U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Guatemala yesterday for a meeting of regional leaders as part of an International Conference of Support for the Central American Security Strategy. Also attending are numerous heads of state from the region and other officials, such as Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.
During an announcement earlier today, Secretary Clinton pledged U.S. support totaling $300 million (up 10 percent from 2010) to combat drug trafficking, crime and associated violence. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos—speaking from vast experience in dealing with insecurity issues—told his Central American counterparts, “Drug trafficking brought our country to its knees…But we stood back up.”
Clinton’s visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s March trip to El Salvador, during which he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to stability in the region. Total cost estimates for regional security measures are estimated to be nearly $900 million but, as Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom said, “for us, it is the difference between life and death.”
Many of the 250,000 diplomatic documents and cables leaked on Sunday by whistleblower site WikiLeaks address U.S. relationships with Latin American heads of state. And while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is characterizing the leaks as “an attack on the international community” as well as on American foreign policy interests, Ecuadorian Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Kinto Lucas has extended an invitation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to come to Ecuador.
On Tuesday, Lucas told Ecuadorinmediato, “We are ready to give him [Assange] residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions… We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just on the Internet, but in various public forums.”
Venezuela, Argentina and Honduras are the subjects of some of the most noteworthy leaked documents concerning Latin America.
One document was issued one month after the 2008 military coup in Honduras. In the cable, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens calls the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya “clearly illegal,” and the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti “totally illegitimate.”
Venezuela is the subject of 2,300 of the leaked cables, most of which concern President Hugo Chávez. In a 2009 cable, a French official named Jean-David Levitte called Chávez “crazy” and said that "Brazil was not able to support him anymore." Levitte goes on to say that "Chávez is taking one of Latin America's richest countries and turning it into another Zimbabwe.” The Venezuelan President responded on Monday evening: “Somebody should resign ... I'm not saying [President Barack] Obama, but they should do it out of shame ... It is their empire left naked.”
Argentina was the subject of 2,200 cables. In one exchange in late 2009, Secretary Clinton questions the mental state and decision-making of both President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late-husband, former President Néstor Kirchner.
The whistle-blowing website has also reportedly obtained 2,836 U.S. documents concerning Mexico, but most of those have yet to be released.
WikiLeaks also revealed that the U.S. offered millions of dollars worth of incentives to countries like Slovenia and Kiribati in exchange for taking detainees out of Guantanamo Bay. In an interview with the BBC, Amb. John Negroponte, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Honduras, said today that the release of WikiLeaks cables “will damage [the U.S.’s] ability to conduct diplomacy.”
The United States today dismissed a proposed agreement between Brazil, Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to swap enriched uranium for reactor fuel. The deal was brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his trip in May to Tehran. The U.S., however, appears to think that the Brazilian agreement would leave Iran with enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
Brazil’s role in the nuclear negotiations is part of a broader effort to increase its profile on the international stage, but the U.S. has downplayed its diplomatic efforts on Iran. Prior to Mr. Lula da Silva’s May trip to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeatedly said that only UN Security Council action would be effective in curbing Iran’s ambitions. When the Brazilian president succeeded in brokering the deal, Washington declined to recognize it as an important breakthrough.
The UN Security Council is soon expected to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran, which Brazil has opposed. U.S. officials met with the Brazilian deputy foreign minister on Monday in an effort to convince Brazil to abstain from voting against the sanctions at today’s Security Council meeting, rather than cast a “no” vote. Turkey, which joined Brazil in the negotiations with Iran, and Lebanon are also expected to oppose the newest round of sanctions.
Just over a year ago President Barack Obama first met many of his regional counterparts at the Summit of the Americas. The Summit was largely a diplomatic exercise but one idea—Obama’s proposed regional energy and climate partnership—may finally be gaining some traction.
A slew of initiatives were on display last week as representatives from 32 countries gathered in Washington for the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas hosted by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Over two days, ministers of energy and other government officials met with their counterparts, the private sector and civil society to discuss paths toward a cleaner energy matrix in the Western Hemisphere.
That so many countries are joining forces in this initiative is a good start, but addressing the hard political and investment climate issues will be essential for the region’s energy security over the long term.
As described by Secretary Clinton at the ministerial, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas is the Facebook for clean energy in the Americas. It is a user-driven framework for collaboration, bringing together countries that have information to share, seek assistance or want to provide support to clean energy and climate initiatives. The concept is a little mushy, and governments have struggled to convey its essence. But as initiatives get underway, ECPA is starting to take shape as a network of country-led knowledge centers, working groups and projects.
It took the deaths of two American citizens and the husband of a diplomatic employee—all tied to the U.S. Consulate in
On March 14all the headlines focused on the targeting of U.S. Consulate employees in the border town of
It seems that as long as the victims of drug-related violence did not carry