Q Thank you, Mr. President. The spotlight on your visit here was on the handshake and smiles with Hugo Chavez, but we didn't see much interaction with some of the other leaders of the region like Daniel Ortega, Rafael Correa, or Evo Morales, who yesterday accused the United States of still interfering in its affairs and, even though it's too soon, he says, of not seeing much of change. Did you have any private meetings with any of these leaders, and if so, can you tell us what was discussed?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I had meetings with all the leaders involved, including Daniel Ortega, who was the chairperson of the Central American meeting. I had very cordial conversations with President Morales and President Correa. And I think it's just that President Chavez is better at positioning the cameras.
And in all these conversations, here's what I emphasized: that we're not going to agree on every issue, but that as long as we are respectful of democratic processes, as long as we're respectful of principles of sovereignty for all nations, that we can find areas where we can work in common. And my sense is, if you talk to any of those leaders, that they would say that they feel encouraged about the possibility of a more constructive relationship.
Now, specifically on the Bolivia issue, I just want to make absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere. That is not the policy of our government. That is not how the American people expect their government to conduct themselves. And so I want to be as clear as possible on that.
But one of the things that I mentioned in both public remarks as well as private remarks is that the United States obviously has a history in this region that's not always appreciated from the perspective of some, but that what we need to do is try to move forward, and that I am responsible for how this administration acts and we will be respectful to those democratically elected governments, even when we disagree with them.
Scott Wilson, Washington Post.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said during the summit that you were here not to debate the past. You also said we must learn from our history. You just referred to this history. What have you learned over two days of listening to leaders here about how U.S. policy is perceived in the region? And can you name a specific policy that you will change as a result of what you've heard?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that what was reemphasized in all the discussions that I had was a sense, on the one hand, that the United States is critical to the economic growth and opportunities in the region. Even the most vociferous critics of the United States also want to make sure that the United States' economy is working and growing again, because there is extraordinary dependence on the United States for exports, for remittances.
And so in that sense people are rooting for America's success. I do think that there is a strain of thought in the region that, in the past, many of the problems surrounding economic growth and opportunity or the lack thereof resulted because of a too rigid application of a free market doctrine imposed by the IMF -- what is termed the "Washington consensus."
I think in some cases, those issues have been addressed. At the G20 summit, for example, we talked about the need to create a reformed international financial -- set of international financial institutions that provide additional flexibility, provide more voice and vote to developing countries. In some cases, it may be just a carryover of knee-jerk anti-American sentiment, or simply differing -- differences in terms of economic theories and how the economies should grow.
One thing that I thought was interesting -- and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms -- hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have -- have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region.
And I think that's why it's so important that in our interactions not just here in the hemisphere but around the world, that we recognize that our military power is just one arm of our power, and that we have to use our diplomatic and development aid in more intelligent ways so that people can see very practical, concrete improvements in the lives of ordinary persons as a consequence of U.S. foreign policy.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Building a little bit, actually, on the answer that you had there, you've been to three continents now in the last three weeks, 40-odd world leaders that you've been in the same room with --
THE PRESIDENT: Time to get home. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to Iowa next week. (Laughter.)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
at 4:10 PM |
Wayne LaPierre, NRA head, appeared on CBS' Face The Nation. He had a hard time trying to defend his organizations views on the easy access to guns in America. Read the Transcript. Excerpt below:
Since the assault ban has been lifted, Harry, 40 American police officers have either been killed or seriously wounded with assault weapons.
SMITH: All right. Wayne LaPierre, are the cops wrong?
LAPIERRE: The rank-and-file cops know this is a totally phony issue. And that’s why Congress doesn’t want to deal with it again.
You know, the governor sits up there in Philadelphia. Let me tell you the reality of the crime problem in this country. The former U.S. attorney said there’s simply no risk of a felon in Philadelphia putting a gun in his pocket and walking out in the street. The former -- the head of the FOP up there said the problem in Philadelphia is the revolving door criminal justice system. It lets the most prolific and violent criminals back on the street again and again. The chief of detectives of the Philadelphia Police Department has recently said there’s no reason to talk about gun control; they don’t enforce any of the gun laws they already have. He talks about no consequences.
SMITH: So you think that the assault weapons ban is just a bogeyman?
