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Key U.S. Security Policy Issues

Practicing Pragmatism in the Promotion of Democracy
Optimizing Near-Term Counter-Drug Operations in the Hemisphere
Defining the U.S. Secuity Aganda in the Americas

Historically, United States policy toward the inter-American region, especially with regard to military and security issues, has stopped in northern South America. Exceptions do occur--anti-narcotics policy in the hemisphere, for example, focuses on drug production and trafficking in several Andean nations. Washington also has had concerns about such diverse South American issues as national insurgencies and nuclear weapons development. These have not eased completely. As in the past, however, situations in the Caribbean Basin--affecting Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Guatemala and Mexico--tend to command the public's attention and delimit the scope of Washington's interest in the hemisphere. Three controversial issues facing today's policy makers appear to dominate the U.S. agenda.

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Practicing Pragmatism in the
Promotion of Democracy

The Clinton Administration's goal, as articulated in A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, is to "preserve the dominance of civilian elected governments and promote their evolution into functioning democratic societies...committed to free markets and respect for human rights," targeting "states that affect our strategic interests, such as those with large economies, critical locations, nuclear weapons, or the potential to generate refugee flows into our own nation or into key friends and allies." The U.S. faces a need to balance the idealism of its goals with the stark realities of constrained resources, limited public support, partisan politics, and enduring suspicion acrosss the hemisphere. Three immediate challenges currently confront the United States.

Restoring an Elected President in Haiti. In September 1994, the U.S. entered Haiti peacefully to oversee the return of the country's popularly elected government, ending President Aristide's three-year exile. In the process, Operation Uphold Democracy overthrew the nation's de facto military rulers and began an effort to reign in the armed forces, police, and paramilitary groups. This use of U.S. military power in an effort to restore a democratically elected president was the first such operation in the Western Hemisphere ever authorized by U.N. resolution. It came almost a year after the Governors Island Accord failed, and it followed more than six months of intense consultations with Latin American neighbors and unusually transparent military contingency planning.

The Clinton Administration has defined the U.S. mission in Haiti during the initial, U.S.-dominated phase of the operation to be the removal of the illegal government, protection of American citizens and maintenance of order during the initial days of the intervention, and then helping to establish a climate of security until a U.N. force is in place. The reconstruction of Haiti's failed institutions is the responsibility of the United Nations during a second phase, which begins about six months after the invasion. The foundations for the U.N.'s efforts, however, are to be laid during the first phase by U.S. civilian agencies: beginning to rebuild and retrain the military and police; providing adequate supplies of food, medicine, and gasoline to overcome shortages; and repaying the nation's debts to facilitate new investment. What ultimately is envisioned is the reconstruction, almost from scratch, of Haiti's shattered economy, agriculture, military and police forces, civil institutions, electrical system, and infrastructure to fit a fundamentally different vision of Haiti under a democratic government. To this end, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked for months with President Aristide's staff in exile on a first-year, $550 million package.

The presence of the U.S. military to stabilize the country and restore law and order is creating an environment conducive to realizing the administration's goals. But beyond early 1996, when a reduced U.S. military's peacekeeping presence (3,000 troops) will end, the outlook is not as rosy, but the United States cannot simply disengage. Inherent in the administration's decision to intervene is an extended commitment to Haiti's future, a commitment that will continue even after the U.N assumes control. During 1995, several potential problems, foreshadowing the difficulties ahead, could adversely affect U.S.'s ability to help strengthen democracy in Haiti.

Funding for Haitian reconstruction programs is uncertain. The Administration has start-up money for FY 1995 (over $100 million appropriated in 1993 to support the Governors Island Accord), and has convinced other international contributors to provide funds. However, full implementation of U.S. and U.N. programs depends on the reliability of U.S. financial commitments beyond FY 1995. Congressional support is not assured, given broad bipartisan legislative opposition to the decision to intervene. U.S. casualties or the appearance of organized Haitian opposition to the U.S. presence could lead to strong political pressure, particularly from the new Republican majority, to cut short U.S. support for the Aristide Government.

