculture Aysagali Zhangasieva over the past two months, not a single drop of rain fell.Because of what crops were burnt during the shoots, in phase pusheniya, heading and booting.
– Yes, and spring had little vlagozaryadki, she averaged 40 cm. Even winter rye, we have almost gone. She has just been formed grain in the ear, – complains chief agrarian area.
Last year in the area had been written off about 60 percent of farmland. But a number of farms still able to get the harvest of 2-3 tons per hectare. But that was enough grain except for seeds, so farmers, indebted to financial institutions, failed to pay them. For example, such large farms, as Company “30 years of Kazakhstan”, “Bestau”, “Uspenivka” farm “Wak”, taken on lease Machinery.
– Their debt prolonged for 2010, but this year’s poor harvest again, – says Aysagali Zhangasiev. – Now, farmers shrug: although being returned equipment – pay nothing.We’ll have to re-write in credit institutions, to pay debts overdue for another year.
The main task at the farmers today – to return at least some portion of your investment. 90 percent of field area was insured before sowing, and now the city administration received applications from agricultural units to establish a commission to take them off and recoveries. Farmers in the area to insure their investment in three types: seeds, fuel and wages in societies vzaimostrahovaniya Aktobe-policy.
– As far as I know, they also have no money to implement in full, – says Aysagali Zhangasiev. – Company representatives recently traveled to Zharsaysky aul District and with my own eyes saw the deplorable state of cereal fields.

Hope for hay
Meanwhile, in the full swing harvesting fodder for winter. For this purpose the District Governor’s office created a special headquarters and its members twice a week to go forth aul districts. To gather information about the hay they bypass his household and agricultural units also conduct awareness-raising talk among the population.According to the Department of Agriculture, the average yield of hay compared with last year decreased by 2-3 times, and you can collect the order of two tons per hectare.
– Hay in the district fund is – assured Aysagali Zhangasiev. – If the pasture grass is not grown the economy, land committee allocates his other lands. A number of farmers mowing hay on the border with Wilsky area. A two-month plan on harvesting had already fulfilled half and hope that will make the necessary reserve for the winter.
In the district center of the cart of hay (100 bales) sold for 20,000 tenge. Last year it was worth 15-16 thousand. In the hayfield from the regional budget allocated 120 tons of diesel oil for 40 tenge per liter, which is distributed to the peasants.
– This, to people en masse began to cut and sell livestock due to lack of feed, we do not have – assured the chief agrarian area. – Everybody is trying to stock up with hay.Every year, we gradually increased the number of livestock in the 2-5 per cent, but this year the main task – to keep available. The problem with the feed grain, but we connect local entrepreneurs, so they took his carriage from the regional center and sold to the public at an affordable price.

With its forces
Farm “Maksat in Bulak aul District in the spring accounted for more than a thousand hectares of grain. But, alas, all burned. In addition, the farm spreads around 800-900 sheep and breeding cattle. According to one of the owners of farms Amantai Mukhamedyarova, they can procure the necessary supply of hay on his own and do not intend to get rid of the cattle. Now “maksatovtsy” mow the hay in the tract Koksal, 10 kilometers from the village of Alia. Pasture is on lease, there are 1,000 hectares of their land. In addition, Mukhamedyarova must provide their workers with hay – in “Maksat” with more than ten people.
Surplus guide BCH intends to sell the public at 200 tenge per pack. Recently, the Governor’s office held a gathering of rural farmers, the county where it was agreed not exceed the price in his village.
– There is agreement with Akimat – says Amantai Muhamedyarov. – And in the village all fall related to one another, so inflate the price does not work. Each year, the hay sold in the city, but this year seemed to provide. Sometimes we send one car in Aktobe, where we sell about 300-400 tenge per pack. With the money buy spare parts.
– Anyway, our place more or less successful – recognized Amantai. – For the farmer is hard every year, but this I have not seen. Even last year’s harvest was not the same, but the hay was in abundance.
At 10 kilometers from KX “Maksat” hay harvests Samat Erniyazov.
– I do not do separately pastoral or arable farming, – he says. – For more than five years on its technique hay for himself and relatives, selling the surplus. I work with nephews, who are studying in Aktobe universities. While mowing last year, the old grass. The current, probably will rise by fall. Still, it is twice less than in the past year, so you’ll have to mow until late fall. Many say that this year’s hay there, but my 300 hectares of land to provide a few families.
According to him, further away from Bulak, in the direction Karakuduk too good herbage.
– Many people are lazy to go so far – said Samat. – My land, located 20 kilometers from the village, are the most distant. But there were also times when for the sake of hay went to other areas.
As the mayor Bulak aul District Konysbek Shakenov, the District of farmers planted 6,750 acres, the result – zero. But hay should procure 9,720 tons. LLP Reed agro “and” Taldysay “should receive a half thousand tons. The remaining households will have to 3,5 thousand, private owners will need to 3700 tons.
– The district has 6 workers in the rear, they committed themselves to free our economy to bring the car of hay – said Akim District. – More residents approved the price – 200 tenge per pack. The problem is to provide livestock feed grain.

