(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #183, 4/27/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
The tragic deaths of two American missionaries, shot down in flight by a Peruvian fighter plane guided by a US surveillance plane, has drawn a host of claims and counter-claims about who was at fault and whether official guidelines were followed by the Americans, the Peruvians, even the victims themselves.
Such questions are important and needed to be answered for the sake of all parties involved. The same questions, however, also tend to obscure a larger, more fundamental issue: Why in the world has our government been encouraging, assisting and subsidizing foreign governments in shooting down airplanes out of the sky? Shooting down airplanes?
There is no possible justification for such extreme and wanton acts of violence. It is obvious to anyone with intelligence equal or greater to that of a gorilla that the killing of innocent people in such a program is inevitable. Indeed, it may have already happened any number of times; we'll probably never know for sure.
But even if killing the innocent were not an inevitability, the tactic would still be wrong. Drug smuggling is not the equivalent of an armed invasion, and our own laws do not permit the death penalty in drug trafficking cases except for those involving murder. Yet outside our borders we have encouraged the Peruvian government to carry out a de facto death penalty against people who have never even been tried for the crime, much less convicted.
In doing so, our political leaders who supported this program have violated the most basic principles of justice, international law and human decency. Shooting down planes out of the sky is not a sensible, well-thought out strategy for reducing the availability of drugs in the United States or anywhere else. Rather, the shoot-downs, and the support we've provided to them, are an extraordinary act of fanaticism, recklessness and immorality.
It is not the rank and file soldiers and intelligence gatherers who are to blame -- though those few who spoke out and refused to participate in the shoot-downs deserve our thanks. The blame -- and it is deep -- lies with those policymakers who condoned and encouraged the practice.
This sordid chapter of the drug war and the people involved in setting these policies should be subjected to an investigation. That investigation should be at least as thorough as the investigation into this latest incident itself. The answers it provides may reveal much about the mentality inherent in a drug war and the fanaticism it can engender.
DRCNet opposes the nomination of John Walters for the office of Director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "drug czar").
As Deputy Director of ONDCP during the previous Bush administration, Walters favored incarceration over drug treatment and education. He has lobbied Congress for stiffer penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, and opposed state laws exempting medical marijuana users from criminal penalties.
In 1996, Walters testified before Congress in opposition to the Sentencing Commission's recommendation to lower federal crack cocaine penalties to the same level as powder cocaine. Walters has dismissed the problem of racial bias in drug enforcement as an "urban myth," despite overwhelming evidence that such bias is rampant; for example, African Americans make up only 13% of the nation's drug users, yet account for more than 70% of drug incarcerations.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Walters has enthusiastically praised the Peruvian military's practice of shooting down aircraft suspected of being used by drug traffickers. This month, two American missionaries were killed in such a shoot-down, inevitable casualties of an extraordinarily reckless and immoral practice that violates international law.
In 1996, Walters coauthored a paper entitled "The Clinton Administration's Continuing Retreat in the War on Drugs." In truth, however, the Clinton Administration escalated the drug war, imprisoning more people for drug offenses than during the preceding Reagan and Bush administrations combined. To characterize the harsh Clinton drug war record as a "retreat" is to elevate partisan politics over truthful discussion and to show a deep disrespect to the American people on an issue of the greatest importance.
In short, the Walters drug record is one of propaganda, extremism and disregard for issues of racial equality. John Walters is unfit to lead the nation on drug policy, and should be rejected by the US Congress.
(Please call or fax your two US Senators and urge them to vote against the confirmation of John Walters as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Visit http://www.senate.gov to find out how to reach them, or call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Time is of the essence!)
The Peruvian anti-drug tactic of blowing suspected drug smuggling planes out of the sky aroused little notice in the press or elsewhere as long as the victims were presumed bad guys. But since last Friday, when a Peruvian pilot guided to his target by contract employees of the CIA in a plane leased from the Defense Department attacked a civilian Cessna and killed a US missionary and her infant child, the airwaves have been filled with mutual finger-pointing and hand-wringing as Peru and the US each seek to assign blame to the other.