LAPIERRE: I think it is a totally phony issue. It was enacted -- and the governor is doing it again today -- on the basis of saying these were machine guns. That’s a lie. They were rapid fire. That’s a lie. They made bigger holes. That’s a lie. They were more powerful. That’s a lie. It was lie after lie after lie.
Congress found it out. That’s why they let it expire, and lies that are found out don’t get reenacted.
SMITH: The majority of Americans support the assault weapons ban. And here’s what a lot of people think, and one of the members of your own board has said, well, this whole thing about going to assault -- after assault weapons is just a way for them to take away our rights to carry shotguns. That’s what people --is that what people in the NRA really believe?
LAPIERRE: Harry, let me tell you, there is no functional difference at all between any of these so-called assault weapons the media talks about. Assault weapons are machine guns. They’re fully automatic. They spray fire. They’re rapid fire. That’s what our soldiers use. These guns we’re talking about, that the governor wants to ban, are functionally no different than any other gun. The performance characteristics are exactly the same. There’s no difference.
SMITH: OK. Governor. RENDELL: That’s just unbelievably untrue. That’s unbelievably untrue. The assault weapons that are used that are sold in sporting goods stores now because the ban has been lifted, they put out a tremendously high amount of fire. And remember, the ban not only banned these assault weapons. It banned large capacity ammunition clips.
Now I’d like Wayne to explain to the American people why anybody should have the right to have an ammunition clip that has more than 10 bullets in it at one time. What use is that made for, Wayne? Who uses that?
LAPIERRE: Governor, you know there is absolutely no difference between two 10-round magazines and three of another. I mean, and you just said something...
RENDELL: There’s a big difference -- it’s a big difference because someone...
LAPIERRE: ... you just said something plainly untrue.
RENDELL: It’s a big difference because someone has to change...
LAPIERRE: I want you to go to the range with me, and let’s get ballistics experts.
LAPIERRE: And CNN has footage on this, where they went to the range with police officers and they showed there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the guns you want to ban and you don’t want to ban. You’re going to ban these semi-autos, and then it’s going to be handguns, and then it’s going to be pump shotguns...
RENDELL: See, and that’s the excuse all the time...
LAPIERRE: And it’s the truth, and you know it.
RENDELL: Harry, they use this excuse all the time, and everybody knows, everybody knows that every one of our amendments have limitations to it.
RENDELL: You can’t you can’t cry “Fire” in a crowded movie theater...
SMITH: Governor, hang on one second.
Mr. LaPierre, let me ask you this. Do the people in the NRA -- do the rank-and-file really believe the president of the United States is interested in basically overturning the Second Amendment?
LAPIERRE: You know what they’re trying to do right now? They’re trying to piggyback this whole phony issue of -- on the back of the tragedy in Mexico. I challenge the president of the United States and the media to prove that 90 percent of the guns used by the drug cartels are being smuggled.
SMITH: It may not be 90 percent. That certainly has been put in question. But there’s certainly plenty of these guns that are coming across the border.
LAPIERRE: You know, the only people that have ever put up their hand in the air and testified under oath on this is BATF, two weeks ago in Congress.
And let me tell you what they said. “I’m not sure where those institutes get these numbers. The investigations that we have...
SMITH: The 90 percent number?
LAPIERRE: Exactly. And the 2,000 a day.
SMITH: Nobody’s claiming the 90 percent number.
LAPIERRE: “And we see, for firearms seizures flowing across the border, don’t show us showing individuals taking thousands of guns a day flowing into Mexico.”
But the other thing, if there’s one gun, it’s already illegal. ICE, the customs people, enforcement people were asking Congress, do you need more laws? They said, no, we just need to enforce what we have.
SMITH: Let me go back to the governor. Because the thing that the NRA has said repeatedly, and was just said again this morning, is, why aren’t the laws that are on books enforced already, and that would alleviate most of the problem?
RENDELL: Well, first of all, number one, I agree with Wayne that we need to enforce existing laws better. But in Pennsylvania, we’ve gone -- in over a decade, we’ve increased our prison population on our state prisons by over 15,000 people.
We are enforcing the laws. We’re putting bad and difficult and dangerous people who use firearms to commit crimes in jail.
When I was district attorney, we enacted the first mandatory minimum sentence for people who use guns to commit crimes. We just enacted, in Pennsylvania, a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for anybody who fires a gun at a police officer.
