1998 Censored

Foreign Policy News Stories


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Clinton Administration Aggressively Promotes U.S. Arms Sales Worldwide

The United States is now the principal arms merchant for die world. U.S. weapons are evident in almost every conflict worldwide and reap a devastating toll on civilians, U.S. military personnel, and the socio-economic priorities of many Third World nations.

On June 7, 1997, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the Arms Transfer Code of Conduct. This code would prohibit U.S. commercial arms sales or military aid and training to foreign governments that are undemocratic, abuse human rights, or engage in aggression against neighboring states. Yet the Clinton Administration, along with the Defense, Commerce, and State Departments, has continued to aggressively promote the U.S. arms industry at every opportunity. With Washington's share of the arms business jumping from 16 percent worldwide in 1988 to 63 percent today, U.S. arms dealers currently sell $10 billion in weapons to non-democratic governments each year. During Clinton's first year in office, U.S. foreign military aid soared to $36 billion, more than double what George Bush approved in 1992.

Most U.S. weaponry is sold to strife-torn regions such as the Middle East. These weapons sales fan the flames of war instead of promoting stability, and ironically, put U.S. troops based around the world at growing risk. For example, the last five times U.S. troops were sent into conflict, they found themselves facing adversaries who had previously received U.S. weapons, military technology, or training. Meanwhile, the Pentagon uses the presence of advanced U.S. weapons in foreign arsenals to justify increased new weapons spending- ostensibly to maintain U.S. military superiority.

Given that international arms sales exacerbate conflicts and drain scarce resources from developing countries, why does the Clinton Administration push them so vigorously? Proponents of arms sales say that these sales are a boon to the economy and that they create jobs. However, the government's own studies reveal that for every 100 jobs created by weapons exports, 41 are lost in non-military U.S. firms. And as U.S. arms exports have soared, some 2.2 million defense industry workers have lost their jobs due to corporate layoffs.

Thus the more plausible motive is the drive for corporate profits. It is no small detail that U.S. global arms market dominance has been accomplished as much through subsidies as sales. In return for arms manufacturers' huge political contributions, much of the U.S. arms exports are paid with government grants, subsidized loans, tax breaks, and promotional activities. With the 1996 welfare reform law cutting federal support for poor families by about $7 billion annually-an amount almost equal to the yearly subsidies given to U.S. weapons manufacturers-it is the poor who will pay the price for escalating arms exports.

Lawrence Kolb, a Brookings Institute fellow and former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, sums up the problem: "It has become a money game: an absurd spiral in which we export arms only to have to develop more sophisticated ones to counter those spread out all over the world.... [And] it is very hard for us to tell other [countries]... not to sell arms when we are out there peddling and fighting to control the market."

UPDATE BY AUTHOR LORA LUMPE: Costly Giveaways' was based on a longer report ('Recycled Weapons: American Exports of Surplus Arms') that my former associate Paul F. Pineo and I published in mid-1996. That study demonstrated that the Pentagon and White House had quietly implemented a major new form of military assistance in the wake of the Cold War (and the 1990-1991 Gulf War). We documented approximately $7 billion in shipments of free, 'excess,' American weapons to countries around the world during 1990-95.

"The full report and 'Costly Giveaways' garnered some mainstream media coverage. Jack Anderson and Colman McCarthy, columnists with the Washington Post, both wrote about it. Harper's ran a box on it in the May 1997 'Readings' section, and William Greider referenced the report in an excellent article on the U.S. arms industry in Rolling Stone (July 10-24,1997). However, in all of the press coverage, the narrow taxpayer angle received the greatest attention, while what I consider to be the most significant aspect of the story-the impact of these weapons shipments on people working for peace, democracy, economic justice, or human rights-received little mention.

