Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Mexico, Police.
Tags: ayotzinapa, deportation, enrique ochoa, eric garner, ferguson missouri, gilda ochoa, Mexico, mexico povety, michael brown, NAFTA, police brutality, police racism, racism, state violence, tamir rice, undocumented, war on drugs
Weekend Edition December 12-14, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org
The Ties that Bind
Mourning and outrage are shaking parts of the United States and Mexico. As U.S. families grieve and demonstrators denounce the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and many more at the hands of the police, people are also protesting state violence and police impunity throughout Mexico. Just this past week, the body of Alexander Mora was identified as one of the 43 Mexican students from Ayotzinapa Guerrero who were disappeared after being confronted by police.
In recent interviews, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry critiqued the crimes happening in Mexico as having “no place in civilized society.” They offered U.S. assistance “to get to the bottom of exactly what happened [to the missing students in Mexico].” Such a response is part of a long practice of demonizing Mexico as a corrupt nation in need of the assumed superior support of the U.S.
U.S. officials would do well to heed their own words and get to the root causes of what is happening in both the U.S. and Mexico. These struggles in Ferguson and Ayotzinapa are tied. The state violence against Black and poor indigenous young people must be seen in the context of rabid class inequality and racism where the working poor and people of color are criminalized and treated as disposable.
Corporate-driven economic transformations and policies such as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) have ravaged communities in the U.S. and in Mexico. Once industrial hubs, U.S. urban areas have been gutted of industry leaving a crumbling infrastructure and few living-wage jobs in their wake. Many of these neighborhoods are now being “revitalized” by pushing the Black and Brown urban poor out through gentrification. In the Mexican countryside, imports of subsidized U.S. grain, the growth of industrial farms, and the expansion of foreign companies combine to expel families from their livelihoods and communities. As a result, inequality has grown in both countries, and is among the worst of all developed economies.
According to a 2013 study by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, of its 34 member countries the United States has the 4th highest level of income inequality, and Mexico the second. When controlling for inflation, the income of those in U.S. households in the top ten percent of the economic ladder – those making over $150,000 per year – has increased over 30% since the 1970s. In contrast, the income of those in the bottom half of the economy has basically stagnated, or slightly decreased. And, the minimum wage in both countries is far from a livable wage. The working poor often have to work several jobs to try to make ends meet.
Wealth and power disparities are closely correlated with race. Both countries have witnessed a boom in the number of millionaires and billionaires, including producing the two wealthiest people in the world Carlos Slim and Bill Gates who according to Forbes have a combined net worth of over $150 billion. In contrast, researchers with Mexico’s national evaluation agency, find that 46% of the total population lives below the poverty line, and 20% reside in extreme poverty. Throughout the county, the rate of extreme poverty is five times higher for indigenous peoples than for the general population. In the southern states, where the majority of Mexico’s indigenous populations live, poverty rates are between 15 and 30 points higher and in the state of Guerrero (the home of the disappeared students) 70% of the population lives in poverty. In the U.S., the compounding generations of racism and class inequality are such that Latina/o and Black households have a median net worth of less than $7,000 compared to over $110,000 for White households.
Since the 1980s, as a result of neoliberal reforms, both countries have slashed public programs in education, health care, transportation, social security, and public housing. Privatization and the ideology of free trade seeks to eliminate most state social programs leaving the poor to fend for themselves in an economy that looks to bargain down wages to maximize profits. While these support systems were not as strong as they could have been, they were important reforms that were won through popular struggle, and their erosion has hurt the working poor and the historically marginalized most. For the youth of working poor there are diminishing opportunities.
As the U.S. and Mexico disinvest in social programs, they divert funds to police poor communities through the war on drugs and other tough on crime policies. In the U.S., according to a Justice Policy Report, since the early 1980s spending on police protection has skyrocketed over 400% — from about $40 billion to nearly $200 billion. The number of state and local sworn officers has also increased over 50% during this period.
The war on drugs has been a war on poor people of color. Although multiple studies suggest that the majority of drug users are White, Blacks have been the most impacted by drug prosecutions and punitive polices such as mandatory minimums. As Law Professor Michelle Alexander reports, there are more Black men in the prison industrial complex than were enslaved in 1850 – devastating families and fueling the prison industrial complex where private prisons and immigration detention centers are big business.
The power elite in Mexico has increasingly militarized the state in an attempt to maintain order for foreign investors and domestic capitalists to expand their markets. Under the guise of the war on drugs and Plan Mérida, the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into military and police assistance in Mexico. Critics argue that the training and weaponry has been used against social movements and human rights activists. Collusion between criminal operations, military, government, and police officials occurs making it difficult to distinguish who is perpetrating the violence. Over the past decade, approximately 100,000 Mexicans have been killed in the failed “War on Drugs.” According to the UK newspaper The Telegraph, since 2007 nearly 23,000 Mexicans have been disappeared (over 5,000 this year alone!) through cartel and police violence, the two often working together.
The recent killings and grand jury verdicts in communities from Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and Ayotzinapa must also be placed in the context of a legacy of racism. The roots of racism in both the U.S. and Mexico are as deep as the economic fissures. They are embedded in society’s laws, institutions, and government structures. In the U.S., they are apparent in police profiling and the unequal application of zero tolerance and stop and frisk policies, the mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, the deportation and destruction of immigrant families, and the impunity by which members of the police force can kill primarily Black boys and men and have those atrocities supported by state policies — such as the Supreme Court’s 1980s rulings justifying the use of deadly force by officers. In Mexico, similar disregard for the lives of poor and indigenous people is rampant. Mexican journalist Fernando Camacho Servín reporting in La Jornada finds that the “effects of racism include the criminalizing of certain groups by their physical appearance, to blame them for their poverty, to displace them from their lands, or simply depriving them of their basic rights.”
In the wake of massive dissent against state violence, Presidents Barak Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto have suggested new policies. These focus on policing, impunity, and corruption. While they are small step, none of these changes will go very far unless the foundations of such atrocities are addressed head-on.
