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Latin America: As Blood Continues to Flow, Mexico's Opposition Calls for Drug Legalization -- Starting with the US

With the death toll from drug prohibition-related violence in Mexico at around 600 so far this year, the country appears to be on a path to match or exceed the 2,000 drug war deaths reported last year. While military operations authorized by incoming President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) have led to arrests and drug seizures, they appear to have had no substantive impact on the multi-billion dollar a year business of supplying Americans with the illegal drugs they demand.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/javier-gonzalez-garza.jpg
Javier González Garza
Now, as the nation ponders a fundamental reform of the government itself, the leading opposition party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) is calling for a National Agreement to Combat Organized Crime (read: the drug trade), which would include discussion of legalizing drugs.

The first rumblings came in the middle of last week, when Javier González Garza, the PRD's legislative coordinator in the Assembly, called for an end to the drug war. The endless war against the so-called drug cartels is fruitless, he said in an interview posted on the party web site.

"I believe that we cannot continue with this affair thinking we are going to combat the problem of the drug traffic without more radical measures," said González Garza. "One of these has to be the legalization of drugs in the United States. Then, we could begin to change things. Those military operations during this presidency, it's obvious that they are not obtaining results. I think that the US is the largest market and because of that, there is where we can achieve an international accord where we can pass to the next level, to legalize the consumption of certain types of drugs, and then eliminate this type of thing that is happening. That's one part," he said.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/rene-arce-islas.jpg
René Arce Islas
"The other part has to do with being able to think of other actions," González Garza continued. "This war, as it is now conceived, will cause us to lose everything; it doesn't make any sense. There have to be changes in that."

Then, last Friday, PRD Sen. René Arce Islas, secretary of the Senate's Public Security Commission, proposed the "National Agreement to Combat Organized Crime," including drug legalization. Ending drug prohibition is controversial, but reasonable, said Arce. "Evidently, that is a radical action that generates much controversy, but if we analyze it with maturity and serenity, evaluating the pros and cons, the risks and potential benefits, you cannot discard being able to arrive at an agreement that would, from our point of view and many specialists, do away with the drug traffic and the delinquency that accompanies it."

The PRD and its allies control 157 seats in the 500-seat Assembly, while the PAN controls 206, and the party of the former "perfect dictatorship," which ruled Mexico for seven decades, the PRI, is reduced to third place with 106 seats. In the last legislative session, a bill that would have decriminalized drug possession in Mexico was on the verge of passage when pressure from the United States caused then President Vicente Fox to back away. Will another year's worth of drug prohibition-related horrors lead to a different result this time around?

Afghanistan, Plan Colombia and Drug Eradication: Problems and Solutions

Recent increases in opium production in Afghanistan presents a Catch-22 to U.S. policymakers. On the one hand, a November 2006 United Nations and World Bank report found that forced eradication of opium crops is driving poor Afghans into the hands of the Taliban, empowering crime syndicates and destabilizing the country. On the other hand, doing nothing about the heroin trade allows major drug traffickers to enrich themselves unfettered. Is there a third option? Rep. Carnahan has suggested licensing Afghan farmers to grow opium for legal pain medications, the way the international community diminished the drug trafficking problem in India and Turkey. Senator Sununu has suggested the U.S. buy the opium crops from the farmers and destroy them. Senator Biden has suggested switching the focus away from poor farmers towards disrupting the drug cartels that are moving the drugs. Some experts suggest building roads and schools and providing alternative employment to poor Afghans. Others suggest ending drug prohibition all together. This panel explores the problems posed by both opium production and opium eradication and offers possible solutions. It looks at not only what is going on in Afghanistan right now, but lessons that can be learned from eradication policies in Latin America and elsewhere. Speakers include: Vanda Felbab-Brown, Ph.D. - Research Fellow at the the Brookings Institution Ted Galen Carpenter - Vice President for Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at the Cato Institute Ethan Nadelmann – Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Sanho Tree – Director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Please RSVP to Grant Smith at gsmith@drugpolicy.org or 202-216-0035. Space is Limited. Snacks and beverages provided
Date: 
Tue, 04/24/2007 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Latin America: More Trouble in Peru's Coca Fields

Tensions continue to rise in the coca fields of Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley, with a coca eradication team attacked over the weekend, a strike by growers bubbling up in Huánuco state, more tough talk from President Alan García, and a Wednesday announcement by the Peruvian police that they had found the link between growers and the violent remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla movement.

