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Drug War Chronicle #640 - July 16, 2010

1. Plan Colombia: Ten Years Later

Ten years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed off on the first $1.3 billion installment of Plan Colombia. A decade later, how is that working out? We ask the experts.

2. Chronicle Reviews: Two Books on Mexican Drug War, One on Border

Here we look at a journalistic account of the "secret life" of the border, an academic treatise on Mexico and its drug cartels, and a polemic against Mexico's drug war by one of its leading political figures.

3. California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Picks Up Big Labor Endorsement

Unions are beginning to jump on the California pot initiative bandwagon. This week, a biggie signed on: The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council.

4. Polls Split on California Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Is the California tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative winning or losing? Right now, it looks like it depends on which pollster you ask. In any case, this is looking like a very tight race.

5. Latin American Ex-Presidents Sign Anti-Prohibitionist "Vienna Declaration"

The authors of the Vienna Declaration are seeking to throw out the old prohibitionist drug policy paradigm in favor of one based on science and evidence. This week, the declaration picked up significant political support -- three former Latin American presidents.

6. Mexico Drug War Update

A car bomb attack in Ciudad Juarez Thursday that killed two police and a paramedic marked an ominous tactical turn in Mexico's prohibition-related violence this week. Meanwhile, the Mexican government put the death toll since President Calderon took office at 24,826.

7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Bad cop! Bad parole officer! Bad probation officer! Bad trooper! What? No bad jail guards? Well, it happens sometimes...

8. Budget Axe Falls on Stockton Narcs

California's Central Valley city of Stockton has been a poster child for the Great Recession, and now, with layoffs hitting the police department for the second time in two years, the cops have announced they don't have enough manpower to staff their dope squad.

9. School Drug Testing Has Little Impact, Dept. of Education Finds

Making highly motivated high school students urinate in a cup to play football or join the glee club isn't very effective, the Department of Education has found in a new study.

10. Nearly 2/3 of New Yorkers Support Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds

Here is yet another poll showing broad support for medical marijuana, this time in New York state. The surprise is no longer that people support medical marijuana, but that the New York legislature can't get around to passing it.

11. This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

12. Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we need your feedback to evaluate our work and make the case for Drug War Chronicle to funders. We need donations too.

13. Student Internships at StoptheDrugWar.org This Year!

Apply for an internship at DRCNet and you could spend a semester fighting the good fight!

1. Plan Colombia: Ten Years Later

The United States has been trying to suppress Colombian coca production and cocaine trafficking since at least the time of Ronald Reagan, but the contemporary phase of US intervention in Colombia in the name of the war on drugs celebrated its 10th anniversary this week. As Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) security analyst Adam Isaacson pointed out Wednesday in a cogent essay, "Colombia: Don't Call It A Model," it was on July 13, 2000, that President Bill Clinton signed into law a $1.3 billion package of mainly military assistance known as Plan Colombia.

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Plan Colombia coca eradication scene
Plan Colombia was supposed to cut Colombian cocaine production in half by mid-decade, and while total US expenditures on it have now risen to $7.3 billion, that goal was clearly not met. But, a decade down the road, there has been some "progress." The leftist peasant guerrillas of the FARC have been seriously weakened and are operating at half the strength they were 10 years ago. Violence has steadily decreased, as has criminality. The Colombian state has been strengthened -- especially its military, which has nearly doubled in size.

Still, as Isaacson notes, those gains have come at a tremendous cost. Thousands have been killed at the hands of rightist paramilitary groups aligned with powerful landowners and political elites, and while those paramilitaries officially disbanded several years ago, they appear to be reconstituting themselves. The seemingly endless "parapolitics" scandals linking the paramilitaries to high government actors demonstrate that the price of "progress" in Colombia has been corruption, impunity and human rights abuses.

And the war continues, albeit at a lower level. Some 21,000 fighters from all sides and an estimated 14,000 civilians died in the fighting this decade, and all the while, peasants were planting and harvesting coca crops, and traffickers were turning it into cocaine and exporting it to the insatiable North American and, increasingly, European markets.

While Colombian and US policy-makers have hailed Plan Colombia as a "success," neither Isaacson nor other analysts who spoke to the Chronicle this week were willing to make such unvarnished claims. "'Success' has come at a high cost," wrote Isaacson. "Colombia's security gains are partial, possibly reversible, and weighed down by 'collateral damage,'" including mass killings, other human rights abuses, and the weakening of democratic institutions."

"Success has eluded efforts to achieve Plan Colombia's main goal: reducing Colombian cocaine supplies," wrote Isaacson. Despite years of aerial eradication, coca remains stubbornly entrenched in the Colombian countryside, showing a significant decline only last year, after Colombia switched its eradication emphasis from spraying to manual eradication. "This strategic shift appears to be reducing coca cultivation, for now at least. In 2009 -- a year in which both aerial and manual eradication dropped sharply -- the UNODC found a significant drop in Colombian coca-growing, to 68,000 hectares."

But, as Isaacson and others note, that decline has been offset by increases in cultivation in Peru and Bolivia. In fact, total coca cultivation in the region has remained remarkably consistent since 2003, at about 150,000 hectares per year.

