THE CUBA TRANSITION AND A TRUMP DILEMMA AND TEST FOR OUR NATION?

By Harry C. Blaney III

As one of the key foreign policy tests of Donald Trump’s unfortunate campaign promises and to “Make America Great” is what he will do regarding our Cuba policy.  He has indicated as a threat that if Cuba does not change its policies he will cut relations with that nation. But both the threat and its consequences are more likely to make America “little” rather than great and decrease its leverage not only in Latin America but globally.

The death of Fidel Castro is an opportunity to increase our engagement, not to disrupt an initiative that has promoted many of our long-term goals in Cuba and in Latin America. It is a test for rationality and national interest for the new regime and at the moment it looks as if they still do not understand simple facts and long-term strategic interests of this nation and for that matter of the international community.

Trump speaks of disengagement because Cuba is not the democracy we would hope for and has had a record of human rights violations. His twitter threat that : “I will terminate deal” is a bad example of recklessness which applied to a legion of issues would destroy America’s creditably.  But does Trump also want to “disengage” with countries with like or even worse such records of democracy and human rights violations like China, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, a number of the “-Stans” and a host of other nations around the world?  What has Cuba done that is worst than many of these countries?  And where is there a better place to have a constructive influence over time?

President Obama and John Kerry’s policy is, like that of many past presidents, to engage with nations, even those we disagree with on a host of issues, rather that make “America Small” by mindless disengagement. For the good of global security America must be a leader of the global responsible powers and support positive preventive diplomacy, negotiations, and dialogue as necessary tools to make the world safe.

In the first case President Obama’s outreach to Cuba is by any fair account a success, has provided a key access to that beleaguered and troubled nation, and given Americans and Cubans the ability to exchange ideas, trade and cultural activities as never before.

A majority of Americans support the opening of our relations, with diplomatic and  business communities agreeing with that approach. Further, many young Cuban-Americans want this opening and outreach to continue.  Yet Trump seems in this and in other areas to upend the security, economic and political opportunities that America has gained by a careful and cooperative approach in the international arena.

The test of Cuba policy is whether Trump can see past his destructive campaign rhetoric and look to the long-term gains inherent in constructive engagement with Cuba and other problematic nations. Our country is great, but blind stupidity and destructive policy and actions will only diminish it within and without our nation.

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The Audacity Of Stupidity And Historical Lies By Donald Trump — The Cuba Case

By Harry C. Blaney III


Photo Credit via The Wall Street Journal


There have been many strange and horrific strands to Donald Trump’s campaign both in domestic and in foreign affairs during this long and caustic campaign. In some ways there are still many dark murky elements of the pitch that Trump has been putting forth in almost all of his statements, policy papers, and not least in his Tweets. Confusion is a very polite word to characterize his utterances.

More recently as an example is Trump’s speech in Florida, where among various crazy ideas and efforts to deceive many sectors of voters with unspecified “help”, Trump importantly shows a deep disregard for trust and truth. But it lacks a realistic and sane view of American relations with Cuba.

This is not surprising given that in almost ever sector of critical foreign and national security policy Trump has put forth ideas and policies that would without question make America weaker and less secure and throw the world in even more disarray. Some well known examples include building a wall on the Mexican border, the disavowal of Climate change and to address this existential danger, dealing with Europe, and not least his relations with a brutal Putin.

Not least also among his irresponsibilities is his vague call for someone to kill Hillary Clinton and for the disarming of her Secrete Service team. But the repeated lies and distortions continue in Florida. He accused Senator Clinton for creating ISIS as he has done before asking “why she won’t take responsibility for her central role in unleashing ISIS.” Fact checkers have call this a lie and fabrication. Yet much of the media does not call him on this especially in interviews.

His MO is to try to ingratiate some fragment of the voting public no matter the saneness of his proposals or their basic practicality or their massive cost to American goals, security and values.

The crude Cuban gambit is just on example of this insanity and disregard of serious thinking and long-term strategy. This tactics is called in politics “slice and dice”: tell each segment of the population you are for them and the opponent is not. Even in the same speech he sets forth policies that will harm most Americans but not in the 1%, and moments later Trump talks about the rich and the establishment that supports Clinton. Or making racist statements about minorities and saying how he will help them…but without specifics. This stance, despite its contradictions, can often be a winning strategy sadly.