Such recriminations, however, may miss the forest for the trees. Arguing over who followed which procedures does not affect the point encapsulated in the Convention on International Civil Aviation's Article 3, amended in 1984 in the wake of the Russian shoot-down of KAL007:
"The contracting States recognize that every state must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of the aircraft must not be endangered."
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Montreal-based body that administers international aviation regulation, reemphasized its position in 1996 when it passed a resolution recognizing that "the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight is incompatible with elementary considerations of humanity, the rules of customary international law as codified in Article 3 and the norms of governmental behavior."
Both the United States and Peru are signatories to the convention.
But that did not stop the two from cooperating in a policy that results in the summary execution of persons suspected of -- not convicted of or even charged with -- flying cocaine across Peru. While the actual numbers of shoot-downs and resulting deaths are buried in security bureaucracies in Lima and Washington, the figure of 30 aircraft shot down has been widely reported.
In a 1997 article in ICAO's house journal, Safety in Flight, the body's legal officer, John Augustin, explained that even if Article 3 is held in abeyance, international law forbids shooting down non-threatening civilian aircraft:
"In all cases," wrote Augustin, "where an aircraft is identified as civilian, the State is entitled to request it to land or change course; the aircraft must obey such order unless unable to do so. In attempting to give directives to an aircraft, a State must avoid subjecting it to danger. The primary remedy for the state is to make appropriate diplomatic representations to the aircraft's state of registry. If the aircraft does not pose or appear to pose a threat to security, force must not be used even if the aircrew disobeys orders to land or to change course."
The problem with international law, of course, is enforcement. ICAO spokesperson Denis Chagnon told DRCNet that the ultimate recourse would be the International Court of Justice in the Hague. But, said Chagnon, "I doubt that would happen. The only entities that would have status to bring the case would be member countries, not private citizens or organizations."
Even if some country were to bring the matter before the court, the United States has simply ignored the court when it proved inconvenient, as was the case when the tribunal found the US gui,lty of violating international law by mining Nicaraguan harbors in the early 1980s.
The "fly and die" tactic has quietly been US policy since 1994, when, after it was briefly halted because of legal concerns, President Clinton and the Congress approved changes in US law that allowed US officials to escape legal liability. US radar stations and surveillance planes track suspected drug smuggling flights, then notify the Peruvian authorities, who send up fighter jets to intercept and force the planes to land, or blow them out of the sky if they do not respond quickly enough.
Peruvian and US authorities say the tactic was justified in the effort to stop the flow of cocaine into the US. Peru garnered rave reviews from US officials for its fierce anti-drug programs of the 1990s, although the degree to which the "fly and die" policy contributed is difficult to quantify.
But not everyone shares the US government's anything goes attitude. Certainly not pilots. Dan Morningstar, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents more than half of all US pilots, told DRCNet there is "no justification" for shooting down civilian aircraft.
"We condemn the shoot-down, and have reminded everyone that we opposed resuming assistance to Peru in 1994, said Morningstar. "We warned then that there was a real risk of shooting down civilian aircraft."
AOPA decried the policy as inhumane and a double standard. "We wouldn't tolerate shooting or killing anyone inside US borders simply because they were suspected drug smugglers," said Morningstar. "You can't do that in the US -- shooting down someone's plane constitutes, at the least, an unreasonable search and seizure."
"Look," he said, "we believe that any nation that has the resources to track and intercept an aircraft also has the resources to follow that aircraft to its landing point and make an arrest. We acknowledge that it would require some negotiation and bilateral agreements, but again, the risk to innocent civilians far outweighs the risk to national security. This is a lesson we should have learned from KAL 007."
The AOPA press release condemning the shoot-down is online at http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2001/01-2-029.html.