"The report and article had some policy impact. Senator Paul Sarbanes read the study and enacted several of its recommendations into law (Public Law 104164). Most significantly, this law requires an annual State Department report listing all transfers of 'excess defense articles' (EDA) and emergency 'drawdowns' of Pentagon weapons stocks during the preceding year. The listing, by country and specifying the type of equipment, greatly enhances congressional and public oversight of these programs. According to the first iteration of this report, released in September 1997, the Executive Branch authorized over $830 million of grant surplus weapons transfers in fiscal year 1996. Among the recipients were Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Bahrain, and Turkey-all countries where serious political repression and/or human rights violations were reported in 1996. Senator Sarbanes' law caps future EDA shipments at X350 million a year, beginning in fiscal year 1997 (the year that ended on September 30, 1997). His law also maintains for four years a requirement that the Pentagon provide surplus arms to Greece and Turkey in a 7 to 10 ratio, allegedly balancing the arms race between these antagonistic U.S. allies.

"In a related article that ran six months after our study, U.S. News and World Report (December 9, 1996) exposed the ease with which civilians and foreign agents are able to purchase surplus military spare parts from the Pentagon. In thousands of instances, the Department of Defense failed to 'demilitarize' equipment before sale, allowing civilians to, for instance, convert regular helicopters into assault helicopters. This story (and an accompanying piece on 60 Minutes) led to congressional hearings, an internal Pentagon audit of the surplus inventory, and the introduction of legislation mandating accurate classification and demilitarization of surplus parts (HR 2602, introduced in October 1997 by Representative Pete Stark).

"For more information on the issues raised in 'Costly Giveaways' and in this update, visit the Federation of American Scientists' Arms Sales Monitoring Project on the World Wide Web at http:/l www.fas.org/asmp."

UPDATE BY AUTHOR MARTHA HONEY: "As the sole remaining superpower, the U.S. has the opportunity to map out a new foreign policy direction towards arms reductions in this post-Cold War era. Sadly, however, the U.S. is now the world's leading arms exporter; and NATO expansion, the centerpiece of Clinton's second term, offers a bonanza to U.S. arms exporters. Arms merchants are the second greatest recipients of corporate welfare surpassed only by farmers who receive agricultural subsidies.

"Since the article was published, the Clinton Administration's positions have, unfortunately, hardened. Washington stands nearly alone in the world in its refusal to sign the land mines treaty. In August, Clinton agreed to lift the two-decade-old moratorium on transfers of high-tech weapons to Latin America, thereby threatening to trigger an arms race in South America.

"Regarding coverage of the article, I did a number of radio interviews after it appeared, but I am not aware of any significant coverage in the mainstream print or television media."

For more information on U.S. military sales and exports, contact:

MARTHA HONEY Foreign Policy in Focus Project Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 1020 Washington, DC 20005 Tel: 202/234-9382 E-mail: ipsps@igc.apc. org.

The Foreign Policy in Focus Project at IPS publishes a number of briefs on arms sales and subsidies, NATO expansion, defense conversion, and other related topics.

LORA LUMPE Federation of American Scientists 307 Massachusetts Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20002 Tel: 202/ 675-1018 E-mail: llumpe@fas.org.

Lora Lumpe has a major project on conventional arms and arms sales.

WILLIAM HARTUNG Arms Trade Resource Center World Policy Institute New School for Social Research 65 Fifth Avenue, Suite 413 New York, NY 10003 Tel: 212/229-5808 E-mail: hartung@newschool.edu.

This center compiles invaluable information on defense contractors and lobbying/political contributions.

TOM CARDOMONE Council for a Livable World Education Fund 110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 409 Washington, DC 20002 Tel: 202/543-4100 E-mail: livableworld@igc.apc.org.

Tom Cardomone runs the Conventional Arms Transfer Project.


United States Companies are World Leaders in the Manufacture of Torture Devices for Internal Use and Export

In its March 1997 report entitled "Recent Cases of the Use of Electroshock Weapons for Torture or ILL-Treatment," Amnesty International lists 100 companies worldwide that produce and sell instruments of torture. Forty-two of these firms are in the United States. This places the U.S. as the leader in the manufacture of stun guns, stun belts, cattle probe-like devices, and other equipment which can cause devastating pain in the hands of torturers.