It is in this dark context of repeated idiocies, that policy toward Cuba arises in a state with a high percentage of Cuban-American voters.

In this speech he said:

“We are also going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.

The President’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro Regime. But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro Regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them – and that is what I will do, unless the Castro Regime meets our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.”

In another speech last month, Trump also told the Miami Herald that he would keep open the infamous Guantanamo detention center, stating that:

“I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them…I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all”

Guantanamo has been a source of great harm to US interests due to its harsh conditions, almost no transparency, and lack of any real fair judicial process. It has been an item of shame for America around the world. It has only helped the recruitment of more terrorists each day that it stays open with prisoners.

 

The opening to Cuba by the Obama administration in fact as been one of the truly great acts of long-term strategy and enlightened vision for dealing wisely, at last, with a misguided policy of isolation and confrontation which has gained nothing. Now there is new light and dialogue and contact that, over the long run (and it will take time), promises to improve our contacts and cooperation on many issues, promote a better life for the Cuban people, and enhance the growth of civil liberties and democracy.

Trump’s approach is again even more confrontation, and his harsh actions would bring us back to the bad times of frozen conflict. This means less hope for democracy and would gain the opposition of much of Latin America, let alone the hopes of many Cuban-Americans that increasingly want the new open relationship that Obama and Hillary Clinton started.

The sad part, if one reads the many quotes of Trump on foreign affairs contained in this web site, Cuban policy is just one example of a Trump led path that leads towards unbelievable global disaster for America at home and abroad. Trump will not “make America great” but diminish our global leadership and cause added new conflicts and chaos in every corner of the world.


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CAMPAIGN 2016 IMMIGRATION: THE LARGER BATTLE FOR AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

By: Harry C. Blaney III


Via the New York Times

The debate over Immigration policy is in reality but a subset of larger issues of what America should be at home and its role in the larger world. It is defining what our country should be in the future and how the world should be shaped to create a safer, more secure, and fairer globe for all humanity.

This subject is not new either for this country nor on a global scale. In reality it goes back to early man and the search for a better life. Having recently visited Britain and the European continent, the problem of migration also has become a major social and political issue. It has, as here in America, begotten the rise of far right, bigoted politics, and neo-Nazi parties that undermine democracy and the social fabric. This trend has become a threat to the unity, sense of common burden, and value sharing throughout most of Europe.

But here in America the immigration topic has also threatened the same values, and in this case the very purpose of the American experiment of a fair, democratic, and open and welcoming society.  Many Americans have forgotten our own origins and the struggles of our ancestors to find a better life and build a vibrant and inclusive community. No one today perhaps except for our native population, did not immigrate here, often under conditions of risk and privation.

Today we have as a society witnessed in the form of Donald Trump, the presidential candidate of a major political party and on the cusp of being the leader of the free world. A man with a finger on the atomic button, the antithetical of American ideals and values in his many statements about immigrants, Mexicans, both native born and new to America, as well as African-Americans, the handicapped. and woman of all sorts, who demonstrates the kind of prejudice and racism which has already greatly weakened our nation at home and abroad. He is feared by our friends and welcomed with glee by our adversaries.

All of this has been reinforced by the farce of his visit to Mexico to see its president and in his abhorrent speech in Phoenix on what he would do to our undocumented immigrants. I will not outline here the draconian actions that he has advocated that call in essence to deport some 10 million immigrants and deprive them of any kind of humane treatment or decency. (These can be found in our 2016 Campaign quotes under the “Immigration” section, with the complete speech transcript on our document page).

Here we need to see the deeper implications of these actions and the reverberations of them for our nation and for our stability. And yes they impact not least global security.

These Trump actions and policies already have threatened a globe that acts with humanity and protects our most vulnerable migrating and refugee families. While we are often focusing on our own internal American challenges, such brutal actions proposed by Trump, has much broader implications. We should highlight and better understand the need to add another and often lost dimension in our debates of what his policies might engender around the world and how it would impact on our own values and security.