Latin America activist organizations also condemned the shoot-down. "This incident is a reminder to all of us that the war on drugs is indeed a war with casualties," Gina Amatangelo of the Washington Office on Latin America (http://www.wola.org) told DRCNet. "In this case, the victims are innocent individuals from the US, but every day the US drug war in Latin America creates more victims," she said.
"The US government absolutely is responsible for the deaths of these US citizens because of its role in promoting this policy, supplying the personnel and equipment to make it possible, and even funding the base from which the Peruvian fighter took off," Amatangelo noted. "A liberal shoot-down policy is obviously dangerous, but it is carried out by Peru as part of a larger effort to militarize drug enforcement in the region. This is a tragic example of what we can expect to come as the US increases military funding in the region."
Adam Isaacson, senior policy analyst at the Center for International Policy (http://www.ciponline.org), concurred. "We bought the plane used to shoot down the missionaries, we trained the people who pulled the trigger, it was all ours until the very last moment," he told DRCNet. "We share the blame. This also calls into question the nature of the people with whom we are working. The Peruvian military has longstanding problems of corruption, human rights violations, and lack of accountability," he said.
"Nor has it made any difference in the street price of cocaine," he noted.
The deaths of missionary Veronica Bowers, 35, and her 7-month-old adopted daughter Charity were foreshadowed years ago. The US began setting up radar posts to track airborne drug smuggling in the Andes during the administration of George Bush the elder and began sharing the information with Colombian and Peruvian authorities in an effort to repress the region's thriving cocaine trade. But after Peru shot down a suspected smuggler's plane in 1993, the program was briefly halted the following year when Justice Department lawyers determined that US officials could be prosecuted -- and even sentenced to death -- under US anti-terrorism laws for their involvement in shooting down civilian aircraft. At that time, the program was already causing grave concern among pilots' and air transport industry groups and even some program participants.
Stuart Matthews, founder of the Flight Safety Foundation, told Air Safety Week in June, 1994, he strongly opposed renewing the shoot-down scheme. "It's contrary to international law, it's contrary to US law," he said. "Even if an airplane were full of drug smugglers and was shot down, what ever happened to due process, to which we all subscribe?"
The Air Transport Association of America relayed the same sentiments. "There is concern here, because it's always been the policy of our members to oppose any government shooting down of any civil aircraft for any reason," he told the industry weekly. "It would then allow that government to target civil aircraft for other reasons. It's one more step down the slippery slope."
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which quickly condemned the shootdown,can lay claim to a certain prescience. "The AOPA will vigorously oppose any action by the government which would condone or encourage the use of deadly force against civilian aircraft," wrote AOPA president Phil Boyer. "Those in Washington who applaud the so-called 'shoot-down' policies of the Colombian and Peruvian governments cannot have forgotten that two civilian airliners were shot down in recent years after they were mistaken for military aircraft," Boyer continued. "Considering those horrifying events -- one of which involved our own armed forces -- how can anyone feel assured that a twin-engine Cessna carrying members of Congress on an overseas fact-finding mission will never be mistaken for an identical twin-engine Cessna full of drug smugglers?"
An Associated Press dispatch from the same period quoted some Customs agents and radar operators as also having deep misgivings. "I don't think we should be doing it," radar operator John Fowler told the AP. "I'm a Christian man. I am a believer. How can I as a believer work toward an end which deals with killing people? How can you justify this situation where our Constitution says innocent until proven guilty?" asked Fowler, who was suspended for five days in 1993 for refusing to participate in a similar program in Ecuador.
Another operator quoted by AP spoke anonymously to protect his job. "This definitely doesn't jibe with our version of democracy and human rights," he said. "Probable cause doesn't warrant the death penalty. Mistakes can happen."
But congressional hardliners, prodded by armchair warriors such as New York Times columnist Abe Rosenthal, brushed aside such fears, instead using the halt to polish their drug warrior credentials. Rep. (now Sen.) Charles Schumer (D-NY) slammed the Clinton administration decision to halt the program as "unwise, untimely, and unusually dangerous," while Rep. (now Sen.) Robert Torricelli (D-NY) called it "surrender and retreat."
