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Afghan minister resigns amid new poppy crop

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
USA Today
URL: 
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-07-08-afghan-poppy_N.htm

Chavez subsidizes Bolivian coca production, will buy all legal coca products

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
VHeadline.com (IL)
URL: 
http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=74350

Reaping unintended consequences

Location: 
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/01/EDG3IQ8J6H1.DTL

The opium economy: A world awash in heroin

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
The Economist (UK)
URL: 
http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9409154

Latin America: House Votes to Shift Andean Initiative Anti-Drug Funding to Development

The US House of Representatives voted last Friday to reduce funding for Colombian security forces under the Andean Initiative and increase development assistance. The measure passed by the House also cuts funding and creates tighter conditions for aerial spraying to curb coca cultivation. The measure, passed as part of the 2008 aid foreign aid bill, HR 2764, now heads for the Senate, where Democratic critics of the Bush administration's Colombia policy lay in wait.

Since 2000, the Congress has appropriated more than $4.3 billion—more than $3.3 billion for police and military—for the Bush administration's Andean Initiative, the US effort to wipe out the region's coca producing capability and related cocaine economy. But despite all the billions spent and the hundreds of thousands of acres of Colombian farmland sprayed, coca production remains at roughly the level it was in 2000 and cocaine prices in the US continue to plummet, a key indicator of ample supplies.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/vitalia-merida-in-backyard.jpg
Six Federations (Bolivian) coca growers' union member (and former leader) Vitalia Merida in her backyard. She says there is peace now in the Chapare, but no prosperity. Her kids don't want to go to school because they have no money; instead, they want to leave and work in the city. (Photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith, February 2007)
Military assistance has accounted for more than 75% of all US aid under the initiative since its inception. This bill would lower that share to 55%, with 45% going for social and humanitarian aid, including for the first time funds for the country's Afro-Colombian minority.

According to an analysis by the Center for International Policy, the Bush administration sought $450 million for the Colombian military for next year, but the House slashed that by $160 million. And while the Bush administration sought $139.5 million for development assistance, the House funded it at a level of $241 million, making economic and social assistance account for 45% of funds under the aid bill, compared to the 24% it would have been under the Bush proposal.

In its narrative report accompanying the bill, the House Appropriations Committee spelled out its reasoning for the change in emphasis. "The Committee is concerned that the perennial goal of reducing Colombia’s cultivation, processing and distribution to restrict supplies enough to drive up prices and diminish purity has not worked and the drug economy continues to grow—further weakening the fabric of Colombian society," the report noted. "The Committee notes that this is now year eight of an ever more evolving multi-year plan. This program is not working and the Administration’s fiscal year 2008 request for Colombia is virtually identical to previous requests, which contradicts assurances that the Administration has provided to Congress over the years that the social component to Colombian aid would be significantly increased and that gradual 'Colombianization' of the program would take effect."

“This bill recognizes that it is time for change in our Colombia policy,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) in floor debate on Wednesday.

Such a change couldn’t come soon enough for advocates of a more enlightened policy toward Colombia and the drug war. “While there are no easy solutions, the bill passed by the House moves in the right direction,” said Joy Olson, executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America.

"This is a very good bill," said the Center for International Policy. "It shows that a great deal of thought went into trying to get this policy right."

The Colombia foreign aid appropriation bill once again provides evidence that a congressional election can make all the difference in the world.

Latin America: Mexico Purges Federal Police Chiefs in Drug Corruption Review

The Mexican government announced Monday it has replaced the federal police chiefs in all 31 states and the Federal District to determine whether they are fighting drug trafficking or abetting it. The move comes as President Felipe Calderón is now six-months into an offensive against the powerful and violent so-called cartels that has seen more than 20,000 soldiers and police swarm into cities and states considered hotbeds of the drug trade.

The 32 purged chiefs must submit to and pass polygraph and drug tests before being reconsidered for their positions. Their financial status will also be scrutinized. If they pass muster, they must be retrained before being reassigned.

Drug prohibition-related corruption has been the bane of Mexican law enforcement for decades. Now, once again, a purge of police is viewed as necessary by high officials. Just last month, six federal police officers were arrested for protecting cocaine shipments at the Mexicali airport.

"Every federal cop is obliged to carry out his post with legality, honesty and efficiency," Public Safety Secretary Genaro García Luna said at a news conference Monday announcing the housecleaning. "In the fight against crime, we have strategies. One axis of our strategy is to professionalize and purge our police corps."

Nearly 7,000 of Mexico's 20,000 federal police, who investigate drug crimes and homicides, have been assigned to work alongside the more than 12,000 soldiers deployed in Calderón's war on drugs. That police are working side by side with soldiers has raised concerns that they could be undercutting Calderón's campaign by passing information on to the drug traffickers.