According to the report, the following are some of the American companies currently engaged in the production and sale of such weapons: ... B-west Imports Inc. of Tucson, Arizona; and Taserton of Corona, California... B-West joined with Paralyzer Protection, a South African company, to produce shock batons that deliver a charge of between 80,000 and 120,000 volts. Taserton was the first company to manufacture the taser, a product which shoots two wires attached to darts with metal hooks. When these hooks catch a victim's skin or clothing, the device delivers a debilitating shock. Los Angeles police officers used the device against Rodney King in 1991.

These weapons are currently in use in the U.S. and are being exported to countries all over the world. The U.S. government is a large purchaser of stun devices-especially stun guns, electroshock batons, and electric shields. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty both claim the devices are unsafe and may encourage sadistic acts by police officers and prison guards both here and abroad. "Stun belts offer enormous possibilities for abuse and the infliction of gratuitous pain," says Jenni Gainsbourough of the ACLU's National Prison Project. She adds that because use of the stun belt leaves little physical evidence, this increases the likelihood of sadistic, but hard-to-prove, misuse of these weapons. In June 1996, Amnesty International asked the Bureau of Prisons to suspend the use of electroshock belt, citing the possibility of physical danger to inmates and the potential for misuse.

In 1991, Terence Allen, a specialist in forensic pathology who served as deputy medical examiner for both Los Angeles and San Francisco's coroner's offices, linked the taser to fatalities. With electrical current, Allen says, the chance of death increases with each use. Allen warns, "I think what you are going to see is more deaths from stun weapons."

Manufacturers of electroshock weapons continue to denounce allegations that use of their devices is dangerous and may constitute a gross violation of human rights. Instead, they are making more advanced innovations. A new stun weapon may soon be added to police arsenals: the electroshock razor wire, specially designed for surrounding demonstrators who get out of hand.

UPDATE by AUTHOR ANNE-MARIE CUSAC: "Many citizens do not realize that the abuse of prisoners is epidemic in the United States. Since I wrote the piece, evidence that guards in the Maricopa County, Arizona, jail system mistreated inmates with stun guns (including one incident where a guard shocked a sleeping inmate) has led to a new jail policy restricting the use of 'non-lethal' weapons such as stun guns. There has also been some disturbing news; the stun belt recently appeared in South Africa.

This is the first documented export of the device.

"Meanwhile, the manufacturers have been busy. One company recently announced a device it calls 'The Sticky Shocker,' which fires an electrified high-pressure saline solution. The 'Net Gun,' another new product, uses a grenade launcher to shoot a sticky web that can deliver a 60,000 volt shock.

"The mainstream media have had no response to 'Shock Value,' and have given scant coverage to the issue as a whole. A copy of Amnesty International's report on stun devices may be obtained by phoning 212/807-8400. The American Civil Liberties Union Prison Rights Project (Tel: 202/234-4830) also has information on the devices."


Norplant and Human Lab Experiments in Third World Lead to Forced Use in the United States

Low-income women in the United States and in the Third World have been the unwitting targets of a U.S. policy to control birth rates. Despite continuous reports of debilitating effects of the drug Norplant, women here and in the Third World, who have received the implantable contraceptive, have had difficulty making their complaints heard, and in some instances have been deceived, according to our resources. Norplant is a set of six plastic cylinders containing a synthetic version of a female hormone. It is intended to prevent pregnancy for five years. Surgery is required for removal-at a cost far beyond the reach of low-income women, regardless of their nationality, if the removal is not subsidized.

Jennifer Washburn's Ms. article focuses on Medicaid rejection of Norplant removals for low-income women prior to the standard five-year period, even when side effects are chronic. In the U.S. State Medicaid agencies, for example, often generously cover the cost of Norplant insertion but don't cover removal before the full five years. Although Medicaid policy may cover early removal "when determined 'medically necessary,' " medical necessity is determined by the provider and the Medicaid agency, not the patient.