"If you look at it from point of aiding the Colombian government to fight against the FARC and other insurgents, it has worked," said Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Latin American analyst for the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. "A decade ago, Colombia was close to being a failed state, with the FARC controlling large swathes of territory and threatening major cities. Today they are terribly weak and on the run, and much of their leadership has been killed," he noted.

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coca seedlings
"Due to the widespread use of helicopters and the fact that guerrillas don't have that kind of mobility, the Colombians and Americans have been successful in shrinking the area of operation available to the guerrillas, and that has hurt the guerrillas' ability to recruit," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "A few years ago, there were maybe 16,000 FARC operating in six or seven major theaters, and now it's about half that. But that doesn't necessarily mean the FARC is finished; we haven't seen any sign of that. Their options are fewer, but they are far from disappeared. Plan Colombia has been successful in empowering the Colombian military, but not so much in solving the problem of the FARC insurrection."

"On the military side, the counterinsurgency, there has been definite progress," agreed Vanda Felbab-Brown, a drugs and counterinsurgency expert at the Brookings Institution. "The situation in the late 1990s was very bad. The FARC was in the hills above Bogotá, and the paramilitaries were highly organized. Today, the FARC is much weaker, land travel is more possible, and other security indicators also show progress. That said, the FARC is still around in substantial numbers and can jeopardize security and economic development in particular areas. And the paramilitaries are back, even if the Colombian government insists they are not the paramilitaries. They are, for all intents and purposes, just like the paramilitaries of the 1980s and 1990s."

"The idea was that if they suppressed the coca, the capabilities of the FARC, the ELN, and the paramilitaries would be substantially weakened," said Felbab-Brown. "They said that if you eliminated coca in Colombia, the conflict would end, but I don't think you can bankrupt the belligerents through eradication. That didn't pan out. In some places, the government was able to diminish at least temporarily economic flows to particular elements of the FARC, but that was the result of military operations, not eradication," she argued.

"A lot of people say the FARC have lost their political agenda, that they are just traffickers, but I don't subscribe to that view," said Felbab-Brown. "If someone wants to conduct a rebellion, they have to have a way to finance it. I don't think the FARC is any different. One of the big accomplishments of the US and the Colombian military was taking out a lot of top FARC leaders," she continued. "Their current leaders have been out in the jungle so long, they suffer from a lack of intellectual imagination. But the FARC are peasant guerrillas, with a few intellectuals and students, and they were never strong ideologically. There is no equivalent of Comrade Gonzalo [of Peru's Shining Path] or Mullah Omar or Bin Laden for the FARC. And I think they've run out of ideas. Times have changed, and the ideological story they want to tell the world and their members is crumbling, but it's not the case they are just interested in money. They still want power, they still believe in narratives of war and conquest, but they don't have anything to frame it with anymore."

"They are about more than just criminality," agreed Isaacson. "They're raising drug money to buy guns and those guns are for something. While their ideology may be pretty stunted at this point, they are driven by a desire to take power -- unlike, say, the Sinaloa cartel, which is driven by a desire to sell drugs. They hate Colombia's political class, and they represent that small percentage of peasants on the fringe. Those boomtowns on the frontier, that's where the FARC's base is. Wherever there is no government and people are on their own, the FARC claims to protect them. They are not bandits -- they are more dangerous than bandits."

The paramilitaries continue to wreak havoc, too, said Felbab-Brown. "They assassinate community leaders and human rights organizers," she said. "In some areas, they collude with the FARC; in others, they fight the FARC over cocaine routes and access to coca production. They are still a real menace, and it is very discouraging that they have come back so quickly. That shows the failure of the Colombian government to address the real underlying causes of the problems."

That has been a serious flaw from the beginning, the Brookings Institution analyst said. "At first Plan Colombia was aimed at root causes of conflict and coca production, but that was dropped, and in the Bush administration it morphed into a counternarcotics and counterinsurgency project. Economic development was a minor component of the plan, and the US never tried to pressure Uribe to take on economic redistribution and the distribution of political power, nor has the US been very vocal about human rights and civil liberties issues."

"When Plan Colombia was first conceived, it was primarily a domestic program aimed at drawing in the Colombian population, which at that time had become totally disaffected from the state," recalled Birns. "It was to emphasize economic development, nutrition, and education. It was the Clinton administration that militarized Plan Colombia and made it into a security doctrine rather than an economic development formula."

That only deepened in the wake of 9/11, said Birns. "Increasingly, Plan Colombia morphed first into a counternarcotics program than again into an anti-terrorist vehicle. The US began to define the FARC, which never had any international aspect, as terrorists. It was a convenience for the US policy of intervention to emphasize the terrorism aspect."

But at root, Plan Colombia was first and foremost about reducing Colombian coca and cocaine production. "It wasn't sold here in the US as a counterinsurgency effort, but as an effort to reduce the supply of cocaine to the US market," Cato's Hidalgo pointed out. "If you look at the acreage of coca planted in Colombia, it has decreased, but the production of coca remains the same, and coca production is increasingly dramatically in Peru and Bolivia. Once again, we see the balloon effect at work."