Haitian society may not be ready for reconciliation, and random violence does continue despite peacekeeping operations. For most Haitians, the face of the state has been the uniformed and paramilitary bullies who have used state-sanctioned power to terrorize, repress, and impoverish them. The fire of this memory will burn for a long time. With the return of President Aristide, the opportunity for retribution, behind the shield of foreigners who will not disarm the Haitians, may prolong domestic violence. President Aristide's public commitment to reconciliation may go unheeded, and efforts by U.N. peacekeeping forces may prove insufficient to assure the stability necessary to attract the overseas investment needed for Haiti's economic recovery.

The objective of creating separate, non-partisan, professional military and police establishments under civilian control in a short span of time may be unrealistic. Rooted in Haitian culture is a strong tradition of partisan relations between civilian officials and security forces. The power of this relationship can be seen in the military's suspicion in 1991 that President Aristide was creating a countervailing security force loyal to him, as President "Papa Doc" Duvalier had done with brutal effectiveness in the 1960s. This perceived threat to the military was one of the catalysts that precipitated the September 1991 coup. Even if the U.S. and U.N. successfully address the technical side of educating new military and police leaders, efficiency and professionalism will not necessarily mean an end to involvement in local and national politics. It will be difficult to quickly instill the importance of non-partisan behavior in the new security personnel, particularly if they are dedicated supporters of Aristide. Such a transformation is more likely to succeed, however, if the Haitian government does three things. The first is to develop an institutional framework empowered to control the security forces and to shield them from outside political manipulation. The second is to recruit personnel from the entire political spectrum. And the third is to abjure subverting military and police officials for its own political purposes.

Moving Cuba Closer to Democracy. Governments in both Washington and Havana are profoundly divided on the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations between officials who favor conciliation and those who reject compromise. The U.S. goal remains a peaceful transition to free-market democracy in Cuba, and current policy is based on the long-standing hope that isolating Cuba economically will bring about this change. However, Washington is feeling increasing pressure to modify this policy by easing its trade embargo, offering incentives for taking steps toward democracy, and generally increasing the flow of Western ideas to the island. The Cuban government, on the other hand, remains intent on defending its revolution but is in the midst of an internal debate concerning the country's severe economic crisis, which some analysts believe could lead to uncontrolled crises at almost any time. Internal pressure may cause some measure of reform and moderation of the regime's authoritarian behavior. The September 1994 New York accord on immigration reflects this mutual ambivalence, and suggests that the atmosphere surrounding Cuban-American relations in both countries is beginning to change.

The latest mass exodus from Cuba forced both sides to make trade-offs. For its part, the U.S. successfully negotiated an end to an immigration crisis without having to discuss lifting its economic embargo of thirty-two years. The Clinton Administration agreed to grant entry to at least 20,000 Cubans a year. In reaching this agreement, the U.S. abandoned its three-decade-old practice of admitting all Cubans and instead sent the latest boat people to the Guantanamo Naval Station and Panama (for six months), a decision that angered many Cuban-American groups. To placate them, Washington stepped up sanctions against Cuba, including tighter restrictions on travel and a ban on almost all remittances to Cuba.

The exodus has forced Castro to admit to errors in the structure of Cuban economic plans and mismanagement in their implementation. Scenes of scattered chaos have suggested a degree of political weakness. The Cuban leadership also has had to acquiesce to U.S. pressure to stop the boat people. However, Castro has made progress diplomatically. He has in essence compelled the U.S. to reverse its Cold War Cuban immigration policy, which in turn has given voice to considerable opposition to the policy of isolating Cuba. Castro also gained a guaranteed pressure-release valve for 20,000 dissatisfied Cubans a year, a better agreement than in 1984, when the 20,000 figure was considered an annual ceiling. Finally, the Cuban leadership may have gained some political advantage allowing it to continue to portray itself as the victim of unwarranted economic bullying.