Journalist Rebecca Kavoussi reports in her Washington Free Press article that the reproductive rights of women addicted to drugs or alcohol have once again become the focus of U.S. legislation. Senate Bill 5278, now under consideration in the state of Washington, would require "involuntary use of long-term pharmaceutical birth control" (Norplant) for women who give birth to drug-addicted babies. Under this proposal, a woman who gives birth to a drug-addicted baby would get two chances-the first voluntary, the second mandatory-to undergo drug treatment and counseling. Upon the birth of a third drug-addicted child, the state would force the mother to undergo surgery to insert the Norplant contraceptive.

Similarly, Norplant is figuring in reproductive rights issues and legislative policies worldwide as well. In his May 1997 Human Events article, Joseph D'Agostino reports on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary The Human Laboratory, which accused the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) of acting in conjunction with the Population Council of New York City, to use uninformed women in Bangladesh, Haiti, and the Philippines for Norplant tests. Many of these women were subjects in pre-injection drug trials that began in 1985 in Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries.

The BBC documentary contained interviews with women who complained of debilitating side effects from Norplant, but who were rebuffed when they asked to have the implants removed. These women stated that they had been told that the drug was safe and not experimental. Implantation was free.

One woman interviewed in the documentary said that after implantation, suddenly her body became weak, and that she couldn't get up, look after her children, or cook. Other women reported similar problems, stating that when they asked to have Norplant removed, they were told it would ruin the study. "I went to the clinic as often as twice a week," one woman said, "but they said, 'This thing we put in your arm costs 5,000 takas. We'll not remove it unless you pay this money."' The narrator of the documentary, Farida Akhter, recounted that when another woman begged to have the implant removed-saying, "I'm dying, please help me get it out"-she was told, "Okay, when you die, inform us, we'll get it out of your body."

The documentary asserts that the women should have been told that the pre-introductory trials were to assess the drug's safety, efficiency, and acceptability. Now, says the BBC, many women who were used in the trials are suffering from eyesight disorders, strokes, persistent bleeding, and other side effects.

However, the Norplant saga appears to have global political implications that interfere with reasonable resolution. According to the documentary, the U.S. government considers global population control a "national security issue" and has increased U.S. population control efforts around the world.

Norplant side effects have resulted in over 400 lawsuits being filed against Wyeth-Ayerst, the maker of Norplant. These lawsuits include class actions representing over 50,000 women which are only just now making their way to the courts.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR JENNIFER WASHBURN: "When Norplant hit the market in 1990, a flurry of state legislation was proposed offering AFDC recipients monetary incentives (anywhere from $200 to $700) to use Norplant. At the same time, state Medicaid agencies were crafting policies that deny coverage for early Norplant removal (before five years) even if a woman was experiencing chronic side effects, policies that still exist in many states. The mainstream media, to my knowledge, never picked up on this story, and rarely, if ever, covers issues affecting the health and reproductive rights of low-income women. Norplant usage has, however, declined dramatically in all populations largely due to the negative publicity generated from the lawsuits involving some 50,000 women which are only just now making their way to the courts.

"Since my story came out, 'child exclusion laws' that deny additional benefits to children born to mothers on welfare have spread to at least 21 states. The new federal welfare 'reform' law permits states to punitively exclude benefits to these children, despite the fact that two recent studies in New Jersey and Arkansas-the first two states to implement 'family caps' as they are euphemistically called-found no difference in birth rates between women denied benefits and those eligible for them. At the same time that welfare recipients are being asked to achieve self-sufficiency in five years or less, 34 states continue to allow Medicaid coverage of abortion services only in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Meanwhile, the new law encourages competition among states for 'illegitimacy bonuses,' and dedicates an extraordinary $50 million for 'abstinence-only' education-which may not be combined with traditional sex education programs that teach about both abstinence and contraception. Many fear that this will wipe out more encompassing sex education programs from schools, hardly a viable solution for sexually active women of any class who want control over their reproduction as well as their lives."

UPDATE BY AUTHOR REBECCA KAVOUSSI: "Although Washington state Senate Bill 5278 will take effect July 1, 1998 (if passed), there has been no mainstream media coverage of its year-long journey through the Washington state legislature.