"As the reduction took place in Colombia, it simply moved back to Peru, whence it originally came," concurred COHA's Birns. "Peruvian cocaine production is now half the regional total, so total cocaine production remains essentially the same, even though there has been a reduction in the role Colombia plays."

"One of the best measures to see if the supply of cocaine has decreased is to look at price, but what that tells us is that cocaine was 23% cheaper in 2007 than it was in 1998 when Plan Colombia was launched," said Hidalgo. "It is clear that Plan Colombia has failed in its main goal, which was to reduce the supply of cocaine to the US market."

"We've tried everything," said Hidalgo. "Aggressive aerial spraying of fields, manual eradication, as well as softer measures to entice producers to adopt other crops, and it's all failed. As long as the price of cocaine remains inflated by prohibition, there is big profit and a big incentive for producers and traffickers to grow the plant and export the product to the US and elsewhere. The only way to curtail this is by legalizing cocaine. Other than that, I don't see this as a battle that can be won."

Felbab-Brown called the coca and cocaine production estimates "extraordinarily squishy," but added it was clear that Plan Colombia had failed to achieve its goals there. "The plan was supposed to halve production in six years, and that clearly was not accomplished," she said. "It would be false to deny there has been some progress, but it has not been sufficient. I think it was bound not to work because it was so heavily focused on eradication in the context of violence and underemphasized the need for economic programs to address why people cultivate coca. And the larger reality is even if you succeeded in Colombia, production would have moved elsewhere."

Counternarcotics cannot solve Colombia's problems, said Felbab-Brown, because coca is not at the root of those problems. "There is only so much that counternarcotics programs can do given the basic economic and political situation in Colombia," said Felbab-Brown. "You have a set-up where labor is heavily taxed and capital and land are lightly taxed, so even when you get economic growth, it doesn't generate jobs, it only concentrates money in the hands of the rich. The Colombian government has been unwilling to address these issues, and inequality continues to grow. You can only do so much if you can't generate legal jobs. You have to take on entrenched elites, the bases of political power in Colombia, and Uribe's people are not interested in doing that."

But Uribe will be gone next month, replaced by his elected successor, Juan Manuel Santos. That could mean change, said Isaacson. "He's not as ideologically to the right as Uribe, some of his appointments indicate people who actually have an interest in governance, and he is the principle author of the program they're carrying out in the countryside to get the state and not just the military out there," he said. "He could also be more open to the idea of peace negotiations than Uribe was."

That may or may not be the case, but Plan Colombia under whatever president is not going to solve Colombia's drug problem -- nor America's, said Isaacson. "At home, we need to reduce demand through treatment and other options," he said. "In Colombia, as long as you have parts of the country ungoverned and as long as members of the government have nothing to fear if they abuse the population, there will always be drugs. Colombia needs to build the state and do it without impunity. We built up the Colombian military, but there was no money for teachers, doctors, or any public good besides security."

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2. Chronicle Reviews: Two Books on Mexican Drug War, One on Border

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: Ruben Aguilar and Jorge Castaneda, "El Narco: La Guerra Fallida [The Failed War] (2009, Punto de lectura, 140 pp., $10.00 PB); George W. Grayson, "Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?" (2010, Transaction Publishers, 339 pp., $35.95 HB); Tim Grayson, "Midnight on the Line: The Secret Life of the US-Mexico Border (2010, St. Martin's Press, 304 pp., $25.95 HB)

On the streets of Mexican cities, a deadly, multi-sided war, complete with horrific exemplary violence -- among competing drug cartels, between the cartels and the Mexican state, and sometimes between different elements of the Mexican state -- rages on, the body count rising by the day, if not the hour. The cartels -- Frankenstein monsters birthed by drug prohibition, swollen with profits from supplying our insatiable demand for their forbidden goods -- not only fight the Mexican state, but also insinuate their way into it, and into Mexican society at large, buying with their immense wealth what they cannot command with their bullets.

This is commanding attention not only in Mexico, but also here north of the border, where the drugs are consumed and the cash handed over, where the fear looms that the violence will leak across the border. Despite the hyperventilating cries of some paranoid nativists, that has mostly not been the case, but if the violence hasn't arrived it's not because the cartels haven't extended their tentacles into Gringolandia. They are here, from San Antonio to Sacramento to Sioux Falls, doing business, and business is -- as always -- good.

Throw in some festering anti-immigrant (read: Mexican) sentiment, Congress's failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and some zealotry from the land of Sheriff Joe, and Mexico and the border are commanding a lot of attention. That's being reflected in the publishing world. Over the past two or three years, I've reviewed a handful of titles about Mexico and the border (and read more), and now we have three more contributions -- one an academic study of the cartels by a leading American Mexicanist; one a polemic against President Calderon's drug war by a Mexican journalist and a former Mexican foreign minister; and one a journalist's look at the world of smuggling, of both drugs and people, and counter-smuggling along the 1,700 mile border.

