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TOM HANSEN: I think one of the things
clearly that Mexico doesn’t need is more internal security. There, the lack of
freedom, the lack of respect for human rights, the lack of respect for civil
rights, is rampant throughout this country.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, US-Mexican security
training. And, promoting democracy in East Africa.
DR. JOEL BARKAN: Democratic regimes do not usually get involved in armed conflict with
MCHUGH: Common Ground is a program on world
affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley
Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Human
rights activists have long criticized US military aid to repressive governments
in Latin America and elsewhere. But in recent years a variety of US police
agencies have stepped up their training of security forces around the globe.
MCHUGH: Now, some argue that one
such training program in Mexico violates not only human rights but official US
policy as well. Correspondent Kent Patterson has more.
[sound of a street demonstration]
Students from a teachers college stage a protest at the Guerrero state
government headquarters in the city of Chilpancingo. They demand the release of
companions whom they charge were brutalized and detained by state anti-riot
police. Although conflicting versions exist as to who was responsible for the
violence, student leader Jose Francisco, a member of the Socialist Federation
of Rural Students, lays the blame squarely at the feet of the police.
[A man speaks in Spanish]
PATTERSON: Jose Francisco charges that
what began as an academic conflict mushroomed into a social one because of the
repressive actions of the police. He says the protesters were attacked and
gassed, with some held incommunicado for more than one day.
[sound of a street demonstration]
PATTERSON: Accusations of police
repression are widespread throughout Guerrero. But not far from where police
and students clashed are the offices of the Guerrero State Human Rights
Commission. Established in 1990, the Commission was Mexico’s first official
local agency set up to hear citizen complaints. It makes nonbinding
recommendations to the authorities.
JUAN ALARCON: [speaks in Spanish]
PATTERSON: [summarizing Alarcon] Juan
Alarcon is President of the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission. He says
that some progress is being made in fostering a human rights culture in the
ALARCON: [via a translator] In one
way or another they are gaining the knowledge that they should respect human
rights and the constitutional guarantees that are granted to all citizens and
visitors who come to our country. That’s why there are academies, training
courses, and orientations about human rights. New police graduate from
academies with psychological, physical, technical, and investigative
preparation. And also with the knowledge that they should respect the
constitution, the law, and human and civil rights. To sum it up, they graduate
with a new mentality.
PATTERSON: But recent statistics from
Alarcon’s office show that human rights complaints against police, especially
the Guerrero State Judicial Police, continue to be numerous. Juan Alarcon.
ALARCON: [via a translator] Old
attitudes as well as some vices and bad practices still exist among some public
servants. Above all, among the judicial police who haven’t understood that they
should respect human rights. Sometimes in their pursuit against crime and
criminals they trample people’s rights. Then we have to request that they be
sanctioned in accordance with the law. This is a permanent struggle we’re in.
PATTERSON: Nevertheless, in recent
years the United States has stepped up its training programs for the Guerrero
State Judicial Police.
[Mexican music playing at a resort hotel
PATTERSON: While sunbathers recently
basked in the sun outside the posh lodgings of the Acapulco Radisson, Guerrero
State Police, together with officers from throughout Mexico, gathered inside to
hear the latest in anti-kidnapping and interrogation techniques from FBI
trainers. One of the trainers, Raoul Salinas, estimates he had trained 4,000
Mexican police in the two years prior to this session. What called attention to
this particular training was the fact that many of the same agencies being
trained by the FBI have had some of their own members previously implicated in
[speaking in Spanish]
PATTERSON: Zeferin Torreblanca is the
Mayor of Acapulco. He says he invited the FBI to train his police two years
ago. Like other elected officials in Mexico, Toriblanca is turning to foreign
police trainers because of a dire need to professionalize Mexican police and
curb high rates of crime.
TORIBLANCA: [via a translator] We’ve
asked the FBI and we understand that other places have, too, to share with us
their experiences, training, and guidance in matters of public security, and
whatever they’re disposed to do. We’re hoping it will be in the middle of
February when they give a five-day training program to state, municipal, and
federal law enforcement authorities. Also, we might do the training with the
regional representatives the FBI has in Oaraca and other states next to
PATTERSON: But others question US
training for police forces that commit human rights abuses. Some critics cite
the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Operations Act that prohibits assistance to
foreign security forces which violate human rights and don’t punish the responsible
TOM HANSEN: And our argument is that,
“Well, if this Leahy—if this law is on the books in the United States then our
Embassy ought to follow that law.”