Afghanistan's opium battle will take years: govt

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
TurkishPress.com (MI)
URL: 
http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=182702

The Madness of Plan Colombia

Location: 
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
RealClearPolitics.com (IL)
URL: 
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/06/the_madness_of_plan_colombia.html

IPS's Drug Policy Video and Speaker Series -- Assessing Drug Control Policies in Bolivia

The Washington Office on Latin America and the Institute for Policy Studies are pleased to invite you to a brown bag discussion: Assessing Drug Control Policies in Bolivia with Kathryn Ledebur, Director, Andean Information Network, Cochabamba, Bolivia Statistics recently released by the U.S. government and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) present a confusing picture: the U.S. reported that coca production remained statistically unchanged in 2006, while the United Nations reported an 8 percent increase. Kathryn Ledebur, Executive Director of the Andean Information Network (AIN), will analyze this data and the impact of the Morales Administration’s drug control policies to date. She will also assess the overall political and economic situation -- with special attention to the progress of the Constituent Assembly -- and U.S. policy toward Bolivia. Director of AIN since 1999, Ms. Ledebur studied at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador and has lived in Bolivia for more than a decade. Her work takes her regularly to the Chapare coca growing region. Ms. Ledebur is the author of “Bolivia: Clear Consequences,” in Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen Rosin, eds., Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2005). AIN is dedicated to investigation, analysis, education and dialogue on the impact of U.S.-funded counterdrug efforts in Bolivia. Please RSVP to Jessica Eby jeby@wola.org or call (202) 797-2171. For additional information, contact Ms. Eby or Sanho Tree at stree@igc.org or (202) 787-5266.
Date: 
Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Location: 
1112 16th Street, Suite 600
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: Is Mexico's Drug War "Calderón's Iraq"?

Almost as soon as he took office late last year, incoming Mexican President Felipe Calderón tried to win public support by sending out the military to take on the country's violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations, the so-called cartels. Now, six months into Calderón's anti-drug offensive, more than 24,000 soldiers and police are operating in a number of Mexican states and cities, but the death toll keeps rising, the drugs keep flowing, and Mexicans are starting to ask if it's all worth it.

According to Mexican press estimates, more than 2,000 people died in prohibition-related violence last year. With about 1,000 killed already this year, 2007 is on track to be the bloodiest year yet in Mexico's drug war.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/bushandcalderon.jpg
George Bush and Felipe Calderón (photo from whitehouse.gov)
Most of the victims are members of the competing trafficking gangs -- the Juárez Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel -- or their enforcers, like the ex-elite soldiers who switched sides and morphed into the Zetas or the former Guatemalan soldiers and gangsters known as the Kaibiles, or a new and shadowy presence on the scene, the Gente Nueva (The New People), a group supposedly formed of former police officers to take on the Zetas.

The violence among the battling cartels, factions, and enforcers has risen to horrific levels, with bloody beheadings taped on video and released to web sites like YouTube, heads being thrown on night club dance floors, and tortured bodies left on roadsides as exemplary warnings to others. On one day last month, at least 30 people died in prohibition-related violence.

But it's not only cartel soldiers dying. Hardly a day goes by without a police officer being gunned down somewhere in Mexico. Sometimes the attacks are spectacular, as when cartel gunmen attacked Acapulco police headquarters with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers, or when assassins killed the new head of the attorney general's national crime intelligence center in a brazen shooting in the upscale Mexico City suburb of Coyoacán last month.

That's not all. In May alone, five Mexican soldiers, including a colonel, died in an ambush in Calderón's home state of Michoacán; the body of an Army captain was found near the highway from Mexico City to Acapulco, and an admiral narrowly escaped assassination in Ixtapa. Earlier this year, Calderon admitted that even he had received death threats from the cartels.

But wait, there's more. Also in May, dozens of cartel gunmen invaded the town of Cananea, Sonora, not far from the Arizona border, kidnapped seven police and four civilians, triggering a battle that left 20 people dead. The director of the Coahuila state police kidnapping and organized crime unit was himself kidnapped, a corpse found in Monterrey carried a note threatening the life of the Nuevo Leon state attorney general, and four bodyguards for the governor of Mexico state were gunned down. A note left with a severed head appeared to tie their deaths to angry cartels.

But wait, there's still more. Last Tuesday, in the northern city of Monterrey, a congressman from Nuevo León, the 44-year old Mario Ríos, was assassinated while driving on a downtown street by gunmen firing at him from at least two cars, according to Wednesday's Seattle Times.

While the Mexican government claims the offensive is working, pointing to nearly a thousand arrests and numerous drug shipment seizures, the chorus is critics is growing. The popular left-leaning news weekly Proceso recently called the campaign "Calderón's Iraq." It isn't alone, on either side of the border.