Enrique C. Ochoa is professor of Latin American Studies and History at California State University, Los Angeles.
Gilda L. Ochoa is professor of Sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at Pomona College
Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Drugs, Latin America.
Tags: Bolivia, bolivia coca, bolivia cocaine, bolivia illiteracy, coca leaf, DEA, Evo Morales, martin michaels, roger hollander, Sánchez de Lozada, war on drugs
Morales rose to prominence as the leader of the Bolivian Movement for Socialism (MSM) in 2005.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales waves to photographers as he arrives for the Mercosur trade bloc summit in Montevideo, Uruguay, Friday, July 12, 2013. Paraguay is expected to be readmitted into the bloc after member nations suspended its membership last year for having impeached and ousted President Fernando Lugo. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
Tumultuous U.S.-Bolivian relations took a turn for the worse last month when a plane carrying Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was diverted and forced to land in Austria after departing Russia. European authorities thought that Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, was on board Morales’ plane, setting off a diplomatic row after Bolivia refused requests to search the plane.
“The U.S. pressured these countries to ground my plane, they wanted to scare me, they kidnapped me and put my life at risk because my country doesn’t follow the rules of the Empire any longer,” Morales said following the incident. ” Edward Snowden is not a fly that can get onto my plane without anyone noticing, he’s not a bag I could just carry on board.” Although his government offered Snowden asylum, the NSA whistleblower accepted a temporary, one year asylum offer from Russia. Bolivia could be on the short list of countries that will accept him for permanent asylum once his one year stay in Russia is complete.
Following the incident, CBS news reports that Morales decided to extend asylum to Snowden, welcoming him to come to his country after he accused the U.S. and Europe of temporarily blocking his flight home.
Before Morales got wrapped up in international headlines regarding Edward Snowden, the Bolivian President had defied Washington dictates by supporting coca production and nationalizing key sectors of the Bolivian economy, including telecommunications and mining. The transition to a semi-planned economy has helped the South American nation to slash extreme poverty by at least 13 percent, reduce unemployment and virtually wipe out illiteracy among the country’s 10 million citizens in recent years.
Who is Evo Morales?
The late Hugo Chavez may have stolen headlines in the U.S. for famously calling former President George W. Bush “the devil” at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 2006. But among contemporary leaders in Latin America, Evo Morales is no less controversial in the eyes of Washington.
Morales rose to prominence as a leader of the Movement for Socialism (MSM) after he was popularly elected the country’s first President of indigenous descent in 2005. He played a key role in national protests against the privatization of water supplies in Cochabamba in 2000 and similarly against the privatization of the country’s robust gas resources in 2003.
As the Obama administration criticizes Bolivia and other countries for offering asylum to Snowden, the U.S. continues to harbor Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, Bolivia’s President from 2002-2003 who ordered the military to open fire on citizens protesting the privatization of a major gas line. Sixty people died in that attack.
It’s part of a long history of U.S. intervention in Bolivian affairs, notably lending support to the Bolivian military in the assassination of Che Guevara in 1967. Che was hoping to lead another popular revolt in the country following his success in the 1959 revolution.
With the help of the CIA, the country was plunged into decades of military dictatorship, coups and countercoups until Morales’ election began to turn the page in 2006. His rise has been described by many observers as part of the Bolivarian Revolution that led to a new wave of leftist leaders in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and in Venezuela over the past decade.
U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone interviewed Morales as part of his hit 2009 documentary, “South of the Border,” including him in the list of new leaders.
Empowering the peasantry
So what can be said of his leadership? For the marginalized indigenous population, Morales represented more than a symbolic change of face, by extending resources to help reduce poverty and virtually wipe out illiteracy with the help of Venezuela and Cuba.
The BBC reported in 2008 that a 30-month campaign to teach thousands of poor Bolivians to read and write has made the country “illiteracy free.” In 2001, at least 14 percent of the population didn’t know how to read, compared with just 4 percent after the campaign was completed in 2008.
For many of the poor indigenous population, the “Yes I Can” campaign designed by Cuba and funded by Venezuela was the first time a Bolivian government had helped further the education in rural areas.
“Not knowing how to read and write was like having a disability, it was like being blind,” said Freddy Mollo, a 43-year-old student.
“I couldn’t even draw a line. I had never been to school. Now I have learned to read and write in Quechua and I feel like a real person. Before I didn’t,” said Daria Calpa.
Gains extend far beyond just literacy campaigns. Using data from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Guardian newspaper reported that the proportion of those in moderate poverty dropped from 60 percent in 2005 and to 49.6 percent in 2010. Extreme poverty fell from 38 percent to 25 percent over the same period.
The UNDP also reports that Bolivia is the top country in Latin America in terms of transferring resources to its most vulnerable population — 2.5 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP).
“Bolivia is one of the few countries that has reduced inequality… the gap between rich and poor has been hugely narrowed,” said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean last year.
Standing up to the DEA
As a former union leader for a coca growers union, the issue of normalizing coca production and consumption was a personal one for Morales and for millions of citizens who rely upon the crop for their livelihood. It’s a difficult line to walk when coca from South America, mostly from Colombia and Bolivia is used to produce the majority of the world’s cocaine.
“I would like to say with clarity and with responsibility to you and the entire world that this is the coca leaf; that this is not cocaine. This coca leaf is part of our culture,” said Morales holding up a coca leaf at a 2009 U.N. meeting in Vienna.
For centuries, indigenous groups in the Andes mountains have been chewing coca, a leaf that produces a mild buzz similar to caffeine. Morales, a regular consumer of the plant has been a leading spokesman for taking the plant off the U.N. list of schedule I drugs.
After expelling the U.S. ambassador in 2008, the U.S. and Bolivia normalized relations in 2011, but it is not business as usual when it comes to drug enforcement. “For the first time since Bolivia was founded, the United States will now respect Bolivia’s rules and laws,” said Morales under the agreement restoring full diplomatic ties that Bolivia and Washington signed in 2011. As part of the new agreement, the DEA is no longer welcome in Bolivia.