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George Grayson's "Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?" is an extremely thorough and comprehensive history and analysis of the rise of the cartels in the context of the weaknesses of the Mexican state. If you can't tell your Carillo Fuentes from your Arellano Felix, if you're not sure if it's the Gulf Cartel or the Zetas, if you keep getting "La Barbie" mixed up with "El Chapo," Grayson will save you. He's got all the cartel players and all their nicknames -- and they all have them -- he's got all the busts and the shootouts, he's got what is so far the definitive history of the cartels and Mexico's response to them.

But Grayson is a political scientist, and that means we also get a history lesson on Mexican politics and culture, which for Grayson is largely a history of authoritarian institutions (the Catholic Church, the "perfect dictatorship" of the PRI), which the cartels imitate in their internal structures. Under the PRI, which ruled until Vicente Fox's PAN won the presidency in 2000, drug cartels existed, but in a modus vivendi with elements of the state. It was the political earthquake that shook loose the PRI that also unleashed the cartel wars, as old arrangements no longer served and new ones had to be forged. The ramping up of the drug war, first under Fox, and then under his successor, has only worsened the situation.

Grayson doesn't see any easy way out. It is "extremely difficult -- probably impossible," he writes, to eradicate the cartels, even with heightened law enforcement measures on both sides of the border. Raking in billions of dollars a year and employing nearly half a million Mexicans (and no doubt, some Americans, too), the cartels may just be, in a phrase, too big to fail. Just like the Mexican state, in Grayson's opinion. It may be corrupted, it may be suborned, but it goes on.

Although Grayson certainly plays it close to the vest, in the end he denounces the drug war. "Few public policies have compromised public health and undermined fundamental civil liberties for so long and to such a degree as the war on drugs," he writes.

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One gets the feeling that Jorge Castaneda, coauthor along with Ruben Aguilar of "Narco: La Guerra Fallida" (sorry, it's only available in Spanish), would like to be part of that Mexican state again. The former foreign minister has for years publicly suggested that it is time to talk about drug legalization, and "Narco" feels like part of a campaign to position himself for a run at office in 2012 or a post in whatever government emerges after elections that year. It is a polemic aimed directly at President Calderon's drug policies.

Castaneda and Aguilar set out to systematically demolish the reasons cited for ramping up the drug war, and do a pretty thorough job of it. (Although not everyone agrees with them. I saw Castaneda roundly berated at a Mexico City conference earlier this year for arguing that drug use in Mexico was not a significant problem, one of the central claims in the book.) Guns coming into Mexico from the US are not the cause of the violence, they also argue, and a full-blown confrontation with the cartels is not the way to go.

Instead, they propose increasing public security and reducing the "collateral damage" from drug prohibition and the drug wars by concentrating police on street crime and selectively targeting the most egregious drug offenders. The others? Perhaps a modus vivendi can be reached, if not at the national level, perhaps at the state or local level, as long appeared to be the case in Sinaloa. Decriminalization is another response, although not without the US joining in at the same time, lest Mexico become a drug tourism destination. And harm reduction measures should be applied. But "Narco" is ultimately a call for ending drug prohibition -- and a marker for Castaneda in forthcoming political moves.

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Of course, all those Mexican-controlled drugs have to get here somehow, which means they have to cross the US-Mexican border, and Reuters reporter Tim Gaynor's "Midnight on the Line" has got that covered. This is a fast-paced, entertaining, and insightful look at the contraband traffic -- both drugs and people -- across the border and the people who try to stop it. Gaynor works both sides of the border, talking to coyotes in Tijuana, showing up in a dusty Sonora border town and following the illegal immigrant's harrowing journey through the searing deserts of Arizona, and interviewing all kinds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol folks, as well as other officials on this side.

Gaynor demonstrates with some verve the continuous, perpetual struggle between contrabandistas and the US authorities (or, like the Minutemen he interviews, volunteers) who struggle to choke off that traffic. He tracks for sign with Indian scouts on an Arizona reservation that has in recent years become a smuggling hotspot, he rides horseback and in a Blackhawk helicopter with the Border Patrol and tags along with one of its SWAT teams, he learns about the drones patrolling high overhead and the tunnels being bored far beneath the ground. And he introduces us to the people involved on both sides.

Gaynor concludes arguing -- no doubt much to the consternation of the "secure the border" crowd -- that the border is tighter than ever, and that the steady increase in federal officers there this decade has had an impact. But, he notes, this success has perverse results. Tightening the border has been "a market maker for ruthless and profit-hungry coyotes and drug traffickers, for whom smuggling has never been more profitable," he writes. And so it goes.

Gaynor's book is no doubt the easiest read, Castaneda's is more a marker of a political position than anything, and Grayson's belongs in the library as a desk reference for anyone really serious about following the cartels and Mexican politics. Happy reading.

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3. California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Picks Up Big Labor Endorsement

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council announced Wednesday that it is backing Proposition 19, the California Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative. The Western States Council represents some 200,000 union members in Western states, including some 26,000 in California.

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marijuana plants (photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia)
"The Western States Council is endorsing Proposition 19 based upon our previous support of the medical cannabis initiative, 1996's Proposition 215," George Landers, the council's executive director, said in a statement. "We view Proposition 19 as an enhanced version of the previous proposition, that creates taxable revenue and produces jobs in agriculture, health care, retail and possibly textile. We further believe that the proposition will deprive narcotics traffickers of a significant source of criminal revenue."