PATTERSON: Tom Hansen coordinates the
Mexico Solidarity Network in the United States. Hansen was once deported from
Mexico because of his support for indigenous communities in the state of
HANSEN: Yeah, we’ve heard
documentation from dozens of campesinos
about human rights abuses that are conducted by all kinds of security forces,
whether it be the army, the state police, the PFE—the Federal Preventative
Police. But we’ve also heard—and this is maybe even more scary—about human
rights abuses that have been carried out by paramilitary groups. These are
groups that have no official standing in the state but that are often armed and
trained by the military or by the police and do the dirty work of those groups
at night, out of the spotlight of public opinion. They’re responsible for many
of the individual massacres throughout the state. The US government makes the
argument that—it’s a pretty ridiculous argument, really—that there’s at lot of,
for example, campesinos or community
leaders or leaders of civil society who are in prison here in Mexico are in
prison because they were arrested by security forces, they were tortured into
confessions, and then they use those confessions to imprison these people. And
the US government makes the argument, “Well, the reason that they use torture
is because they don’t have good police tactics.” I don’t think that has
anything to do with it. I think they use torture as a repressive technique and
it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they have good police
investigative tactics or not. I think one of the things clearly that Mexico
doesn’t need is more internal security. There, the lack of freedom, the lack of
respect for human rights, the lack of respect for civil rights, is rampant
throughout this country.
PATTERSON: The US State Department,
which is responsible for implementing the Leahy Amendment, declined to go on
tape for this broadcast. However, in a phone interview US State Department
spokesman Charles Barkley said Washington takes the Leahy Amendment very
seriously and makes a good faith effort at quality control. Other US government
sources insist that individual officers are screened ahead of time to make sure
that known human rights violators are not trained. But a loophole in the Leahy
Amendment arguably prevents units like the Guerrero State Judicial Police from
being denied training, since in Mexico individual officers are selected for
training instead of whole units.
Because no formal Congressional reporting is currently
required of the Mexican police training, it’s hard to know the exact scope and
expenditures of the programs. And nonfederal agencies like the Arizona Highway
Patrol and the El Paso Police Department, which have trained Mexican police,
might not even be subject to the Leahy Amendment if they don’t receive certain
federal funds to conduct their programs. Another agency that’s jumping on what
might be termed the NAFTA police bandwagon is the US Border Patrol.
DOUG MOSIER: Well, the training of
Mexican authorities is really part of the Border Safety Initiative, which began
PATTERSON: Doug Mosier, a spokesperson
for the US Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas. Mosier discusses the recent water
rescue training the Border Patrol gave to police and other authorities in
Ciudad-Juarez, Mexico. Mosier says the training is needed to save the life of
migrants who attempt to cross dangerous canals and waterways into the United
States. But Mosier adds that it’s only one piece of an expanding US-Mexico law
MOSIER: You know, we have a Border
Liaison Unit that works directly with the Mexican liaison unit that works
directly with authorities in Mexico on a variety of issues. Everything from
developing effective border safety techniques to working on, you know, information
that will lead to stopping crimes being committed along the international
border. And you know, five years ago that was unheard of. But we have come to
the point where I think, and come to the table, so that both countries understand
the importance of this. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.
[speaking to an audience at a meeting of human rights activists] If you see
that here to the left, we have for example some of…..
PATTERSON: In El Paso, immigrant
rights activists recently convened a meeting at which they reported alleged
human rights violations by the US Border Patrol and police agencies. Alma
Maquitico of the American Friends Service Committee says she supports the
Border Patrol’s water rescue training. But Maquitico says such exercises stem
from a 1993 US government policy of sealing off the border to job hungry
MAQUITICO: If we didn’t have that
operation these people wouldn’t be dying on the border, wouldn’t be trying to
cross remote, remote and dangerous areas. That’s what they’re doing right now.
They’re not crossing through the traditional points of crossing that they had
before. Right now they’re crossing through the desert, through mountains. And
actually there has been an increment on the number of criminal organizations
that are trafficking with humans. And this is due to the, to this operations,
because right now people have to go through these organizations to try to cross
the border and to try to enter here into the United States. And we see that
these operations are not stopping migration. It’s just increasing the number of
[a man speaking in Spanish]
PATTERSON: Maquitico says that Juarez
City Police, who are being trained by the United States, violate rights outlined
by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She says the abuses were
documented by her group for a report delivered last year to the UN Conference
on Racism in South Africa.
MAQUITICO: The main abuses that were
committed in the Ciudad-Juarez area were wrongful confiscation of property. And
that included extortion and robbery of personal belongings.
PATTERSON: Meanwhile, US State
Department Spokesman Charles Barkley says Washington supports efforts by the
administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox to improve policing and deal
with human rights offenders. For Common
Ground, I’m Kent Patterson reporting.
MCHUGH: Making the case for
democracy in East African nations, next on Common
hope that in this period, post-September 11, we will not create a new Cold War
in effect, where terrorism is the only thing that matters. And that we will
keep our eye on the importance of continued democratization.