Cocaine is still illegal in Bolivia and regulation of the coca industry seems to have actually helped reduce the illicit drug trade. “It’s fascinating to look at a country that kicked out the United States ambassador and the D.E.A. [Drug Enforcement Agency], and the expectation on the part of the United States is that drug war efforts would fall apart,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivian research group. Instead, she said, Bolivia’s approach is “showing results.”
By empowering the coca unions and drawing a clear line separating coca leaf from illegal cocaine, Morales appears to have found an alternative to the decades DEA war on drugs policies that have resulted in $1 trillion spent, 60,000 deaths and no measurable reduction in drug export or consumption. About 82 percent of Americans now say that the U.S. is losing the war on drugs.
Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Drugs, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Latin America, War.
Tags: civilian deaths, Colombia, Colombia Civil War, colombia human rights, colombia military, colombia paramilitaries, foreign policy, john lindsay-poland, U.S. imperialism, war on drugs
US military interventions differ greatly from each other. Some, like the one currently contemplated in Syria or the invasions of Kosovo and Haiti, are publicly rationalized as humanitarian in purpose, while others, such as the long occupation of Afghanistan, are purportedly in self-defense, and still others supposedly fight drug trafficking, as in Colombia and Mexico. Some involve enormous commitments of US troops and treasure, as in Iraq and Vietnam, while others involve a relatively small number of US personnel, as in El Salvador or the Philippines.
(Photo: n.karim/ Flickr)
But a constant among all such interventions is the stated belief of those propagating them that they will have a positive impact in the invaded nation. This may be a cynical ploy for US and international support, but the most effective prevaricators are those who have convinced themselves of the lie they tell or the myths they perpetuate. An antidote to such myths is the historical memory of the victims of wars where the United States has played a part.
That is the starting point of Basta Ya! Colombia: Memories of War and Dignity, released last week, and compiled over five years by the Group for Historical Memory. The 420-page report is the culmination of 24 volumes that focused on emblematic atrocities and cross-cutting issues of the war in Colombia since 1958. Basta Ya! overwhelms with statistics: 220,000 killed in the conflict, 81.5% of them civilians; 25,007 people forcibly disappeared; at least 4.7 million people displaced from their homes by the violence – one in every ten Colombians; more than 27,023 people kidnapped; 10,189 injured or killed by landmines; as well as people victimized by military recruitment of children, and sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Of nearly two thousand massacres documented in Colombia since 1980, 59% of them were committed by right-wing paramilitaries (often in alliance with the military and/or local political elites), 17% by guerrillas, 8% by the armed forces, and 15% couldn’t be determined.
But the experiences of victims and survivors are never far from these cold numbers: the absolute impotence of those who couldn’t stop the bloodletting, the silencing caused by the violence – which was one of its objectives, the collective fear after a massacre and the ways that selective killings took even more lives, the high levels of impunity for these crimes.
Last month, I sat with family members of a dozen people killed by army soldiers and police in Arauca, the oil-producing department near the Venezuelan border. Most of the killings had occurred eight to ten years ago, but their cases are languishing in the criminal justice, with no movement at all. A reform to the military justice system this year increases the chances that these mothers and fathers will never see justice, and their dead children will continue to be stigmatized.
The United States has influenced the doctrine, weapons and operations of the Colombian military for decades, especially since Colombia fought alongside the U.S. in Korea. Washington dramatically escalated its involvement in the war between 1998 and 2002, just as it was generating its worst toll. The terrible synergy produced by the Bush administration’s brutal and cynical use of 9/11 with Colombia’s fatal reaction against failed peace talks created an alliance bent on war and militarization without end, while hypocritically certifying improvements in human rights. As paramilitary groups partially demobilized between 2003 and 2006, some of their perverse practices transferred back to the US-client Colombian Army, which adopted a “body count” strategy that became so mercenary that recruiters were paid to supply hundreds of men who were executed and counted as guerrillas killed in combat.
The authors of Basta Ya! clearly intended it for a Colombian audience. There is only a Spanish version, and comparisons made to show the scale of damage from the war are made to Colombian cities that most non-Colombians are unlikely to know. This could explain, at least in part, why the authors also give little attention to the role of the more than $8 billion in US assistance to the Colombian military and police, multinational corporations that have assisted paramilitary groups, or the international narcotics trade that also has financed much of the armed conflict. The focus is on national actors and relationships, many of them hidden and under-reported.
An accounting of what impact the United States has had on Colombia’s terrible suffering has yet to be made. Washington trumpets the success of its military assistance in Colombia, and is financing the exporting of Colombian military expertise to other nations in Latin America and around the world.
But the Pentagon and State Department are increasingly secretive about just what that assistance consists of. After the Fellowship of Reconciliation published a published a report in 2010 indicating that increased civilian killings were committed by US-aided Colombian Army units, the State Department pointedly classified its list of supported units. Similarly, after School of the Americas Watch began to more effectively use lists of Latin American graduates of the U.S. Army school to show how many had committed atrocities, the Pentagon began to systematically refuse disclosure of those names. With the United States spending $25 billion a year on foreign military and police aid, transparency about what units receive assistance is increasingly important for fiscal reasons, as well as a political and ethical imperative.
As human rights, peace, and solidarity activists work against reflexive US military adventures, the victims of wars where the United States takes part deserve the truth about how the U.S. impacted the conflict. This task of constructing and reconstructing memory will require work not just by projects in the affected countries, like Colombia’s Group for Historical Memory, but by researchers, activists, advocates, legislators, whistleblowers, and ordinary people in the United States as well. It is a necessary prerequisite to the United States’ own transformation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: bay of pigs, bin Laden, drone missiles, eduardo galeano, geronimo, hiroshima, history, imperialism, Iraq invasion, Latin America, military suicide, pancho villa, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, war on drugs, wmds
Roger’s note: The Uruguayan journalist and author, Eduardo Galeano, writes with razor-sharp irony. He is perhaps the most important living Latin American oppositionist commentator, and his “Open Veins of Latin America,” is a classic, and the first book one should read to learn about that continent’s tragic history of being exploited. Chavez handed a copy to Obama when they met at an international conference shortly after Obama’s first election victory. There is no reason to believe that Obama bothered to read it.