Three years of bad weather
– In fact, the third consecutive year, drought struck the region. But it is particularly tough this year – said Deputy Head of Regional Department of Agriculture Vladimir Litovchenko. – From March to July was normal rainfall. Because of the unprecedented heat for a long time soil warmed to 67 degrees. Worse, the very low moisture-accumulation occurred in the autumn and winter, and winter also had a low snowpack. As a result, bleached sown and natural grass in most areas.
According Litovchenko, almost 70 percent of sown areas of dead. Particularly serious postaradali crops in Alginskom, Wilsky, Temirskom, Mugalzharskom and Kobdinskom areas. Half the crop was lost in Martukskom and Kargalinskiy areas. In the remaining areas, the most optimistic forecasts, the yield was 2.3 tons per hectare.

Measures taken
To help farmers and out of the situation adopted a resolution akim of the region to eliminate the effects of drought, created a commission headed by first deputy akim of the region.
The budget allocated 150 million tenge on cheapening the cost of diesel fuel used for forage.
– Many people say that and we have declared emergencies, as in Russia. But there after declaring emergency fuel cheaper by 10 percent – said the deputy head of the department. – Our leadership has found opportunity to reduce the price of fuel by 50 percent in order to help people. Moreover, the economy, which will be hay and sell it to the public, will receive subsidies of 400 tenge per ton sold hay.
Also to encourage bimonthly for fodder allocated 5 million tenge.
Following four weeks of this bimonthly in the Department of Agriculture mark Kobdinsky, Irgiz, Wilsky and Shalkar areas that exceeded their commitments. Where more complex case in Alginskom, Kargalinskiy areas and in suburban Aktobe, where there is poor herbage. These areas allowed to cut hay on land holdings in the area Aytekebiyskom area. In addition, the options are processed the purchase and supply of hay by rail from southern Kazakhstan.
– We conduct weekly monitoring of the forage. Report immediately placed on the table akim. Particular attention is paid to prevent overcharging.
Also akimat area appealed to the Government, Ministries of Agriculture and Finance to consider providing assistance to offset costs, rollover of debts to the republican budget. This amounts to more than 2,5 billion tenge. This includes deliveries of equipment leasing, investment projects, loans. Especially heavily indebted farmers in Aktobe before AO Nuh “KazAgro – 1 billion 182 million tenge.
– We ask for debt prolong for 3 years, – said Vladimir Litovchenko. – In addition to this, the question of funding for the area under the “Food Contract Corporation” in the form of commercial loans for 87 thousand tons of seeds for sowing next year and the supply of 50 thousand tons of feed grain for the food needs of the population.
– We and its reserves will last, – assured the official. – But we are doing everything to help the people and not cause unnecessary excitement.
As compensation for farmers insurance obligations, the Office notes that 70 percent of the area insured. Two major “player” in this area – Society vzaimostrahovaniya Aktobe-policy “and” Dihan “- were formed recently, and they have authorized capital is low. So they too are in a quandary. Last year, farmers were paid about 260 million “insurance” tenge. This year, the Akim of the region appealed to the Government for allocation of funds for the completion of the authorized capital of insurance companies.
– In total, we ask the Government of 800 million tenge to such payments, – concluded Vladimir Litovchenko.
Abat Tau
July 15, 2010

Source – Aktobe Gazette

Kyrgyzstan Struggle Boils Down To Collision of Two International Political Experiments

Politics of the “great powers” in respect of Kyrgyzstan – the collision of two projects

E. Usubaliev:

The policy of “great powers” in respect of Kyrgyzstan: a clash of two projects.

April events in Kyrgyzstan, of course, will have a major impact on the future orientations of the country’s foreign policy. It is obvious that the weakness of the government in the country automatically leads to the vulnerability of the state by outsiders. Analysis of recent events and actions of the Provisional Government, showed that, firstly, the government was not able to act decisively to deter and prevent conflict in the south, during which there have been ethnic clashes. And secondly, despite requests for military assistance, the major powers, Russia and the United States in the early days of the conflict have taken a wait, but on its completion spoke highly skeptical about the future of Kyrgyzstan and the country’s stability.

All this may indicate that both powers have not only their plans for Kyrgyzstan, but also begin to implement their projects in the country, whose main goal – increased dependence of the new government of Russia or the United States.

If we let these “projects” a few words, then the project Russia is directed against the parliamentary system and it is preferable for strong presidential power. For the U.S., on the contrary a very convenient parliamentary form of government, as it is well within the scope of their understanding of democracy to the Third World.

The first signs that Russia may have a negative attitude to the development of parliamentarism in Kyrgyzstan appeared on June 21, when the Russian Internet sources, reports indicate that during the unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan, Russia has put forward some conditions under which she was willing to send troops into the republic, and dealt with the changes in the draft of the Kyrgyz constitution to preserve presidentialism. Later, by Medvedev during his visit to Canada noted that it is not a parliamentary republic in Kyrgyzstan will work.

It is likely that Russia is a parliamentary form of government is too weak to maintain order in the country and, more likely, Russia advantageous to deal with one strong leader, rather than with Parliament which, in theory, decision-making process should be more inclusive.

At the same time, the U.S. openly supported the idea of parliamentarism, allocating funds to conduct a referendum, increasing assistance to a network of NGOs in the development of democracy. Parliamentarism in Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. is beneficial because these conditions increase their ability to influence political decision-making as a leading individual parties (which will be held in the parliament) and through the civil sector (NGOs), which has traditionally been under their influence and control.

In the meantime, if Kyrgyzstan can not offer a vision of parliamentarism in the country and will not provide the necessary conditions for the preservation of a parliamentary republic and protection of the parliamentary system, both projects could threaten the stability of the country in the short and medium term.