"Technology is commonly equated with progress, and progress is believed to be positive. Accordingly, our culture seems to view advances in reproductive technology as indicators of more broad and extensive advances in freedom and autonomy for women as a group. In the case of legislation like this, however, we glimpse the stunning negative potential of technology when it is called upon to bring order to emotionally and politically loaded situations.

"In the most updated version of the bill, women targeted for mandatory contraception also face the termination of parental rights. While the writers of the bill suggest no funding for improving the resources available to pregnant addicts, they are considering extending Senate Bill 5278 to include mothers of children born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

"Both Lexis-Nexis and the Web offer the full text of legislation at state and national levels. In her book, At Women's Expense: State Power and the Politics of Fetal Rights (Harvard University Press, 1993), Cynthia Daniels details the relationship between reproductive technology and the state."

UPDATE BY AUTHOR JOSEPH D'AGOSTINO: "Two crucial concerns intersect in the story of Western organizations promoting population control in the Third World at all costs: the unspoken belief that the lives of Third World people are less valuable than those of Westerners, and the perversion of women's sacred reproductive rights. Despite the well-respected BBC's report, almost nothing has appeared in the American mainstream media on the experimental use of Norplant on unsuspecting Third World women. All that I could find was a two-sentence mention in passing by a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation on February 5, 1997, and an article by Mount Holyoke College Professor of Women's Studies Asoka Bandarage in the July 14, 1997 Christian Science Monitor.

"The Population Council continues to insist Norplant is safe, as does the World Health Organization and U.S. AID. But the FDA has kept open the petition of the Population Research Institute (PRI) to decertify the device. Class action suits against the device are pending."


Mattel cuts U.S. Jobs to Open Sweatshops in Other Countries

Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), U.S. toy factories have cut a onetime American work force of 56,000 in half and sent many of those jobs to countries where workers lack basic rights.

For 23 years, Dennis Mears worked as an electrician at the Fisher-Price factory in Medina, New York. In 1993, Mattel, Inc. took over the plant, welcoming the people of Fisher-Price to the Mattel family. Two years later, after Mattel had lobbied for NAFTA, touting the agreement as a boon for U.S. workers, Mears and 700 other employees, including his wife, an employee of 18 years, lost their jobs. Some of the jobs moved to the South, but 520 disappeared because of "increased company imports from Mexico," according to the U.S. Labor Department. Today, Mears works in an applesauce factory, earning half of what he made at Fisher-Price.

In the past decade, Mattel, the makers of "Barbie," bought out six major competitors, making it the largest toy manufacturer in the world. Employing 25,000 people worldwide, Mattel now only employs 6,000 workers in the United States. NAFTA has freed Mattel to further reduce its American work force and take advantage of repressive labor laws in other countries.

Delfina Rodriguez is a middle-aged woman with seven children. Until September 9, 1996, she assembled Mattel toys on the night shift at the Mabamex factory, a Mattel affiliate in Tijuana, Mexico. On that night, she reports, she came to work carrying pamphlets from a workers'-rights meeting held the previous day.

Upon entering the plant she says her purse was searched and she was taken into a room by a security guard. She and two other workers say they were interrogated, accused of passing out subversive materials, detained against their will until the next morning, and prevented from going to the bathroom or making phone calls to their families. In the end, they were told they would have to quit their jobs or go to prison. They were released only after agreeing to resign. Although they have reached a settlement with the company awarding them severance pay, the women have filed a penal complaint in Tijuana, claiming their rights were violated.

In the Dynamic factory just outside of Bangkok, 4,500 women and children stuff, cut, dress, and assemble Barbie dolls and Disney properties. Many of the workers have respiratory infections, their lungs filled with dust from fabrics in the factory. They complain of hair and memory loss, constant pain in their hands, neck, and shoulders, episodes of vomiting, and irregular menstrual periods. Metha is a militant woman in her twenties who tried to start a union at the Dynamics plant. She claims the company not only fired her but threatened to shut her up "forever." She developed respiratory problems and was hospitalized. She expresses her fear to talk to a reporter by saying, "Barbie is powerful. Three friends have already died. If they kill me, who will ever know I lived?"