[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books).]
The Day Mexico Invaded the United States
On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.
This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.
In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.
Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.
The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.
In 1945, while this day was dawning, Hiroshima lost its life. The atomic bomb’s first appearance incinerated this city and its people in an instant.
The few survivors, mutilated sleepwalkers, wandered among the smoking ruins. The burns on their naked bodies carried the stamp of the clothing they were wearing when the explosion hit. On what remained of the walls, the atom bomb’s flash left silhouettes of what had been: a woman with her arms raised, a man, a tethered horse.
Three days later, President Harry Truman spoke about the bomb over the radio.
He said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”
It was among the largest military expeditions ever launched in the history of the Caribbean. And it was the greatest blunder.
The dispossessed and evicted owners of Cuba declared from Miami that they were ready to die fighting for devolution, against revolution.
The US government believed them, and their intelligence services once again proved themselves unworthy of the name.
On April 20, 1961, three days after disembarking at the Bay of Pigs, armed to the teeth and backed by warships and planes, these courageous heroes surrendered.
The World Upside Down
On March 20 in the year 2003, Iraq’s air force bombed the United States.
On the heels of the bombs, Iraqi troops invaded U.S. soil.
There was collateral damage. Many civilians, most of them women and children, were killed or maimed. No one knows how many, because tradition dictates tabulating the losses suffered by invading troops and prohibits counting victims among the invaded population.
The war was inevitable. The security of Iraq and of all humanity was threatened by the weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in United States arsenals.
There was no basis, however, to the insidious rumors suggesting that Iraq intended to keep all the oil in Alaska.
Around this time in 2010 it came out that more and more US soldiers were committing suicide. It was nearly as common as death in combat.
The Pentagon promised to hire more mental health specialists, already the fastest-growing job classification in the armed forces.
The world is becoming an immense military base, and that base is becoming a mental hospital the size of the world. Inside the nuthouse, which ones are crazy? The soldiers killing themselves or the wars that oblige them to kill?
Geronimo led the Apache resistance in the nineteenth century.
This chief of the invaded earned himself a nasty reputation for driving the invaders crazy with his bravery and brilliance, and in the century that followed he became the baddest bad guy in the West on screen.
Keeping to that tradition, “Operation Geronimo” was the name chosen by the U.S. government for the execution of Osama bin Laden, who was shot and disappeared on this day in 2011.
But what did Geronimo have to do with bin Laden, the delirious caliph cooked up in the image laboratories of the U.S. military? Was Geronimo even remotely like this professional fearmonger who would announce his intention to eat every child raw whenever a U.S. president needed to justify a new war?
The name was not an innocent choice: the U.S. military always considered the Indian warriors who defended their lands and dignity against foreign conquest to be terrorists.
Robots with Wings
Good news. On this day in the year 2011 the world’s military brass announced that drones could continue killing people.
These pilotless planes, crewed by no one, flown by remote control, are in good health: the virus that attacked them was only a passing bother.
As of now, drones have dropped their rain of bombs on defenseless victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Palestine, and their services are expected in other countries.
In the Age of the Almighty Computer, drones are the perfect warriors. They kill without remorse, obey without kidding around, and they never reveal the names of their masters.
War Against Drugs
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan took up the spear that Richard Nixon had raised a few years previous, and the war against drugs received a multimillion-dollar boost.
From that point on, profits escalated for drug traffickers and the big money-laundering banks; more powerful drugs came to kill twice as many people as before; every week a new jail opens in the United States, since the country with the most drug addicts always has room for a few addicts more; Afghanistan, a country invaded and occupied by the United States, became the principal supplier of nearly all the world’s heroin; and the war against drugs, which turned Colombia into one big U.S. military base, is turning Mexico into a demented slaughterhouse.
This post is excerpted from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History Copyright © 2013 by Eduardo Galeano; translation copyright © 2013 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, A member of the Perseus Group, New York, NY. Originally published in Spanish in 2012 by Siglo XXI Editores, Argentina, and Ediciones Chanchito, Uruguay. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City, and Lamy, N.M. All rights reserved.
Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers. He is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, the Memory of Fire Trilogy, Mirrors, and many other works. His newest book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books) has just been published in English. He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the American Book Award, and the Casa de las Américas Prize
Posted by rogerhollander in Costa Rica, Criminal Justice, Drugs, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America, Mexico.
Tags: alexander main, central america, costa rica, drgus, drug trafficking, Honduras, honduras coup, human rights, Latin America, Mexico, roger hollander, war on drugs
Honduran soldiers exercised at Forward Operating Base Mocoron, one of three military outposts the United States is building in Honduras to help take the fight in Central America’s vicious drug war into remote, ungoverned areas that have been safe havens for narcotics traffickers. (Photo: Tomas Munita for The New York Times)
During his trip last week to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama sought to down play the U.S.’s security agenda in the region, emphasizing trade relations, energy cooperation and other more benign themes. In a May 3rd joint press conference with his Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla, Obama stated that it was necessary “to recognize that problems like narco-trafficking arise in part when a country is vulnerable because of poverty, because of institutions that are not working for the people, because young people don’t see a brighter future ahead.” Asked by a journalist about the potential use of U.S. warships to counter drug-trafficking, Obama said “I’m not interested in militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking.”
Human rights organizations from North America and Central America have a very different impression of the administration’s regional security policy. In a letter sent to Obama and the other region’s presidents on April 30th, over 145 civil society organizations [PDF] from the U.S., Mexico and the countries of Central America called out U.S. policies that “promote militarization to address organized crime.” These policies, the letter states, have only resulted in a “dramatic surge in violent crime, often reportedly perpetrated by security forces themselves.” The letter presents a scathing indictment of the U.S.-backed so-called “war on drugs” throughout the region:
Human rights abuses against our families and communities are, in many cases, directly attributable to failed and counterproductive security policies that have militarized our societies in the name of the “war on drugs.” The deployment of our countries’ armed forces to combat organized crime and drug-trafficking, and the increasing militarization of police units, endanger already weak civilian institutions and leads to increased human rights violations.
