UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND
USSOUTHCOM HEADLINE NEWS
Saturday, January 22, 2011
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SOUTHCOM RELATED ARTICLES
1. Cole Bombing Suspect Could Face Trial At Guantanamo
Source: The Virginian-Pilot 02/21/2011
NORFOLK ─ The man suspected of masterminding the bombing of the destroyer Cole could be
one of the first to face trial before a new round of military commissions at Guantanamo, according to a
New York Times report.
The newspaper reports that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to lift an order that had
blocked new cases against Guanatanamo detainees including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national
suspected in the bombing that killed 17 sailors in Yemen in 2000.
Al-Nashiri, captured in late 2002 and held for years at CIA black sites, was scheduled to be
arraigned on capital murder charges in early 2009. But days before that happened, the official in charge of
military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, announced she had dismissed the charges against him.
Around the same time, President Barack Obama took office, promising to close the detainee
facility in Cuba. He met with some families of Cole victims at the White House and pledged that justice
would be done, but he said the cases needed to be reviewed.
Since then, there have been only more delays, frustrating relatives of those who died.
Complicating the case against al-Nashiri is the government's acknowledgment that U.S.
interrogators tortured him, subjecting him to waterboarding as well as threatening him with a gun and
power drill and telling him he was about to be executed. Al-Nashiri has claimed in court hearings that he
confessed to various crimes, including the Cole attack, as a result of the torture.
The Times reported that the official who oversees the commissions, retired Vice Adm. Bruce
MacDonald, may allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against al-Nashiri — which would set up the
first capital trial in the tribunal system.
Legal experts have said his confession would likely be inadmissible in court because it was
coerced - and they question whether the government would be able to secure a capital murder conviction
Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, a military lawyer assigned to defend al-Nashiri, declined to comment to
The Times on any movement in the case. But he noted that two of al-Nashiri's alleged co-conspirators
were indicted in federal civilian court in 2003, and he made clear that the defense would highlight al-
Nashiri's treatment in CIA custody.
''Nashiri is being prosecuted at the commissions because of the torture issue," Reyes said.
"Otherwise he would be indicted in New York along with his alleged co-conspirators."
2. Judge Denies Guantanamo Detainee's Request For Acquittal, New Trial
Source: Wall Street Journal 01/21/2011
By Chad Bray
NEW YORK—A former Guantanamo detainee's conviction will stand in a conspiracy to bomb
two U.S. embassies in Africa more than a decade ago, a federal judge has ruled.
Ahmed Khailfan Ghailani, 36 years old, was convicted in November of one conspiracy count in
the 1998 bombings outside U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, but acquitted of 281 other counts. The
attacks killed 224 people and injured thousands.
Mr. Ghailani's lawyers have argued in part that the verdict was inconsistent with his acquittal on
the other counts.
"Thus, if there was any injustice in the jury's verdict, the victims were the United States and those
killed, injured and otherwise devastated by these barbaric acts of terror, not Ghailani," said U.S. District
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan.
In an opinion issued Friday, the judge denied Mr. Ghailani's request for an acquittal or a new trial.
Mr. Ghailani was the first former detainee of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be tried in a
U.S. civilian court and his case was seen as a key test for the Obama administration regarding civilian
trials for major terrorism suspects.
At a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the administration's
goal remains to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay because it has become a recruiting tool for al Qaeda
and has driven a wedge between the U.S. and some of its allies. He said some detainees could be tried
before military tribunals.
Mr. Ghailani faces a sentence of 20 years to life on the conspiracy charge. Sentencing is set for
Mr. Ghailani's lawyers have sought leniency at sentencing, citing his mistreatment while in U.S.
custody and that he provided the U.S. with information while being held by the Central Intelligence
Agency and the U.S. Defense Department.
While in CIA custody, Mr. Ghailani was subject to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques,
which his lawyers have said equated to torture. Mr. Ghailani has been in U.S. custody since July 2004 and
held at Guantanamo since September 2006. He was held for a period of time at secret CIA "black sites."
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have said he should receive a life sentence.
