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COHA: Arrogance of Power Lashes Out Again

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

Memorandum to the Press 03.39

3 July 2003

COHA Research Memorandum:

Arrogance of Power Lashes Out Again

- U.S. suspends aid to 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere, among a worldwide total of 35, in retaliation for their support for the International Criminal Court.

- By cutting off military aid, the White House undermines its own War on Terrorism and contradicts its previous policies.

- The ICC case is the latest example of Washington’s coercive bully-boy diplomatic treatment of its Hemispheric neighbors.

- The State Department under Colin Powell has hit a new low regarding its mixed signals concerning the importance of human rights policies.

On July 1, earlier-passed Congressional legislation kicked in and Washington suspended military aid to 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as elsewhere in the world. The action, invoking the punitive provisions of Article 98, is intended to compel the countries to sign an agreement that exempts U.S. military personnel from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges and other human rights violations. The aid cuts are particularly damaging as the unilateral nature of the Bush Administration’s policy reaches an extreme, resulting in an increasing estrangement of the region from the U.S.

U.S. Reluctance to the ICC

The Treaty of Rome establishing the ICC was ratified in 1998 and took effect in July 2002. The Court has the authority to prosecute defendants for genocide and crimes against humanity. The Court’s mandate allows it to act only when individual countries are unwilling or unable to bring to justice those accused of crimes. Although former President Clinton signed the Rome statute, Congress never ratified it, as it was unwilling to accede jurisdiction over U.S. citizens to the Court.

President Bush has vowed never to sign the agreement in its current form. In fact, the current administration pointedly rebuked the Court with the newly signed American Service Members Protection Act of 2002 (ASMP), which sets forth Washington’s aim to prevent its military personnel from being prosecuted for alleged human rights violations by the Court. The ASMP also stipulates that in order to continue to receive U.S. military aid, countries must agree to defy any attempt by the Court to extradite an accused U.S. citizen.

The Bush Administration has argued that the ICC violates basic treaty laws because it would allow U.S. peacekeepers to be prosecuted even though the U.S. does not accept the authority of the Court. Accused U.S. peacekeepers in Colombia, for example, could be extradited to The Hague because Colombia has recognized the Court’s jurisdiction. The Bush Administration has said that it will not send soldiers on peacekeeping missions if they are subject to the Court’s purview.

Fallout in the Hemisphere

Colombia, Bolivia and Peru are among the countries that have recognized the Court and have refused to exempt U.S. operatives from its jurisdiction. All three countries have been singled out by the Bush administration as crucial allies in the “War on Terrorism,” for which they receive large amounts of U.S. military aid. Nevertheless, each stands to lose some U.S. funding as a result of this fight. Since Colombia has already used most of its military budget for this year, U.S. military aid to it will fall by only $5 million in 2003, but the country could lose more than $130 million next year unless President Bush provides an exemption waiver. In Peru, the Bush Administration’s desire to punish Lima will hamstring an embattled President Alejandro Toledo and his ability to rein in a resurgence of activity among the Maoist terrorist group, Shining Path.

On July 2, Phil Cicola, director of Andean Affairs in the U.S. State Department, pressed Colombia to save its future funding benefits by signing Article 98. According to the daily El Tiempo, Cicola told Colombia, “the solution is to sign the agreement.” Cicola’s statement is only the latest in a barrage of initiatives aimed at stamping the region with arrogant U.S. policy directives. Washington’s heavy-handed stance is clearly beginning to weigh on Colombia—the world’s third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid. Enrique Gómez Hurtado, a member of Colombia’s Senate Commission on External Relations, publicly recognized that “the permanent conditions for U.S. aid are beginning to become a factor of great irritation for public opinion.”

One More Gunboat of Diplomacy

The cut in military aid is another example of Washington’s willingness to coerce other nations into following its policies. In April, Otto Reich, the President’s Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere, used a televised press conference from Barbados to announce that the U.S. government was “very disappointed” with the opposition of Caribbean leaders to the invasion of Iraq and remarked, “I would urge Caricom to study very carefully not only what it says, but the consequences of what it says.” With Mexico and Chile, the U.S. was even more flagrantly heavy-handed in attempting to influence the Iraq votes of its U.N. Security Council colleagues. In a similarly overbearing fashion, U.S. ambassadors in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Bolivia intervened freely in the elections in those countries, threatening cuts in aid and foreign investment if left-leaning parties’ candidates were elected to office. With its most recent threat over the ICC, Washington is advancing a deeply troubling pattern in its hemispheric strategy.

The latest attempt to dictate ex-parte hemispheric policy underscores that the Latin America policy of the Inter-American Bureau of the Department of State and the Secretary of State is fast becoming anything but credible. In its opposition to the Court, the U.S. expresses reasonable concerns about its sovereignty, but its coercive methods continue to alienate old friends as well as potential new allies throughout Latin America. From ultimatums on Iraq to free trade talks, the Bush Administration appears willing to use its financial leverage and political power to railroad the national security concerns of the countries in the Hemisphere. This could produce a backlash of immense proportions that could be inimical to basic U.S. national interests.

This analysis was prepared by Conor Riffle and Chris Strunk, research associates at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Issued 3 July 2003.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 216-9261, fax (202) 223-6035, or email coha@coha.org.


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