Russian project – a strong presidential power is the danger of political instability, as the majority of political forces and the population against a strong presidential power. In this case, if Russia in one form or another support the “strong personality”, it will automatically increase the likelihood of a new revolution. Currently, a number of politicians among the former heads of security agencies trying to get Russia’s support on the eve of parliamentary elections in October 2010.

On the other hand, considering the fact that the U.S. has always played in the national contradictions and “the right of nations to self-determination” is their long-standing foreign policy tool to be feared that the U.S. can promote separatism in the south, and then conduct a scenario-type Kosovo in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The U.S. has already spoken in favor of the fact that ethnic minorities should be represented in parliament.

Far from denying the rights of national minorities to participate equally in politics and representation in government, parliament, it should be noted that the lack of clear interim government and a clear national policy that would address these and other questions of national minorities, is potentially a major threat to the state in the future.All ethnic groups that form the multinational character of Kyrgyzstan should be linked to its problems, and in particular in the political arena, not from outside forces in the face of other countries, and the internal politics of the state. It is noteworthy that none of the leading political parties of Kyrgyzstan have not yet presented its vision of national policy. All this together, creates conditions for the vulnerability of the state by outsiders.

In the “clash” of two projects – the Russian (the presidency) and American (parliamentary republic) there is an urgent need to develop their own path of development that may come to cut the possible action of the major regional and world powers.

The expert community, in search of a suitable model of parliamentarism, regularly appeals to the experience of Western Europe, believing that this is the lessons learned can be acclimated in a traditional society in Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, it is clear that Kyrgyzstan has not yet “ripe” for Western-style parliamentary system – is already visible signs of the impending fierce competition between the main parties of the country, while no one can give no assurances that this competition authorities, would not turn in the confrontation on the streets.

Crude parliamentarism, not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in Central Asia as a whole, is a common feature of post-Soviet independent development. Without going into lengthy discussions about the peculiarities of political power across the region, it is important to emphasize one detail – from a theoretical point of view, the question of parliamentarism in traditional societies, virtually worked out, but countries can not stop the experiments on its implementation in one form or another. From a practical point of view, all the Central Asian regimes have been unable to reach realistic balance of powers between the institutions of government, while existing forms of parliamentarism are only a mechanism for strengthening of authoritarian rule and may not reflect the whole range of political forces in any country in the region.

The weakness of the ideological platforms of the existing parties in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the inner structures of authoritarianism themselves (which are designed for one person, group or tribal groups, business associations) is also a factor that greatly complicates the development of parliamentarism in the country.

Middle Way of the parliamentary republic in Kyrgyzstan – an independent army out of politics, as the guarantor of stability, preserve the constitutional order and the protection of parliamentarism. There can be variations of the Turkish path of development and construction of a parliamentary republic – where the army reserves the right to interfere in politics in order to protect the constitutional order chosen, or stabilization. This way not only allows you to find a balance between the supporters of the “strong hand” and advocates of parliamentarism, but also significantly equalizes the possibility of Russia and the United States to influence the situation in the country.

Usubaliev Esen, PhD, director of the analytical center “Prudent Solutions”.

13.07. 2010

Source –

Plan Colombia: Ten Years Later

Plan Colombia: Ten Years Later

Drug War ChronicleIssue #640

The United States has been trying to suppress Colombian coca production and cocaine trafficking since at least the time of Ronald Reagan, but the contemporary phase of US intervention in Colombia in the name of the war on drugs celebrated its 10th anniversary this week. As Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) security analyst Adam Isaacson pointed out Wednesday in a cogent essay, “Colombia: Don’t Call It A Model,” it was on July 13, 2000, that President Bill Clinton signed into law a $1.3 billion package of mainly military assistance known as Plan Colombia.
Plan Colombia coca eradication scene

Plan Colombia was supposed to cut Colombian cocaine production in half by mid-decade, and while total US expenditures on it have now risen to $7.3 billion, that goal was clearly not met. But, a decade down the road, there has been some “progress.” The leftist peasant guerrillas of the FARC have been seriously weakened and are operating at half the strength they were 10 years ago. Violence has steadily decreased, as has criminality. The Colombian state has been strengthened — especially its military, which has nearly doubled in size.Still, as Isaacson notes, those gains have come at a tremendous cost. Thousands have been killed at the hands of rightist paramilitary groups aligned with powerful landowners and political elites, and while those paramilitaries officially disbanded several years ago, they appear to be reconstituting themselves. The seemingly endless “parapolitics” scandals linking the paramilitaries to high government actors demonstrate that the price of “progress” in Colombia has been corruption, impunity and human rights abuses.

And the war continues, albeit at a lower level. Some 21,000 fighters from all sides and an estimated 14,000 civilians died in the fighting this decade, and all the while, peasants were planting and harvesting coca crops, and traffickers were turning it into cocaine and exporting it to the insatiable North American and, increasingly, European markets.

While Colombian and US policy-makers have hailed Plan Colombia as a “success,” neither Isaacson nor other analysts who spoke to the Chronicle this week were willing to make such unvarnished claims. “‘Success’ has come at a high cost,” wrote Isaacson. “Colombia’s security gains are partial, possibly reversible, and weighed down by ‘collateral damage,'” including mass killings, other human rights abuses, and the weakening of democratic institutions.”