The U.S. is becoming increasingly isolated from some of its staunchest allies and trading partners over its policies toward Cuba. For instance, when the U.N. General Assembly voted in 1993 in favor of ending the U.S. trade embargo, only Albania, Israel, and Paraguay joined the U.S. position. Both of Washington's NAFTA partners carry on extensive commerce with Cuba. (Cuban trade with Mexico totalled nearly $200 million in 1993; with Canada, about $250 million.).

Sustaining Democracy Elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin. As noted earlier, progress in both political and economic reform is in danger unless the hemisphere's governments become more honest, effective, and responsive, thereby increasing trust in public institutions. Indeed, government reform is at the top of the political agenda throughout most of the region, and the U.S., working with the OAS, has been active in helping elected leaders to improve public administration. But political and economic conditions in several neighboring countries may seriously challenge the immediate future of their representative democracy. The Dominican Republic and Venezuela are the countries of greatest concern in late 1994.

The Dominican Republic is the fourth-poorest country in the hemisphere, and is plagued by labor strikes, violent crime, government corruption, a flourishing drug trade, and a considerable migration of Haitians (estimated at 750,000), who primarily work in slave-like conditions in the sugar industry. Despite a recent surge in economic growth, thousands of poor Dominican refugees enter the U.S. annually through Puerto Rico. The country is ruled by 87-year-old Joaquin Balaguer, whose 1990 and 1994 electoral victories are believed to have been fraudulent. Neither the OAS nor the U.S. has drawn attention to the matter, presumably because of the country's key role in Washington's policy on Haiti.

As in the Dominican Republic, Venezuelan citizens have little say in how the nation is run between elections. Rule is based more on power than law, and politicians are rarely held accountable for their behavior--although the 1993 ouster of President Carlos Andres Perez for corruption is a significant exception. Venezuela is the richest nation in Latin America and has one of the longest constitutional traditions, yet political leaders have failed to confront many long-standing problems, such as ineffective national institutions, government corruption, and extreme income disparities. There is no branch of public service--education, health, housing--that is not in crisis. President Perez faced two military uprisings in 1992 that had widespread popular sympathy. A near collapse of Venezuela's currency during the spring of 1994 was followed by a massive bank failure and a financial emergency in the insurance industry. In response, the new Venezuelan President, Rafael Caldera, has reversed free-market policies implemented only a few years ago and established so many "temporary" controls that the government's discretionary power over the economy ranks behind only that of Cuba. However, Venezuela remains the third-ranking destination for U.S. exports in Latin America after Mexico and Brazil, and the second-largest foreign source of oil after Saudi Arabia.

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Optimizing Near-Term
Counter-Drug Operations in
the Hemisphere

As set out in the 1994 National Drug Control Strategy and the November 1993 Presidential Decision Directive 14, U.S. policy on counternarcotics in the Western Hemisphere emphasizes efforts in four areas: destroying the narcotrafficking organizations; assisting institutions in nations that show the political will to combat narcotrafficking; increasing international cooperation; and interdicting the flow of drugs in both the source and transit countries.

The key issue at this juncture is how to apply increasingly scarce resources to where they will have the greatest impact. One issue is interagency coordination. The scope and quality of agency teamwork has steadily improved at the embassy and Washington levels. However, there remain cases of uncoordinated and scattershot efforts. It is difficult to integrate country- and agency-specific strategies, plans, and resources into a single campaign with achievable objectives. The pooling of limited assets in fields such as intelligence has not been easy to achieve, nor has the U.S. learned to think and organize regionally, as the narcotraffickers do, instead of country by country.

Second, elected Latin American governments are concerned about the effect of counter-drug programs on national sovereignty. In the past, differences have emerged between the U.S. and host governments about how to integrate their counter-drug plans and resources. Counternarcotics relations with the source countries, especially Colombia, badly deteriorated in 1994 over three episodes:

The U.S. Justice Department took strong exception in public to plea-bargaining with drug traffickers worked out by Colombia's Prosecutor General Gustavo de Greiff. Many in Colombia, possibly including de Greiff, are more concerned with ending narcotrafficking violence than with putting a stop to the drug trade itself. The traffickers who surrender in return for reduced sentences are not being required to inform on their colleagues. It is not entirely clear if they will actually leave the drug business in the future.

