This week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain will visit Colombia and Mexico. The trip follows nearly eight years of neglect toward Latin America under the Bush Administration. Would a McCain Administration be any different? WOLA asks members of the media to ask Senator McCain that question and eight others, listed below, on U.S. policy toward Colombia, Mexico and Latin America at large.
Congress just approved $400 million dollars of security assistance to Mexico as part of the Merida Initiative. Yet the United States has made no commitment to address two key catalysts in the violence: steady demand for drugs in the United States, and the illegal flow of weapons into Mexico. Senator McCain has expressed support for the Merida Initiative, but how would he tackle these two domestic problems that contribute to the bloodshed in Mexico?
The Bush Administration has supported the Mexican government's increasing use of the military in anti-drug operations, despite accusations of serious abuses by the military against civilians in the course of these operations. Will McCain back Mexico's use of the armed forces — instead of the police — in drug sweeps indefinitely? How would he address the growing reports of human-rights abuses by Mexican forces, and how does he envision rebuilding civilian authority in the drug war in Mexico and throughout Latin America?
Before NAFTA, supporters of the agreement said it would increase employment in Mexico and narrow the gap between U.S. and Mexican wages. Just the opposite has happened. The annual number of undocumented immigrants arriving in the United States from Mexico nearly doubled in NAFTA's first decade. Has the NAFTA experience made McCain rethink his uncritical support for free trade and, if elected, what would he do to address the root causes of economic insecurity in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America?
Killings of trade unionists are rising again, according to numerous accounts. At least 28 have been killed so far this year, adding to the world's highest rate of killings of trade unionists. McCain supports the Colombia free-trade agreement. How can U.S. workers compete fairly against workers who are murdered when they try to organize?
Recent figures on coca cultivation by the White House drug czar's office and the United Nations both show major increases in coca cultivation. Eight years of forced eradication through massive aerial herbicide spraying have clearly failed to contain coca. What is McCain's alternative?
On Latin America in general:
The next Summit of the Americas will be held in Trinidad in April 2009. If McCain is elected president, what message would be take to the summit, and, bearing in mind how unpopular the current U.S. president is in Latin America, how would be distinguish himself from George W. Bush?
Successive U.S. administrations have held out unfettered free-market reforms as the best course for alleviating poverty. Yet in country after country, strong economic growth has not led to a significant reduction in poverty or in a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor. What do you say to Latin Americans who say that the market-oriented reforms of the past two decades have not brought growth with equity?
McCain said recently, "For decades, in Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the United States has treated Latin America as a junior partner rather than as a neighbor, like a little brother rather than as an equal." Concretely, what policy steps will you take to start changing that attitude?
Roger Atwood, Communications Director, [email protected], (202) 797 2171