Though separated by distance, these Mattel workers are intimately connected by experience, as are those of countless other abused workers in toy factories in Thailand and China, where Mattel now produces the bulk of their toys.

Under pressure, the industry adopted a code of conduct, which conveniently calls upon companies to monitor themselves. There's little evidence, however, according to authors Anton Foek and Eyal Press, of any changes in these abusive practices.


"A few years ago, questions about conditions in the toy industry began to be raised in the media after a fire killed more than 100 workers, mostly young women, at a factory in Thailand. Since that time, little has been done to address the unsafe and inhumane working conditions that predominate in the industry; and the media's attention has, predictably, focused on the craze for 'Elmo' dolls, the latest version of Barbie, and to the intense jostling among companies for profit and market share. The fact that so many toys are made in sweatshops is simply not a pleasant topic to dwell upon, so while it's mentioned in occasional news-stories, most consumers remain uninformed and oblivious.

"My article gave a detailed, first-hand account of a previously unreported case of worker harassment and intimidation at a Mattel toy factory in Mexico. I connected this story to related events in a town in upstate New York, where, earlier in the same year, Mattel had laid off hundreds of workers, shifting production to Mexico. The strength of the story, I think, rested in the first-hand interviews I conducted with workers in both places. The article also provided a detailed look at how Mattel and other toy companies have lobbied Congress to ensure that U.S. tariff and trade agreements be separated from the question of labor rights. In the fine print of trade agreements with China and Indonesia, the industry has won special privileges eliminating all tariffs on toy imports, and it has blocked attempts to tie these privileges to improvements in labor rights.

"The short-term response to my story was positive: I was invited to speak on numerous radio shows across the country, both commercial and public. There have also been several good stories done on conditions in the toy industry in the past year-including a program that aired on NBC Dateline. Nevertheless, the issues addressed in my article have not received sustained attention. In addition, I know for a fact that an award-winning reporter at a mainstream newspaper had a lengthy feature story on abuses in the toy industry killed by his editors just around the time that my story appeared. He was enraged, suspecting that his editors (and no doubt the paper's advertises) simply did not want such a story to appear during the holiday shopping season. Given that the United States is by far the world's largest market for toys and that the industry's abuses could easily be curtailed without threatening its financial well-being, it's impossible to believe that consumers would prefer that such stories be relegated to the back pages."


"In the year since my story was published, at least one of the women I wrote about died. And unsafe sweatshop conditions continue in Bangkok, Thailand, as elsewhere. A positive change, however, is that the sort of conditions I reported in 'Sweatshop Barbie,' have since garnered widespread concern, receiving publicity in U.S. News and World Report, on NBC Dateline, and in other media. As a result, companies like Mattel have publicly responded. The July/August 1997 Humanist featured a letter written by Sean M. Fitzgerald, Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Mattel, Inc., followed by my reply. In his letter, Fitzgerald denied or minimized what I had personally observed, photographed, and tape-recorded. But, after standing by my story, I expressed the idea that we should look beyond the toys of Mattel to the forest of the corporate world as a whole, seeing how the goal of amassing private fortunes can work at cross-purposes with the goal of extending participatory democracy.

"Though I haven't heard that my reply changed Fitzgerald's mind, I consider the corporate response sufficient. It shows that journalistic efforts can have impact. But we must do more. Consumes should write letters and send e-mail to major corporations whose products carry labels indicating manufacture in developing nations, and ask about working conditions there. Further, consumer groups should be encouraged to rate products according to working conditions as well as safety. To know how best to vote with your dollars, contact The Council on Economic Priorities at 30 Irving Place, New York, NY 10001; Tel: 800/729-4237."