"The marriage of the cannabis-hemp industry and UFCW is a natural one," said Dan Rush of the union's Local 5, which in May began representing about 100 Oakland medical marijuana industry workers. "We are an agriculture, food-processing and retail union, as is this industry."

Rush has been assigned by the union to work on the campaign. "I'll be handling the strategy to bring in other unions, and their endorsements and resources," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Some other union locals in the state have already endorsed the initiative, as has the state NAACP, a number of law enforcement figures and a number of elected officials. (See the endorsement list here.)

Initiative supporters had hoped to gain the endorsement of the California Labor Federation, which met this week in San Diego, but ended up settling for the group to remain neutral, which it did. That means the organization's 1,200 member unions are free to endorse the initiative if they wish.

"Obviously, I would have liked to have had a full endorsement," said Rush, adding that the neutrality pledge would allow him to continue to try to win more labor endorsements. "I'm expecting to garner the endorsements of most of the major unions in California over the next several weeks," Rush said.

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4. Polls Split on California Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Two California public opinion polls, one released Friday and one released Monday, are at odds as to whether the Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative (now known officially as Proposition 19) has the support of Golden State voters. The confused polling results suggest a race that will be very tight.

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On Friday, the Field Poll reported that only 44% supported the initiative, while 48% opposed it and 8% were undecided. But that was followed on Monday by a SurveyUSA poll that found 50% supported the initiative, 40% opposed it, and 11% were undecided. (The numbers don't add up because of rounding.)

The sampling margin of error for the SurveyUSA today poll was +/- 4%, while the margin of error for the Field poll was +/- 3.2% overall and +/- 5.5% for its population subsamples. Again, given the small gap between support and opposition and the margin for error, the polling suggests a very tight race indeed.

Proposition 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the growing of a garden of 25 square feet by adults anywhere in California. It would also provide counties and municipalities with the local option to allow, tax, and regulate marijuana sales and production. If it wins in November, it would be the first time the voters of any state have voted to legalize marijuana.

The SurveyUSA poll showed majority support for the initiative among moderates (53%), liberals (69%), college graduates (54%), and people who make less than $40,000 a year (54%) or more than $80,000 a year (53%). The Field poll showed majority support among Democrats (53%), young voters (52%), young whites (53%), and middle aged whites (51%).

There are discrepancies between the two polls, especially when it comes to support by race and by geographic region. The SurveyUSA poll found majority support for the initiative among whites (50%), blacks (52%), and Asians (53%), with only Hispanics (46%) failing to get on board. But the Field poll was significantly lower, especially among non-whites. It showed majority support among no ethnic groups, with support at 48% for whites, 40% for blacks, 33% for Asians, and 36% among Hispanics.

Similarly, the Field poll shows majority support only in the San Francisco Bay area (53%), while the SurveyUSA poll shows majority support there (53%) and in the Greater Los Angeles area (54%). The Field poll had support for the initiative at only 46% in Los Angeles County, 46% in the Inland Empire, and 39% in San Diego County.

There has been some speculation that differences in polling techniques could account for the differences. The SurveyUSA poll is an automatic poll conducted by telephone with automated questions and response prompts, while the Field poll is conducted by a live interviewer. It has been suggested that some respondents may be embarrassed to tell a live interviewer they support legalization.

We are less than four months out now. This is going to get very interesting.

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5. Latin American Ex-Presidents Sign Anti-Prohibitionist "Vienna Declaration"

Last week, the Chronicle did a feature story on the Vienna Declaration, a sign-on document from the international scientific community calling for the decriminalization of drug use and science-based drug policy reform. The declaration is an official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference, set for Vienna next week.

Aimed at national governments, international organizations, and the United Nations' global drug control bureaucracy seated at Vienna, the declaration went public June 28. Tuesday, the declaration picked up a trio of big-time endorsements, as three former Latin American presidents signed on.

Former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria were also joined in signing the declaration by Peruvian author and journalist Mario Vargas Llosa, Brazilian writer Paulo Coehlo, and author and former Nicaraguan Vice-President Sergio Ramirez Mercado. All six have already made waves in international drug reform circles as members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which in 2008 issued a final report criticizing drug prohibition along lines similar to this year's Vienna Declaration.

"The war on drugs has failed," said Cardoso. "In Latin America, the only outcome of prohibition is to shift areas of cultivation and drug cartels from one country to another, with no reduction in the violence and corruption generated by the drug trade."

"The war on drugs has had such an incredibly negative impact on Latin America, and the fact that the Vienna Declaration is receiving this level of endorsement from former heads of state should serve as an example to those currently in power," said AIDS 2010 Chair Dr. Julio Montaner, President of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, two of the organizations tasked with writing the declaration. "I hope that the Vienna Declaration will inspire many more political leaders to cast aside the drug war rhetoric and embrace evidence-based policies that can meaningfully improve community health and safety."