The first impact would be to alienate us from our vital friend on our Southern border and to do the same to many Latin American citizens from other countries fleeing mortal dangers. It would also encourage similar polices by others, all illegal under existing refugee treaties. This brute behavior by other nations applies especially to our European allies and friends who are facing the coming to power of neo-Nazi and far right parties who are using this issue to create far different harsh societies that we have not seen since Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union.  American influence is not just because of our military might, but it is largely due to respect of our democratic institutions, our value for the rule of law, and for our firm adherence to our treaty obligations. All of these are threatened by Trumps statements already and even more should he gain power.

The image of an America led by bigots and those that advocate torture and racism is one of the greatest risks we face in a still dangerous world in which respect, and wide acceptance by others of our impartial desire for a more peaceful and just world remains our greatest strength. Other nations depend on our promises contained in our alliances and collaborations, and are our strongest hand in a world of too much conflict and distrust.  We lose that and everyone is imperiled.

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U.S Cuba Policy Rejected By All

The outcome of the recent Summit of the Americas was a total embarrassment for the United States – and not just because of the misconduct of the Secret Service detail. Our Cuba policy was roundly condemned by virtually all other governments and it was made clear that if we stick to barring Cuban attendance, there would be no more Summits, for the other governments would not participate.

And why the U.S. refusal to sit with Cuba? Because, we say, it is not a democracy. No, but it is moving in the right direction. At the urging of the Catholic Church, Cuba has freed most of its political prisoners, and also has opened up to the private cultivation of land and to more and more small private enterprises. Surely we could encourage movement in that direction more effectively by engaging and resuming dialogue, rather than by sitting on the sidelines and in effect saying that only when they have a perfect democracy will we talk to them.

Further, the Cubans note that our conditions for dialogue continue to change. For years, we assured them that if they would but give up their ties of dependency on our principal adversary, the Soviet Union, and stop their efforts to overthrow other governments in this hemisphere, then we could begin to engage and enter into a constructive dialogue. By the early-1990s, the Cold War was over, the Soviet Union had become the Russian Federation, and Cuba had officially renounced any intentions overthrowing other hemispheric governments. Rather, they said, it was their intention to live in peace with all. And so have they done.

In other words, our conditions had been met. And so did we then improve relations and begin that constructive dialogue? No, quite the contrary. The U.S. then took new measures against Cuba in the form of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and with even greater hostility in 1996 with the Helms-Burton Act. The purpose of the latter was clear as Senator Helms vowed that with its passage we could now say “adios, Fidel.”

Well, not quite.

Worst of all, of course, was the administration of George W. Bush, whose objective, quite openly, was to bring about the end of the Castro government. But he did not succeed either. Raul Castro replaced Fidel, yes, but the Revolution remained intact.

Meanwhile, all other governments of the hemisphere did began to engage with Cuba, until it has today reached the point at which only the United States does not have diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Ironically, we are now the ones who are, at least in this sense, isolated- and we will remain isolated so long as we hold to this outdated and utterly sterile policy of refusing to move toward a more normal relationship with Cuba. As some have put it, “It is a self-inflicted wound.”

As indicated at the Summit, the time has long passed for the United States to move toward constructive dialogue and engagement with the Cuban people. Our policy of regime change has not worked, and, instead, is utterly counterproductive.  If we keep it up much longer, the United States may find itself in Cuba’s place as the one country isolated from the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

By Wayne Smith.

Welcome 2012: A High Risk World Beckons!

Yes, we are likely to see this year be both a high risk environment on a global scale and a year filled with key events that will shape our international landscape for decades. Thus “rethinking national security” will be more necessary than ever!  Below is a “tour d’horizon” of the international environment that we are likely to encounter and its key risks, opportunities, and uncertainties. Over the coming months we will explore some ideas on how to deal with the coming challenges ahead for our nation and the international community. 

Not least, this year will determine the policies and role of America in world affairs.  This November’s election will decide what direction our nation will take for the next four years and beyond. This will be a key focus of this blog in the coming months, looking at the national security and foreign policy debate and issues raised by the candidates for elective office. Our thesis will be that in this high risk world we need the best minds, most experienced leaders, and a high level of wisdom and perspective for both short-range tactics and long-range strategy. 