U.S. Paper Companies Conspire to Squash Zapatistas

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has ushered in an era of unprecedented military and corporate domination over the already beleaguered indigenous citizens of Mexico. On the day NAFTA went into effect, the Zapatistas of Chiapas in Southern Mexico rose up in rebellion against the exploitation that they feared NAFTA portended. Though the initial violence did not last long, the Zapatistas have continued to resist intrusions into their communally held lands, known as eijdos. Inhabited by the indigenous people of Mexico, the eijdos have been farmed collectively for centuries.

With the passage of NAFTA, the Mexican government is pushing for the elimination of these communally held lands. By privatizing the land, the government hopes to make lucrative deals with multinational corporations from the U.S. and elsewhere.

Under the guise of the perpetual "War on Drugs," the U.S. has funded a massive build-up of the Mexican military over the last three years. Over 50 Huey helicopters and various other offense-capable weapons have been provided to Mexico by the U.S. government. Most of this hardware can be used to control the poor and indigenous peoples there. The U.S. State Department admits that it is unable to account for how military aid to Mexico is used.

In recent years, the Mexican military has constructed roads deep into the Zapatista-inhabited areas of Chiapas in order to expedite movement of troops into the region. Previously a pristine and relatively remote area with few roads, the military presence in Chiapas has intimidated and isolated the various Zapatista communities, interfering with planting and harvesting their crops. This, in turn, has led to widespread malnourishment in the communities.

The absence or lack of enforcement of environmental and health and safety regulations in Mexico makes it particularly attractive to corporations from more regulated industrialized nations. Major deals have already been brokered between the Mexican government and multinational corporations for the development of forest and petroleum resources in the country.

One company, Pulsar, has presented a project to plant (non-indigenous) eucalyptus trees over 300,000 hectares throughout Chiapas and surrounding territories, and has contracted to sell the wood to International Paper (IP). In 1995, the vice president of IP sent a letter to the president of Mexico warning: "at this time, the projections of that project are not positive [since] the political environment [in Chiapas] represents a high risk." He went on to advise that "the development of a Mexican forest industry-strong and globally competitive, supported by commercial plantations-is a national priority." The implication- that the Mexican military ought to be making a greater effort to eliminate the `'Zapatista problem"-cannot be disregarded.

To make matters worse, Chiapas sits on major petroleum reserves that are second only to Venezuela in the Western Hemisphere. Many of these are under Zapatista-controlled lands. In 1996, the Mexican government made a deal with a major Canadian corporation, HydroQuebec International, to develop natural gas resources throughout Chiapas.

To the indigenous communities of Mexico, many of whom have inhabited their lands for hundreds of years, the loss of their homes would have ramifications which reach beyond simply the loss of their crops and livelihoods. As has happened so often in the Americas, it would mean the loss of their autonomy, their identity, and the tragic death of yet another innocent culture.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR VIVIANA: "Much of the information regarding corporate interests and plans for development of the natural resources of Chiapas remains widely unreported. However, these factors are central to understanding the depth of U.S. involvement in the politics of the region and the fate of its natural resources.

"Historically, indigenous people have repeatedly found themselves backed into the same corner, with their culture and ability to exist threatened by the race for control over their resources. The solution to the Mexican crisis depends on our awareness that we are a significant part of the problem. With this knowledge, we are challenged to participate in real solutions that support the struggle for human rights and cultural identity of the indigenous people in Zapatista communities and throughout Mexico.

"This story went unnoticed by the mainstream press, just as the Zapatista struggle has had little coverage. Because of this lack of response, the information was primarily disseminated through independent publications of non-profit organizations such as the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, the Native Forest Network, and the Earth First! journal. The Internet has also played an important role (as it has throughout the work in support of the Zapatista movement) in accessing the relevant reports and articles from Mexico and in communicating the information to the United States.

"The Zapatista struggle continues as does the Mexican military's low-intensity war against the indigenous communities of Chiapas. The U.S. government has not acknowledged its role in the military presence in Chiapas, and continues to contribute to the military buildup."