"I don't think it's working at all," said Alex Sanchez, a Mexico analyst for the Washington, DC-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "The problem is the way the cartels are structured. Taking out one guy, even a top leader, just leaves a vacuum that others fight to fill. There is a perpetual cycle of violence unless they can take down every single member of a cartel, from the top capos to the lowest drug runners," he said.

"Calderón says Mexico is winning, but his policies are just perpetuating all of this," said Sanchez. "It hasn't affected the flow of drugs from Mexico, so nothing has changed in that sense. What has changed is that the violence has reached a new level; there is essentially a civil war going on between the cartels and the government."

"The problem with this sort of strategy is that when you detain these capos, like Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, you get a power void inside the cartel and you see new violence as members of the cartel fight to replace him at the top," said Maureen Meyer, Washington Office on Latin America associate for Mexico and Central America. "You need a different strategy," Meyer argued. "They need to put a lot more emphasis on police reform, and there needs to be a lot more transparency and oversight," she said.

"There was a need to have a very strong response, given the level of violence that had been accumulating," said Meyer. "But it seems at least in the short term that it has not produced the results people wanted. What is Plan B?"

"It's just a big circus," said Mercedes Murillo, head of the state of Sinaloa's independent human rights organization, the Frente Cívico Sinaloense. "The US comes in and says 'Bravo! Look what he's doing!' but he isn't achieving anything," she said. "They began doing this without any investigations, and that's a big, big problem. They don't know where the traffickers are, they haven't really caught anyone important, but now they have soldiers and tanks in downtown, they have checkpoints with a hundred soldiers at the same time parents are taking their children to school. The soldiers break down doors and search homes without warrants, they break things and steal things, and sometimes they rape the women."

And sometimes they kill innocent people. That's what happened June 2 at a military checkpoint in Sinaloa when troops opened fire on a vehicle they claimed failed to stop and opened fire on them. But it wasn't drug traffickers, nobody fired on them, and five people were killed, including school teacher Griselda Galaviz Barraza, 25, and her three young children. The Mexican military has arrested three officers and 16 soldiers in the case, but that has done little to assuage concerns about human rights violations by the military.

"And now they are killing people," Murillo said. "Instead of bringing out the military, they should be investigating where the money comes from. We don't have any real industry here, but you ought to see all the luxury cars, the luxury homes, the boats, the jewelry. Why can't they figure out where the money is coming from?"

Popular newspaper columnist Sergio Sarmiento, writing in Reforma, said the Sinaloa incident showed that innocents were being killed in the drug war. "The idea that drug dealers and the people close to them are the only people caught up in the violence we are living in Mexico is a silly lie made up to keep the population calm," Sarmiento wrote. "We are in the midst of war... a struggle in which two sides face off without any concern or thought about the civilian population."

The official Mexican National Commission on Human Rights has criticized the government for using the military in domestic law enforcement. The non-governmental national human rights organization the Centro de Derechos Humanos "Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez" is also raising the alarm about widespread military searches and detentions in Michoacan. American analysts are also raising concerns about the use of the military.

"The very strong military presence in these operations concerns us," said Meyer. "While it is understandable, we hope that reforming the police would effect a transfer from the military to the police in these operations. We are now seeing some of the unfortunate results of relying on the military to do law enforcement. What happened in Sinaloa is a very clear example of the risk of using the military trained for combat as opposed to a police force trained to use the least force possible."

"Soldiers are soldiers, they're not supposed to be used as a domestic police force, they're trained to fight an enemy," said Sanchez. "They're scaring the whole population, but they're just being themselves. The Mexican police are not capable of battling the cartels, but if you bring in the military, that will mean human rights violations."

"Mexico is at the greatest risk of any country in Latin America, warned COHA executive director Larry Birns. "You have the convergence of endemic and systematic corruption -- the corruption of the security forces is approaching Iraqi standards -- mated to a fragile political system with an unpopular president, and the near unraveling of civil society. For the average Mexican on the average day, law and order doesn't exist," he told the Chronicle.

Mexico blames the cartel problem on the demand for drugs in the US. "I have argued that this is a shared problem between the United States and Mexico," Calderon said last week. "The principal cause... is the use of drugs. And the US is the prime consumer in the world."

The prohibition-related violence in Mexico could also have an impact on US domestic politics. "This is becoming a real security problem for the US as we approach the latter phases of NAFTA," COHA's Birns argued. "The truck inspections will be more minimal, and the situation will compromise drug policy all along the border. It will also provide rhetorical weapons for those skeptical of any kind of open borders or amnesty program for undocumented workers. Open borders would mean near unrestricted infiltration of drugs and traffickers into the United States."

With neither government willing to address the root cause of the problem -- drug prohibition -- this year's drug war in Mexico is going to look a lot like next year's and the year after that. The only difference appears to be ever-escalating levels of violence, gruesomeness, and brutality.

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