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New Data Hint at Oncoming Cocaine Epidemic

Location: 
FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
University of Florida
URL: 
http://news.ufl.edu/2006/10/17/cocaine-2/

Europeans Turn to Cocaine and Alcohol as Cannabis Loses Favor

Location: 
Publication/Source: 
The Guardian
URL: 
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1923023,00.html

This is Your Government on Drugs

What happens when a satirical TV program tricks 50 members of Italian Parliament into taking a drug test? Controversy.

From News.com

The show tested 50 parliamentarians by applying what appeared to be make-up to their faces, telling them they were to appear in a debate on the country's budget, the ANSA news agency reported in a story soon taken up by other media.

The make-up actually consisted of chemicals that could detect the presence of drugs in sweat on the participants' skin. It detected cocaine in four of the politicians and cannabis in 12. Both the drugs are banned in Italy.

If there’s a surprise here, it’s that the stunt was successful. But Italian reformers were quick to cry “hypocrisy”.

A member of the Green party who favours decriminalising drug use, Paolo Cento, reacted to the news by slamming what he called the "hypocrisy" of the political class which he said "votes for anti-liberty laws while sniffing cocaine".

He’s right. But I’d draw the line there, because I don’t care at all which drugs politicians use as long as they extend to others the liberties they’ve taken for themselves.

Unfortunately, a representative of The Hyena Show, which administered the tests, says that those who tested positive will not be identified individually. The likely result therefore is a face-saving parade of anti-drug rhetoric among Italian Parliamentarians and at worst a full-blown witch hunt, as each of the 50 clamors to clear their name.

Instead, the information should be used as leverage to encourage sensible policy making. If I had this information, I’d offer to withhold it so long as these 16 individuals stopped supporting the drug war. If any of them voted for a harsh drug law or failed to support a sensible reform, that person’s drug use would be front-page news the next day.

Boy, that sounds like fun. If anyone has information on public officials who use illegal drugs I can be reached at smorgan@drcnet.org.

Location: 
United States

Possible 40-year term debated for teen accused of drug smuggling

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4211621.html

A Look Inside Brazil's Drug "Commands"

Brazil, Latin America's largest and most populous nation gets surprisingly little press in the US. The mass media paid some attention back in May, when the country's "commands"--the criminal gangs formed in Brazil's prisons that control the drug trade and act as a de facto government in some of the favelas (ghettos) surrounding Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro--rose up in open rebellion against the Brazilian state. But since then, the silence in the US press has been deafening. Fortunately, not everyone in the English-speaking press is asleep at the wheel, and I want to use this opportunity to recommend an article from Britain's Observer magazine. Called Blood Simple, the piece by Tom Phillips is an interesting capsule history of the commands and a frightening look at the war between the state and the gangs. Here are the opening paragraphs, just to whet your appetite: "Blood simple Four months ago, the hostility between Sao Paulo's police and gangs erupted into violence - the result was open warfare. Tom Phillips reports from a city caught in a spiral of terror Sunday September 17, 2006 The Observer The taxi driver squints uncomfortably. 'It's like fire there,' he warns ominously, as I pass him the address on the eastern limits of Sao Paulo. We cut through block after block of grimy, graffiti-clad housing. Ahead, ragged shantytowns cling to the hilltops; behind us a trail of abandonment stretches back towards the city centre, in the form of empty warehouses and cracked windows. As we begin the descent towards our final destination, the driver looks nervously into his rear-view mirror. A police car's flashing siren ushers us to a standstill. Under the gaze of their Taurus revolvers we are hauled out of the vehicle, told to place our hands on the car roof and given an invasive frisk down. When we are finally sent on our way, after a 10-minute interrogation, the driver is apologetic. 'I had to pull over,' he mumbles. 'If you don't, they open fire.' Welcome to the periferia of Sao Paulo; the impoverished outskirts of one of the world's largest cities, where hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the megalopolis in search of gold-paved streets have been abandoned to their own dismal fate." There is much, much more about what is going on in one of the worl'd largest cities. Check it out.
Location: 
Sao Paulo, SP
Brazil

Bolivia Seeks Coca Legalization, Path to the Sea

Location: 
Bolivia
Publication/Source: 
Jerusalem Post
URL: 
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1157913633521&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Sentencing: US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Throws out Crack Cocaine Sentence

In a ruling Monday, the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threw out a 24-year prison sentence for a man possessing less than three ounces of crack cocaine. The court held that the US District Court judge who sentenced the man erred in believing he had to sentence the man based on the 100:1 quantity disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Such sentences are no longer mandatory, said the appeals court, only advisory.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/prisondorm.jpg
Under a 1986 law passed in the midst of a wave of anti-drug hysteria, the US Congress enacted a two-tier sentencing scheme for cocaine defendants with crack defendants facing sentences decades longer than powder cocaine defendants for possessing the same amount of the drug. But the appeals court held that since the US Supreme Court last year ruled that federal sentencing guidelines were only advisory and not mandatory, sentencing judges need not be bound by the guidelines.

The three-judge panel held that defendant Johnny Gunter was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. "The limited holding here is that district courts may consider the crack/powder cocaine differential in the guidelines as a factor, but not a mandate, in the... sentencing process," wrote Judge Thomas Ambro for the court.