“Success has eluded efforts to achieve Plan Colombia’s main goal: reducing Colombian cocaine supplies,” wrote Isaacson. Despite years of aerial eradication, coca remains stubbornly entrenched in the Colombian countryside, showing a significant decline only last year, after Colombia switched its eradication emphasis from spraying to manual eradication. “This strategic shift appears to be reducing coca cultivation, for now at least. In 2009 — a year in which both aerial and manual eradication dropped sharply — the UNODC found a significant drop in Colombian coca-growing, to 68,000 hectares.”

But, as Isaacson and others note, that decline has been offset by increases in cultivation in Peru and Bolivia. In fact, total coca cultivation in the region has remained remarkably consistent since 2003, at about 150,000 hectares per year.

“If you look at it from point of aiding the Colombian government to fight against the FARC and other insurgents, it has worked,” said Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Latin American analyst for the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. “A decade ago, Colombia was close to being a failed state, with the FARC controlling large swathes of territory and threatening major cities. Today they are terribly weak and on the run, and much of their leadership has been killed,” he noted.
coca seedlings

“Due to the widespread use of helicopters and the fact that guerrillas don’t have that kind of mobility, the Colombians and Americans have been successful in shrinking the area of operation available to the guerrillas, and that has hurt the guerrillas’ ability to recruit,” said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. “A few years ago, there were maybe 16,000 FARC operating in six or seven major theaters, and now it’s about half that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the FARC is finished; we haven’t seen any sign of that. Their options are fewer, but they are far from disappeared. Plan Colombia has been successful in empowering the Colombian military, but not so much in solving the problem of the FARC insurrection.””On the military side, the counterinsurgency, there has been definite progress,” agreed Vanda Felbab-Brown, a drugs and counterinsurgency expert at the Brookings Institution. “The situation in the late 1990s was very bad. The FARC was in the hills above Bogotá, and the paramilitaries were highly organized. Today, the FARC is much weaker, land travel is more possible, and other security indicators also show progress. That said, the FARC is still around in substantial numbers and can jeopardize security and economic development in particular areas. And the paramilitaries are back, even if the Colombian government insists they are not the paramilitaries. They are, for all intents and purposes, just like the paramilitaries of the 1980s and 1990s.”

“The idea was that if they suppressed the coca, the capabilities of the FARC, the ELN, and the paramilitaries would be substantially weakened,” said Felbab-Brown. “They said that if you eliminated coca in Colombia, the conflict would end, but I don’t think you can bankrupt the belligerents through eradication. That didn’t pan out. In some places, the government was able to diminish at least temporarily economic flows to particular elements of the FARC, but that was the result of military operations, not eradication,” she argued.

“A lot of people say the FARC have lost their political agenda, that they are just traffickers, but I don’t subscribe to that view,” said Felbab-Brown. “If someone wants to conduct a rebellion, they have to have a way to finance it. I don’t think the FARC is any different. One of the big accomplishments of the US and the Colombian military was taking out a lot of top FARC leaders,” she continued. “Their current leaders have been out in the jungle so long, they suffer from a lack of intellectual imagination. But the FARC are peasant guerrillas, with a few intellectuals and students, and they were never strong ideologically. There is no equivalent of Comrade Gonzalo [of Peru’s Shining Path] or Mullah Omar or Bin Laden for the FARC. And I think they’ve run out of ideas. Times have changed, and the ideological story they want to tell the world and their members is crumbling, but it’s not the case they are just interested in money. They still want power, they still believe in narratives of war and conquest, but they don’t have anything to frame it with anymore.”

“They are about more than just criminality,” agreed Isaacson. “They’re raising drug money to buy guns and those guns are for something. While their ideology may be pretty stunted at this point, they are driven by a desire to take power — unlike, say, the Sinaloa cartel, which is driven by a desire to sell drugs. They hate Colombia’s political class, and they represent that small percentage of peasants on the fringe. Those boomtowns on the frontier, that’s where the FARC’s base is. Wherever there is no government and people are on their own, the FARC claims to protect them. They are not bandits — they are more dangerous than bandits.”

The paramilitaries continue to wreak havoc, too, said Felbab-Brown. “They assassinate community leaders and human rights organizers,” she said. “In some areas, they collude with the FARC; in others, they fight the FARC over cocaine routes and access to coca production. They are still a real menace, and it is very discouraging that they have come back so quickly. That shows the failure of the Colombian government to address the real underlying causes of the problems.”

That has been a serious flaw from the beginning, the Brookings Institution analyst said. “At first Plan Colombia was aimed at root causes of conflict and coca production, but that was dropped, and in the Bush administration it morphed into a counternarcotics and counterinsurgency project. Economic development was a minor component of the plan, and the US never tried to pressure Uribe to take on economic redistribution and the distribution of political power, nor has the US been very vocal about human rights and civil liberties issues.”

“When Plan Colombia was first conceived, it was primarily a domestic program aimed at drawing in the Colombian population, which at that time had become totally disaffected from the state,” recalled Birns. “It was to emphasize economic development, nutrition, and education. It was the Clinton administration that militarized Plan Colombia and made it into a security doctrine rather than an economic development formula.”

That only deepened in the wake of 9/11, said Birns. “Increasingly, Plan Colombia morphed first into a counternarcotics program than again into an anti-terrorist vehicle. The US began to define the FARC, which never had any international aspect, as terrorists. It was a convenience for the US policy of intervention to emphasize the terrorism aspect.”