In Mexico, the letter says, “drug-related violence and the militarized response has killed an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children in the past six years. More than 26,000 have been disappeared, and countless numbers have been wounded and traumatized.” The letter also discusses the situation in Guatemala, where violence is “reaching levels only seen during the internal armed conflict” and “controversial ‘security’ policies have placed the military back onto the streets. And, in Honduras:
Since the coup d’état that forced the elected president into exile in 2009, the rule of law has disintegrated while violence and impunity have soared. We are witnessing a resurgence of death squad tactics with targeted killings of land rights advocates, journalists, LGBT activists, lawyers, women’s rights advocates, political activists and the Garifuna’s community. Both military and police are allegedly involved in abuses and killings but are almost never brought to justice.
Though Obama claims that he has sought to avoid “militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking”, the opposite trend has been observed throughout his administration. As the “Just the Facts” database of U.S. military spending in the Western Hemisphere shows, military assistance to Central American countries has significantly increased under Obama, from $51.8 million in 2009, to $76.5 million in 2013 and an anticipated $90 million in 2014.
The U.S. sale of arms and military equipment to the region has also soared. According to a recent Associated Press investigation by Martha Mendoza , “the U.S. authorized the sale of a record $2.8 billion worth of guns, satellites, radar equipment and tear gas to Western Hemisphere nations in 2011, four times the authorized sales 10 years ago, according to the latest State Department reports.”
The presence of the U.S military in the region, and the U.S. promotion of military tactics in law enforcement, has also increased under Obama. A New York Times investigative report from May 5, 2012 described how the U.S. military had recently established forward operating bases in the remote Moskitia region of Honduras and was providing support to drug interdiction efforts. A heavily armed DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) previously deployed in Afghanistan was conducting operations with a U.S.-trained and vetted Honduran Tactical Response Team. Six days after the article was published, FAST and TRT killed four indigenous Miskitu villagers during an early morning operation. As we showed in a report published last month jointly with Rights Action, the victims’ families continue to wait for some form of justice and compensation for the killings.
© 2013 Center for Economic and Policy Research
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Drugs.
Tags: Criminal Justice, doj, drugs, glenn greeenwald, justice department, medical marijuana, president obama, roger hollander, rule of law, war on drugs
Cannabis plants grow at Northwest Patient Resource Center in Seattle, Wash. (Credit: Reuters/Cliff DesPeaux)
The President’s justification for his crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries has to be heard to be believed
President Obama gave an interview to Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner this week and was asked about his administration’s aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, including ones located in states where medical marijuana is legal and which are licensed by the state; this policy is directly contrary to Obama’s campaign pledge to not “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.” Here’s part of the President’s answer:
I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, “Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books” . . . .
The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, “This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.” That’s not something we’re going to do.
Aside from the fact that Obama’s claim about the law is outright false — as Jon Walker conclusively documents, the law vests the Executive Branch with precisely the discretion he falsely claims he does not have to decide how drugs are classified — it’s just extraordinary that Obama is affirming the “principle” that he can’t have the DOJ “turn the othe way” in the face of lawbreaking. As an emailer just put it to me: “Interesting how this principle holds for prosecuting [medical] marijuana producers in the war on drugs, but not for prosecuting US officials in the war on terror. Or telecommunications companies for illegal spying. Or Wall Street banks for mortgage fraud.”
That’s about as vivid an expression of the President’s agenda, and his sense of justice, and the state of the Rule of Law in America, as one can imagine. The same person who directed the DOJ to shield torturers and illegal government eavesdroppers from criminal investigation, and who voted to retroactively immunize the nation’s largest telecom giants when they got caught enabling criminal spying on Americans, and whose DOJ has failed to indict a single Wall Street executive in connection with the 2008 financial crisis or mortgage fraud scandal, suddenly discovers the imperatives of The Rule of Law when it comes to those, in accordance with state law, providing medical marijuana to sick people with a prescription.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Drugs.
Tags: alcohol industry, beer industry, big pharma, decriminalization, drugs, for profit prisons, lee fang, legalization, marijuana, marijuana prohibition, pharmaceutical corporations, police unions, prison guards, private prisons, roger hollander, war on drugs
Last year, over 850,000 people in America were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Despite public opinion, the medical community, and human rights experts all moving in favor of relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, little has changed in terms of policy.
There have been many great books and articles detailing the history of the drug war. Part of America’s fixation with keeping the leafy green plant illegal is rooted in cultural and political clashes from the past.
However, we at Republic Report think it’s worth showing that there are entrenched interest groups that are spending large sums of money to keep our broken drug laws on the books:
1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.
2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.
3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.
4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”
RELATED: Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs
Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Colombia, Cuba, Foreign Policy, Drugs.
Tags: Free Trade, roger hollander, Latin America, war on drugs, Colombia, history, Vietnam War, secret service, foreign policy, decriminalization, cuba embargo, leon panetta, colombia labor, juan manuel santos, cuba blockade, core values, secret service scandal, peter king, vietnam brothels, sex scandal
John Grant, opednews.com, April 20, 2012
Whore: (verb) To debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money. -The New Oxford American Dictionary
It’s a challenge to make adult sense of the absurdities coming out of Colombia right now.
I had first planned to write about the Drug War aspect of President Obama’s summit meeting in Cartagena, since it’s quite amazing when the right-wing president of Colombia publicly lobbies the US president to shift the Drug War from military operations against supply in Latin America to a more social approach against demand in the US. After all, Colombia is the highly militarized US showcase nation in the 40-year Drug War.
“Despite all of the efforts, the immense efforts, the huge costs, we have to recognize that the illicit drug business is prospering,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the attending leaders. He even advocated a process of decriminalization, though he recognized this was only a “starting point to begin a discussion that we have been postponing for far too long.”
This is real news.
