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The message in Calderon's war on drugs; some view his use of military as a way to quickly gain support, show security a priority

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/4452336.html

Tijuana Police Force Ordered to Turn In Guns

Location: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico/tijuana/20070104-1921-bn04tjcrime.html

Colombia extradites policemen to U.S.

Location: 
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Times
URL: 
http://washingtontimes.com/national/20070104-112331-7102r.htm

Feature: Afghan Opium Dilemma Sparks New Calls for Alternative Development, "Normalizing" the Poppy Crop

With Afghanistan's opium crop reaching record levels last year and seemingly destined for a repeat performance this year, lawmakers and officials on both sides of the Atlantic are looking for innovative solutions. Or at least some of them are. Seemingly bereft of new ideas, the US government's official line is that the solution is eradicating as much of the crop as possible with herbicides, as drug czar John Walters announced in Kabul two weeks ago.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/poppy2.jpg
incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
While the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai has endorsed the notion -- though not yet put it into effect -- it has done so reluctantly, knowing that eradication will infuriate the hundreds of thousands of poor farmers who depend on the poppy harvest to feed their families. As the Karzai government knows full well, angry poppy farmers mean bad times for the government and good times for the resurgent Taliban, which awaits the aggrieved growers with open arms.

But while the US government and a grudging Afghan government are embracing standard drug war tactics, the situation in Afghanistan has created the political space for the consideration of other solutions. Some, such as alternative development proposals, are almost as shop-worn a response as eradication, while others, including various schemes to legitimize the poppy crop, represent a break with the global prohibitionist consensus.

Alternative development -- the substitution of other cash crops for opium poppies and the creation of new economic activities -- is the preferred solution of a number of scholars and non-governmental organizations, as well as the international community as represented by the United Nations and the World Bank. In a highly detailed report on the Afghan opium economy released at the end of November, the World Bank called for a "smart" counter-narcotics strategy featuring both alternative development and law enforcement action against the trade, but even as it did so, it underscored that alternative development would be a long-term -- not a short-term -- solution.

"A 'smart' counter-narcotics strategy will be essential for the effectiveness and sustainability of the fight against drugs," the report noted. "The diversity, flexibility, and dynamic character of the drug industry have been amply demonstrated in recent years. It must be recognized that counter-narcotics efforts -- whether enforcement actions or development of alternative livelihoods -- inevitably cannot be anywhere nearly as nimble or quick as the activities they are targeted against, and they inevitably take time, measured in decades rather than years in the case of alternative livelihoods programs."

But evidence of a "smart" counter-narcotics strategy being implemented is severely lacking. As Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin noted in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the US government failed to consolidate gains it made with a small reduction in the area cultivated in 2005. "Although the decrease was due almost entirely to the political persuasion of farmers by the government, the United States failed to deliver the alternative livelihoods the farmers expected and continued to pressure the Afghan government to engage in counterproductive crop eradication," Rubin wrote. "The Taliban exploited the eradication policy to gain the support of poppy growers."

The problem of support for alternative development is not limited to isolated opium growing communities, as Barnett noted. "As numerous studies have documented over the years, Afghanistan has not received the resources needed to stabilize it. International military commanders, who confront the results of this poverty every day, estimate that Washington must double the resources it devotes to Afghanistan. Major needs include accelerated road building, the purchase of diesel for immediate power production, the expansion of cross-border electricity purchases, investment in water projects to improve the productivity of agriculture, the development of infrastructure for mineral exploitation, and a massive program of skill building for the public and private sectors."

And that is the Catch-22 of eliminating the poppy crop through alternative development. While the lack of roads, electric power, and other infrastructure for development make it difficult to get off the ground, let alone sustain alternative development, the opium economy, with its hostility toward interference from the central government and the West and its de facto alliance with insurgents and freelance gun men, makes the creation of such crucial developmental infrastructure almost impossible. In fact, in the face of a revitalized Taliban, some of the non-governmental organizations working on alternative development have fled the opium growing regions.