But that is -- and I agree, we should enforce our existing laws better. And in fact, as Wayne will admit, he and I and Charlton Heston -- we combined on a tougher procedure in Philadelphia.
But having said that -- having said that...
RENDELL: ... let’s go back to the original point. What blessed use is there for one of these assault weapons?
What American needs an assault weapon to protect themselves?
SMITH: Go ahead...
SMITH: Go ahead.
LAPIERRE: It’s not an assault weapon. It’s no different than any other...
RENDELL: It’s an assault weapon.
LAPIERRE: But you know what happened in Philadelphia, Governor? When the cameras went away, you went away. But I’ll tell you what we ought to do this morning. Let’s agree on this. Every American city -- let’s put Project Exile. Every time a violent felon, drug dealer, gang member touches a gun, let’s prosecute.
at 1:06 PM |
Top Republican in the House, John Boehner, appearing on ABC's This Week, downplayed global warming while attributing it to cows letting out gas. Read the transcript. Excerpt below:
STEPHANOPOULOS: We turn now to Congressman Boehner. And let me get you right on there, Congressman Boehner. What is your response to the president's decision this week? And also, we just heard from Mr. Emanuel that the president wants to move forward, no prosecution for officials who devised the policy.
BOEHNER: Well, I think that's one area -- area that I can agree with the president on. But I think the release of these memos is dangerous, and I agree with what Leon Panetta had to say, when he made it clear that he thought that this would hamper our ability to get information from terrorists and get other countries to work with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And let's look at this more broadly, then, Congressman Boehner. You heard what Mr. Emanuel had to say about the president's approach towards this next set of challenges facing the Congress, especially healthcare and education. And he says the president's willing to work with Republicans, but Republicans have to come to the table with ideas. Let's take each issue in turn.
Are you prepared to come forward with a plan to cover all Americans and control healthcare costs?
BOEHNER: I think we believe, along what Democrats believe, that all Americans should have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. We're working on a plan that preserves the doctor/patient relationship, rewards quality and rewards innovation. We're not for a plan that puts the government in charge of our healthcare, decides what doctors ought to be paid, or what treatments ought to be prescribed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that means -- so that's a no to the president's plan?
BOEHNER: We haven't seen the president's plan as yet. I can tell you what our plan is beginning to look like and the types of things that we will oppose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you then about energy. We showed your statement on the president's decision through the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Also, you've come out against the president's proposal to cap-and-trade carbon emissions.
So what is the Republican answer to climate change? Is it a problem? Do you have a plan to address it?
BOEHNER: George, we believe that our -- all of the above energy strategy from last year continues to be the right approach on energy. That we ought to make sure that we have new sources of energy, green energy, but we need nuclear energy, we need other types of alternatives, and, yes, we need American-made oil and gas.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that doesn't do anything when it comes to emissions, sir.
BOEHNER: When it comes to the issue of climate change, George, it's pretty clear that if we don't work with other industrialized nations around the world, what's going to happen is that we're going to ship millions of American jobs overseas. We have to deal with this in a responsible way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That's my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?
BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide. And so I think it's clear...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't believe that greenhouse gases are a problem in creating climate change?
BOEHNER: ... we've had climate change over the last 100 years -- listen, it's clear we've had change in our climate. The question is how much does man have to do with it, and what is the proper way to deal with this? We can't do it alone as one nation. If we got India, China and other industrialized countries not working with us, all we're going to do is ship millions of American jobs overseas.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it sounds like from what you're saying that you don't believe that Republicans need to come up with a plan to control carbon emissions? You're suggesting it's not that big of a problem, even though the scientific consensus is that it has contributed to the climate change.
BOEHNER: I think it is -- I think it is an issue. The question is, what is the proper answer and the responsible answer?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what is the answer? That's what I'm trying to get at.
BOEHNER: George, I think everyone in America is looking for the proper answer. We don't want to raise taxes, $1.5 to $2 trillion like the administration is proposing, and we don't want to ship millions of American jobs overseas. And so we've got to find ways to work toward this solution to this problem without risking the future for our kids and grandkids.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you are committed to coming up with a plan?
BOEHNER: I think you'll see a plan from us. Just like you've seen a plan from us on the stimulus bill and a better plan on the budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, also this week, we saw these TEA party tax day protests coming out across the country. Yet, one of the organizers of the protests, one of your predecessors, Dick Armey, former Republican leader in the House, said even as he was going forward with the protests, that the taxes of the United States are now at a good level. Do you agree?