But at root, Plan Colombia was first and foremost about reducing Colombian coca and cocaine production. “It wasn’t sold here in the US as a counterinsurgency effort, but as an effort to reduce the supply of cocaine to the US market,” Cato’s Hidalgo pointed out. “If you look at the acreage of coca planted in Colombia, it has decreased, but the production of coca remains the same, and coca production is increasingly dramatically in Peru and Bolivia. Once again, we see the balloon effect at work.”

“As the reduction took place in Colombia, it simply moved back to Peru, whence it originally came,” concurred COHA’s Birns. “Peruvian cocaine production is now half the regional total, so total cocaine production remains essentially the same, even though there has been a reduction in the role Colombia plays.”

“One of the best measures to see if the supply of cocaine has decreased is to look at price, but what that tells us is that cocaine was 23% cheaper in 2007 than it was in 1998 when Plan Colombia was launched,” said Hidalgo. “It is clear that Plan Colombia has failed in its main goal, which was to reduce the supply of cocaine to the US market.”

“We’ve tried everything,” said Hidalgo. “Aggressive aerial spraying of fields, manual eradication, as well as softer measures to entice producers to adopt other crops, and it’s all failed. As long as the price of cocaine remains inflated by prohibition, there is big profit and a big incentive for producers and traffickers to grow the plant and export the product to the US and elsewhere. The only way to curtail this is by legalizing cocaine. Other than that, I don’t see this as a battle that can be won.”

Felbab-Brown called the coca and cocaine production estimates “extraordinarily squishy,” but added it was clear that Plan Colombia had failed to achieve its goals there. “The plan was supposed to halve production in six years, and that clearly was not accomplished,” she said. “It would be false to deny there has been some progress, but it has not been sufficient. I think it was bound not to work because it was so heavily focused on eradication in the context of violence and underemphasized the need for economic programs to address why people cultivate coca. And the larger reality is even if you succeeded in Colombia, production would have moved elsewhere.”

Counternarcotics cannot solve Colombia’s problems, said Felbab-Brown, because coca is not at the root of those problems. “There is only so much that counternarcotics programs can do given the basic economic and political situation in Colombia,” said Felbab-Brown. “You have a set-up where labor is heavily taxed and capital and land are lightly taxed, so even when you get economic growth, it doesn’t generate jobs, it only concentrates money in the hands of the rich. The Colombian government has been unwilling to address these issues, and inequality continues to grow. You can only do so much if you can’t generate legal jobs. You have to take on entrenched elites, the bases of political power in Colombia, and Uribe’s people are not interested in doing that.”

But Uribe will be gone next month, replaced by his elected successor, Juan Manuel Santos. That could mean change, said Isaacson. “He’s not as ideologically to the right as Uribe, some of his appointments indicate people who actually have an interest in governance, and he is the principle author of the program they’re carrying out in the countryside to get the state and not just the military out there,” he said. “He could also be more open to the idea of peace negotiations than Uribe was.”

That may or may not be the case, but Plan Colombia under whatever president is not going to solve Colombia’s drug problem — nor America’s, said Isaacson. “At home, we need to reduce demand through treatment and other options,” he said. “In Colombia, as long as you have parts of the country ungoverned and as long as members of the government have nothing to fear if they abuse the population, there will always be drugs. Colombia needs to build the state and do it without impunity. We built up the Colombian military, but there was no money for teachers, doctors, or any public good besides security.”

Ten years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed off on the first $1.3 billion installment of Plan Colombia. A decade later, how is that working out? We ask the experts.

Incoming Colombian leader faces diplomatic minefield

[Uribe has just three weeks to embroil the region in war.]

