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EDITORIAL ROUNDUP

on August 18, 2013 1:10 AM

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

MIAMI: The Miami Herald on scandals in Cuba:, Aug. 11

A rusty North Korean ship hides 2 MiGs, munitions and radar systems — 240 tons of contraband weapons in all — under tons of sacks of Cuban sugar then gets stopped going through the Panama Canal.

A former Cuban Interior Ministry colonel accused of abusing prisoners of conscience retires in Miami, then flees to Cuba when former prisoners spot him on South Florida streets only to return again, this time to New Jersey, and, get this, applies for U.S. aid.

A growing number of Medicare fraudsters owing the U.S. government millions of dollars for fake claims exit stage left and head to the communist island, living the high life with impunity. Meanwhile, Cuban officials keep decrying the U.S. “imperialist” government for an embargo that has so many loopholes — allowing food, medicine and even high-tech communications to reach Cubans — that it’s turned into a paper tiger without a Cold War roar. What’s going on? Are U.S. officials paying attention?

Then there’s the case of Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, and his wife Juana Ferrer, as reported by El Nuevo Herald’s Cuba reporter Juan Tamayo recently. ...

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may be investigating if the couple lied on their entry papers, but ICE officials won’t confirm it — though former political prisoners have said ICE officials have interviewed them about this case. The couple maintains they are innocent and simply want to live in peace near their daughter in South Florida.

It wouldn’t be the first time that former Cuban military or Interior officials get a pass — virtually every U.S. administration has allowed it in exchange for information that those former officials can provide about Cuba. ...

The question begs: If Cuba is on the State Department’s “terror” list, why would the regime’s former officials be able to obtain U.S. visas and go back and forth to the island in their “retirement”? Cuba is not a postcard of rum and dance. It should give U.S. officials pause that the 54-year dictatorship run by the Castro brothers has been securing friends in all the wrong places: from North Korea to Iran. Nothing good can come of it.

SEATTLE: Seattle Times on Obama administration de-escalating ‘war on drugs’: Aug. 12

Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco was a bit like hearing from a stockbroker after trading has closed.

“Well, of course the market went down.” Well, of course the U.S. needs to rethink drug laws and enforcement.

Decades after America righteously declared a zero-tolerance policy toward all drug crimes and nonviolent crimes involving drugs, Holder and others want to stop the abuses.

Seize the belated insights whenever they come along. Support for being “Smart on Crime,” in the AG’s words, is aimed at undoing laws that maintain “a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration” that “traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities.”

Under the policy proposal, fewer drug offenders would face long sentences, fewer would go to federal prison and judges would have more discretion. Substantial credit for this change of heart might truly go to the bloated, unsustainable expense of a federal prison system bursting at the seams and concentric circles of prison costs the policies impose on local jurisdictions.

These policies are on a path to end in the same way they began, with broad bipartisan support. Republican President Reagan’s “War on Drugs” took shape in a heated competition with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass. ... Holder’s policy direction has stirred questions about the need to replace U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, formerly Seattle’s police chief, as he leaves the post for another federal job. Holder has bipartisan support in Congress for change. Maybe something actually will happen to reform laws that have ruined lives and budgets.

PHOENIX: Arizona Republic on airlines: Aug. 13

The federal Justice Department tossed a misguided wrench into the merger plans of US Airways and American Airlines, arguing that the public’s interest is ill-served by a commercial passenger-airline industry dominated by three or four mega-airlines.

Wrong. The public interest is far more poorly served by financially weak airlines artificially hamstrung by government lawyers who think they understand market forces but clearly do not. The lawyers concluded that the public is better off with two large and healthy “legacy” airlines in Delta and United; one healthy discount airline in Southwest; one limping, bankrupt legacy airline in American; and one midsize contender in US Airways — as opposed to a market contracted into three large and financially strong legacy carriers (Delta, United and the new, merged American) and discount player Southwest.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne joined the Justice lawyers in their suit. Left unchallenged, the merger would reduce competition and raise prices, Horne said.

If this vision constitutes a better market for consumers, it is at best marginally so.

Price and service negatives for consumers can (and often do) result from airline consolidation. ... Since 2008, the airline’s parent company has lost more than $8 billion. American’s enormous debt burden, pension costs and other factors leading to its bankruptcy are not appreciably changed by one or two profitable quarters. The Justice lawsuit presumes a “government knows better” understanding of the future of the commercial passenger-airline industry. That ignores the rise of aggressive discount carriers such as Allegiant and Spirit airlines, to say nothing of expansion-minded Southwest. The feds may be waving a “consumer interest” flag, but they are just as capable of acting out of self-interest as the airlines are. ...

That doesn’t strike us as a deal in the best interest of consumers.

DALLAS: Dallas Morning News on Mexican cartel leader’s release an outrage: Aug. 12

A Mexican judge’s decision to release drug cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero makes our blood boil. Caro Quintero played a key role in the 1985 kidnapping, sustained torture and death of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

Few cases did more to sour U.S.-Mexico relations than this one. And if President Enrique Pe￱a Nieto fails to act swiftly to block Caro Quintero from escaping justice, bilateral relations could once again turn frosty. Since the United States has long requested Caro Quintero’s extradition, Pe￱a Nieto should honor it. Washington should insist on it.

Caro Quintero remains at the top of the DEA’s list of international fugitives. He partnered with two other drug lords, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, in a cartel based in the western state of Jalisco but whose business spanned multiple Mexican states, Colombia and the U.S.-Mexico border.

They paid massive bribes to Mexican officials to expand their empire and evade prosecution. All of this occurred when the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was firmly ensconced as the ruling party, a position it held for seven decades, until 2000.

Last year, Mexicans returned the PRI to the presidency after Pe￱a Nieto pledged there would be no return to the party’s old, corrupt ways. His handling of Caro Quintero’s case serves as a test of the PRI’s new commitment to law and order.

Caro Quintero’s operations, including Camarena’s murder, fell under the aegis of an international criminal enterprise, placing it under Mexican federal court jurisdiction. ...

Neither country can afford to let relations devolve to that old, abysmal era. Mexico should not expect Washington simply to forget what happened. Caro Quintero’s extradition would send a strong message about the priority Pe￱a Nieto places on close U.S. relations — and on serving notice to other cartel leaders that they will not escape justice for their crimes. …

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