A lawyer for Mr. Ghailani didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment Friday.
OTHER AOR RELATED ARTICLES
3. Colombia Stepping Up Anti-drug Training Of Mexico's Army, Police
Source: Washington Post 01/22/2011
By Juan Forero
CAJICA, COLOMBIA - Long experienced in fighting cocaine cartels and Marxist guerrillas,
Colombia is training thousands of Mexican policemen as well as soldiers and court officers to help
contain drug gangs that have turned parts of Mexico into virtual combat zones.
Most of the training has taken place in Mexico, Colombian and American officials say. But in a
sign of how serious the threat posed by the Mexican cartels has become, an increasing number of Mexican
soldiers and policemen are traveling here to train with Colombia's battle-tested police commandos.
"Mexico has what we had some years ago, which are very powerful cartels," Colombian President
Juan Manuel Santos said in a recent interview. "What we can provide is the experience that we have had
dismantling those cartels, training intelligence officers, training judicial police."
Colombia's new role provides the Obama administration, which pays for part of the training and
has a close alliance with Colombia, with a politically viable way to improve Mexican security forces
without a substantial American military or police presence in Mexico. Placing U.S. forces there would be
politically contentious in Mexico even as Washington commits hundreds of millions of dollars to help
smash powerful drug cartels.
"The American military can indirectly do a lot more through the Colombians than they politically
would be able to do directly," said Roderic Ai Camp, an expert on Mexico's military at Claremont
McKenna College in California. "Given the loss of half of Mexico's national territory to the United States
in the 19th century, and the Mexican army's hesitant cooperation with their American counterparts, the
Colombians are a logical proxy."
Colombia's shift reflects its desire to demonstrate an ability to help resolve regional problems
instead of being seen as simply a recipient of U.S. aid, which totals $9 billion, mostly in military
hardware, going back to the Clinton administration.
Colombia is still the No. 1 producer of cocaine, much of which passes through Mexico en route to
American consumers. Colombian drug gangs still battle it out over cocaine routes while guerrillas engage
security forces in a conflict now in its 47th year.
But things were far worse a generation ago, when the city of Medellin had the world's highest
Back then, Pablo Escobar's notoriously violent cocaine cartel in that northern city bombed
shopping malls, killed high-profile politicians and even blew an airliner out of the sky, before his death
when police hunted him down in 1993. A decade ago, another force appeared to be an even greater threat:
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a rebel group that controlled huge swaths of
territory and regularly defeated military forces.
These days, though, Colombia's homicide rate has dropped substantially, and the government has
wrested control of territory where the FARC once held sway. In the past decade, the size of Colombia's
drug crop has been reduced by more than half through an American-funded aerial fumigation program,
U.N. officials say. And the country's economy is considered one of the most dynamic in Latin America.
It is now Mexico that, to some observers, appears like that previous Colombia - with ruthless
narcos beheading adversaries and innocent civilians often killed in the crossfire.
Mexico's ambassador to Colombia, Florencio Salazar, said Colombia's complex conflict, which at
its root is political, is far different from the crisis in his country, where drug gangs are in it solely for the
But "the capacity that the armed forces and police have in Colombia is very useful," Salazar said.
"We are looking to work together on solutions."
Colombia's national police force collects forensic evidence, like any police department. But it is
also unique in the Americas in that it operates like an army light infantry unit, equipped with helicopters
and potent munitions to take on heavily armed bands.
"They just have experience in stuff that others don't have: experience in dealing with kidnappings,
experience in explosives, experience in taking down powerful narcotics organizations," said William R.
Brownfield, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia who now heads the State Department's Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Colombian instructors, accompanied by investigators and prosecutors from the United States and
Canada, have run weeks-long courses in Mexico on how to collect evidence and carry forward cases to
help break up drug cartels.
Mexican judicial authorities, including prosecutors and judges, have come to Colombia to discuss
legal reforms that Mexico can implement to give the state more leverage in seizing assets tainted by
In all, about 7,000 Mexicans have participated in the training, which is paid for in part by
$800,000 in U.S. funds.
