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Latin America: Colombian Senator Calls for Drug Legalization Debate

A Colombian senator is calling for an urgent debate on alternatives to drug prohibition, and he isn't just any senator. Sen. Juan Manuel Galán, of the opposition Liberal Party, is the son of Luis Carlos Galán, who was weeks away from winning the Colombian presidency when he was gunned down by assassins from Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel in 1990.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/juanmanuelgalan.jpg
Juan Manuel Galán
It is time for a congressional debate on drug legalization, Galán told the Associated Press in an interview December 28. "The current repressive approach against drug trafficking hasn't worked despite the huge amounts of blood we Colombians have shed," said Galán. "It's time to look at different options, together with other drug-production nations, as a way to break the back of the drug traffickers."

Drug possession is already legal in Colombia under a Colombian Supreme Court ruling, but the growing of drug crops -- coca, opium poppies, and marijuana -- is illegal, as is the drug trade. The country has received more than $4 billion is US aid -- most of it military -- to defeat the drug trade, without making a significant impact on it. Despite a massive aerial herbicide spraying campaign aimed at eradicating the crop, the US government admits that the amount of land dedicated to the coca crop grew 26% this year.

While other Colombian politicians have broached the topic before, Galán possesses a particular stature on the issue because of the high esteem in which Colombians hold his father. A foe of the cartels, Luis Carlos Galán was killed as part of a campaign by Escobar to terrorize the Colombian political establishment into blocking his extradition to the US. Escobar himself was killed in 1993, but by then, dozens of political figures, judges, police, and journalists had been killed by cartel assassins.

Galán senior would approve of his son's position, Juan Manuel Galán said. "I think after two decades, seeing the violent impact of drug trafficking, he would not be closed to new ideas about how to deliver a final deathblow to the drug traffickers." While the United States is likely to oppose the discussion, Galán said, "Colombia has the moral authority to lead this debate at the international level. Two decades into the drug war we continue having illegal mafias that spread violence across the country, we continue having guerrillas, we continue having paramilitaries," said Galán. "And despite it all there's no real solution in sight to the problem."

But President Alvaro Uribe's Conservative government is unalterably opposed to legalization, and Galán's own Liberal Party has so far failed to back his call for a congressional debate.

Soldiers to fight drugs at border

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Seattle Times
URL: 
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003507083_wdig03.html

I've Got Those Mean Old Bolivian Visa Blues

With my departure for South America set for 10 days from now, the Bolivian government has put a hitch in my plans. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that as of now, American citizens will need a visa to visit Bolivia. As the Associated Press reported:
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The government of President Evo Morales approved a decree Monday requiring U.S. citizens to obtain visas to enter Bolivia. Morales said the decree "a matter of reciprocity." The U.S. government requires Bolivians to obtain visas to enter the United States. "We are a small country but we have the same dignity as any other," Morales said. The decree, approved during a Cabinet meeting, applies to other countries, including Serbia and Montenegro and Cyprus. In February 2006, Leonilda Zurita, a congresswoman belonging to Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, had her U.S. visa revoked. Zurita said Washington cited an alleged link between her and terrorist activities, which she denied. Morales also cited security concerns for the rule. An American man has been charged with setting off bombs in two La Paz hotels in March. Two Bolivians were killed and seven people were injured, including an American woman. U.S. ties to Bolivia have been tense partly due to Morales' friendship with Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as by Morales' background as the leader of coca growers fighting U.S. attempts to eradicate their crops.
What the AP did not make clear is that the visa requirement for Bolivians to enter the US is a recent, post-911 move by the US reversing years of visa-free travel for South Americans coming north. The Brazilian government has also imposed a visa requirement for Americans now in this game of diplomatic tit-for-tat. Thanks, Mr. Bush. What this means for my trip is unclear at this point. The Bolivian consulate in Washington wasn't answering the phone today. One of colleagues in the Washington office will run over there first thing tomorrow morning to try to find out what the new requirements are and how fast I can actually get a visa. I am going first to Peru, which hasn't imposed a visa requirement, and it may be possible to get a visa there, but I don't know that yet. I'll keep you all updated on the situation. (Read the comment I've posted to learn a little more about Leonilda Zurita. - DB)
Location: 
United States