The Colombian and Peruvian governments were outraged at the April 1994 U.S. decision to cut off, on short notice, intelligence on drug flights, which U.S. government lawyers said was required by U.S. and international law against aiding those who may shoot down civilian flights. The Clinton Administration is pressing to rectify this situation by December 1994.

The atmosphere for working with Ernest Samper, elected president of Colombia in June 1994, is not good. Taped conversations played on Colombian radio were seen by many in the U.S. as indicating he accepted money from the drug cartels. Allegations have surfaced in the past of a connection between Samper and drug lords, which he vehemently denies.

Some U.S. experts suggest that Colombia is tiring of the anti-drug battle and that the narcotraffickers have been successful at integrating themselves into the Colombian elite. Colombian elite and public opinion ferociously reject this interpretation. Colombians emphasize that they have suffered at the hand of the drug lords more than any other country, including the deaths of more than a thousand policemen, two presidential candidates, and numerous cabinet members and supreme court judges. Many Colombians suggest that it is the U.S. which is tiring of the anti-drug effort. This will be a difficult atmosphere for cooperation.

On a more optimistic note, the potential for combatting narcotrafficking in Peru has improved. The economy is growing again, after a 30 percent drop in per capita income from 1980 through 1993 that drove tens of thousands into the drug business. The hold of guerrilla movements, especially the Maoist Shining Path, over the main coca-growing area in the Huallaga Valley has been broken, following the September 1992 capture of the Shining Path's leader. At the height of the revolt, it was challenging the government for control over much of the country, including neighborhoods of the capital. Many Peruvians, including many in the military, felt then that the government's first priority should be the elimination of the Shining Path. For some, that meant doing little to discourage coca-leaf growing in order to win the growers' hearts and minds away from the Shining Path, which promised to protect them from police raids. Now that the forces of order are able to control the coca growing regions, enforcement of drug laws has moved up on the priority list. However, the coca growers have responded by shifting to more remote areas, so the battle continues, despite the considerable reduction in U.S. assistance.

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Defining the U.S. Security
Agenda in the Americas

Will Forward Presence in Panama End? Unless there is a change in current policy, the U.S. will honor the 1977 Panama Canal treaties and completely withdraw all U.S. military forces from the country by noon on December 31, 1999, or perhaps even before this date. A protocol in the Permanent Neutrality Treaty of the Panama Canal, however, does allow negotiation of a forward U.S. presence after 2000 if both sides express an interest. To date, there has been no serious discussion about whether the implementation of the treaties is a sound strategic step supporting Washington's Latin American policy as it is envisioned at the turn of the century. The Defense Department has begun to execute its plans to draw down forces over the next six years and return property to the Panamanian government, although Secretary of Defense Perry has suggested that the presence of a smaller military force beyond 2000 is possible if Panama initiates the dialogue. On the U.S. side, this is not an issue that can be deferred. Units are being deactivated as a part of the overall downsizing of the armed forces, and budgetary decision windows affecting construction and relocation are about to close. Washington must decide soon if U.S. foreign policy and security interests require a continued military presence in the hemisphere outside the United States. If forces are withdrawn completely, there is little likelihood that U.S. military units will again be stationed in Panama.

Adapting Defense and Military Relationships. The full significance of the shift in focus of U.S. interests in the hemisphere on the Defense Department's relations with Latin American and Caribbean military establishments is not yet clear. DOD is slowly recalibrating its thinking in this area. Charting an operational role for the armed forces in the promotion of democracy has proven particularly difficult, as has determining a U.S. position on arms and technology transfers in the region. Washington's support for a cooperative approach to hemispheric security relations also has only just begun.

Today's changing military relationships are complicated by drastic budget cuts affecting DOD's standard means of interacting with other military establishments, such as security assistance offices, grant aid, education and training programs, and combined training exercises. Service-to-service programs continue, but on a reduced scale. Only anti-drug programs currently have adequate resources. Nevertheless, DOD is moving forward in its search for new and better ways to work with Latin American and Caribbean counterparts at all levels.

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