Incoming Colombian leader faces diplomatic minefield

Source: Reuters
* President-elect Santos wants to improve regional ties* Departing Uribe keeps up broadsides against Chavez* Santos asks for dialogue with Venezuela, EcuadorBy Hugh BronsteinBOGOTA, July 16 (Reuters) – Outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s latest jab against neighbor Venezuela over leftist rebels is laying a diplomatic minefield for his successor Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office next month.Santos, set to be sworn in as Colombia’s head of state on Aug. 7, shares the same conservative policies as Uribe, but wants to smooth relations with Uribe’s long-time adversary, Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez.In its latest anti-Chavez broadside, Uribe’s government on Thursday said it had proof of “continued and permanent tolerance” shown by Venezuela toward Colombian guerrillas who Bogota says were hiding in Venezuelan territory.Venezuela on Friday angrily rejected the charges and recalled its ambassador for consultations, calling the allegations an attempt to sabotage ongoing efforts to mend ties as Santos prepared to come in as president. [ID:nN16100086]”Santos wants to normalize relations with Venezuela and Uribe does not want him to,” said Bogota-based political analyst Ricardo Avila.”There is genuine tension between them over this issue right now. Until he leaves office on Aug. 7 you can expect Uribe to keep firing away at Chavez while Santos tries to tone down the rhetoric and look for conciliation,” Avila said.Relations between conservative Uribe and left-wing populist Chavez have broken down over the last year, with the two charismatic politicians hurling accusations at each other.Santos, a former defense minister, has called however for dialogue with Colombia’s neighbors. He is known as a pragmatist who wants to use diplomacy to pressure Venezuela into cracking down on rebel commanders who Colombian intelligence sources say are camped out in Venezuela’s jungles.He is also keen to speed up Colombia’s economic recovery by getting trade back on track with Venezuela. There was more than $7 billion in cross-border commerce last year when Chavez cut off bilateral trade.Departing President Uribe has based his political career on fighting the leftist rebels who killed his father in a botched kidnapping attempt decades ago.”It is evident that President Uribe is uncomfortable with the decisions that Juan Manuel Santos is making,” said Colombian analyst Claudia Lopez. “What we are seeing is a president who is not at all ready to be an ex-president.”Uribe also recently blasted the foreign policy of another neighbor, Ecuador, as “dumb” after the courts in that country issued arrest orders for Santos and a top Colombian military chief for their roles in the 2008 bombing by Colombian forces of a rebel camp in Ecuadorean territory.SANTOS FAVORS DIPLOMACYSantos appears to prefer a more diplomatic style.”If there’s no dialogue, how can we resolve these problems?” he said at a conference on Thursday.Uribe’s government backed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to run for a third four-year term in a last-ditch attempt to crush Colombia’s decades-old insurgency.But the proposed amendment was struck down by the courts, clearing the way for Santos to win the presidency on promises of sticking to Uribe’s basic policy framework.Both are close to the United States and their market-friendly stance is appreciated by investors who have been spooked out of Venezuela and other Latin American countries such as Ecuador that have elected leftist rulers.Last year, Chavez halted trade with Colombia to protest a deal between Washington and Bogota that allowed the United States to use Colombian air bases for anti-drug missions.Chavez says the deal could set the stage for an invasion of his oil-rich country.Uribe, popular for making Colombia’s cities and highways safer, has been a key impediment to Chavez’s goal of advancing a region-wide socialist “revolution” inspired by communist-ruled Cuba, a key ally of the Venezuelan leader.”Uribe has three more weeks in office and he’s not going to go quietly,” said Daniel Coronell, a columnist for Semana magazine who is often critical of the outgoing president.”Remember that Uribe wanted to stay in office another four years,” Coronell said. “He’s not happy about losing power.”For the moment, it appears that Chavez’s government is prepared to blame the latest tensions squarely on the departing Uribe, and give some benefit of the doubt to Santos.”We don’t want a conflict with anyone … we’ll see with the new president in Colombia, by his fruits he shall be known,” Chavez said this week. He said he did not know whether he would attend Santos’ swearing-in next month. (Additional reporting by Nelson Bocanegra: Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)

“Operation Europe”–Columbian Secret Police Target European Critics, Call It “Legal War”

[Columbians claim leftists providing support to FARC, the same FARC that Columbian govt. claims is operating from Venezuela.  Those charges by the fascist American puppets have 46 American Navy ships backing them up.  How will the American hand support their bratty little proxy acting-up in Europe, as well?  One would think that American allies and so-called friends would tire of the snipey little covert wars waged upon them and turn away from the would-be global dictatorship.]

EU lawmakers urge probe of Colombian intelligence operations

EU parliamentarians have called on the Commission to look into Colombian intelligence operations in Europe designed to ‘neutralize the influence’ of critics of the Colombian government in parliament, the UNHCR and NGOs.

The call is supported by the head of the parliament’s human rights commission, Heidi Hautala, British socialist Richard Howitt and Green deputies Ulrike Lunacek and Barbara Lochbihler as well as the International Federation of Journalists and other NGOs.

The parliamentarians have also called on the Colombian government to give a full accounting of alleged illegal activity in Europe of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the Colombian agency charged with internal security.

“The Colombian government needs to clarify in what way the DAS acted against non-governmental or political organizations to influence and disqualify decisions made by the Human Rights Commission for the European Parliament,” Lochbihler and Hautala said in a statement on the eve of the EU’s signing of a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Some parliamentarians believe that the EU is reluctant to publicly denounce the Colombian intelligence operations because of Colombia’s strategic importance as a Western ally on Venezuela’s border and its domestic fight against powerful drug traffickers. EU officials fear that an investigation could torpedo ratification of the free-trade agreement, which they see as crucial support of Colombia.

Parliamentarians and victims of the DAS operation believe that Belgium, which took over the EU Presidency from Spain on July 1, may be more inclined to investigate the issue because much of the illicit Colombian activity occurred in Brussels and  Belgian citizens and residents – including European Parliament Green faction legal advisor Paul-Emile Dupret, Patricia Verbauwhede of the Belgian Catholic charity Broderlijk Delen and Luis-Guillermo Perez, the Brussels-based Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights – were targets of what DAS dubbed ‘Operation Europe.’

The operation aimed to discredit entities and persons critical of Colombia’s alleged abuse of human rights in its war on insurgents and drug traffickers through smear campaigns in the media and on the Internet and the establishment of fake NGOs in Europe. That’s according to Colombian court documents and critics, including Claudia Julieta Duque, a journalist who was forced to leave Colombia because of her coverage of government cooperation with right-wing paramilitary groups.

‘Operation Europe’

Pesident Alvaro UribeHow much did outgoing President Uribe know about the covert operations?

The documents became public in legal proceedings in Colombia against former DAS chief Jorge Noguera, who headed the 2002 election campaign of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe. Noguera is charged with overseeing the illegal wiretapping and surveillance in Colombia of judges, politicians, journalists, trade unionists and NGO activists as well as DAS’s foreign operations.

The documents refer to Operation Europe as ‘a legal war’ and describe DAS’s tactics as designed to neutralize “the destabilizing actions of NGOs in Colombia and the world.”