Our Drug War is a military/police enterprise focused on attacking the supply of drugs coming from Latin America. Santos seems to concede it’s a dismal failure. He also knows the accumulated conditions of that failure are so entrenched in the hemisphere that it’s hard to even begin to discuss a way out.
Presidents Santos and Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Havana Club in Cartagena by unknown
Barack Obama’s administration is so cowed by entrenched, die-hard drug warriors that it’s doubling down on marijuana busts as local governments across the nation go the other way and ease enforcement of marijuana laws. The Feds are like fundamentalist puritans who see the decriminalization of marijuana as the social equivalent of a “gateway drug” leading to crack-addict Hell. There’s a desperate need for a much more pragmatic approach.
Besides the call from our Latin American neighbors for a more sane, demand-oriented approach to international drug problems, there was an equally consensus-driven call for the US to drop its aggressive and counter-productive 50-year embargo of Cuba.
Here’s the right-wing Santos again on lifting the embargo on Cuba: “There is no justification for that path that has anchored us in a Cold War. … It is the hour to overcome the paralysis produced by ideological stubbornness.” As expected, President Obama remained mired in the “ideological stubbornness” of the Florida Cuban vote.
When it came to approving a labor agreement with Colombia, Obama was in total agreement with the rightist Santos. It did not matter that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had lobbied hard against the agreement, citing killings of trade unionists and other human rights abuses. Trumka responded by saying, “We regret that the administration has placed commercial interests above the interests of workers and trade unions.”
Back in 1984, I was deported from Honduras for sitting down with union leaders who shared with me and friends a litany of murders and rights abuses against trade unionists. That was during the Contra War. It seems little has changed in 28 years. Capital and profits always trump unions and the human rights of workers.
The “escort” who set off the scandal and US Secret Service agents by unknown
It’s quite revealing that while profound historical discussions during the summit focused on reforming the Drug War, lifting the outmoded Cold War embargo of Cuba and violent abuses of trade unionists, that the really big story to come out of Cartagena is that US Secret Service agents and military security officers purchased sex.
And who is thumping the scandal? None other than Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the greatest War On Terror whore in America.
The heavy breathing soon began. Could any of the ladies contracted from the Pley Club brothel have been al Qaeda agents? How was the President’s safety affected? How much of a black mark was it on the honor of the United States? Whose heads would have to roll?
Reality Versus Distraction
Meanwhile, back in Realityland, Latin America was in the midst of a major, future-oriented economic correction with the dynamic Brazil on the leading edge. The requests for the US to reform its Drug War and to lift the embargo on Cuba were in fact part of that greater dialogue, a dialogue that includes questions about energizing the middle and lower classes into a consumer engine that can lift all economic boats across the continent.
This is a deadly theme in 2012 in America. So it’s not surprising to see a ridiculous scandal pop up to distract Americans from the real issues. As was accomplished following World War Two, the US economy needs to rebuild its working and middle classes, and the only way to do that is to break the cycle of entrenched, right-leaning wealth. It’s a major epochal struggle in Latin America, as it should be in the United States. It was one of the big stories that should have come out of the summit, and instead we get distractions about agents and whores.
It’s a story about high-powered, red-blooded American men in an exotic location erotically fueled by the myth of American Exceptionalism; actually it’s one of the oldest stories in the annals of colonialism and imperialism. And it naturally involves the oldest profession, in this case, savvy Colombian entrepreneurs after top-dollar profits.
The weak link in all this apparently was an inebriated Secret Service agent who didn’t speak enough Spanish to understand the perfectly legal business contract he was engaging in. The 24-year-old woman offering her services to this gentleman is very beautiful, and she emphasized to The New York Times that she was not a prostitute or a whore; she was an “escort.” The marketing line for such expensive escorts is that a client is paying for class and, most important, discretion.
There would have been no scandal if the man had paid his bill. Failure to fulfill a legal contract amounts to theft of services. Thus the wronged woman went to the police, and the police, in turn, did their duty and took up the woman’s case against the US agent. Sex had nothing to do with the scandal; it was a contractual arrangement gone awry. The man might as well have been refusing to pay for a haircut.
One of the themes being voiced in this scandal is that a matter of national and military honor is at stake, that it’s a violation of our “core values.” It’s the same distracting note of concern we hear from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when soldiers in Afghanistan photograph themselves grinning like geeks holding up the blown apart legs of a suicide bomber. Panetta said what these men did was “not worthy of our core values.”
So exactly what are our “core values” in this scandal? First, it has to be recognized that these so-called core values are generally expressed in the realm of public relations to respond to some embarrassment. It’s a sad fact of our times that our real values are those expressed in the realm of secrecy where most of US foreign and military policy unfolds. Real values are how we really operate — not how we envision ourselves.
Whoring in Vietnam
Back in 1966, I was a red-blooded 19-year-old kid in Vietnam serving my country as a radio direction finder. My job was to locate the enemy, which generally consisted of Vietnamese kids fighting to force me and 500,000 other Americans from their land. I located these young soldiers so Air Force F4 Phantoms could incinerate them into charred corpses.
When I wasn’t hunting Vietnamese radio operators, I spent a lot of time in Pleiku at the many brothel-bars that catered to kids like me engorged with the myth of American Exceptionalism. For me, Vietnamese girls were the most beautiful creatures on Earth. As an American soldier, I was drawing a salary, plus $65-a-month combat pay for being in Vietnam. There were many thousands more just like me.
Money burned a hole in our pockets, and prostitution was everywhere, in bars and in every little laundry beside the road. It was the juicy entrepreneurial receptacle for the arrogant, imperial engine that drove the war itself. Eventually, to control VD, the Fourth Division actually oversaw its own brothel-bars just outside the base camp in Pleiku.
At these bars, one was presented with an assortment of energetic and lovely child-women willing and eager to share their most intimate physical pleasures for five dollars. I was an armed young male propagandized with a sense of superiority suddenly presented with pliant young girls who wanted my money, of which I had more than I knew what to do with.