PORTER: Printed transcripts and
audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the
broadcast for details, or visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org. Common Ground is a service of the
Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide
range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world
MCHUGH: Historically, United States
foreign policy has paid little attention to Africa. But with Sudan and Somalia
being mentioned as potential targets in America’s war on terrorism, that may
PORTER: Common Ground’s Cliff Brockman recently spoke with two experts who
say the events of September 11 could have both positive and negative impact on
US efforts to promote democracy in East African countries.
Generally, it’s widely accepted that democratic regimes do not usually get
involved in armed conflict with each other.
Dr. Joel Barkan is a political science professor at the University of Iowa.
Among his specialties is African democratization.
BARKAN: Democratic regimes are more
peaceful internally. More specifically in respect to the African experience,
the level of economic development in Africa has not been as high as in other
developing areas such as Asia and Latin America. And most people who watch the
region have concluded that one of the reasons is that the quality of governance
is many of these countries, particularly under authoritarian and military rule,
has not been conducive to economic development. And so for the, improving the
lives of the people and in terms of directly, the United States perhaps
improving trading relationships, a turn to democratic governance would perhaps
raise the prospects for economic development in the region.
BROCKMAN: Dr. Adrien Wing is a
University of Iowa law professor. She says the US has changed its human rights
policies since the end of the Cold War.
Clinton administration was very interested in human rights issues. The Bush
administrations—I and II—much less interested. Certainly since the Bush II
administration has taken over it has not really focused on human rights
concerns until the events of September 11, which, of course, has forced the
administration to focus on foreign policy.
BROCKMAN: It sounds from your writing
that you think that human rights policies have been a little ambiguous.
BARKAN: There has been considerable
variation in terms of how we apply our policy on democratization and human
rights from one country to another. In countries which have suffered from civil
wars or particularly harsh conditions such as Rwanda or Uganda, I think we’ve
gone a little bit easy, frankly, on those countries in terms of holding up the
human rights standards. And Uganda is a case in point where Human Rights Watch
has been quite critical recently on their record there. Whereas by contrast, in
Kenya, towards Kenya—and I think rightly so, we’ve been much more forceful. So
I think there’s been first of all an inconsistency from one country to the
next. And there has been very definitely in some countries an inconsistency from
one ambassador to the next. It’s the conventional wisdom that policy is made in
Washington, which is true. And that the ambassadors no longer count. They’re
kind of mouthpieces. But at least in this area a number of countries—and Kenya
which is the one I know best—our application of democratization and human
rights policy has zigged and zagged as we’ve moved from, through a series of
four ambassadors in the last five years. And that clearly has to be, that has
to be addressed.
BROCKMAN: US foreign policy seems
like it generally focuses on places where we see a threat or we have a
financial interest in that country. We don’t really have either in some of
these countries. Do we need to encourage more trade?
BARKAN: Well, we do have some
potential threats in the East African area. One problem you have across the
continent is stable and viable and legitimate regimes. Although there’s a much
greater variation than ten years ago. And there is a democratic process that’s
evolving in, in many countries. But unevenly. But to take, since we are
focusing on East Africa—take Kenya for example. Kenya just by virtues of
geography and the way the railroad lines run and its infrastructure left over
from the colonial period, is a pivotal place for the entire region. If Kenya were
to collapse and become instable and its economy continues to decline as it has
for the last ten years, then that has a ripple effect out into Uganda and
Tanzania to the south and Rwanda, which is landlocked. And consequently if you
have added instability then you could have perhaps another Rwanda. There have
been ethnic clashes and issues of ethnic cleansing in, in Kenya. Or you can
have a collapse of the state as in eastern Congo. And then the question is,
“What then?” The US did not intervene as probably it should have to stop the
genocide in Rwanda. We need stable and democratic government in this region. So
there’s not a direct threat to us but if you have a collapse we get drawn into
WING: And of course Kenya and
Tanzania were attacked by terrorists. The embassies were bombed. And so in this
post-September 11 emphasis on terrorism, Kenya and Tanzania will be a focus.
They may be countries that they look for various terrorists in. And of course
there’s Somalia. There’s other countries in this region. And so from that
perspective alone the stabilization or democratization in these areas may be
looked at differently now.
BARKAN: That’s, if I may add to
BARKAN: …That’s very true. We have
real concern, for example, that in southern Somalia, where there is an
indigenous Islamic fundamentalist movement, that these groups might, in fact,
provide havens and that there have been prior connections with Al Qaeda. And
consequently it’s become a real concern. I might add though, however, that one
of the things I’m concerned about is that in our, our concern about terrorism
and the fact that Kenya or Tanzania or Somalia may be harboring terrorists,
that we lose sight of the broader thrust of foreign policy that still puts an
emphasis on, on democratization. We might slip back into a type of policy we
had during the Cold War, where everything is, turns on the litmus test of
terrorism and then we see regimes going up in smoke and collapsing in front of
us. And were that to happen that’s not in our long-term interest. So we have to
keep our eye on two balls here and not just one.
