AS/COA Online - Interview: Jorge Castañeda, Former Foreign Minister of Mexico, on Immigration Reform

"It takes leadership because most politicians in the United States don’t want to lead on this. They look at McCain and they say, 'Look what happened to him.' Who wants to take a leadership position on this and then get slammed in Iowa?"

In an interview, former Foreign Minister of Mexico Jorge Castañeda talks about his new book Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants with AS/COA Online Managing Editor Carin Zissis. Talking before an AS/COA event, Castañeda, who played a firsthand role in attempts to pass a U.S.-Mexican immigration agreement during the Fox administration, says passage of immigration reform will depend on election of a U.S. leader “with more political capital than Bush has.”

The author and political analyst, now a professor of politics and Latin American studies at New York University, also says the need for a decision on comprehensive immigration reform will become increasingly apparent: “It’s either regression—with all the dangers and the outrages of separating women from their children, of deporting people, of raiding houses—or it’s reform.”

In the book, you discuss how immigration reform became central to Mexican foreign policy after [former President Vicente] Fox came to power. Meanwhile, in the United States there has been this turn towards nativism. Given the implied conflict here, what will it take for immigration reform to move forward?

Read More | Park: Private Sector Solution Could Resolve North Korean ‘Radioactive Funds’ Issue

John S. Park, head of the Korea working group at the United States Institute of Peace, discusses the controversy over $25 million in North Korean funds holding up a February 2007 denuclearization deal. Although the U.S. State Department pledged to release the money from Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in Macao, banks around the world consider the funds tainted by a U.S. Treasury Department ruling that connects the $25 million with illicit activities.

“The $25 million is the financial equivalent of radioactive funds,” explains Park, who says the time has come “to start thinking out of the box of having governments approach third party banks.” He suggests a private sector solution to the current stalemate and that Asia’s experience with troubled banks during the 1997 financial crisis provides a model for resolving the issue. Monetary authorities in Macao could declare BDA a distressed bank and put it up for sale, explains Park. He says the BDA banking license in a recapitalized format could result in a “lucrative sale” in which the proceeds “can be used for the clean transfer of $25 million to a bank designated by North Korea.”

Access the podcast at | Abbas: Musharraf’s Sinking Credibility

Hassan Abbas, a research fellow at Harvard University and author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, served as an official in the administrations of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He discusses escalating violence over Musharraf’s decision to suspend Pakistan’s Supreme Court chief justice and says it signifies “the beginning of the end” for the president, who seized power in a 1999 coup. Abbas says deadly clashes over the judicial crisis could not have occurred “without instruction from the top,” and that the government wished to show it would not tolerate dissent. The possibility of an agreement between Musharraf and the exiled Bhutto appears increasingly remote given the Supreme Court controversy, says Abbas.

Access the podcast at | Southerland: Chinese Bloggers Bypass Censors to Break Stories

Dan Southerland, executive editor at Radio Free Asia, discusses whether Chinese bloggers can push for more open media in China by getting around censors to break news. He cites a recent story, which made international headlines and was initially covered by bloggers, about a woman in southern China who resisted government siezure of her property. Southerland concedes that most of China's roughly 60 million bloggers write about personal matters and, when covering news, often fail to include essential details about where or when an event took place. However, he says, “If everybody suddenly decided that they would stop censoring themselves I think they could easily overwhelm the government” and could “get a little beyond the superficiality” of state-run media. Southerland also discusses “online muckrakers” who uncover stories about local government corruption and push news past monitors by praising the central government.

Access the podcast at | Hills: U.S.-Chinese Relations Need “Habits of Cooperation”

A new CFR Task Force Report on U.S.-Chinese relations recommends an “affirmative agenda of integrating China into the global community” with a view toward involving Beijing in discussions on security, trade, human rights, and China’s growing military power. Carla A. Hills, CFR’s vice chairman and co-chair of the China Task Force, says the report’s recommendations seek to address “political resistance at home that emanates from worries about China’s rapid growth in the last two decades.” Hills, who served as the U.S. trade representative during the administration of George H.W. Bush, says creating “habits of cooperation” will serve as a means for China to adopt “international norms.”