The violence in Mexico began to spike dramatically in 2006, when President Felipe Calderon
deployed thousands of troops and federal police to combat drug cartels.
The death count is now nearly 35,000, as the cartels have fought back ferociously to maintain their
Some of those gangs have responded with the weaponry and strategies of war, including
preemptive ambushes against Mexican forces and efforts to control territory, said Steven Dudley, co-
director of InSight, a think tank that tracks organized crime in Colombia and Mexico.
"If a security force encroaches on that territory, then they respond in much the same way as a
guerrilla group would respond," Dudley said. "We are increasingly seeing tactics that are similar to
guerrillas, like car bombs, use of grenades, the interest in controlling territory."
Early one morning shortly before dawn, Colombian police commandos barked orders like drill
sergeants at six Mexican policemen and two Mexican soldiers during a mock attack here outside Cajica, a
town on a frigid mountain in central Colombia. The target in the training exercise: a heavily defended
It was the tail end of four months of training that included lessons on how to carry out operations
in the jungle, jump from helicopters, defuse bombs and conduct raids on urban strongholds.
One of the policemen, Cesar Mejia, had been a lawyer but became a detective, never thinking he
would need commando training for his job.
"The criminals get stronger all the time, and with this we are also preparing," said Mejia, wearing
camouflage and a helmet and carrying an assault rifle. "You never know when you will be in high-risk
situations, in rural areas or in the city."
Carlos Nieves, another Mexican policeman, serves on a Mexico City-based team that rushes into
some of the country's hot spots. He said the traffickers frequently have far more firepower than the police.
"They use all kinds of guns, .50-caliber machine guns," he said.
But training here on the high mountain ridgeline, Colombian commandos from the police's Jungla,
or jungle team, told Nieves to meet heavy firepower with heavy firepower.
When the operation was over, the trainers demanded more: a long march, with 50-pound packs,
that ended with a 100-yard crawl through mud. During his four months here in Colombia, Nieves lost 30
But "it will help us become better policemen," he said, "teaching us how to survive."
4. Cuba Suspends Mail Service To US
Source: Associated Press 01/22/2011
By Andrea Rodriguez
HAVANA – Cuba suspended indefinitely all mail service to the United States on Friday,
extending a ban announced in November and expanding it to cover letters as well as packages.
The move is a setback for relations between the two countries, enemies for more than half a
century. It came just days after the Obama Administration announced it was easing travel restrictions on
academics and church groups seeking to visit the island.
"Until further notice, we cannot continue to accept any type of delivery," Cuba's mail service,
Correos de Cuba, said Friday in an announcement read over state television.
Mail service was suspended in the 1960s, shortly after Fidel Castro came to power. Limited mail
service routed through third countries resumed in 2009, following talks between U.S. and Cuban officials.
But deliveries were suspended in November following a U.S. decision to increase security
measures following last year's failed terror threat involving packages mailed from Yemen.
Friday's announcement extends that ban to cover all types of correspondence, including letters and
postcards, according to the newscast.
"I think it has to do with how countries, on a case-by-case basis, are working through new
regulations that have been put into effect," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, a reference to
the security measures put in place due to the Yemen incident.
5. Duvalier Breaks Silence As U.S. Gets Tough
Source: Miami Herald 01/22/2011
By Jacqueline Charles and Trenton Daniel
A U.S. attorney for Jean-Claude ``Baby Doc" Duvalier said Friday the one-time strongman's
surprise return to Haiti was, in part, to help secure a $6 million bounty in Swiss bank accounts.
``Not for himself," attorney Ed Marger said after Duvalier spoke publicly for the first time since
abruptly returning to Haiti. ``What he would like to do with the funds in Switzerland is to contribute that
to the rebuilding of the country. And that is one of the reasons why he came back."
Duvalier did not address the Swiss funds in his prepared statement, in which he said that he
returned after 25 years in exile to mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake.
``When I made the decision to come back to Haiti to commemorate this sad anniversary with you,
in our country, I was ready for any kind of persecution," he said. ``But I believe that the desire to
participate by your side in this collaboration for the national reconstruction far outweighs any harassment
I could face."
