AS/COA Online - Exclusive Interview: Governor Bill Richardson on Washington's Latin American Ties

“It’s not going to be easy, but I believe we need that comprehensive immigration bill more than anything or the country is going to be torn apart.”

Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) spoke with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis about Washington’s Latin American ties, saying, “It’s our own region and if I might say so, we’ve kind of neglected it in a bipartisan way.” The former U.S. ambassador to the UN discussed the need for a hemispheric accord on transnational crime as well as the shifting U.S.-Cuban relationship, which he called “the best that I’ve seen in a long time.” But he cautioned that movement on trade deals and immigration reform may have to wait until next year. “What you will see if there isn’t bipartisan, comprehensive [immigration] reform is more patchwork laws like Arizona’s, which are not just unconstitutional—they’re very discriminatory, they’re divisive,” he said. He added: “They hurt our foreign policy relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean.”

AS/COA Online: To start off, I’d like to talk about Mexico. The Obama administration has referred to a “shared responsibility” in the fight against organized crime in Mexico. As a border-state governor who also has a personal connection to Mexico, if you had to name one area for the U.S. to prioritize in its policy toward Mexico’s security situation, what would it be?

Gov. Richardson: It would be in the area of more shared intelligence with Mexico, and secondly, more cooperation in the area of restricting automatic weapons going into Mexico—a cooperative effort that I believe can be improved. On the issue of shared intelligence, it’s going to mean our joint security operations not just having more opportunities to do training and law enforcement activities. I support the Merida Initiative’s plan makes of additional helicopters. But we have to more effectively share intelligence, especially on the Mexican side.

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AS/COA Online | Obama Condemns Cuba's "Clenched Fist"

The White House took a break from rallies for health care reform this week to issue a condemnation of human rights conditions in Cuba. U.S. President Barack Obama called the death of a hunger striker and repression of human rights activists as “deeply disturbing” in a March 24 statement. “These events underscore that instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era, Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist,” he added. The president’s words—perhaps his harshest criticism of the Cuban government since taking office—come during a time of protests in Havana and Miami over recent attempts to silence a dissident group known as Las Damas de Blanco, or the Ladies in White. 

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AS/COA Online | Interview: OAS Secretary General Insulza on the Promise of the Fifth Summit

"[T]he summit involves a big, clear promise and we hope that we can live up to it."

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza joined AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis for an exclusive interview about the recent Summit of the Americas, from the process of negotiating hemispheric mandates to the upcoming OAS General Assembly. Insulza also talks about his position on a 1962 resolution that ejected Havana as an OAS member state: “Everybody says that if we repeal the resolution that means that the next day Cuba is back in the OAS. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants, starting with Cuba.”

AS/COA Online: Let's talk about the recent Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. While progress was made during the summit, there has been a lot of discussion around the process of creating and approving the declaration.

Read More - Sweig: Castro’s Temporary Power Handover A “Significant Moment for Cuba”

The staunchly anti-American Cuban leader Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul this week while he recovers from gastrointestinal surgery. Julia E. Sweig, senior fellow for Latin America studies and author of Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground discusses the first break in Castro's forty-seven years in power. The event marks a historic moment for the region and a vulnerable time for U.S.-Cuba relations, says Sweig.

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