The Impact of the Economic and Financial Crisis on Global Security and Stability

There is little doubt that 2012 will be again a very difficult and even unsettling year for the American and especially the global economy. Europe is facing a downward trajectory with its widespread harsh austerity policies, the Euro crisis, and the persistent high unemployment. Growth is predicted to be anemic at best, and the policies put in place in countries like Spain, Greece, Italy, Britain, Ireland, and even France are likely to make conditions worse before they get better. Indeed, the policies are likely to result in even higher ratios of debt to GDP for many of these countries.

The question is will the U.S. follow these policies and what are their likely consequences for our employment, growth, and stability? 

The key determinants of the future capacity of America to shape not only its own society but also the role it can play abroad will be the productivity, inventiveness, possibility of creation of sustainable and fair growth for all its citizens, the capacity to advance its educational infrastructure, and, not least, the ability to create new technologies and support key science fields.  

Thus the question is what policies and action are required to create these conditions. Also, what policies are likely to bring our nation down into a prolonged and sad downward spiral?  Stimulus or austerity? Development of useful products and technologies serving the entire nation and producing good jobs or mindless “paper creation” that burdens our economy rather than advances it?

Is bringing back the gold standard, cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, making health care more expensive and open to fewer people, lowering or abolishing the minimum wage laws, abolishing the Education Department, Environmental Protection Agency, USAID, The Fed, and HUD really going to advance us as a modern society and contribute to our stature and voice in the new complex modern world?

Nuclear Weapons, Non-Proliferation, WMDs, and Arms Control:

There are few more serious questions before the electorate than American strategic and nuclear policies. Key to these is our basic “strategic posture”: what wars may we face and how should we prepare for them? What kinds of wars might they be? What will our armed forces require in order to deal with future threats, contingencies, and natural disasters? Nothing in this regard is more important than our “nuclear posture” and our efforts to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs), not least nuclear weapons.  

Further, the development of new arms control measures is a key component of any comprehensive strategic posture, and should, but is not likely, to be fully debated in the coming months.  Questions that should be asked is whether a presidential candidate will give up or further the New START Treaty, support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), support the Nunn-Lugar effort to decommission or better safeguard old Soviet nuclear weapons and material, and support a robust Non-Proliferation treaty process and negotiation to significantly reduce nuclear weapons in both US and Russian hands? 

We are likely to not get beyond accusations of “not being strong enough” or tough enough or not to be willing to “defend America.”  Related to this issue is the judgment to go to war. Be careful of those that “talk war,” remember that we went into the Iraq war on lies and the cost to us, our allies, and the Iraqi people was grave indeed. We need to hold our candidates to the fire on exactly when and how they are willing to go to war.  Are they willing to be peace makers and peace keepers rather than “war hawks”?

Environmental and Climate Change Risks and Challenges

One of the topics that are NOT likely to be discussed is the relationship of our national security to environmental changes and in particular climate change on a global scale. There are few greater risks to our fragile globe than what we are doing to our climate through the burning of fossil fuels and other impacts. The potential costs are lives, the destruction of our ecosystem, the impairment of global water supplies, the rising of ocean levels, catastrophic weather events, and a host of other changes that will impact billions of people. What would any candidate do to deal with the horrific dangers our poor earth faces if we do not address in a major way this coming catastrophe?  The sad part is that almost all of the remaining GOP candidates and their members in Congress, at this stage, are indifferent to these changes and support dirty fossil fuel projects. And what solutions would Obama now propose?

The Implication of the Elections in Russia for Building a More Secure World

In March Russia will hold an election of its president with the likely outcome of Vladimir Putin returning to the top post in the government. There is a dual question here. The first is what does this mean for Russia and its stance towards the outside world? Second, what can we and our allies do to address the challenges of this transition and to work to ensure that they influence a more responsible and cooperative Russian stance towards the international community and not one that threatens peace and stability?  It would be dangerous to try to “restart” the Cold War again rather than engage the Russian leaders towards solutions that serve the interests of all parties.                   