The statement came on the day the United States revoked visas of some Haitian officials, hoping
to increase pressure on the government to resolve a political crisis stemming from November's disputed
elections. Some feared the impasse would deepen with Duvalier's return.
``Our focus at the present time is in ensuring a free, fair and credible election process in Haiti,"
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Since Duvalier's Sunday arrival, prosecutors have charged the former dictator with embezzlement
and corruption; others followed by filing human rights abuse complaints against him.
Duvalier, 59, made the trip just before a Swiss law that could entitle him to at least $4.6 million
takes effect on Feb. 1. To collect the funds, he would have to show Haitian authorities aren't interested in
Duvalier's comments fell short of an outright apology to those who endured his brutal and
allegedly corrupt rule from 1971 to 1986, when a popular uprising forced him to flee.
``I also take this opportunity to express once more my deep sadness at the place of my countrymen
. . . who have suffered under my government," said Duvalier, sometimes slurring his words.
He said he came to commemorate the victims of the devastating earthquake and ``show solidarity"
with his fellow Haitians.
He was accompanied by several consultants, including Bob Barr, a former U.S. congressman who
ran for president on the Libertarian ticket.
Duvalier's sudden return threw the country into confusion amid election officials' struggle to sort
out results from the Nov. 28 vote.
The Organization of American States has urged Haitian officials to accept a report drafted by a
team of its election experts showing that third-place finisher Michel ``Sweet Micky" Martelly, not ruling
party candidate Jude Célestin, should advance to a runoff with ex-first lady Mirlande Manigat.
The findings ran counter to preliminary results showing Célestin and Manigat won spots in the
second round and that Martelly finished third -- a move that unleashed two days of unrest.
Martelly on Friday called on the Provisional Electoral Council to accept the OAS report, saying he
was the victim of a plot orchestrated by the ruling party and electoral commission. Martelly and another
opposition candidate presented their cases in a hearing that began Friday and resumes Monday.
The Haitian government has called the OAS findings flawed, and election officials have said they
are not bound by the OAS recommendations. A runoff scheduled for Jan. 16 was postponed, and no new
date has been set.
The U.S. decision to revoke the visas signals its growing frustration with the Haitian government.
According to Haitian radio, government officials and powerful allies saw their visas yanked.
Crowley declined to elaborate on the visa issue. But when asked whether there was a link to
Haiti's disputed presidential elections, he reiterated the U.S. position that Haiti needs to adopt the OAS
``There are strong reasons to believe that the results that were announced do not reflect the will of
the Haitian people," Crowley said. ``To the extent that there are individuals who are connected with
episodes of violence or corruption, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action."
The State Department's announcement came a day after the Obama administration sharpened its
urging that Haitian resolve the electoral impasse -- or risk losing international support.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said at the United Nations that Haiti needs to find a way to quickly
seat a legitimately and democratically elected government.
6. Duvalier: I Came To Take Part In Reconstruction
Source: Associated Press 01/22/2011
By Jonathan M. Katz
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier told Haitians on Friday that he
returned after 25 years in exile to participate in the post-earthquake reconstruction of his homeland and
that he was ready to face "persecution" for alleged crimes during his administration.
In his first public comments since his shocking return to Haiti on Sunday, the ousted strongman
known as "Baby Doc" spoke in a faint voice and did not take questions, leaving that to three American
consultants - including former U.S. congressman and presidential candidate Bob Barr - and one of his
He said the return was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010,
"When I made the decision to come back to Haiti to commemorate this sad anniversary with you,
in our country, I was ready for any kind of persecution," Duvalier said in a faint voice. "But I believe that
the desire to participate by your side in this collaboration for the national reconstruction far outweighs any
harassment I could face."
After several restaurants and hotels refused to host his speech, Duvalier spoke sitting at a long
wooden table in a rented guest house in the hills above Port-au-Prince. He faced a jostling throng of
cameras and reporters - mostly Haitians.