These tactics involved sowing controversy about and dissent within NGOs and opposition groups and faking links between critics of the government and illegal armed groups. They describe the fabrication of a guerrilla video featuring a Colombian journalist and requests to cancel his visa for travel abroad as well as false allegations of corruption and adultery, death threats and blackmail of critics of the government.

Alongside the European parliament and UNHCR, DAS also allegedly targeted among others Human Rights Watch, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Latin America Working Group, Peace Brigades International and Belgian NGO Oxfam Solidarity.

Human rights activist Perez reported to Belgian police last October the mysterious theft of three computers and a hard disk from his home in Hoeilaart in Belgium. In a meeting with NGOs in March in Brussels, newly-appointed DAS chief Felipe Munoz declined a request by Perez to see his DAS file.

An unidentified caller from Colombia advised Perez’s mother several weeks later, according to Belgian daily Le Soir, that “the Colombian president may be leaving (office) but we will always be here and we will always know how your children and their families conduct themselves.”

Claims and counter-claims

Dupret, the European parliament legal advisor, said he first encountered problems when in 2004 a website published a falsified note under his name suggesting that he supported the Revolutionary Army of Colombia (FARC), designated by the US and the EU as a terrorist organization. The note contained excerpts of a private mail sent from his parliamentary email. Dupret denies ever having had contact with FARC.

The note appeared shortly after he had been involved in a protest against a visit to Brussels by Uribe. Several months later, in transit at Miami airport en route from Caracas to Europe as part of a parliamentary delegation, Dupret was pulled aside by US officials and questioned for several hours about his ties to Colombia and articles he had written.

FARC rebelsThe DAS says its operations were aimed at investigating FARC’s influence in Europe

He has since been put on a US no-fly list. US authorities in September 2009 forced an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico to evade US air space because Dupret was on board. Dupret and others targeted by Operation Europe have taken their case to court in Brussels and are preparing to also file suit in Bogota.

Ecuadorian authorities are meanwhile investigating allegations of DAS wiretapping and interception of phone calls of senior Ecuadorian officials, including President Rafael Correa. Colombia has denied the charges. Colombia’s foreign ministry has also denied the illegal DAS activity in Europe.

“The information compiled by DAS, which is part of a file called ‘Europa,’ makes reference to data collected in 2004 and 2005 whose sources were published in the media and at public events. The collection of this information did not involve any kind of irregularity in intelligence material, nor any violation of the rights of European citizens,” the ministry said in a statement. Colombian officials said the file was created to determine what influence FARC may wield in Europe.

Government involvement?

Colombian prosecutors, however, charge that DAS’s wiretapping was sanctioned by senior government officials. Prosecutor Misael Rodriguez told a court hearing in April that the wiretapping “was directed from Casa de Narino,” the presidential palace.

In a report to the court, attorney general Guillermo Mendoza Diago detailed discussions in April 2008 between senior officials in Uribe’s office and DAS representatives about the illegal wiretapping operations.  The US Congress, in response to the charges, has prohibited US funding of DAS under the fiscal year 2010 foreign operations appropriations bill.

EU officials say an investigation could be counterproductive given Colombian statements that DAS may be disbanded. They also point to expected Colombian parliament approval of a new law drafted by Uribe that would reorganize DAS and put it under stricter supervision.

The MEPs as well as the DAS’s European targets and Colombian activists charge the draft law does not go far enough. In a statement, the Colombian Commission of Jurists, which according to the court documents was one of the NGO’s under DAS surveillance, said the law does not “establish adequate, effective and independent oversight of intelligence activities.”

Author: James M. Dorsey
Editor:  Rob Mudge

King of Kandahar on friends, enemies, and CIA rumours–CTV News

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King of Kandahar on friends, enemies, and CIA rumours

Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is pictured in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2009. (Jonathan Montpetit / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Janis Mackey Frayer, South Asia bureau chief, CTV News

Date: Sat. Jul. 17 2010 10:31 PM ET

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The most powerful man in Kandahar is alone in his reception room with two mobile phones and a string of prayer beads pinched between his finger and thumb.

He rises to greet his visitors, shakes hands, and sits again with a slight sigh. He checks his very gold watch. Then, in keeping with some unspoken routine, Ahmed Wali Karzai begins a ritual discussion of weather and war as they both make Kandahar a harsh place this time of year.

“Mainly the Taliban want to have an address,” he explains from an armchair, “they want to show something this summer. To show they are still around. That is why there is a good need for a military operation.”

I ask him if the best way to beat an insurgency is to kill.

“You have to show muscles,” he says, with a fist pump. “You have to hit them hard, as hard as you can because they have no mercy for anyone.”

Karzai’s detractors might say the same of him. The indisputable don of Afghanistan’s hostile south, he has been called a lot of things: a drug profiteer, a thug, a warlord’s heavy who threatens critics (or worse). Karzai’s well-nurtured notoriety spawns a list of accusations that include paying off the Taliban to grease an empire built around convoys and private security with international contracts from countries like Canada.

There is also that business of the CIA and reports that Karzai, the younger half-brother of the country’s president, has been on the payroll for years in part to mount a U.S.-funded paramilitary force to kill Taliban.

Is any of it true?

“My problem is never a legal problem,” says Karzai. “It’s always a political problem … those international media, they are doing it for some political reason.”

In the assessment of one coalition official: “Nothing in Afghanistan is clean.”