When contacted by DRCNet this week, the official line at Torricelli's office was, "We are concentrating on other matters." One staff member who asked to be quoted only off the record told DRCNet Torricelli had "nothing" to say about the dead missionaries.
DRCNet calls to Sen. Schumer's office went unreturned.
An embattled Peruvian embassy gamely offered a defense. "The program was good for Peru and good for the United States," a spokesman told DRCNet. "It helped reduce coca cultivation."
Actually, it didn't. Source country eradication programs have historically only shifted cultivation from place to place not lowered overall growing. A chart of Bolivian, Peruvian, Colombian and total coca cultivation figures (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/coca-growing.gif), for example, shows that cultivation in Peru did decrease significantly during the 1980s, but that total cultivation nevertheless hovered at around 200,000 hectares (nearly 800 square miles) as Colombian growers took up the slack.
Eradication and interdiction programs such as the shoot-downs combined have also failed to achieve their goal of decreasing cocaine availability to increase price and discourage use. In 1988, for example, the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates the purity-adjusted retail price of cocaine (1998 dollars) was $213, but only $149 by 2000. Heroin prices fell even more steeply during the same period, from $3,153 to $1,029. (See "What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, page 24, http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/pdf/spending_drugs_1988_1998.pdf on the web.)
Will the deaths of Veronica and Charity Bowers then be in vain? Or will they spark a rethinking of our global drug policies?
Columns of tens of thousands of marchers led by coca growers' leader Congressman Evo Morales poured into the Bolivian capital of La Paz over the weekend, overcoming police tear gas, club, and rubber bullet attacks as they fought their way toward historic San Francisco plaza. The marchers, who had departed as long as two weeks ago from coca-producing regions of the country, were joined by thousands of local residents.
The Bolivian government of Hugo Banzer, the democratically-elected former dictator, had vowed that the marchers would not enter La Paz. Prodded by the US government, Banzer has been an enthusiastic advocate of coca eradication. Last week, Guillermo Fortun, Minister of Government, told reporters, "It's good that they (the marchers) are getting exercise, but no march will reach La Paz. We will intervene as many times as it is necessary."
"With tear gas, without tear gas, we've made it to La Paz," the marchers chanted in belated reply. Although headed by Morales, who is also head of the Six Federations of Coca Growers, participants in the March for Life and Sovereignty represent not only cocaleros, but also unionists and members of the Cochabamba Water Coordination Network, a powerful grassroots group organized in the face of privatization of the water utilities. The marchers are calling for an end to the forced eradication of coca crops in the Chapare and for no eradication to take place in Yungas region, as well approval of a new water law and other reforms.
The march took place amidst rising political tensions generated by Bolivia's economic crisis, partially caused by widespread coca eradication and partly due to the massive lay-offs spawned by privatization -- both policies adopted under intense US government pressure. Those tensions heightened two weeks ago when former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada called for Banzer to resign. The Banzer government is increasingly besieged and isolated, with protests on an almost daily basis not only from cocaleros, but teachers, workers, debtors and retirees, among others.
The march also took place against a backdrop of imminent guerrilla war in the Chapare, formerly the nation's largest coca cultivation region, but now decimated by Banzer's eradication program. The Andean Information Network (AIN) reported in recent weeks that cocaleros in the Chapare have "activated" Coca Grower Self-Defense Committees. On April 18, persons unknown attacked the Isinuta Military Camp, and Bolivian government officials also reported an armed attack on a military eradication camp in Valle Hermoso, although AIN could not confirm that report. In a separate incident the same day, unknown attackers shot and wounded two soldiers in the village of Sillarcito.
As of Tuesday, AIN reported, Bolivian police and army troops were swarming throughout the Chapare. The self-defense committees are stationed at coca markets and other strategic sites, and cocalero leaders are warning of a renewal of the road blockades that brought the country to a halt last fall. Blockades could begin as soon as this week after consultations with the different groups involved in the march.
