Every day Latitude News scans the foreign press for interesting stories about the U.S. Here’s a round-up of the best stories this week.
Guns from U.S. cross northern border
In an investigative report, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation discovered that Canadian criminals often use guns illegally acquired from the United States. Shady gun dealers in the U.S. supply our northern neighbors with weapons through a smuggling route known as the “Iron Pipeline” or “Blue Steel Highway.” Toronto’s police chief, Bill Blair, tells the CBC that up to 70 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes in his city were sold in the U.S.
The relationship between violent crime in Mexico and the easy availability of firearms in the U.S. has already been well-documented, but less attention has been paid to a similar phenomenon in Canada, where gun violence is on the rise in big cities like Toronto. The U.S. currently employs two agents in Canada for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to trace smuggled guns, but the agency is widely believed to be overwhelmed.
The ATF hasn’t had a full-time director since 2006, a result of the National Rifle Association exerting pressure on Congress, according to the CBC report. Congress has also limited how frequently agents can inspect gun dealers without giving prior notice.
“In my opinion, a professional firearms dealer doing the right thing — conducting background checks, keeping proper records — is the absolute frontline of defence in any proper gun regulation,” one retired ATF agent, who now advocates for gun control, tells the CBC. “So that’s why . . . for the small minority of dealers who aren’t abiding by the rules or might be acting criminally, it’s essential to ferret those out.”
Kenya may face consequences from U.S. if it elects president charged with crimes against humanity
The U.S. is apparently sending mixed signals over the candidacy for president of Uhuru Kenyatta and his running-mate William Ruto. The International Criminal Court has charged both men of orchestrating violence that killed 1,200 Kenyans in 2007. Despite their pending trial, which begins in April, a Kenyan court recently ruled that Uhuru, the son of a former president, and Ruto are eligible to run.
Responding to that news, President Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, said: “The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people. The United States does not endorse any candidate for office, but we do support an election that is peaceful and reflects the will of the people.”
At a press conference the next day, Uhuru interpreted this as a quasi-endorsement of his campaign. But Johnny Carson, the U.S.’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was quick to tamp down Uhuru’s enthusiasm.
“Choices matter and they have consequences,” Carson said in a warning to Kenyan voters. “Individuals have reputations, individuals have images, individuals have histories.” He added a reminder that the U.S. never endorses particular candidates in a foreign election.
Writing in The Star, a Kenyan newspaper, the security analyst Sospeter Otieno argues that Carson’s statement is a signal the U.S. means business, and might reduce its cooperation with the Kenyan government if Uhuru and Ruto win.
“It’s not something you take lightly when a diplomat uses a not-so-subtle diplomatic language,” Otieno explains. “And I usually multiply the diplomatic language by a factor of 10 to know what the diplomat would say in private and out of the media waves.”
U.S general no fan of legal weed
On a visit to Jamaica, a top American general said that the decision of voters in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana was “dumb” and “irresponsible.”
“I guess, rather than learning from other people’s mistakes, the people in my own country want to make their own and then learn hard lessons,” explained Marine General John Kelly to a reporter for The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper. Gen. Kelly is the commander of the United States Southern Command, which oversees military affairs for South and Central America and the Caribbean. It is also heavily involved in the fight against drug trafficking.
“I think countries that have decriminalised or legalised drugs of any kind in the past, at least to date, have all come to realise that that was a mistake,” Kelly added, though a Latitude News report found that Holland’s experience with decriminalized marijuana has been more positive than Gen. Kelly suggested, though not without its critics.
Kelly said his command largely focuses on the lucrative and dangerous traffic of cocaine from Colombia through Guatemala, Panama and Mexico to the U.S.: “In some cases, drug trafficking is used to literally buy governments in this region, not Jamaica but (others) in this region, because the profits are so outrageously high.”
Apparently, not many drugs come into the U.S. from Jamaica.