The U.S. government's National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee, made up of representatives of the FBI, the CIA, the DEA, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard, among others, released its annual report last week. The report indicated that multi-national drug traffickers had suffered "severe setbacks" in 1996, with the government's biggest accomplishments being the arrests and death of key members of the Cali cartel as well as the collapse of the Shan United Army, which trafficked in heroin from the far east. Despite these developments, however, DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine admitted that "key indicators of drug production, trafficking and abuse suggest that cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana remain readily available throughout the United States."
In other words, progress against specific drug trade organizations is not equivalent to actual progress in reducing drug use or drug-related harm.
RETHINKING DRUG POLICY IN THE U.K.?
On the heels of new Prime Minister Tony Blair's calls for a U.K. "Drug Czar," The Economist, a conservative monthly, has called for the gradual legalization of drugs. According to The Economist, the recent drug-related murder of a five year-old child has led to a call in Parliament for a Royal Commission review of that nation's drug policy. Citing agreement among at least some members of the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, as well as a growing number of church leaders and police chiefs, the Economist says that "This suggests that there now exists an opportunity to build a cross-party coalition for change strong enough to defeat the failed prohibitionism hitherto supported by most ordinary Britons."
The Police Foundation charity of London said Monday that it would undertake a thorough, two-year review of U.K. drug policy. The study is to be carried out by a group which includes lawyers, police and academics.
GROWING DISSENT IN GERMANY
Journalists estimated that upwards of 30,000 people gathered in Berlin to march in the "Hemp Parade," Germany's first-ever major drug policy reform demonstration. Germany's 16 states each have their own "tolerance level" for possession of marijuana, ranging from a couple of grams in the southern state of Bavaria to 100 grams in Schleswig-Holstein in the north.
WAR ON THE BORDER
In the wake of the death of Juarez cartel leader Amado Carillo Fuentes, and the imprisonment in Houston of Gulf Catel leader Juan Garcia Abrego, a bloody turf war has broken out in Mexico. At least 17 people have been killed in Juarez alone, as the relative quiet that came with Fuentes and Abrego's dominance of the drug trade has come to a bullet-riddled end.
Barry McCaffrey, the U.S. "Drug Czar," who is in the region on a week-long tour of the border, said that he was proud of the Mexican Government for "hounding Fuentes to his death." He said he was "encouraged" by the recent violence in Mexico, saying that it pointed to the traffickers' "vulnerability" and added, "there is no question but that we are in a period of opportunity. McCaffrey also said that he thinks that the War can be won within "ten years." (At DRCNet we *never* consider violence encouraging, and we find it extremely disturbing that our government does.)
Phil Jordan, a retired DEA agent, and former head of the El Paso Intelligence center, told the Associated Press, "The wars are going to increase until somebody emerges... In the meantime, a lot of people are going to get hurt."
Among those "getting hurt" were four Mexican doctors who were killed after being lured from two separate hospitals to tend to an alleged drug trafficker who had been wounded in Ciudad Juarez. In response to the killings, thousands of physicians staged a two-hour strike on Wednesday to protest the Mexican government's inability/unwillingness to stop the violence. "Life seems to be worth nothing here," Dr. Carlos Paredes Espinoza told the NY Times.