Rubin is harshly critical of US counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan, noting that the US at first ignored trafficking by warlords it wanted as allies, then, as the uproar over increasing opium production grew louder, called for crop eradication. "To Afghans," he wrote, "this policy has looked like a way of rewarding rich drug dealers while punishing poor farmers."

After noting that the current global prohibition regime does not reduce drug use, but does produce huge profits for criminals, armed insurrectionists, and corrupt government officials, Rubin recommends treating the opium problem as a security and development issue. But then we are back to Catch-22. Still, he makes certain concrete recommendations: "[R]ural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including the construction of roads and cold-storage facilities to make other products marketable; employment creation through the development of new rural industries; and reform of the Ministry of the Interior and other government bodies to root out major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections."

But the continuing expansion of the Afghan opium economy, combined with the reemergence of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies and the need for US and NATO soldiers to fight and die to try to stop them, has led to increasing calls for an approach that transcends both repression and alternative development. Most recently, in the past few days, a US congressman and British Member of Parliament (MP) have called separately for diverting the poppy crop into the legitimate medicinal market for opioid pain relievers.

The European defense and drug policy think tank Senlis Council was first out of the gate with that notion, unveiling a comprehensive proposal to do just that. But that proposal has so far gained little traction, garnering the support of only a handful of Western politicians. Still, rising fears in the West that attempts to eradicate the crop will lead to increased political instability and violence by driving Afghan farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban appear to be leading to a new receptivity to the notion -- or something similar.

Here in the US, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) said last week that he would use his newly acquired seat on the House International Relations Committee to raise the issue this month. "You can't just cut off the poppies because that's the livelihood of the people who live there," Carnahan said. "But providing them with alternative legal markets for pain-relief medication is a way to help cut back on that heroin supply."

Carnahan cited the successful experiences of Turkey and India in the early 1970s, when US officials were worried about a rising tide of heroin from poppy crops in those two countries. Officials in the Nixon administration drafted a treaty that blunted the threat by allowing Turkey and India to sell their crops to make pain medications as part of their legitimate economies. Carnahan is also exploring the idea of using altered, morphine-free poppies containing thebaine, which can be turned into a number of therapeutic compounds, including oxycodone, oxymorphon, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. The altered poppies that produce thebaine are the strain that is used in Australia, where they are grown under license for the medicinal market.

"The idea of creating a trade for morphine-free opium is very worthwhile and needs to be thought through carefully," said Toni Kutchan, a biochemist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. "It should not be pushed off the table by a knee-jerk reaction against it."

"I'd certainly like to see a study on how feasible that is," said James Dobbins, director at the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp. "I do think that the current US and international effort is at best a kind of a band aid that can't have more than a marginal impact."

"I think the government should give serious consideration to attempting to implement that type of program," said Dr. Charles Schuster, former head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Current US policies alone "are never going to be the solution for this," he added.

But the senior State Department official heading US efforts to fight the Afghan drug trade scoffed. Tom Schweich said the idea was "not realistic." Instead, he counseled more of the same. "You really need to keep it illegal and eradicate it," Schweich said.

Meanwhile, a British MP last week was calling on the British government to just buy up the Afghan opium crop and use it around the world for pain relief. South West Beds MP Andrew Selous asked the House of Commons why not? "Why, given that heroin can have legitimate medical uses, cannot we buy up the Afghan heroin crop and use it around the world for pain relief? That would stop it flooding into this country illegally. We need much serious thought on that issue."

Selous cited the murders of five addicted prostitutes in Ipswich last month. "I read the biographies of the women who were so brutally and horrifically murdered and I cannot have been the only one to be struck by the fact that they were all heroin addicts," he said. "It is a problem that affects all our constituencies -- there will not be a single Member of Parliament who does not have a heroin problem in their constituency. Given that we know that 90% of the heroin on UK streets comes from Afghanistan and that we have a major military presence there, it is extraordinary that we cannot do more to stop the poppy crop ending up here."

While the Bush administration is pushing for tougher measures and chemical eradication of the crops, and the UN, World Bank, and some academics are advocating intensified development and state-building strategies as an adjunct or alternative, the chorus of critics looking for a better way is growing, and they are implicitly -- if not explicitly -- challenging the global prohibition regime itself.