I’m now, of course, thoroughly ashamed of myself and mention the experience here only to shed a little light on the notion of Americans buying sex in foreign lands. My shame is intricately tied to the war and the fact I was paying a pittance for these girls’ services; they were there only because they were poor and because we were wrecking their country. It wasn’t the prostitution that was shameful or dishonorable; it was the wrecking, the exploitation and the larger, collective shame for the war itself and the massive amounts of killing and destruction it entailed against the Vietnamese people.
This kind of misplaced dishonor is part of the “core values” cited in the Secret Service scandal. Something is wrong when individual sexual peccadilloes become a more serious matter for public shame than collective actions like a disastrous and violent 40-year Drug War and a misguided 50-year embargo of a tiny island nation. Add in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the new doctrine of special operations assassination teams and lethal drones and the “scandal” of a few agents paying for consensual sex becomes laughable. Our wars are the real scandal.
Colombia and other Latin American nations have decriminalized prostitution and they now seem inclined to do the same for drugs. This has been the reality in places like Amsterdam for some time. Reasonable people have to wonder when the professed “core values” of American Puritanism will allow the same kinds of reform and evolution to occur in the United States. So far, the forces of obstruction and distraction have the upper hand.
This sort of reform is never easy, and it’s never perfect. But we know criminalization and militarization doesn’t work and that they are extremely costly approaches. In a way, we have become socially addicted to these approaches. Maybe it’s time for the nation to go into rehab and assume a little of the spirit of E. F. Schumacher’s famous book Small Is Beautiful.
- To borrow the subtitle of the book, we’d be a whole lot better off if our leaders stopped being such corporate, imperial whores and began to govern “as if people mattered.”
I am a 62-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a 19-year-old kid who has been studying US counter-insurgency war ever since. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I am a photographer and a writer — sometimes a video filmmaker. I have been a member of Veterans For Peace for 24 years. I think the economic reckoning we are living through, that has only just begun, makes it clear we need to re-evaluate who we are as a nation and ratchet down the imperial world policeman role and look after our own deteriorating nation’s problems. I like good writing, good film, good music and good times. I drink alcohol and smoke dope responsibly. I confess this because I think the Drug War is an abysmal failure. I’m a committed pragmatist who believes in the old line: My Country Right Or Wrong. The fact is, it’s wrong a lot of the time. And I’m sticking around.
Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Colombia, Cuba, Foreign Policy, Drugs.
Tags: Rafael Correa, roger hollander, war on drugs, Cuba, monroe doctrine, canadian mining, constanza vieira, cuba embargo, alba, malvinas, falkland, summit americas
Roger’s note: I love the photo that accompanies this article. Obama and Clinton, do they not appear to be dinosaurian? They think they are huge and powerful and indestructible, at the same time as they are on their way to extinction. The two great leaders of the Democratic Party, staunch defenders of the Monroe Doctrine in the twenty-first century, custodians of the collapsing American Empire. Our only hope is that they don’t bring the rest of the world down with them.
Published on Monday, April 16, 2012 by Inter Press Service
‘Last Summit of the Americas without Cuba’ sees alternative rise to challenge hegemony of US policy
by Constanza Vieira
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia – “What matters at this summit is not what is on the official agenda,” said Uruguayan analyst Laura Gil, echoing the conventional wisdom in this Colombian port city, where the Sixth Summit of the Americas ended Sunday without a final declaration.
Latin American nations say there may not be another summit unless the US overcomes its objections to Cuba. (AFP)
The Fifth Summit, held in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009, had a similar outcome.
At the Sixth Summit, which opened Saturday Apr. 14, the foreign ministers failed to reach prior agreement on a consensus document.
Key points of discord were the continued U.S. embargo against Cuba and Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
Gil, an expert on international relations who lives in Colombia, told IPS that “a consensus on drugs seems to be forming among the countries of Latin America.”
“These three issues are precisely the ones that are dividing the hemisphere in two, or confronting the countries of Latin America with the United States and Canada,” she said.
“The Summit of the Americas process is in crisis. What the Sixth Summit clearly shows is that certain issues cannot be put off any longer, particularly that of Cuba,” excluded from the Americas summits due to pressure from the United States, she added.
In Gil’s opinion, “there will not be another summit without Cuba. Either Cuba is included, or there will not be a summit at all. The absence of (Ecuadorean President Rafael) Correa is a red alert,” she said, referring to the Ecuadorean president’s promise not to attend any further hemispheric meetings to which Cuba is not invited.
According to the expert, “Colombia positioned itself as a bridge, able to facilitate relations between contrary ideological blocs. But from this position, Colombia cannot work miracles.
“This summit reminds us that ideologies are still a force to be reckoned with. The limitations are plain to be seen,” she said.
The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Roy Chaderton – a former Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia and the U.S. – told the Colombian radio station RCN Radio: “This is a rebellion by Latin American democracies against U.S. and Canadian hegemony.”Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.
Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.
In addition to Correa, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega were also absent, having sent last-minute cancellations. Ortega led a rally in Managua in solidarity with Cuba Saturday Apr. 14.
On Saturday morning it was announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would not be attending the summit, due to the treatment for his cancer.
At the end of the first day’s meetings, the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) released a declaration in Cartagena stating that they would not attend any further summits without the participation of Cuba.
ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.
The host’s speech
At the opening ceremony of the Sixth Summit, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos did not mince words. He exhorted delegates “not to be indifferent” to the changes occurring in Cuba, which he said were ever more widely recognized and should be encouraged.
“It is time to overcome the paralysis that results from ideological obstinacy and seek a basic consensus so that this process of change has a positive outcome, for the good of the Cuban people,” he said.
“The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective,” Santos said.
As for Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, Santos recommended supporting the agenda of the Haitian government, instead of pushing “our own agendas.”
He also said that “Central America is not alone.” Organized crime must be combated, but anti-drug policy should be focused on “the victims,” including “the millions” locked up in prisons, Santos said.
This summit will not find an answer to Latin America’s calls for facing up to the failure of the war on drugs, “of this I am completely certain,” he said.
Militarization marches on
U.S. President Barack Obama let it be understood that his country would tolerate flexibilization of Latin American anti-drug policies, saying “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.””I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.