The Vienna Declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the United Nations, to take a number of steps, including:

  • undertaking a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies;
  • implementing and evaluating a science-based public health approach to address the harms stemming from illicit drug use;
  • scaling up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options;
  • abolishing ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
  • endorsing and scaling up funding for the drug treatment and harm reduction measures endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations.

"Instead of sticking to failed policies with disastrous consequences, we must direct our efforts to the reduction of consumption and the reduction of the harm caused by drugs to people and society," said Cardoso. "Repressive policies are firmly rooted in prejudices, fears and ideological visions. The way forward to safeguard human rights, security and health is a strategy of peace not war."

"We welcome the support of Presidents Cardoso, Zedillo and Gaviria, as well as the many doctors, scientists, researchers and public figures who have already put their support and endorsement behind the Vienna Declaration," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and the chair of the Vienna Declaration writing committee. "This level of support, especially before the conference has started, demonstrates the urgency that global leaders in many disciplines believe we must move towards reforming drug policies."

"The approach to drug policy proposed in the Vienna Declaration will prevent new HIV infections and ensure that people who struggle with addiction have access to the medical and support services they need," said Dr. Brigitte Schmied, AIDS 2010 Local Co-Chair and President of the Austrian AIDS Society. "Access to proven interventions and to the highest standard of health care are rights that each of us values, including those living with addiction."

With an estimated 20,000 people expected to attend next week's sessions, the international AIDS conference is one of the largest public health conferences on the planet. Declaration authors and signatories hope to use it as a springboard in garnering public, scientific, and political support for regime change when it comes to global drug prohibition.

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6. Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed nearly 25,000 people (the Mexican attorney general put the death toll at 24,826 on Thursday), with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 6,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Friday, July 9

In Ciudad Juarez, sixteen people were killed in various incidents across the city. Among the dead was an 85-year old man, and another man who was apparently beaten to death with rocks.

Sunday, July 11

In Ciudad Juarez, three men were killed in an intense gun battle between police and suspected cartel members. The incident began after gunmen attacked a combined municipal and federal police patrol. Several of the gunmen were reportedly armed with grenades.

Monday, July 12

In Nayarit, nine men were arrested in connection with the Sunday killing of two police officers. Several vehicles, weapons and marijuana were seized in the raids, which took place in the cities of Xalisco and Tepic.

In Acapulco, marines captured Aguirre Tavira, who is thought to be head of the Villareal faction of the Beltran-Leyva organization in the city.

In Guerrero, five men were killed during a firefight with an army patrol. Drug-related killings were also reported in Nayarit, Chihuahua, and Nuevo Leon.

Tuesday, July 13

In Cuernavaca, three bodies were hung from an overpass. A note was left at the scene accusing the men of worker for Edgar Valdez Villareal, the leader of a breakaway faction of the Beltran-Leyva Organization. Cuernavaca has seen a drastic surge in violence in recent months as rivals battle for leadership positions in the organization, which was left leaderless after the death of its boss, Arturo Beltran-Leyva, at the hands of Mexican Marines in December. It was later revealed the men had all recently escaped from prison.

Thursday, July 15

In Ciudad Juarez, three people were killed after suspected gang members rammed an explosives-laden car into two police patrol trucks. Two of the dead were police officers and a third was a paramedic. Nine people were wounded in the incident, which occurred just hours after the arrest of a high-level boss in the Juarez Cartel's armed wing, La Linea.

In Chihuahua, the nephew of a governor-elect was killed after attempting to flee from kidnappers. Near Monterrey, four men were found shot dead after being bound with tape and blindfolded.

In a small town near Ciudad Juarez, eight houses were burned to the ground by a group of heavily armed men. Two of the properties attacked in the town of Guadalupe, Distrito Bravo, belonged to former mayors who were murdered in the last three years.

Total Body Count for the Week: 277

Total Body Count for the Year: 6,248

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

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7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

In Philadelphia, three Philadelphia police officers were charged Tuesday with plotting to rip off 300 grams of heroin from a drug dealer and then sell it to another drug dealer. The problem was that the intended recipient was actually an undercover DEA agent. Officers Robert Snyder, 30; Mark Williams, 27; and James Venziale, 32, are charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and related counts. Four other people, including Snyder's wife Christal and three alleged drug dealers are also charged. The plot began when Venziale met with a drug dealer in April and discussed a rip-off plan in which police would stage a vehicle stop to make it seem the drugs were being seized by law enforcement. The actual rip-off went down on May 14, when Williams and Venziale pulled over a vehicle occupied by the plotting drug dealer and an undercover agent. They pretended to arrest the drug dealer, then let the undercover agent drive off with the heroin. Later, they met up with the dealer, who paid them $6,000 for their work, as well as paying Christal Synder an unknown sum.

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too much drug cash can corrupt cops
In Springfield, Tennessee, a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper was arrested Monday night as he delivered illegal prescription drugs to a female acquaintance. Trooper Cesar Maldonado, 36, faces one felony count of delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance. He was caught delivering a quantity of Dilaudid to a woman waiting at the Springfield Inn. He is now on administrative leave and faces termination. He made $12,500 bond Tuesday morning.