Colombian Slum Turns Into Cocaine War Zone

Location: 
Buenaventura
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/162641

Ecuador, Colombia Bad Start in 2007

Location: 
Quito
Ecuador
Publication/Source: 
Prensa Latina (Cuba)
URL: 
http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B711550CF-36A6-416B-B437-714E8D535F41%7D)&language=EN

Senator son of slain Colombian cartel fighter proposes drug legalization

Location: 
Bogota
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/28/america/LA_GEN_Colombia_Drug_Legalization.php

Rebels Boosting Poppy Business in Myanmar

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Indo-Asian News Service
URL: 
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/7454_1882064,000800050001.htm

AIDA Press Release: Plan Colombia Herbicide Spraying Not Proven Safe for the Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2006 CONTACT: Anna Cederstav, AIDA (510) 550-6700 acederstav@aida-americas.org Astrid Puentes, AIDA (5255) 52120141 apuentes@aida-americas.org PLAN COLOMBIA AERIAL HERBICIDE SPRAYING NOT PROVEN SAFE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Ecuador's concerns about border sprayings are well founded says international environmental NGO OAKLAND, CA, MÉXICO, D.F. - Last week, the Colombian government violated a bilateral accord with Ecuador when it sprayed a mixture of herbicides intended to destroy coca crops within 10 kilometers of the Ecuadorian border. Colombia is relying on studies by a team from the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) to claim that the spray mixture is safe. However, an independent review of CICAD's recent studies shows that the pesticide mixture being sprayed has not, in fact, been proven safe for the environment, and that Ecuador has substantial cause to oppose the sprayings. According to the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the first CICAD Environmental and Human Health Assessment of the Aerial Spray Program for Coca and Poppy Control in Colombia, released in 2005, did not assess many of the greatest potential ecological and human health risks posed by the aerial eradication program in Colombia. Because of these original omissions and the potential environmental risk of the spraying, the U.S. Congress requested further studies to determine whether the mixture is truly harmful to the environment. Preliminary results from the follow-up studies, released in August 2006, show that the mixture is indeed potentially harmful to the environment, and particularly to amphibians - the spray mixture killed 50 percent of the amphibians exposed within 96 hours. According to Earthjustice scientist and AIDA's Program Director Anna Cederstav, "Contrary to what is argued by the government, this study shows sufficient cause for concern to suspend the sprayings due to potential environmental impacts, especially considering that Colombia has the second highest amphibian biodiversity in the world and the most threatened amphibian species." Many other key questions about the environmental impacts of the spray mixture also remain unanswered, despite the U.S. Congressional mandate to conduct the studies. For example, the State Department has not provided adequate information about the location of and risk to sensitive water bodies and has done nothing to address whether other threatened species are likely to be harmed. Without these determinations, the claim by the Colombian government that the spray mixture is safe enough to spray along the Ecuadorian border is misinformed. "Based on the scientific evidence, and the fact that many questions remain unanswered, as well as the precautionary principle and the international obligation not to cause impacts to the territories of other States, the Colombian government should halt spraying and implement more effective and non-environmentally harmful alternatives for coca eradication," said Astrid Puentes, AIDA's Legal Director. Read AIDA's report regarding the omissions of the original CICAD studies here: http://www.aida- americas.org/templates/aida/uploads/docs/AIDA_CICAD_Critique .pdf. Read AIDA's critique of the follow-up studies here: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/references/AIDASprayingCritique12210.... For background information and more about AIDA's work on Plan Colombia, visit: http://www.aida-americas.org/aida.php?page=plancolombia.
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Official: Ecuador won't break ties with Colombia

Location: 
Quito
Ecuador
Publication/Source: 
CNN
URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/12/26/colombia.ecuador.ap/

Afghan Heroin's Surge Poses Danger in US; the World's Purest Form Can Kill More Addicts, As Seen in LA County

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-heroin26dec26,0,7339972.story?coll=la-home-headlines

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