BROCKMAN: You mentioned Rwanda just a
minute ago. Adrienne, you’re involved in helping to write the constitution for
Rwanda. Would you like to tell us about that, please?
WING: Yes. This past summer I was
able to make my first trip to Rwanda as an independent contractor for the State
Department. Rwanda is in a two-year process of trying to draft a post-genocide
constitution. And so I was one of four Americans brought in, along with people
from some African countries, to advise the constitutional commission in this
two-year process. Rwanda is under an interim regime, military in nature. The
regime is one that’s stopped the genocide in ‘94. They were primarily based in
Uganda and came in. And so that regime is not democratic obviously, in the
interim. And they are in great fear there will be people from the genocidal
regime who will come back into the country from Congo and other places and
destabilize the existing government. So they, they want to have a constitution
that deals with democratic principles, but at the same time they are really
afraid that another genocide may occur. Since the prior regime was composed of
people from the majority ethnic group, the Hutu. So if you have true democracy
based on one person, one vote, the Hutu’s will win by any standard. And
therefore, of course, the Tutsi’s, who are the bulk of the current government,
are deathly afraid of being wiped out—literally exterminated once again. So
it’s a lot of very tense issues. The balance between survival and
BARKAN: Adrienne’s comment points
out an interesting dilemma here, which is laid bare in Rwanda perhaps more than
other places. And that is, does democracy always go with the protection of
human rights? And as she just said, not necessarily so, unless you craft some
form of power sharing or federalism or even partition. This is a debatable
issue in a place like Rwanda. I would say more generally though, that democratization
is the best defense of human rights, though some people, particularly lawyers,
BROCKMAN: In ’94, of course, it was a
horrible genocide. The majority party used machetes to kill many of the
minority parties. It’s a very violent place. Do you have hope for this country?
WING: I’m not necessarily that
optimistic about Rwanda. Being there I’ve, I really felt at any point that
there could be a resurgence. Because most of the people who perpetrated this
violence were not soldiers. They were neighbors. They were doctors and lawyers
and nurses and teachers and nuns and priests. So most of these people still
live in Rwanda, and then if you couple them with people in exile who were more
of the military or militia from the prior regime, that’s not a very good combo.
You can’t round up all the guilty, so to speak. They have over 100,000 people
now in custody, ever since ‘94. And it would take 200 years to try all of these
people. And they’re only a tiny fraction of the guilty. So I really don’t see
how they can effectively and efficiently, and being fair to people’s human
rights, grapple with this situation in any way that will result in a permanent
BROCKMAN: It’s a big topic,
certainly. But I want to give each of you a chance to maybe just touch on a
point that we didn’t discuss about democratization and human rights in East
Africa. Adrienne, would you like to go first?
WING: I hope that in this period,
post-September 11, that we will not create a new Cold War in effect, where
terrorism is the only thing that matters. And that we will keep our eye on the
importance of continued democratization, continued and expanded emphasis on
human rights in East Africa and other areas of the world outside of whether or
not there is any terrorism going on in these countries.
BARKAN: Well, picking up on what
Adrienne said, I would endorse that entirely. It’s in our interest for the
reasons I said originally. We have a number of critical issues coming up in all
three countries in the next couple of years. This coming year in Kenya Daniel
Arap Moi, who has been president in Kenya in 1978, is facing a term limit.
There’s a big question of whether he’ll step down. There’s going to be an
election. The elections in ‘97 and ‘92 were accompanied by quite a bit of
ethnic violence. We have an excellent ambassador there and so far we’re
maintaining a focus that we’re going to support the continued democratization
process there with a hopefully a holding of a better election and a transition
from someone who has grudgingly accepted multiparty politics to a younger
generation of politician.
The same would go for Uganda, where as Adrienne
mentioned before you have a no-party state, essentially a one-party state. And
Tanzania which is very quiet—we don’t pay a lot of attention to it—has quite a
capable government. And they’ve really moved ahead on economic reforms.
Tanzania has had a positive growth rate, although not spectacular, for the last
ten years. All that is good for the stability of the region. So as I said
before, and echoing what Adrienne just said, we shouldn’t mortgage our foreign
policies’ broad objectives just because of the terrorist concern. Which is real
and East Africa has been the victim of this. But it’s not the whole picture by
BROCKMAN: Dr. Barkan is also a Senior
Consultant to the World Bank and is currently serving as a Fellow at the
Woodrow Wilson International Center. Dr. Wing has served as an advisor to the
African National Congress of South Africa and as a consultant to the United
Nations on international human rights treaties. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.
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PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Cliff
Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Common Ground is produced and funded by
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