The 59-year-old former leader, who ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986 through terror and the regime
he inherited from his father, returned Sunday evening to the shattered nation. He soon found himself
facing an investigation by a Haitian court for corruption, embezzlement, torture, arbitrary imprisonment,
crimes against humanity and other allegations.
His motives for returning have been a source of debate and confusion. Some believe he had a
desire to unlock Swiss bank accounts that contain the last remnants of his squandered fortune. Others
speculate that he is gravely ill, or that he is a pawn in someone else's game - Haiti's current president, the
United States or France - to influence Haiti's current electoral crisis.
Duvalier did not address any of those topics, other than to say it was his choice to return. He
appeared to be in imperfect health, slurring his speech at times in a near-whisper, apparently unable to
move his neck and walking with a shuffle.
Much of the speech was a throwback to earlier times. He spoke in French, the colonial language
used by presidents until after his ouster, dropping in only occasional words of Haitian Creole.
He referred to his arrival Sunday at "Francois Duvalier International Airport" - which carried his
father's name until his fall from power. It is now Touissant Loverture International Airport, named for the
leader of Haiti's late 18th Century revolution.
About Haiti's past, Duvalier expressed sympathy primarily for his partisans "killed, burned,
grilled, tortured by `Pe Lebrun'" - the Haitian slang term for placing a tire around someone's neck and
setting it on fire - or who lost their property in revenge against his regime following his ouster.
"And all under the glare of cameras around the world," he added.
As for those tortured, imprisoned, killed and exiled under his rule he offered "my profound
sadness toward my countrymen who consider themselves, rightly, to have been victims of my
He ended with a declaration "imitating Martin Luther King" in which he envisioned a day when
"all Haiti's children, men and women, old and young, rich and poor, from the interior and from the
diaspora, can march hand in hand without exclusion to participate together in Haiti's rebirth."
As he shuffled off, the Americans - Barr, longtime Duvalier family advisor and attorney Ed
Marger and Snellville, Georgia, attorney Mike Puglise - arrived with Haitian lawyer Reynold Georges to
take questions while a band waving Duvalier's red-and-black party flag played outside.
Barr called Duvalier's speech "profoundly moving."
Marger, who handled most of the queries, said they were there to help Duvalier collect
undelivered reconstruction funds promised by the United States and other countries at the March 31,
2010, U.N. donors' conference. He said Duvalier could manage them more effectively than former U.S.
President Bill Clinton and distribute them more justly than current Haitian President Rene Preval.
The men said they would be paid if Duvalier is able to collect those funds.
On the ex-dictator's health, Marger said he appeared to be suffering from a "stiff neck."
As for the accusations about the abuses under his regime, Marger said: "Are there atrocities in
Haiti? You bet your life. Is (Duvalier) responsible for them? I don't know."
Amnesty International reiterated Friday that Duvalier should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of
"There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. Jean-Claude Duvalier therefore
must be brought to justice for these acts," said researcher Gerardo Ducos. "He must remain in the country
as long as the investigation is taking place."
But many Haitians, too young to remember his time in power, reacted more favorably to the ex-
"He came to do good things for us. This country doesn't function anymore," said Kevins Felicie, a
motorcycle driver born four months after Duvalier boarded a U.S. plane for exile. "It wasn't me that was
hurt by him, or even my dad - but my grandfather. He didn't do anything to me."
Associated Press writer Jacob Kushner contributed to this report
7. US Revokes Visas To Pressure Haiti On Election
Source: Associated Press 01/22/2011
By Ben Fox and Jonathan M. Katz
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The U.S. State Department said Friday it revoked the visas of about a
dozen Haitian officials, increasing pressure on the government to drop its favored candidate from the
presidential runoff in favor of a popular contender who is warning of renewed protests if he is not on the
Revoking visas that let prominent Haitians enter the United States is the latest step in an escalating
effort to persuade Haiti's government to accept international monitors' finding that Michel Martelly
rightfully belongs on the second-round ballot.