Assistant US Attorney Robert Zauzmer told the Philadelphia Inquirer the ruling was likely to be cited by every defendant in a crack case. "This is a significant opinion which we are studying closely," he said, adding prosecutors were considering whether to ask the appeals court to reconsider the decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin, meanwhile, told the Inquirer the ruling would help reduce the racial disparities existing in cocaine sentencing. "This has a great impact in helping to reduce the racial disparity that stems from that ratio," McColgin said.

Latin America: Colombia's FARC Guerrillas Say End Drug Prohibition

In a communiqué sent this week to the New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL), Colombia's leftist rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) called for the worldwide legalization of the drug trade to put an end to black market drug trafficking and its associated profits. The unusual communiqué also carried a FARC denial that it owned coca fields in the southern Colombia's Macarena Mountains.

"FARC neither sows, nor owns, nor processes, nor transports nor commercializes any kind of narcotic substance or psychotropic product," said the communiqué from the guerrillas' highest decision-making body, the Secretariat.

The Colombian and US governments have accused the FARC of profiting from the coca and cocaine trade, but it is unclear what this means in practice. Some reports have said that the FARC's involvement is limited to taxing the crops and the trade.

Colombian media had recently alleged that the FARC owned some 7,000 acres of coca fields in the Macarena National Park, thus apparently sparking the FARC's denial. According to the long-lived guerrilla group, the coca fields are owned and worked by thousands of peasants who have no other way of making a living.

While the FARC has called for sustainable coca eradication programs in the past, it seemed to be singing a different tune this week. "We are convinced that the battle against the cancer of narco-trafficking con only be won definitively by elaborating a global strategy that includes the legalization of these products, because this will put an end to fabulous profits that they generate," the statement said.

Latin America: In Break With Campaign Promises, Peru's New Government Will Accelerate Coca Eradication

When new Peruvian President Alain Garcia was in a tight race against pro-coca populist upstart Ollanta Humala earlier this year, he promised his government would oppose coca eradication because Peruvians consider the leaf sacred and a part of their tradition. But Reuters reported Wednesday that the Garcia government is now seeking US support for a new push against coca production in what is now the world's second largest coca producer.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocafield.jpg
coca field
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's annual report on coca production, Peru produces 30% of the Andean coca crop. Colombia accounted for 54%, while third place Bolivia accounted for 16%. While the UN reported a slight decrease in Peruvian coca cultivation last year, the US government estimated production had actually increased by 38%.

While some coca is cultivated legally and sold to the Peruvian national coca monopoly to be made into various products, some doubtless is diverted to the black market and made into cocaine. Peruvian police report busting some 500 cocaine labs last year.

More than $330 million in US aid since 2000 has failed to rein in Peru's coca-growing peasantry. Now, the Peruvian government wants more. "We want a greater state presence in coca-growing areas, more effective coca eradication, coca crop substitution and security for export cargo to limit smuggling," Peru's anti-narcotics chief Romulo Pizarro told Reuters. "We can't let these traffickers continue to poison people's lives."

That was music to the ears of Susan Keogh, narcotics affairs director at the US embassy in Lima. She said eradication must be part of the new campaign because alternative development alone would not be enough to end the drug trade. "There are so many illegal drug laboratories that they're like the McDonald's on every corner (in Peru's coca regions)," Keogh told Reuters. "You can't just flood those areas with development, you need eradication too."

While not as politically potent as their Bolivian counterparts, Peruvian coca growers are increasingly organized, if fractious, and they and their representatives in the parliament, like coca grower union leaders Nancy Obregon and Elsa Malpartida, are bound to make life miserable for the Garcia government over this issue. It won't help matters that Garcia is breaking his vows to them.

Latin America: In Southern Colombia, It's Aid Out, Soldiers In

The US Agency for International Development (AID) has given up on an alternative development campaign designed to help farmers in southern Colombia switch to legal crops, the Houston Chronicle reported. The newspaper cited a Colombian government memorandum, and the report was implicitly confirmed by an unnamed US Embassy source in Bogota.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/eradication.jpg
eradication
According to the Colombian government document, US AID suspended the development program in southern Caqueta state, long a stronghold of the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), because the area was too dangerous for its workers and it lacked economic potential. With development assistance making up less than 10% of the $800 million the US is spending to wage the drug war in Colombia this year, US AID will channel funding to more secure areas.

"You can't be everywhere simultaneously, and you have to make choices," the unnamed embassy official told the Chronicle. "Resources have to be focused where they can be used most effectively."

With the US and Colombian governments having given up on developing the region, the departure of the US AID project clears the way as the Colombian military begins its largest ever campaign in the south. The US has spent more than $4 billion since 2000 to help the Colombian government obtain and maintain control in such areas, but now the economic advisers are leaving and the soldiers are coming.

US analysts and Colombian politicians contacted by the Houston Chronicle called the move a bad idea. "This is not a good way to win hearts and minds," said Sanho Tree, a Colombia expert at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "We're driving people away from the government and into the hands of our declared enemies: the guerrillas and the drug traffickers," he told the Chronicle.

"This decision runs contrary to the whole concept of Plan Colombia," said Luis Fernando Almario, a congressman from Caqueta.

Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert at the Center for International Policy in Washington, told the Chronicle that writing off the war-torn south would be a grave error. Drawing parallels to the war in Iraq, he likened the current approach to saying: "Forget about the Sunni Triangle."

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