In Morganton, North Carolina, a Caldwell County probation officer was arrested July 8 after being caught illegally delivering prescription pills. James Franklin, 44, is charged with felony trafficking in drugs, opiates by possession. He went down after a five-week investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation that ended with him delivering 120 hydrocodone tablets to an undercover officer. Bail was set at $100,000.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania parole officer was charged July 8 with trying to extort a parolee into stealing cash from a drug dealer's home and giving him the money. Paul Dschuhan, 44, is also accused of threatening to kill the parolee if he told authorities about the plot. Dschuhan is also a former state trooper. He faces federal charges.

In Williamsburg, Kentucky, a former Williamsburg police officer pleaded guilty July 8 to being a participant in a drug ring that peddled 10,000 Oxycontin tablets and burglarizing a pharmacy to score more. Kenneth Nighbert, 32, copped to a federal conspiracy charge and now faces up to 20 years in prison. He admitted to using his police cruiser to go to a pharmacy in February 2006, removing electrical meters in a bid to disable the alarm system, helping another man hook a chain to his SUV to pull the doors out of the pharmacy, and then stealing drugs. Nighbert resigned from the force in April 2006 after running into a woman's car in his cruiser while under the influence of drugs. He was arrested in Laurel County in May 2007 carrying a police badge, a loaded pistol, Oxycontin tablets, and $32,000 in cash, which he admitted he planned to use to pay drug debts and buy more pills. He's already done state jail time for that arrest.

In Roanoke, Virginia, a former Pulaski and Radford police officer pleaded guilty July 8 to federal charges he sold and used methamphetamine in his patrol car while in uniform and on duty. Christopher Bond, 32, copped to conspiring to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. Federal prosecutors alleged that Bond smoked meth in his patrol car with other users and at the homes of other users while in uniform, and that he bought large quantities of meth with other users. He faces a mandatory minimum five-year sentence and up to 40 years. He's free on $100,000 bond until his October 4 sentencing date.

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8. Budget Axe Falls on Stockton Narcs

The California Central Valley city of Stockton has been a poster child for the Great Recession, infamous for its housing developments filled with foreclosed homes, its tent cities along the San Joaquin River, and its horrendous 20% unemployment rate. As joblessness soared and the Central Valley economy withered, so did Stockton and its municipal finances.

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Stockton police union billboard (courtesy Kevin He and Flickr)
Faced with a grinding municipal budget crisis, the city last year laid off 29 police officers. Last month, it laid off 26 more, putting a $3.2 million dent in its $23 million budget deficit. In response, the Stockton Police Department announced Wednesday that it could no longer man its dope squad.

"We absolutely do not have any narcotics officers, narcotics sergeants working any kind of investigative narcotics type cases at this point in time," Officer Pete Smith told Sacramento's Fox40-TV.

That was news to Mayor Ann Johnson. "It distresses me that we've had to go to this extent in terms of reductions in our police department," she told Fox40. But the mayor blamed police for failing to negotiate a way to avoid layoffs. "It's really up to our unions, our police union to come to the table to make concessions so we can save officers or rehire officers. It's all about finances," said Johnston.

Stockton police and their union have fought hard to avoid cutbacks, even as the budget axe decimates other city departments. Before last month's layoffs, the Stockton Police Officers Association launched a billboard campaign, the billboards dripping blood and screaming "People are Being Murdered in Stockton" and "Stop Laying Off Cops."

The cops are resorting to the same sort of scare tactics now, with spokesmen warning of a jump in crime because of the lack of a dope squad. "Drugs are a breeding ground for many other activities," said Smith, "and if these are going more and more unchecked, one would have to speculate that you're going to see a rise across the board in those types of criminal activities."

Time will tell. And perhaps the good citizens of Stockton will come to see that there are better ways to protect the public than spending their money on drug squads.

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9. School Drug Testing Has Little Impact, Dept. of Education Finds

A US Department of Education research report released Wednesday suggests that mandatory random drug testing of high school students has a small positive impact in reducing past-month drug use, but has little effect on teens' intentions to use drugs in the future. Nor, the study found, is there any indication that drug testing of athletes and students involved in extracurricular activities has any spillover effect on students not involved in such programs.

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drug testing lab
The Department of Education study surveyed students at 36 high schools that received federal grants to implement drug testing programs. Half the schools had already implemented drug testing, while the other half held off on it until after the study period.

Under a pair of US Supreme Court decisions, school districts were given the okay first to subject student athletes to mandatory random drug tests and later to expand the testable population to include students who engaged in extracurricular activities. Under a federal grant program in place since 2003, the number of school districts subjecting students to the privacy-invading drug tests has increased from about 5% at the beginning of the decade to 14% now.

But the Department of Education study suggests student drug testing has little lasting positive impact. The brightest news for drug testing advocates is that among students in extracurricular activities in schools with such programs, only 16.5% reported past month drug use, compared to 21.9% in schools without drug testing regimes. Also, drug testing programs did not appear to inhibit students from participating in extracurricular activities.

While the presence of drug testing slightly reduced self-reported drug use among students engaged in extracurricular activities, the study found no impact on students not involved in extracurricular activities. In both drug testing and non-drug testing schools, 36% of those students reported using a drug within the past month.