FBI: Sloppy, Out of Touch, and Very Powerful

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for years was perceived as the nation's preeminent crime-fighting agency. That image took a blow from events at Waco and Ruby Ridge, where

the FBI had major confrontations with citizens, as well as from a reported mess at the FBI crime lab. Now, after examining the bureau's own records, a law enforcement reporter concludes that the FBI today is a sloppy, unresponsive, badly managed, uncooperative, and out-of-touch agency that is aggressively trying to expand its control over the American people.

The bureau concentrates on drug dealers, credit-card scams, and bank robbers, all tasks that could easily be left to state and local agencies. Meanwhile, insufficient attention is given to the financial loss and the physical pain and deaths that result from the work of the nation's army of white-collar criminals.

Records also show that the success rate of FBI cases is dismal. Justice Department prosecutors find much of the FBI's investigative work inadequate. From 1992 to 1996, only one-fourth of all FBI cases referred to prosecutors resulted in convictions. The much-touted FBI lags behind the Drug Enforcement Agency, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in prosecution success rates.

Given the current system in which the FBI runs with a free hand, there's little reason to expect the bureau to improve or change. Because the FBI operates within the Justice Department, most people assume that it is accountable to the Attorney General. This is incorrect. From his appointment in 1924 to his death in 1972, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was his own boss. This was largely due to the fact that Hoover understood the importance of information and how it could be used to garner power and influence. Hoover was untouchable. After his death, Congress attempted to put some controls on the FBI. Now the director serves a 10-year term and can be removed from office only for "just cause." Subsequently, new FBI directors have a 10-year period to be their own masters with little accountability or oversight.

The FBI is continually pushing for greater control over and access to the private domains of American citizens. Evidence of this is given in a program quietly signed into law by President Clinton in October 1994. This program required the nation's telephone companies to install a new generation of FBI-approved equipment that will make it much easier for the bureau to tap telephones throughout the country. The implications of this mandate are made even more far-reaching by the subsequent development of computer technologies that are able to monitor these wiretaps with little or no help from human operatives-making wiretapping considerably cheaper.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime in June, Louis Freeh, the current FBI Director, said, plainly: "We are potentially the most dangerous agency in the country."

UPDATE BY AUTHOR DAVID BURNHAM: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the most powerful and secretive agency in the United States. Decade after decade, with no consideration of alternatives, it has continuously sought to expand its reach over the American people. Despite this steadily growing authority, the 'B', is special agents refer to it, has rarely been subject to informed scrutiny.

"Most news organizations are satisfied with press releases and leaks that are always carefully crafted to serve the FBI's purposes. While FBI Director Louis Freeh frequently testifies before Congress, the information he provides is almost always anecdotal. Public interest groups, lawyers, and scholars frame their questions about the FBI around individual horror stories that are easily dismissed as exceptions to the rule.

"The FBI article in The Nation was important because for the first time ever, it used the comprehensive internal records of the Justice Department to document what the bureau does and does not do, and how well or poorly it does it. FBI investigations result in thousands of convictions for drug crimes, bank robberies, and small-time fraud against the banks, but only a handful of convictions of big time white-collar criminals, fraudulent medical providers, or brutal cops. Even by its own standards, other agencies like the DEA appear to do a better job than the FBI in the enforcement of the nation's drug laws.

"The data that served as the foundation of this article were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research organization associated with Syracuse University. I am a founder and co-director of TRAC. At the time The Nation published the FBI article, we mounted an FBI Web site with more than 2O,000 pages of maps, charts, graphs, textual material, and other information about the bureau's operations. This information is available to every citizen, every reporter, every public interest group, and every congressperson who is concerned about the FBI, at http://trac.syr.edu/tracfbi. TRAC has created similar sites about the IRS, DEA, and BATF.

"Post Script: On August 5,1997, just as The Nation was coming off the presses and TRAC's Web site was going up, ABC's Nightline ran a favorable program on TRAC and its FBI findings. For a transcript of the program, call me at 202/ 544. 8722 or e-mail me at trac@syr.edu The Web site of TRAC is: http://www.trac.syr.edu.

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