BOEHNER: I think the taxes in America continue to be too high, and if you talk to the people I talk to at the taxpayer protests out in Bakersfield, California, they didn't believe their taxes were too low or about right. They thought they were too high.
George, when I talk to people at these rallies, it was pretty clear people are scared to death. And they're scared to death about the future for their kids and their grandkids, and the facts that the American dream may not be alive for their kids and grandkids. That's what really scares them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But on the issue...
BOEHNER: They understand that you can't borrow and spend your way to prosperity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But on the issue of taxes, I think it's 43 percent of people who file taxes pay no income tax at all. For the middle fifth of taxpayers, they're paying just about 3 percent in federal income tax this year.
BOEHNER: Well, you want to go out and explain that to the hundreds of thousands of people around America that showed up for these rallies. They understand that they're paying too much in taxes. But they're really concerned about the amount of spending that's going on in Washington and the amount of debt that's being piled up. They know that you can't have trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see without imprisoning the future for our kids and theirs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Congressman Boehner, thank you very much for your time this morning.
at 12:45 PM |
Wall St. guru George Soros gave his solution for the current financial crisis during an interview Maria Bartiromo. Read the full transcript:
BARTIROMO: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MONEY FOR THE IMF. IT COULD RISE TO $750 BILLION. IS THAT ENOUGH? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO SHOULD GET THE MONEY?
SOROS: WELL, THEY MANAGED TO PUT TOGETHER A BIGGER PACKAGE THAN ANYBODY EXPECTED. AND VERY IMPORTANT IS THE ISSUE OF SPECIAL DRAWING RIGHTS. $250 BILLION. THAT IS EFFECTIVELY CREATING - INTERNATIONALLY CREATING - NEW MONEY. AND THAT WILL HELP TO ALLOW THE COUNTRIES THAT ARE NOT ABLE TO PRINT THEIR OWN MONEY THE WAY WE CAN, ACTUALLY TO STIMULATE THEIR ECONOMIES. AND I THINK THE WAY FOR THE RICH COUNTRIES TO TRANSFER THE ALLOCATIONS TO THE MOST NEEDY COUNTRIES CAN BE WORKED OUT.
BARTIROMO: SO ARE YOU SAYING THE EFFORTS AS FAR AS THE IMF AND THE COMMUNIQUÉ OVERALL HAVE COMPLETELY CHANGED YOUR MIND? A WEEK AND A HALF AGO YOU WERE OUT VERY VOCAL SAYING LOOK, THE IMF IS GOING TO HAVE TO BASICALLY BAIL OUT THE UK, HERE WE ARE SITTING IN ONE OF THE GREATEST CITIES IN THE WORLD -
SOROS: NO. THAT WAS A MISLEADING HEADLINE GIVEN TO AN INTERVIEW WHERE I SAID IT'S MOST UNLIKELY THAT BRITAIN WOULD NEED TO GO TO THE IMF. HOWEVER, THE FACT THAT WE CREATED SUCH AN OUTCRY SHOWS WHAT A STIGMA THERE IS ATTACHED TO HAVING TO GO TO THE IMF.
BARTIROMO: A LOT OF PEOPLE WHEN YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE UK AND THE NEED FOR HELP AND REALLY A BAILOUT, PEOPLE WERE SAYING, WELL, WAIT A SECOND, GEORGE SOROS YEARS AGO SHORTED THE POUND AND MADE MONEY ON THIS AND MAYBE HE'S PLAYING HIS BOOK. IN FACT, LORD MANDELSON SAID THAT. ARE YOU SHORTING THE POUND RIGHT NOW?
SOROS: NO, I'M NOT. FIRST OF ALL, AGAIN, I'VE WITHDRAWN NOW FROM ACTUALLY RUNNING THE FUND. I DID IT LAST YEAR. WE CAME THROUGH IT. NOW I'VE HANDED IT BACK TO THE PEOPLE WHO CAN DO IT. SO I'M OUT OF THE MARKETS, AS I WAS BEFORE I CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT. SO I'M BACK IN RETIREMENT.