Read the full text of the interview. | Kripalani: Pakistani Protests May Leave Musharraf's Political Future "Extremely Uncertain"

Manjeet Kripalani, CFR press fellow and India bureau chief for BusinessWeek, discusses the increasing social unrest in Pakistan caused by President Pervez Musharraf's decision to suspend Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry. She says the crisis could leave the president's political future "extremely uncertain.

Access the podcast at | Minzner: "Institutional Failure" Leads to Social Unrest in China

CFR International Affairs Fellow Carl Minzner, an expert on Chinese domestic issues and former senior counsel at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, discusses the increase in social unrest in China. He says that in China, a country under one party rule lacking institutional means to address grievances at the local level, "central leaders don't necessarily know what's going on until ten thousand local farmers make it out of a particular area and mount a collective protest."

Access the podcast at | Esarey: China's New Media Laws An “Experiment”

Ashley W. Esarey, a China media expert and author of a Freedom House report on Chinese press censorship, discusses the new regulations giving foreign journalists press freedoms through the end of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He calls the new laws an “experiment” by the Communist Party and says the press freedoms may become permanent unless they “lead Chinese journalists to call for more freedom themselves.”

Access the podcast at | Kux: Musharraf Has Little Control of Border with Afghanistan

Ambassador Dennis Kux, a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia program and former Foreign Service South Asia specialist, discusses the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under international pressure to control the Taliban and other extremists from making cross-border raids into Afghanistan, the government of President Pervez Musharraf recently proposed mining and fencing the border. Kux says the idea is not a viable solution and that the Pakistanis cannot stop “individuals going across what has long been an open border.” He also says that the Pakistani intelligence agency’s longtime links to militant groups as well as sympathy for the Taliban in tribal areas near the border serve as obstacles to stopping incursions into Afghanistan.

Access the podcast at | Garrett: Progress and Problems With Bird Flu Policy

Laurie Garrett, CFR senior fellow for global health, says global commitments to end bird flu mean the world is in a better position to handle a potential avian flu pandemic than it was two years ago. But she warns that we still don't have "a toolkit that can stop this virus from circulating" if the virus evolves to allow easier human-to-human transmission. "Flu is by far the most contagious probability in our near horizon, and there are no fools left who think you can confine it to one country," says Garrett.

Access the podcast at | Samore: China 'Most Important Asset' for U.S. in Handling North Korean Threat

The United States responded sternly this week to the Pyongyang nuclear test threat, saying a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable. But Gary S. Samore, CFR’s director of studies, says Kim Jung-Il sees Washington in a vulnerable position because of U.S. preoccupation with events in the Middle East. Samore, a former National Security Council staffer and nonproliferation expert, says “the most important asset the United States has is to work with China” to defuse the crisis and Pyongyang considers Beijing and Seoul the bigger players in negotiations because their aid sustains an increasingly isolated North Korea.

North Korea this week upped the ante by saying that it will conduct nuclear tests on an undisclosed date in the future. During the Clinton administration you helped negotiate the 1994 Agreed Framework with the goal of reigning in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Do you think similar negotiations could work to end the current standoff?

I don’t think North Korea’s prepared to give up its nuclear capabilities under any conditions, so the best you could do through a negotiation would be to limit North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, in terms of the number of nuclear weapons it has, and perhaps some limits on its delivery capability. But in terms of actually achieving disarmament, I think that’s no longer possible.

Read the full text of the interview. - 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.

Access the podcast at | Feldman: Guantanamo Detainees May be Difficult to Try, Depending on Hamdan Ruling

President George W. Bush, during a recent interview with the German ARD television network, said he "would like to end Guantanamo." But, he said, closing the facility depends on the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which will determine whether detainees should be subject to civil or military trials. The case arose in 2004 after an indicted detainee—a Yemeni national and former driver of Osama bin Laden—Salim Ahmed Hamdan, challenged the legality of the military tribunals trying him.

CFR Adjunct Fellow Noah Feldman, author of After Jihad and a law professor at New York University, discusses the legal issues at stake in the Hamdan decision, expected in late June. He says the case will decide whether military tribunals are constitutionally sufficient and warns that if the Supreme Court rules current trial procedures inadequate, it may be difficult to try many of the nearly 500 Guantanamo detainees because "much of the evidence—all of the evidence, in some cases—is gleaned from procedures that would not be admissible in ordinary courts."

Read the full text of the interview.