The Rise of China and American Interests

Like the Russian election, the planned transition of the Chinese leadership in 2012 will signal not only a new generation of leaders but the setting in place of new policies. These policies are still opaque but can either move towards reform, democracy, and social and economic fairness for a large proportion of the population that remains poor or towards a new destructive nationalism and militancy.

The transition in China to a new leadership and generation and the “challenge” of the so-called “Rise of China” has already been a cause of partisan debate here in theU.S. which offers little in the way of enlightenment about the real nature of China’s role in the world and its future direction. President Obama has rightly made Asia and engaging China to be a responsible partner a priority. Some, on the other hand, want to make China into an enemy for ideological and other narrow reasons as is the case with Russia. Yet that approach is a disaster for both nations. The question is whether there will be any discussion of how to approach China’s unquestioned growing role in the world. Engagement remains the best option but some on the Republican right seem to think that militancy on our part is in their interest if not that of America. We may get a glimpse in 2012 of the direction of the new leaders and a view of the inner debate.

Challenges of Security and Conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, and Iran: A Conundrum for America

There is little doubt that this nexus of countries presents major challenges for regional stability with a likelihood of growing conflict and thus danger for U.S. interests and global stability. The region is a tinderbox of national, ethnic, religious, social discord, and hate. All the countries are interconnected. It is a region rife with terrorism and internal disquiet. America has a stake in each county and the region perforce. 

Further, there are few good or clear options. It has been a source of partisan and often outrageous statements. Ron Paul would blindly totally pull out and institute a global policy of isolationism, while Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney seem to take American militancy to a new high of blind American continued combat and ludicrous ignorance of the region. You can bet that in each of the countries 2012 will provide its own crisis which will generate likely statements to prove the candidate’s ignorance and muddy the waters for our interests. Obama has made clear that our military combat role in both Iraq and Afghanistan is ended or will end by 2014.  But under Obama our diplomatic and assistance presence will remain. We are fully engaged and focused on the nuclear capabilities of Pakistan, India, and, not least, Iran. Would a GOP president do the same?  Pakistan remains the most dangerous and volatile of all and no leader has easy answers when it comes to this hot spot.  

The Middle East, Arab Spring, and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The problems of this region are clear but solutions seem harder. The Israeli-Palestinian problem remains the linchpin of much of the other problems of the region. Yet under the right-wing trajectory of the present Israeli government and the weakness of the Palestinian regime the likely outcome is tragedy for all sides. Our candidates need to ask what can change this outcome and then state their policies. We are more likely to just get domestic posturing. What stance will they take on making war on Iran, supporting settlements on the West Bank, or support and resources to help shape a more just and safer Middle East for all?  What solution do we have to the Syria debacle? What about the democratic future for the countries of the Arab Spring, especially Egypt with its July presidential election that will likely be shaped by the events of 2012?   

The Role and Evolution of Developing Countries in Latin American, Africa, and Asia

While we are looking at the “rise of China” the other macro reality is also the rise (and in some cases fall) of the developing world and individual regions and countries.  The “emerging economies,” including the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), were called the “new rising global phenomena.” Other countries have also a claim on this category. Some argued they were immune from the global economic crisis, only to find that indeed they were an integral part of globalization which would impact them. 2012 will prove how they might fare in the event of a continued and prolonged downward trend in trade, investment, and a continued dysfunctional global financial sector. Some of these countries suffer from raw material dependence, huge populations in poverty and backwardness, political unrest, and corruption. Yet they are also among the most dynamic of societies, some with fast growth still, and others with highly skilled workers and rich natural resources. They are all likely to be affected by climate change but seem little inclined to fully do their part. They seek a larger global role but have still a very limited reach. They can’t be neglected, however, and deserve our attention during the election. Not least our relations with Mexico seem likely to be a focus of our 2012 debate to some extent.    

The Role of Emerging Science and Technology and Its Impact on National Security

In so many ways 2012 will likely be a year that will see large advances in technology, science discoveries, and new inventions which will transform our lives and, in some cases, help us live better but perhaps make our environment less safe. Some will mitigate risks and others will make a few richer and many poorer. Some will help the poor if they can gain access to these new technologies and if these technologies are directed to lifting the poor rather than enriching the already rich. Ignorance of science is one great problem in the U.S. and lack of support of education in these fields seems to be, in a larger sense, a national security weakness.   

