Friends of Brad Will at Congressional hearing

Friends of Brad Will at Congressional hearing

Friends of Brad Will at the Capital

Friends of Brad Will at the Capital

At the November 14th U.S. Congressional hearing on the Merida Initiative which is part of Plan Mexico, four Friends of Brad Will shifted the talk from a 1.4 billion dollar package to bolster Mexico''s security against narco-trafficing to a discussion on Mexican government impunity to commit human rights abuses against pro-democracy dissidents, labor activists, and journalists. At five different times during the hearing, Friends of Brad Will "corrected" Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and David Johnson, from the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Friends of Brad Will argued that giving a military aid package to the Mexican government would lead to more human rights abuses like ones that have occurred along the U.S./Mexican border, Atenco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, where Brad Will died covering the people's movement against Governor Ruiz.

Mr. Shannon began his speech by saying, "He (President Calderon) is reorganizing the federal police, putting new
and additional resources in the hands of his security services, deploying military units to support police operations, rooting out corrupt officials, attacking --." Harry Bubbins screamed, "Civilians in Oaxaca!" Some members of the crowd laughed, including high school students on a field trip, before Chairman Lantos called for order. After a warning and another intervention where Mr. Bubbins told the story of journalist Brad Will's murder in Oaxaca, Bubbins was removed by a police officer and released outside of the hearing.

Other Congressman in the room began to join in with the criticism as well. The presence of the demonstrators seemed to empower others to make their voices heard. Many in the room echoed the demonstrators concerns over human rights abuses and argued that drug abuse should be curbed through public education at the point of consumption instead of at the point of production, where many join drug cartels due to poverty.

Representative Scott raised the question, " What's going on with the journalists? How many have been killed? And have there been any American journalists killed?" As Mr. Shannon replied, accusing drug cartels of killing Brad Will, a Friend of Brad Will named Brandon Jourdan corrected him, "Oh you mean the PRI, Pristas, policemen without uniforms linked to the government?" Representative Engel called for order and Jourdan complied. Audience members again chuckled and Shannon's tone became nervous.

After a brief recess, the hearing continued and so did the interventions. Mr. Shannon and Mr. Johnson continued their rhetoric on drug enforcement, but began to increasingly talk about human rights in response to protesters and inquiries from disgruntled Congressmen. As Shannon began a lengthy discussion on how the Merida Initiative would help with human rights, Priya Reddy, a close friend of Brad Will, again brought up Will's death, the impunity of Mexican police and military to commit acts of aggression, and the past problems with the militarization of Mexico. After refusing to comply with Representative Engel's call for order, she was removed from the hearing.

Due to the interventions from several Friends of Brad Will, the hearing on the Merida Initiative was turned into a hearing on human rights in Mexico. The Merida Initiative has received widespread criticism from human rights and labor groups, such as the United Steelworkers.