Any attempt to reveal incriminating evidence against Ahmed Wali Karzai has so far failed. No government or intelligence agency has ever produced the smoking gun or least nobody has dared.

“There is always politics,” Karzai says of the accusations leveled against him.

“Everybody wants to be in front. Some people, they spread rumours, they stab you in the back.”

Karzai is a ‘fixer’. In Kandahar, that can mean a lot of things.

What has been proven over years is that real power in Afghanistan is less a function of government or public service than a spoil of private fiefdom. Guns, money, and control of foreign support are the true benchmarks. To that end, Ahmed Wali Karzai is unstoppable and NATO has no choice but to need him.

In diplomatic circles and among the military leadership here, the younger Karzai and his unanswered questions are distilled to the initials ‘AWK’ and words like ‘issue’ or ‘problem’.

“AWK is a concern,” sighed a diplomat, “but he is a fact of life.”

It is an open secret that the international community would like Hamid Karzai to rein him in. AWK is said to be a common worry of the U.S. president and other foreign sponsors whose countries bear the financial and human costs of the war.

Karzai the president dismisses any criticism of his brother as baseless, but at times does so at a cost to his own credibility.

“It is hard to listen to one and look at the other and be convinced of a virtuous leader,” a senior official told me. When most people are asked about AWK, their opinions are shared in hushed voices on the condition they will not be named.

Among Afghans, Ahmed Wali Karzai is regarded with complementary doses of respect and fear.

On the day I visit his home, men with long beards and hard stares sit quietly in the unofficial waiting room. Their shoes — I count 37 pairs — are parked neatly at the steps near the door. They wait with their concerns and needs on the blue-carpeted floor until fate might yield the chance to see him. Karzai is a ‘fixer’. In Kandahar, that can mean a lot of things.

“I’m very close to the people, the tribes,” says Karzai. “I earn it. I work hard… this is the major thing that I am doing is to keep these things… calm.”

The Karzai hold on Afghans is firm. His control of for-hire security businesses has effectively created a private army that has thwarted the growth of a viable Afghan National Police force.

While patrolling the muddy warrens of a Kandahar neighbourhood, Canadian soldiers walked past the funeral of a young man shot dead that day in the market.

Through an interpreter a group of male relatives said he was “killed by one of AWK’s men.” They told the story of armed security guards looking to settle a score, and that their cousin was hit with a stray bullet.

Will they go to police? No, it’s AWK, they said. They seemed shocked both by the suggestion they would utter a word and that police would actually listen.

Collaborating with Ahmed Wali Karzai is among NATO’s bigger gambles in the south. Yet now, more than ever, he is crucial to the mission if it hopes to win anything close to stability in Kandahar.

In a report titled ‘Politics and Power in Kandahar’, the Institute for the Study of War ( concluded that, “Ahmed Wali Karzai’s influence over Kandahar is the central obstacle to any of ISAF’s governance objectives, and a consistent policy for dealing with him must be a central element of any new strategy.”

Its author, Carl Forsberg, went on to predict that Karzai’s behaviour and waning popularity among locals will only stir the sort of unrest and vacuum that allows space for the Taliban to exist.

Sources hint that Karzai and the need to remodel him form part of the reason why military operations slated for the summer are now effectively delayed until September.

There has been an off-the-cuff comparison to the prohibition era of 1930s America, where family cartels thrived on illicit trade and then looked to polish their image to the veneered appearance of legitimacy.

It is a trickier venture in Afghanistan. Yet it appears Ahmed Wali Karzai now sees himself as a dean of tribal dynamics and unofficial envoy to international players.

“We are winning,” Karzai says, with an emphasis on the inclusive. “Taliban is no longer a movement that can threaten the stability of Afghanistan. They can create problems. But I’m not worried sitting in Kandahar with my family that the Taliban will take over.”

(He claims nine assassination attempts against him in the past three years.)

In our interview that stretched nearly an hour, Karzai commended Canada for its efforts, and for bearing the challenges of serving in “the capital of Taliban and Al Qaeda.” He raves especially about Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance, who has returned as Commander of Canadian Forces for a few months.

“I really hope to see General Vance,” he says, “maybe he will come for lunch.”

I asked Karzai if 2011 was too early for Canadian troops to be leaving Afghanistan. He explained that with 30,000 American troops here now it is no longer the concern of numbers that it was in 2006. Still, he believes it sends the wrong message about commitment, and the Taliban benefits.

“It’s up to them,” Karzai says of Canada’s political decision-makers. “If they know the war is over they can leave. The war is still going on. War is still happening.”

According to some estimates, the war has meant a billion dollar commercial network for the Karzai family through businesses dealing in food, fuel, construction, and security. Canada has one of his firms on contract to guard the Dahla Dam project.

As for being a paid operative of the CIA, Karzai never flatly denies the allegation. He says he meets with everyone — Americans, British, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, Dutch.

“We are partners in this war, you know,” he says. “I didn’t sign a paper with a contract that I work for this agency or this person or this organization. I met with your Special Forces, I met with your military, I met with your generals. Can someone accuse me tomorrow that I was working for the Canadians?”

At the end of our discussion, Ahmed Wali Karzai wished us well. His next guests were already waiting on the couch. He checked his very gold watch and shifted his attention. We left Karzai’s villa, walking past the barefoot men still waiting, and returned to the weather and war that make Kandahar a harsh place this time of year.