Defense Spending and Priorities, the Debate on How Much is Too Much and What Is Really Needed in a Fast Evolving World

One of the key decisions in 2012 will be the budget for the military. Already cuts are in the works for DOD, but will they be about $400 billion over ten years or so, which still means some growth, or will it be the 10% mandated by the failure of the Super Committee?  Will the cuts be careful and rational or will they be like a sledge-hammer? Will the Afghanistan war finally wind down and prove a saving in both human and financial terms? 

Will we have a strategy for two or just one major war and two minor ones? Who indeed are our enemies and are they able to be a real challenge to our already unmatched strength? Who will be cut the most, the army, marines, air force, or navy? Will we cut our armed forces combat personnel and their capabilities and safety for unneeded big and expensive weapons systems that serve little role in our new world? What will be our most serious dangers in the decades to come and which will fade from the horizon? Do we need to maintain such a massive nuclear infrastructure?   

Who will determine our choices? Will it be a powerful military-industrial coalition allied with hawks in Congress supported by blind corporate contributions or a rational look at real risks, priorities, and a changing global landscape? Watch what presidential and Congressional candidates say but also how they voted and will vote and where they get their money. 

Thus are the questions about 2012 and “Rethinking National Security.” 

By Harry C. Blaney III.

At last, U.S.-Cuban Relations Begin to Improve

The year 2010 had registered virtually no improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations. There had been rumors and suggestions for some time that the Obama administration might ease restrictions on, at least, academic and so-called “people-to-people” travel to Cuba. Delays were first attributed to the need to  wait until after the November elections – and then, given the disappointing outcome of the elections, there was concern that the administration might not act at all and that 2011 would be as disappointing as 2010.

But then, on the afternoon of January 14, 2011, came the surprise announcement from the White House that restrictions on certain kinds of travel would indeed be eased, that flights to Cuba could go out of additional airfields, not just out of Miami, and that Americans could now send limited remittances to Cuban citizens, provided the latter were not senior members of the Cuban government or Communist Party. Continue reading

Robert E. White: Lessons from Central America

For more than thirty years, a constant flow of depressing information has dominated the news out of Central America. In the 1980s, the media documented our harmful involvement in regional revolutions and counter-revolutions. In this new century, stories and articles have recorded the violence and lawlessness that are a direct consequence of the counter-narcotic policies that the United States has forced on Central Americans.

Then, as now, the United States uses Central America as a practice arena. Yesterday, it was to test the doctrine of counter-insurgency in its various manifestations; today, Washington invests huge resources into a counter-drug program that evidence and common sense demonstrate can only make the problem worse. At the root of both problems, is faulty analysis.

Central America in the last half of the twentieth century was a place of unbroken civil strife and bloody repression. These conflicts were rooted in class warfare. A handful of the landed elite backed rightist regimes and paramilitary death squads against impoverished campesinos and laborers who, out of desperation, had begun to support left-wing guerrilla movements.

In 1981, the Reagan administration erroneously attributed revolutions in Central America to the Soviet Union and Cuba; “What we are facing in Central America,” said then Secretary of State Alexander Haig, “is a straight case of external aggression, nothing more, nothing less.”  This of course was utter nonsense. If there was one thing we were not facing in Central America, it was foreign aggression. The rebellions in the region were home-grown and authentic, popular uprisings against the heaped- up injustices of decades. There would have been uprisings in these countries whether the Soviet Union and Cuba existed or not.

Had the United States, a country born in revolution, respected the right of other nations to revolt against intractable injustice,  Central Americans would have quickly found their own political solutions, sometimes democratic, sometimes not.. At a minimum our restraint could have avoided closing off democratic alternatives that drove idealistic young people into violently anti-American revolutions movements.

Today it is the misconceived ‘War on Drugs’ that scourges Central America and corrupts every function of government, in particular those institutions charged with upholding the law. Continue reading