Bolivian police and military units harassed the marchers all along their various routes to the capital. On April 12, hundreds of heavily armed members of the security forces attacked a column of marchers near Pongo on the Cochabamba-La Paz highway with tear gas and beatings, and arrested more than one hundred. Among those arrested were Water Coordinator leader Oscar Olivera, who was a recipient last fall of the Institute for Policy Studies' prestigious Letelier-Moffitt human rights award (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/155.html#letelier-moffitt). The arrested marchers were held overnight before being packed into buses and taken back to the highway, where they were dumped out, but not before enduring further beatings and insults on the bus, Olivera told AIN.
The day before, marchers attacked and beat four undercover police officers who attempted to infiltrate the march by passing themselves off as members of the Permanent Human Rights Assembly, a non-governmental monitoring group. The marchers were apparently not amused by the irony.
On April 14, Bolivian security forces again attacked. Some 800 officers tear-gassed marchers at Japockasa, arresting 50 more and forcing them onto buses. Security forces surrounded another group of marchers, including Evo Morales, but released them two hours later. Under Bolivian law, Morales enjoys congressional immunity from arrest.
Government attempts to block the protest by force only intensified as the marchers neared La Paz. On April 21, security forces struck three different columns. At Achica Arriba, 51 kilometers outside the capital, special police units blocked and beat marchers. The following morning, Special Security Police again attacked the column led by Morales, gassing and beating marchers and arresting 90 people, including a journalist and a human rights monitor. They were bussed back toward Cochabamba, from which they returned to the march.
Earlier that same morning, six truck-loads of Bolivian National Police 55 kilometers outside La Paz violently attacked the column of marchers coming from the Yungas, arresting approximately one hundred. Those were forced into cargo trucks and sent back to the Yungas. As always, reported AIN, they returned to the march.
As the marchers poured into El Alto, a town of 600,000 on the heights above La Paz, cheering crowds applauded them and thousands joined the marchers before the final descent into the capital. "Hunger forces us to unite," Morales told the multitudes. "This government is incapable of doing anything other than using the armed forces against us. It refuses to listen to our demands."
According to late reports from AIN, skirmishes in the capital Monday killed two people, a 52-year-old taxi driver hit by a tear gas canister and an 89-year-old nursing home resident who died after troops shot tear gas into her residence. Nursing home residents are threatening to set up blockades, AIN reports. The clashes were centered around San Andres University, where at least a thousand students and Yungas cocaleros were holding a meeting. Police attempted to break it up with volleys of tear gas.
By mid-week, AIN reported, marchers were heading back to their hometowns to prepare a nationwide campaign of road blockages. Both the Cochabamba Water Coordinator and the Six Federations of Coca Growers have announced that blockades will begin immediately. Cocalero leader Evo Morales has stated that if the government continues to refuse to negotiate, the blockades will then take as their goal forcing Banzer's resignation.
The national workers' union, (COB), has now joined the call for Banzer to resign. COB based its decision on the government's repressive response to the March for Life and Sovereignty, AIN reported.
The Bolivian government continues its hard line approach, however. President Banzer, on a visit to Washington, DC, told the press that he had not been elected by the cocaleros and he will not negotiate with them. Interior Minister Fortun added that the security forces would not permit blockades.
As tear gas swirled through the streets of La Paz, US Secretary of State Colin Powell stood beside Banzer in Washington and offered US congratulations and support for Banzer's program.
The rebellion on drug policy at the Summit of Americas hinted at by Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle in March fizzled in Quebec over the weekend as Andean leaders lined up with Presidents Bush and Pastrana to plead for their share of the US anti-drug pie. The Andean leaders ignored an open letter to President Bush signed by more than a hundred Latin American politicians and intellectuals. They also ignored the increasing violence and devastation in Colombia as rightist paramilitaries and the US-backed coca fumigation campaign do their work.