BARTIROMO: I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO STAY IN RETIREMENT VERY LONG, FRANKLY. BUT LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE OPERATIONS IN TERMS OF HEDGE FUNDS OVERSIGHT. BECAUSE THIS IS ANOTHER THING THE GROUP SAID, THAT THEY WANT MORE REGULATION ON HEDGE FUNDS. DID YOU AGREE WITH WHAT THEY SAID AND WHERE THEY'RE GOING IN TERMS OF MORE OVERSIGHT?
SOROS: WELL, I THINK YOU ABSOLUTELY WILL NEED MORE REGULATION. BUT YOU REALLY NEED TO HAVE BETTER REGULATION. AND YES, WE HAVE ALLOWED THE MARKETS A FREE HAND, AND OF COURSE THAT WAS VERY UNSOUND. BUT WE DON'T WANT TO GO OVERBOARD NOW WITH REGULATIONS BECAUSE THE FACT THAT MARKETS ARE IMPERFECT, THAT THEY DON'T ANTICIPATE THE FUTURE CORRECTLY, REGULATORS ARE JUST AS IMPERFECT.
BARTIROMO: CAN YOU CHARACTERIZE THE SITUATION FOR US IN EASTERN EUROPE RIGHT NOW?
SOROS: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE WESTERN EUROPE AND AMERICA GUARANTEED THE BANKING SYSTEM THE OTHER COUNTRIES IN EASTERN EUROPE COULDN'T PROVIDE SIMILARLY CONVINCING GUARANTEES, AND THE BANKS IN THE WEST STARTED PULLING THEIR CAPITAL OUT OF THERE AND PULLING THEM BACK. AND THE NATIONAL REGULATORS ALSO ENCOURAGED THE BANKS TO LEND AT HOME AND NOT ABROAD. AND SO THAT CREATED A CRISIS FOR EASTERN EUROPE.
BARTIROMO: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DEVELOPMENTS SURROUNDING MARK TO MARKET? FASBY COMING OUT AND SAYING THAT THEY DO WANT TO MAKE IT EASIER, A LITTLE MORE LAX IN TERMS OF THE REGULATION FOR MARK TO MARKET. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?
SOROS: THERE I REMAIN REALLY CRITICAL BECAUSE I THINK MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE WOULD HAVE BEEN TO RECAPITALIZE THE BANKS. AND BECAUSE OF THE HISTORY OF THE WAY THE TARP MONEY WAS SPENT, IT WAS REALLY VERY MESSY AND VERY BADLY DONE. AND BECAUSE OF THAT THERE'S INCREASING RELUCTANCE BY CONGRESS TO MAKE NEW MONEY AVAILABLE. AND YET IT WOULD BE MUCH MUCH BETTER TO CREATE CLEAN BANKS. BANKS THAT ARE ABLE TO LEND. AND I THINK WE MISSED THE BOAT ON THAT. AND THAT MEANS THAT WE WILL BE SPENDING A LONG TIME ALLOWING THE BANKS TO DIG THEMSELVES OUT OF A HOLE. AND WHILE THEY ARE DOING THAT, THEY WILL NOT BE REALLY PROVIDING SUFFICIENT CREDIT TO CARRY ON BUSINESS. THEY WILL BE CHARGING A LOT AND GENERALLY IT'S GOING TO WEIGH ON OUR ECONOMY FOR A PERIOD OF TIME.
BARTIROMO: I KNOW YOU SAW THE STORY ABOUT SOME HEDGE FUNDS SAYING, "LOOK, WE'RE GOING TO LEAVE LONDON. THE TAX SITUATION IS NOT FAVORABLE. WE DON'T LIKE THE BUSINESS CONDITIONS HERE. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
SOROS: WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO GO? ANOTHER PLANET? I MEAN, YOU KNOW, THIS IS - THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE BECAUSE NOW WITH THE TAX HAVENS BEING BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL I THINK HEDGE FUNDS WILL HAVE TO GET USED TO BEING REGULATED.
at 11:19 AM |
Something needs to be done about the violence in Mexico before we return to the bad old days in America, when the drug gangs terrorized communities in the U.S.
The five dead men lay scattered about a living room. Some showed signs of torture: Burns seared into their earlobes revealed where modified jumper cables had been clamped as an improvised electrocution device. Adhesive from duct tape used to bind the victims still clung to wrists and faces.
As a final touch, throats were slashed, post-mortem.
