- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

THREAT TO MEXICO

Mexicans are beginning to realize that drug violence is spreading into society at all levels and is no longer an isolated conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual.

“And as that understanding penetrates into society and into political life, I think we’re seeing a greater, growing consensus that there must be a fight, not just from the state, but from the bottom up, and that’s healthy,” he told the Dallas Morning News in an interview from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Mr. Pascual also warned that the drug violence is spreading from the border and throughout U.S. cities, where police are fighting gangs such as the Zetas and drug cartels such as La Familia, or the Family.

“The big challenge here isn’t just the challenge of the U.S. border cities, but the linkages between hundreds of cities across the United States and the Mexican cartels, and that is what we have to interrupt and block,” he said.

Mr. Pascual explained that the Obama administration is building on the George W. Bush administration’s Merida Initiative, which supports Mexican law enforcement. The plan is to expand the hunt for the most wanted drug lords by blocking the flow of money and obstructing their drug markets.

He also criticized a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found only $26 million of budgeted aid of $1.2 billion has been delivered to Mexico. Mr. Pascual said that nearly $360 million, about one-third of the total, is in the process of being disbursed. That money will include five Bell 412 helicopters, worth a total of $66 million.

The GAO report “isn’t a very good reflection of what is in implementation,” he said.

HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton selected the U.S. ambassador to Armenia to receive the annual award for “Diplomacy for Human Rights,” citing her “principled leadership” in promoting democracy.

Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch and “her embassy team pressed for due process for those arrested after contentious February 2008 elections, advocated for transparent investigations and worked to improve the electoral process, all while maintaining a positive relationship with the government of Armenia,” the State Department said in announcing her award.

Armenia, a nation of 3.2 million people in the Caucasus, has a poor human rights record that “deteriorated significantly” last year, the State Department said in its annual rights report. The Feb. 19 election was “significantly flawed,” and police violently broke up demonstrations against the results.

Ms. Yovanovitch, who arrived in Armenia last year, said the award “really honors human rights reformers in Armenia.”

She quoted Mrs. Clinton as saying that human rights “are the birthright of every human being.”

“As long as I have been a diplomat, I have believed in these principles and worked to promote them wherever I have served,” Ms. Yovanovitch said.

Ms. Yovanovitch served as ambassador to the Kyrgyzstan from 2005 to 2008.

UKRAINE’S SECURITY

Ukraine must overhaul its oil and gas industries if the country ever hopes to maintain energy security, U.S. Ambassador John Tefft said in an interview in Kiev.

“Modernization and changes in the oil and gas sector are required for Ukraine to feel itself secure and to have reliable access to fuel sources,” he told the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, or Weekly Mirror.

Russia has cut off energy supplies to Ukraine several times over price disputes and other issues.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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