The Colombian Connection to Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony and one of the poorest countries in the world. Last week, Batista Tagme Na Waie, the Army Chief of Staff in the small West African country, was killed in a bomb blast. The next day, João Bernardo Vieira, the President of Guinea-Bissau, was shot and killed by members of the country's armed forces in a gangland execution style even as the Angolan Ambassador attempted to ferry the President and his family to the relative safety of the Angolan embassy.  While the country has long been unstable suffering numerous coup attempts (they have rarely been successful) and a civil war just a decade ago, the country has in the past few years become the first African narco-state.

Guinea-Bissau enjoys a strategic position on the west coast of Africa but not much else. On my visits to the country, they have forever been trying to master the art of plumbing without much success. The country has a 400-mile Atlantic coast dotted with mangrove swamps and inlets as well as a 90 island archipelago just off-shore. Its chronic instability, its Latin background (Portuguese is the official tongue), its obscurity and its topography make it an ideal transit point for cocaine shipments moving from Colombia to Europe.

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Torture, Guns, and Money: The Neocon Agenda for Mexico

So it's Sunday morning and I'm halfway paying attention to the panel discussion on This Week with George Stephanopoulos when I do a double take. In the middle of a conversation about Guantanamo Bay, Newt Gingrich, sounding solemn and serious, interrupts with a grave warning:

Can I? I just want to raise one issue that did not come up today that I think is going to become a very big issue. There is a war under way in Mexico. There were more people killed in Mexico in 2008 than were killed in Iraq. It is grossly under-covered by the American media. It is on our border. It has the potential to extend into our countryside. It's a very serious problem.

Yes, it is. But I couldn't help but wonder why Newt Gingrich suddenly seems so passionate about it. I'm sure he's concerned with border security and drug violence, but it turns out Newt has another reason for talking about the "war in Mexico" right now. The neocons may have lost Iraq, but their agenda for Mexico continues unabated. And Newt's just doing what he can to make sure it stays that way.

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The Republican Model for Labor in America

No matter what your opinion on the auto bailout, one lasting image of that fight was Mitch McConnell, and his fellow facist neo-con flock "informing" Americans how we are too fat and sassy because we strive to create, and sustain a viable middle-class. Yes, the same group that supports bailing out the bankers, and for outrageous CEO pay that milks the very companies they run were telling us that the real problem were the greedy American workers, who god forbid want fair wages and some kind of benefits for their efforts.

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The War Next Door

Thirty seven people were killed in the border city of Tijuana this past weekend in the latest spate of drug related violence. Overall, the death toll in Mexico's drug wars have now surpassed 4,000 for the year, up about 50% over 2007.

It's increasingly clear that Mexico's drug violence is reaching epic proportions and President Calderon's efforts seem insufficient to date in dealing with the drug violence that is growing both in scope and in tenor. Mexico now looks like Colombia did back in 1983, aware that there is a problem and yet beyond noting the mounting death toll seemingly unable to stem it. Colombia has made strides in fighting the drug trade but 25 years on, Colombians are still fighting it and not terribly pleased about it. And now Mexico is looming as a foreign policy challenge for the incoming Obama Administration and Latin America seems largely off Obama's radar. Then again, the Bush Administration was hardly engaged in the region either.

To combat the rising tide of drugs, the Bush Administration has proposed the Merida Initiative:

The Initiative's Scope The Merida Initiative is a multi-year program to provide equipment, training, and technical assistance to support law enforcement operations and for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. This year, Congress approved an initial $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which was passed in the FY08 Supplemental. The President's FY09 budget proposal for the Merida Initiative includes $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America.
Drugs, Violence, and Gangs in the United States The effects of Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Central American criminal gangs are felt in nearly all parts of the United States. Many state and local governments are diverting scarce resources from key areas, including education and housing, to focus countering the effects of Mexican and Central American gangs and trafficking organizations. An estimated 30,000 transnational gang members operating in the United States engage in serious crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, extortion, human smuggling, and prostitution. Mexican drug trafficking organizations operate on both sides of the border, resulting in violent gun battles which have killed or wounded dozens.

$400 million is a start but I suspect it will require hundreds of millions more in assistance. Or we could think outside the box and perhaps starting looking at drug addiction as a medical problem and not just a criminal one. At some point, the United States has to start taking responsibility for the demand side of the equation. It isn't always a supply issue. When it comes to the drug equation, demand seems to be off the table.

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Americans Need to Tear Down THIS WAll

by Walter Brasch

           The "star" of the Olympics may not be multiple medalists but the Great Wall of China. Every TV network covering the Olympics took the world to see the Wall. It seemed as if almost every newspaper and magazine reporter also visited the Great Wall.

           But, the Great Wall, which was built and rebuilt many times over its 22 century history, eventually was a failure. Although formidable, and one of the world's greatest engineering feats, the wall by the 16th century could no longer protect China from neighboring armies.

           The Maginot Line, which France thought could protect it from Germany and Italy in the decade leading up to World War II, was largely a failure.

           The Berlin Wall, at first barbed wire and then concrete, was built not to keep others out but East Germans in. But, there were more than 5,000 escapes during its 28 year history before the wall finally came down in 1989.

           As we now know, poorly-constructed levees in New Orleans didn't keep the flood waters of Katrina from destroying the city.

           And now the U.S. is building its own wall. The Bush Administration is putting up about 700 miles of fencing and other barriers along the U.S./Mexico border by the end of the year. The cost just to build that barrier is about $2-$3 million per mile. But, in certain places, the cost far exceeds that. This week, the government began excavating an area near San Diego. When the three and one-half mile fence is finished, the cost will be about $57 million. That's about $16 million a mile.

           Most illegal immigrants pose no problems. They don't receive American benefits, contrary to a lot of Internet gossip. Most try to avoid getting into trouble, since their purpose of being in America isn't to get noticed by the police. And, for those who think putting up a wall will keep terrorists out of the country, reflect upon this: The 9/11 hijackers had American-issued visas to be in the U.S.

     Like the great Wall, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, and the levees, this wall will also fail, as persons desperate to enter the U.S. will find many other ways to cross the border. But, Americans will have spent more than $2 billion for that lesson.

[Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through and other stores. You may contact him at, or through his website,]


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