Martelly has adopted a combative stance and urged his supporters to take to the streets peacefully
if the electoral council does not allow him to run against top vote-getter Mirlande Manigat in the runoff,
in place of Jude Celestin. Demonstrations in December shut down all Haiti's major cities for days,
hampering earthquake reconstruction and efforts to halt a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 4,000
"We are ready to fight for justice for everyone," Martelly said at a news conference while
surrounded by bodyguards. "We won't accept an electoral coup."
Preliminary official results from the first round of voting showed Martelly failing to reach the
runoff - finishing just behind Celestin, President Rene Preval's chosen successor.
But an international team of experts from the Organization of American States found problems
with the count. Its calculation indicated Martelly, a singer known as "Sweet Mickey," beat Celestin and
should be in the runoff. The U.S. and other foreign forces have been pushing the government to accept
A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of privacy
concerns, would not specify the names of the officials whose visas were revoked or state the specific
reason for the action.
But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley stressed to reporters that the U.S. wants to see the
Haitian government accept the OAS recommendations.
"To the extent that there are individuals who are connected with episodes of violence or
corruption, you know, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action," he said.
Haiti has been in a political crisis since the announcement of results from the Nov. 28 election,
which featured documented cases of fraud and widespread disorganization.
The second round was originally scheduled for Jan. 16 but postponed amid the wrangling. Critics
including the left-leaning Washington think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research have argued
that the entire election was flawed and should be thrown out and done over.
If the Haitian government accepts the OAS recommendation, Martelly, a populist who says he will
be more active than Preval and advocates re-establishing Haiti's banned military, would be a strong
challenger to Manigat, a former first lady and law professor who is a more muted conservative and
finished comfortably in first place.
Though he accepted the OAS team's presence during the election, Preval is reportedly unhappy
with its recommendations and incensed that its report was leaked to the press before he had officially
received it. He has not commented publicly.
The provisional electoral council, appointed by Preval, played down the OAS recommendations,
saying it would consider them as one appeal among others filed by candidates and observers.
But on Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, made it clear that
Washington wants the report implemented.
"Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a
credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people," Rice said.
Washington is waiting to release nearly $1 billion in promised post-earthquake reconstruction aid
to Haiti. Billions more have been promised by other nations.
Martelly read Rice's comments as a threat of possible sanctions similar to a crippling embargo
against the military junta that ruled Haiti in the early 1990s. "How can Haiti afford an embargo right
now?" he said.
Haitian radio also reported Friday that the U.S. tourist visas of several officials close to Preval had
been suspended. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment, citing privacy rules for individual visa
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy also warned that Haiti could face more political instability
unless the government accepts the OAS recommendations.
Following the Dec. 7 announcement of the election results, pro-Martelly demonstrators paralyzed
cities across Haiti for days. The United States renewed its travel warning for Haiti on Thursday, citing in
part the recent demonstrations.
"We are going to take to the streets peacefully," Martelly said Friday. "I am in a fight to make sure
the voice of the people is respected."
Associated Press writer Desmond Butler in Washington contributed to this report.
8. Protected, For Now
Source: Miami Herald 01/22/2011
Immigration authorities had good news for the Haitian community this week. Now they should
take some additional steps to make it even better.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, at least 46,000 Haitians
living in the United States at the time of the earthquake that devastated their country have been granted
TPS -- temporary protected status. That's a healthy majority of the 53,000 who applied for the special
designation. TPS allows them to work legally in the United States for 18 months as their country
continues its frustratingly slow recovery from last year's natural disasters -- Haiti got slammed by a
hurricane, too -- and a more-recent man-made catastrophe, a cholera outbreak.
Granting Haitians TPS not only was compassionate, but practical, too, allowing them to find jobs
and send sorely needed remittances to relatives at home. But their TPS expires in July. It should be
Immigration authorities should grant relief, too, to the many Haitians who sought shelter here
immediately after the quake. Many don't have legal status; others have visas that are set to expire; others
came by air ambulance and still need the medical care that they are receiving in the United States. It
makes little sense to deport them now, needlessly adding to the pressure on scarce life-sustaining
resources in Haiti, especially shelter.