It didn't take long for Curry and federal agents to piece together clues: A murder scene, clean save for the crimson-turned-brown stains now spotting the carpet. Just a couple of mattresses tossed on the floor. It was a typical stash house.
But the cut throats? Some sort of ghastly warning.
Curry would soon find this was a retaliation hit over drug money with ties to Mexico's notorious Gulf cartel.
Curry also found out firsthand what narcotics agents have long understood. The drug war, with the savagery it brings, knows no bounds. It had landed in his back yard, in the foothills of the Appalachians, around the corner from The Home Depot.
One thousand, twenty-four miles from the Mexico border.
Drug cartels fighting each other
Forget for a moment the phrase itself — "War on Drugs" — much-derided since President Richard Nixon coined it. Wars eventually end, after all. And many Americans wonder today, nearly four decades later, will this one ever be won?
In Mexico, the fight has become a real war. Some 45,000 Mexican army troops now patrol territories long ruled by narcotraffickers. Places like Tijuana in Baja California. Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from Texas. But also resort cities like Acapulco, an hour south of the place where, months ago, the decapitated bodies of 12 soldiers were discovered with a sign that read: "For every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10."
More than 10,560 people have been killed since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and launched his campaign against the organized crime gangs that move cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin to a vast U.S. market.
Ironically, the guns used to help the drug cartels are purchased in America. So we have the self-destructive practice of supplying Latin-American drug cartels with weapons that are then used to terrorize Americans on U.S. soil. Not to mention the drugs that are brought into this country that are then consumed by us:
Mexico has a point: Americans have contributed mightily to the creation of the violent drug cartels now wreaking havoc on the border. We are major consumers of their illegal products. In addition, we supply many of the weapons they use against rivals, law enforcement officials and innocents caught in the crossfire. Federal agents estimate that 90 percent of the pistols and rifles confiscated from Mexican drug traffickers last year and subjected to traces were traced back to gun dealers in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
Before his meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week, President Barack Obama made a number of moves designed to placate our southern neighbors, who are struggling with an out-and-out drug war. Obama appointed a “border czar” to crack down on the smuggling of guns and drugs, he imposed financial sanctions on three of the most notorious cartels, he threatened to prosecute any American who does business with drug kingpins.
Noticeably absent from Obama’s list of corrective measures was any pledge to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. Bullied by the gun lobby, Obama and fellow Democrats are afraid to press a common-sense measure that would take weapons of war off the streets here and out of the hands of drug thugs in Mexico.
Given that cowardice, it’s probably futile to suggest that Obama do something visionary, if radical, about the market for illegal drugs in this country:
Walk away from the failed and costly “war on drugs”; significantly reduce the amount of money spent on enforcement against penny-ante dealers and users, abandon draconian laws that give stiff prison sentences to nonviolent drug offenders, spend the money instead on rehabilitation for addicts.
Some of that money could also be redirected to cracking down on the cartels, as Obama has proposed. They are vicious criminal enterprises that, left unchecked, can infiltrate the law enforcement and judicial establishments of entire countries. As Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) recently noted, “the Mexican drug cartels are capable of a very sophisticated level of quasi-military violence.” The Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI should concentrate resources on those kingpins, not on street-level dealers or addicted users doing more harm to themselves than anyone else.
This is a case in point:
A U.S. judge sentenced a top player in a Texas gun-smuggling ring to eight years in prison on Friday for illegally shipping an "arsenal" of high-powered weapons across the border including some that were later used in gang murders.
John Phillip Hernandez is directly responsible for shipping 103 guns -- many of them military-style assault rifles -- across the U.S.-Mexico border, court documents say.
The U.S. citizen was central to a drug-smuggling ring that funneled more than 300 guns worth some $350,000 to Mexico, U.S. officials said.
Warring drug traffickers killed 6,300 people in Mexico last year, and stemming the flow of U.S. arms to Mexico is a crucial part of U.S. policy to curb border violence.
In Mexico on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama stood alongside Mexico's Felipe Calderon and promised to help his fight against drug cartels waging bloody turf wars along the joint border.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Hernandez to 97 months in prison, more than the 63-month maximum set by federal guidelines.
Hittner said the sentence was warranted by the "arsenal of weapons" Hernandez trafficked in, as well as their use in at least eight murders by drug gangs, though Hernandez was not directly accountable for the deaths.
at 10:13 AM |