Nor did the presence of drug testing programs have any impact on teens' plans to use drugs in the future. According to the study, 34% of students covered by drug testing reported they "probably will" or "definitely will" use drugs in the next year, compared to 33% of comparable students in schools without drug testing.

The obvious conclusion seems to be that if schools want an effective means of reducing student drug use, mandatory random drug testing isn't it -- it's achieved only modest and temporary reductions in teen drug use, and limited to those achieving teens who least need the help.

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10. Nearly 2/3 of New Yorkers Support Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds

A poll released today by the Cornell University Survey Research Institute found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of New Yorkers are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use. The poll results are similar to a Quinnipiac poll in February that measured support at 71%.

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New York State House, Albany
Despite broad public support, medical marijuana legislation failed to pass either chamber of the New York legislature this year. For a dozen years, proponents have pushed medical marijuana bills, and twice the Assembly has approved them, only to see them die in the Senate.

That was understandable when the Senate was controlled by Republicans, but is less so now. Among Democrats, 66% support medical marijuana, and so do 68% of unaffiliated voters, while a mere plurality of Republicans (48%) oppose it. When broken down on ideological, as opposed to partisan, lines, 79% of liberals support medical marijuana, as do 63% of moderates. A majority of conservatives (51%), on the other hand, oppose legalizing medical marijuana, but only a slight majority.

Somewhat surprisingly, upstate residents had higher levels of support (67%) than people who live downstate (62%). Men were more likely to support it (67%) than women (61%), and whites were more likely to support it (66%) than non-whites (60%).

Medical marijuana won majority support across every age group, and was 65% or higher for every age group except those over 65, where support declined to 52%. It also won majority support across every income bracket, increasing steadily from 53% among those making less than $30,000 a year to 73% among those making more than $100,000 a year.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have approved medical marijuana. Maybe one of these years, legislators in New York will get around to enacting the will of Empire State voters.

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11. This Week in History

July 18, 1956: The Narcotics Control Act/Daniel Act is passed, establishing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.

July 17, 1980: Financed by wealthy ranchers and drug lords under Roberto Suarez Gomez, the "Cocaine Generals" of the Bolivian "cocaine coup" seize power. Within months it is learned that Pierluigi Pagliai and Stefano Delle Chiaie were right-wing Propaganda Due (P-2) terrorists with suspected kills on three continents and Klaus Altmann was none other than fugitive Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons. Barbie, who had sent hundreds of Jews to their deaths, had avoided prosecution when Americans in occupied Germany recruited him as an informer in 1947 and engineered his escape.

July 17, 1984: The Drug War and Cold War collide when the Washington Times runs a story detailing DEA informant Barry Seal's successful infiltration of the Medellin cartel's operations in Panama. The story was leaked by Oliver North and purported to show the Nicaraguan Sandinistas' involvement in the drug trade. Ten days later, Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa, and José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha are indicted by a Miami Federal grand jury based on evidence obtained by Seal. In February 1986, Seal is assassinated in Baton Rouge, LA, by gunmen hired by the cartel.

July 20, 1995: The total number of US marijuana arrests since 1965 passes the 10,000,000 mark, according to an estimate by NORML.

July 22, 1997: Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey says, "In the view of the nation's scientific and medical community, marijuana has a high potential for abuse and no generally accepted therapeutic value." He says this despite an editorial from the January 30, 1997 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that states, "Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat."

July 17, 2001: Madison, Wisconsin's Mayor Sue Bauman speaks out about the drug war in her State of the City address. She says: "As a city and as a society, we need to put more monies into prevention programs and thus fewer into policing and the criminal justice system... It is time that the nation, the state, the county and the City view drug and alcohol abuse as a public health problem. Unfortunately, the emphasis for years has been on a war on drugs -- an attempt to end drug usage and alcohol abuse by punishing the users/abusers. This is a failed strategy."

July 19, 2001: The Washington Post reports that a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration compromised dozens of prosecutions across the United States by falsely testifying under oath and concealing his own arrest record, but the DEA continued to employ him for 16 years despite detailed knowledge of his wrongdoing, according to interviews, court records and an internal report by the agency.

July 19, 2001: In conjunction with a two-day NIDA-directed Ecstasy conference, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), introduces the "Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001." An initial analysis by the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) shows that this new bill, while giving lip-service to generating more scientific data about the health consequences of MDMA (Ecstasy), directs over 22 million dollars to increased law enforcement, media propaganda, and the creation of a new MDMA drug test.

July 16, 2003: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo orders weekly public burnings of illegal drugs seized by the police, as well as the publication of mug shots of arrested drug dealers. "Let us put a face and identity to these people and get the public involved in hunting them down," says Arroyo.

July 21, 2004: The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Prof. Lyle Craker, and Valerie Corral file lawsuits against the DEA, HHS, NIH, and NIDA for obstructing medical marijuana research.

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12. Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

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13. Student Internships at StoptheDrugWar.org This Year!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a StoptheDrugWar.org internship and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

StoptheDrugWar.org has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to rein in the use of SWAT teams, to expand our work to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and StoptheDrugWar.org is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at dguard@drcnet.org, and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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