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coca waiting by the side of the road to go to market
The unrest comes just three weeks after a similar strike in Tocache province in San Martín state. That strike was settled by an agreement to halt forced eradication of coca crops, but the García government ended that moratorium last week, with the president himself calling for the "bombing" of coca fields and maceration pits.

Last weekend, as eradication commenced again, a team of almost 200 civilian and police eradicators were ambushed in Yanajanca in the Tocache district, leaving one civilian eradicator dead and five police wounded. While the identity of the attackers remains unknown, police were quick to note that the area where the attack occurred is an area where a Shining Path remnant led by "Comrade Artemio" operates.

On Tuesday, coca farmers in Tingo María and Aucayacu went on strike, as did their comrades in Leoncio Prado province. Few reports were in by mid-week, but farmers had vowed to block highways. Among other things, they are asking for a meeting with a high-level government delegation.

But President García Tuesday dismissed that call. "What delegation of high ranking officials?" he scoffed. "There is nothing to dialogue about because Peru needs to promote responsible agricultural development with alternative crop programs that will help put an end to drug production."

Drug traffickers are behind the strike, García claimed. "It is evident that drug lords are orchestrating the strike. Just as in Colombia where drug lords have purchased the protection of para-military guerrilla groups to protect their illicit operations, they have done same with groups of coca farmers who run around protesting, 'let me grow whatever I feel like growing' and I am here to tell you that is not how it works," the Peruvian leader said.

By Wednesday, Peruvian authorities had switched from traffickers to the Shining Path as the culprits. In a loudly trumpeted (and conveniently timed) bust, Peruvian Police announced they had "finally placed the link" between restive coca farmers and the Shining Path. Police claimed two Shining Path members were arrested in Aucayacu as they awaited a meeting with coca farmer representatives. Police said they found weapons, ammunition, Shining Path propaganda, and detailed plans for blocking roads during protests.

Peru is the world's second largest producer of coca behind Colombia. Some 60,000 peasant families grow about 100 tons of the bushy plant, much more than is bought up by the state coca monopoly as a legitimate crop.

The List: The Drug War’s New Battlegrounds

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Foreign Policy (DC)
URL: 
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3767

Peru's Garcia Seems Determined to Stoke Conflict With Coca Growers

Although the Peruvian government cut a deal with coca growers in San Martin state last month to end a strike, promising a temporary end to forced eradication of coca crops, it has since decided to resume the destruction of crops. Garcia has also vowed loudly to bomb coca crops and maceration pits. It is almost as if he is seeking confrontation with growers. Now he's getting it. Coca growers in Tingo Maria, Aucayacu, and Leoncio Prada announced strikes beginning today. Growers in San Martin's Tocache district are already rumbling over the government's reversal on eradication. And someone has taken more direct action: On Friday, snipers opened fire on an eradication team in Yanajanca, killing one civilian eradicator and wounding five police officers. Garcia is headed for Washington soon for trade talks. Is he attempting to curry favor with the US by taking a tough line on coca and cocaine? And what kind of price in terms of domestic conflict and violence is he willing to pay?
Location: 
Peru

Peru's Coca Farmers Start Indefinite Strike Against Government

Location: 
Peru
Publication/Source: 
Living in Peru
URL: 
http://www.livinginperu.com/news-3609-peru-perus-coca-farmers-start-indefinite-strike-against-government

Chafee questions effectiveness of global drug laws

Location: 
Providence, RI
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Pawtucket Times (RI)
URL: 
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18209981&BRD=1713&PAG=461&dept_id=24491&rfi=6

Taliban Taxes Opium To Fund Insurgency

Location: 
Chinar
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Tampa Tribune (FL)
URL: 
http://www.tbo.com/news/nationworld/MGBC1WT1G0F.html

Cocaine production doubles since Jan. 2006 - Bolivian official

Location: 
Buenos Aires
Argentina
Publication/Source: 
RIA Novosti (Russia)
URL: 
http://en.rian.ru/world/20070405/63136977.html

Analysis: U.S. drug czar in Afghanistan

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
UPI
URL: 
http://www.upi.com/SecurityTerrorism/view.php?StoryID=20070403-011321-7500r

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