But he flatly rejected legalization.
“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.
He also announced that the U.S. government would increase its aid to the war on drugs led by “our Central American friends” and pledged “more than 130 million dollars this year.”
Colombian expert Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina, a local think tank, summed up the U.S. position: “‘You may decriminalize drugs, but that will not eliminate the mafias. And we will be there’,” with a military presence as soon as drug shipments cross the borders, he told IPS.
The People’s Summit
From another part of the city of Cartagena, Enrique Daza, the coordinator of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a movement of social organizations that organized the Fifth People’s Summit, held in parallel to the Summit of the Americas, announced their “satisfaction” at the same time as President Santos received a standing ovation in the auditorium where the heads of state were gathered.
“They were not able to keep our demands hidden,” Daza said at the close of the counter-summit.
On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.
The alternative summit rejected the United States’ “imposition of its agenda” at the Summits of the Americas, and demanded an end to militarization based on the pretext of the war on drugs, which in fact ends up criminalizing social protest, he said.
In its final declaration, the People’s Summit castigated the United States and Canada for insisting on the promotion of free trade treaties with other countries of the continent.
Canada came in for heavy criticism for fomenting a “predatory model” for the operations of its mining companies in Latin America. “The rights of investors cannot take precedence over the rights of people and of nature,” the final declaration says.
The gathering of social movements, left-wing groups and human rights, indigenous, environmental and women’s organizations also launched a veiled attack on socialist governments in Latin America.
While recognizing the efforts of bodies such as ALBA and the fledgling Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the declaration expressed that “progressive and left-wing” governments in the Americas should take steps against the extraction of natural resources and the concentration of land ownership.
On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.
© 2012 IPS North America
Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Criminal Justice, Drugs, Guatemala, Latin America.
Tags: Colombia, decriminalization, drug policy, drug prohibition, drug regulation, felipe calderon, gerald le dain, harm reduction, jefferson morley, juan manuel santos, Latin America, le dain commission, marijuana, perez molina, roger hollander, war on drugs
Roger’s note: There was a time when Canada lead the way. In 1972, the Le Dain Commission headed by Supreme Court Judge Gerald Le Dain, recommended the decriminalization of soft drugs such as marijuana. That was exactly 40 years ago. Although ignored by a succession of Canadian governments to this day, the report was a landmark for a policy of a sane harm reduction approach to the drug problem.
By Jefferson Morley, www.salon.com, April 13, 2012
In Colombia Obama will hear from presidents looking for alternatives to prohibition
Drug warriors no more: Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos
Ending drug prohibition is creeping into the U.S. political debate, thanks to a couple of Latin American military men. Oh sure, George Will’s not-quite endorsement of legalization is noteworthy, but more than one erudite conservative columnist has gone further before. The views of three Latin American statesman are important but former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz made the same case 23 years ago. The record high in public support for marijuana legalization found in a Gallup poll last year may be a factor, but the Obama administration has declared a “war on pot” since then.
It is the anti-prohibition campaign of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, one a former general, the other a former defense minister, that has forced the Obama administration to engage critics respectfully for the first time. Perez will be pushing a formal proposal to open discussion of alternative policies at the summit of American heads of state that President Obama is attending, in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend.
While Obama doesn’t support decriminalization, said his advisor Dan Restrepo this week, “we welcome” the debate. “It’s worth discussing,” Vice President Biden told reporters in Central America last month, “but there’s no possibility the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.”
So while there’s no change of heart in Washington, there has been a change of tone. The Obama administration cannot afford to blow off the views of two staunch U.S. allies who have both waged drug wars in their countries, not at a time when public opinion in Latin America is increasingly disenchanted with the militarized approach.
Their approach is tactful. Santos says he doesn’t want to change U.S. policy, but merely hear U.S. officials defend it.
“There are good arguments for legalizing, but I would prefer to reach that conclusion after an objective discussion,” Santos told the Washington Post this week. “The U.S. says, ‘We don’t support legalization, because the cost of legalization is higher than no legalization.’ But I want to see a discussion where both approaches are analyzed by experts to say, really, the cost is lower or not.”
In a piece for the Guardian, Perez called for an “intergovernmental dialogue based on a realistic approach – drug regulation. Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that consumption and production should be legalized but within certain limits and conditions … Legalization therefore does not mean liberalization without controls.”
Perez and Santos may not make headlines in Cartagena this weekend. In an effort to lower expectations and avoid confrontation with Obama, Santos told reporters in Cartagena yesterday that drugs should not be the “center of discussion” at the summit. At the same time, he added, a review of drug policy was necessary and reflected the will of the “vast majority” of countries in attendance.
“We will not see any shift in policy,” said Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the Cato Foundation, “but this is forcing Washington to engage and defend its position at high levels.”
“In the public forum, ending prohibition will probably only get a brief discussion,” predicted Ethan Nadelman of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Privately it will be much more vigorously discussed. The challenge for the United States will be how to blur the differences. This is the first time ever that the decriminalization and alternatives to prohibition have ever been on the agenda of a major gathering of heads of states.”
Perez and Santos are still in the minority among Latin American presidents, most of whom say, at least publicly, that they oppose legalization. But the desire for alternatives to legalization and prohibition is widespread. In Mexico, President Felipe Calderon has followed the U.S. approach in declaring war on the cartels in 2006. Some 41,000 people have been killed in the last six years without reducing the supply of drugs or increasing the public’s sense of safety. Calderon has said legalization might be the only solution but with the Mexican presidential election approaching in July is not going to change his policy. After the election is a different story. The Mexican business community is increasingly supportive of legalization and regulation as the only solution to the country’s appalling levels of violence.
As the calls for reconsideration of drug war have proliferated, the Obama administration sent Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield to Central America to argue for a prohibitionist policy.
“To send three top officials in a month shows that the administration is taking this seriously,” said Hidalgo. “They don’t want this debate to gain ground.”
But the more the administration responds in Latin America, the more legitimate drug policy reform becomes at home.
- Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington and author of the forthcoming book, Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday).More Jefferson Morley