Minister drops in at injection site

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Vancouver Sun
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=24207915-c1ea-4e48-b69d-38866d2d39aa

Mexican troops take drug fight to Tijuana streets

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
CNN
URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/01/04/tijuana.drugs.ap/

Mexican Federal Police Take Tijuana By Storm -- Too Bad It Won't Work

A Reuters article this afternoon reported that Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, is sending over 3,000 troops to Tijuana in a crackdown aimed at stemming the ongoing violence that has wracked the border city in recent years. The first 500 arrived today and are investigating charges of corruption in the local police force:
As two helicopters circled overhead, dozens of troops with assault rifles and riot shields converged on a police headquarters to inspect weapons, a first step in probing alleged drug gang links and corruption inside the local force.
The move comes only three weeks since Calderon sent 7,000 troops to his own home state of Michoacan. 2,000 people were killed in drug trade violence in Mexico last year. One of the guests at DRCNet's 2003 conference in Mexico, "Out from the Shadows, Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century" ("Saliendo de las Sombras: Terminando de le Prohibición de las Drogas en el Siglo XXI" en Español) was Gregorio Urias German, a Mexican congressman from Sinaloa, another part of the country that has suffered in the drug wars. Urias blames drug prohibition for this violence, but he fears that "If we can't even discuss the alternatives, if we can't even admit the drug war is a failure, then we will never solve the problem." He said that existing forums, such as the UN and the Organization of American States, are not fruitful places for discussion, "because only the repressive policies of the United States are discussed at these forums." While it is not the job of media outlets like Reuters to take a position favoring legalization in their news reporting, they will be doing a better job when they start to include leaders like Urias in their articles who hold that point of view. This Google News link will pull up a list of hundreds of appearances of this news story that are currently active in the mainstream media (many though not all the Reuters story or another by the AP). We encourage you to follow the links and submit some letters to the editor. Post them back here along with the letter-writing info for others.
Location: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico

Latin America: Mexican Soldiers Occupy Tijuana in Fight Against Drug Trade

More than 3,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police were dispatched to the border city of Tijuana this week to fight the drug trade, Mexican officials announced Tuesday. That same day, convoys containing several hundred police clad in body armor rolled into the city, the headquarters of one of Mexico's most powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations, the Arrellano Felix cartel.

The move into Tijuana, where more than 300 people were killed in drug prohibition-related violence last year, is the second tough strike against the cartels by new Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Last month, he sent more than 7,000 troops into the state of Michoacan to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy crops and move against traffickers located there.

"The operations will allow us to reestablish the minimal security conditions in different points of Mexico so we can recover little by little our streets, our parks and our schools," President Calderon told the country in a New Year's message on Tuesday.

"We will carry out all the necessary actions to retake every region of national territory," Mexican Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna said in a news conference the same day. "We will not allow any state to be a hostage of drug traffickers or organized crime."

Ramirez Acuna added that the Tijuana force would include 2,620 soldiers, 162 marines, and 510 federal police. They will be equipped with 28 boats, 21 planes, and nine helicopters to attempt to squelch the booming cross-border trade in cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The soldiers and police will patrol the coast, man checkpoints, and hunt down wanted traffickers in teeming Tijuana, just across the US-Mexico border from San Diego.

The federal intervention was welcomed by Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon, who, under attack from city business interests, late last year announced that he was placing the entire municipal police force under investigation for drug-related corruption. Rhon told reporters in Tijuana this week he hoped the soldiers and federal police would work with city police -- presumably ones who have already been vetted -- who are establishing random checkpoints.

"I hope this will make Tijuana a safer place," he said, while denying that the deployment means the city is being militarized.

Like his predecessor, Vicente Fox, President Calderon is making a big show of going after the so-called cartels, whose internecine battles left around 2,000 people dead last year. But Fox's blows against the cartels, which eliminated part of their previous leadership, are what led to the bloody violence as the cartels jostled with each to readjust. Given the lucrative nature of the business and the insatiable appetite for illicit drugs north of the border, there is little evidence to suggest the outcome will be any different this time.

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

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