Advocates are seeking a couple of common-sense measures. They are asking immigration officials
to push forward the date of TPS eligibility. Currently, one had to be in the United States on Jan. 12, 2010,
when the earthquake occurred. Or the U.S. government can grant them ``deferred action" -- a temporary
discretionary relief that would let them work legally and send money home. Immigration officials should
act on these ideas -- quickly, and with resolve.
9. Commentary: Obama Must Be Pushed By Congress On Latin America
Source: McClatchy News Service 01/22/2011
By Andres Oppenheimer
For the past two years, the Obama administration has managed to keep its Latin American policy
largely out of the headlines, focusing its energies on Iraq, Afghanistan and other world hot spots. But
that's about to change.
There is a consensus in Washington's foreign policy circles that the Congress that took office
earlier this month after the GOP victory in the midterm election will put pressure on the administration to
take a harder line on the authoritarian regimes of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Key congressional committees have changed hands, and are now led by Republican foreign policy
hawks who have long criticized President Barack Obama for allegedly being too soft on Venezuela's
President Hugo Chávez and his allies in the region.
In an interview last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, the new chairwoman of the House's
powerful Committee on Foreign Affairs, told me that there will be subcommittee hearings and
investigations into issues such as Chávez's suspected aid to Middle Eastern terrorist groups and his links
to Iran's secret nuclear weapons program.
``It will be good for congressional subcommittees to start talking about Chávez, about (Bolivian
President Evo) Morales, about issues that have not been talked about," she said. ``We are going to have a
discussion about all of these issues."
Ros-Lehtinen, who has scheduled a trip to Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Honduras in March,
said that the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs is likely to hold hearings on whether to
place Venezuela on the State Department's list of terrorist countries.
The subcommittee's new chairman, Rep. Connie Mack of Fort Myers, supports the idea. Ros-
Lehtinen suggested to me that she doesn't, for practical reasons.
The House is also likely to hold hearings on whether to impose economic sanctions on
Venezuela's oil monopoly PDVSA and Venezuelan banks, she said.
Won't these discussions be counterproductive, and give Chávez great ammunition to support his
claims that he is a victim of the ``U.S. empire," I asked her.
``The United States must have principles. It's very nice to think that one can be friends of the
entire world, but if we do that, we don't have principles," she said. She added that Chávez and his allies
are going to blame the United States for everything anyway, regardless of what Washington does.
Ros-Lehtinen will not be the only new powerful voice in Congress demanding a tougher line on
Venezuela. The new Republican chairmen of the House's Intelligence Committee and Judiciary
Committee are also more likely to press for inquiries into Venezuela's ties with Iran and terrorism,
Republican foreign affairs analysts say.
``They will start asking questions, and they will make a difference," says Roger Noriega, who was
head of the State Department's Latin American affairs during the George W. Bush administration. ``They
will demand accountability from the administration, and that will bring about consequences."
Obama supporters concede that the new Congress is likely to have an impact on the
administration's Latin America policy, but warn that it will be a negative one.
``Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has already said that she wants to cut the State Department budget and
foreign assistance," said Jeffrey Davidow, who served as head of the State Department's Latin American
affairs office during the Clinton administration. Davidow added that ``we need the tools of diplomacy and
foreign aid to maintain our position in this hemisphere."
In addition, the new Republican congressional leaders' ``negative rhetoric" will hurt the U.S.
image in the region, which ``could result in a weakening of the kind of support we need to pursue our
interests," Davidow said.
My opinion: I'm afraid that extreme rhetoric from Congress on Venezuela and its allies will play
into Chávez's hands. It will give the narcissist-Leninist leader ammunition to play the victim, and to
blame Washington for his country's economic disaster.
The good news is that Ros-Lehtinen is sounding more judicious -- even more moderate -- since
her appointment to her new role, not only on Venezuela but also on foreign aid and other Latin American
issues. In addition, the Democratic-led Senate is likely to stop any radical House policy initiatives.
Whatever happens, there will be a lot more noise about Latin America in Washington than over
the past two years.