The paramilitaries, paying no mind to diplomatic niceties, meanwhile took their murderous vocation to new heights. In a three-day operation last week around the town of Naya in Cauca province, paramilitaries massacred at least 40 people, possibly twice that many, according to the Washington Post. In addition to being the largest single massacre since that in Chengue in December, where the paramilitaries killed 26 farmers by smashing their heads with large stones, the Naya massacre is also marked by horrific ferocity. At Naya, the paramilitaries killed with guns, machetes, and chain saws.
Colombia's ombudsman, Eduardo Cifuentes, told the Post after visiting the area that "we have returned to the most barbaric era," adding that a 17-year-old girl was hacked to pieces with a chainsaw and another gutted. Their bodies lay in a roadside ditch for a week, he said, because paramilitaries camped nearby and refused to allow villagers to bury them.
The Post also interviewed Delio Chate, a 41-year-old farmer who has a 25-acre coca field near Naya. Chate said the killing took place over three days. Paramilitaries would round up the village's residents along the dirt path into town and ask each, "Do you know any guerrillas?" Three negative responses brought a machete blow, said Chate. He said he saw his neighbors being killed and that some were alive as paramilitaries took chainsaws to their bodies.
"Now, of course, the army is there or is trying to get there," Chate said. "But they left us out there alone."
Last month, the United Nations, the Colombian ombudsman and the Interior Ministry warned that Nava, a strategically located coca growing center long frequented by leftist rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN), was ripe for a paramilitary attack. The army took no steps to protect the town, following a pattern of at least passive collusion set in previous massacres.
US and Colombian officials are quick to deny collusion with the paramilitaries, but a loose-lipped paramilitary commander in Putumayo last month ripped one more veil from that increasingly flimsy garment of mendacity. In interviews with the Boston Globe, "Commander Wilson," a paramilitary leader in the southern province where the rightists have unleashed a successful campaign of terror against the leftist FARC and suspected civilian supporters, made clear that his men were the vanguard of Plan Colombia.
Local Colombian military authorities "know where we are, and they draw up sketches and decide to spray where they know we have consolidated those zones. They have depended entirely on us," Wilson said. "Plan Colombia would be almost impossible without the help of the [paramilitary] self-defense forces. If we did not take control of zones ahead of the army, then the guerrillas would shoot down their planes," he added.
Former Puerto Asiz human rights ombudsman German Martinez, agrees. Martinez, who resigned in March after repeated death threats, told the Herald, "The paramilitary phenomenon in Putumayo is the spearhead of Plan Colombia to create territorial control for the areas to be sprayed and to control the civilian population."
So does the US military. "Between Dec. 25 and Jan. 15, aerial eradication operations were focused primarily in that area of the Valle de Guamuez considered to be under paramilitary influence," a US military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Herald. "It was anticipated spray operations directed against paramilitary coca fields would experience fewer hostile fire incidents."
The unnamed officer rejected the suggestion that the army colluded with the paramilitaries, even though army bases sit on either side of the local paramilitary command post and trucks filled with paramilitaries rumble past army checkpoints on the way to new search-and-destroy missions.
The Herald also reported that many of the paramilitaries are former soldiers and related the tale of its encounter with one fighter dressed in civilian garb who was eating C-rations issued to Colombian army anti-drug units. Unlike his commander, this soldier kept a tight lip about where he got the food.
General Jose Antonio Ladron de Guevara, commander of the army's 24th Brigade, told the Herald some 30 members of his unit had joined the paramilitaries. Wilson claimed the figure was closer to a hundred and they were prepared to keep fighting. "We're ready to risk everything," he said.
At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, meanwhile, overt opposition to the Plan Colombia collapsed as Colombia's neighbors positioned themselves to receive hefty chunks of the $700 million Andean Ridge Initiative, President Bush's regional version of the plan. All 34 hemispheric heads-of-state signed on to a post-summit statement endorsing "firm support" for Colombian President Pastrana's ongoing and slow moving peace negotiations.
Even Venezuela's Hugo Chavez softened his opposition. Where in earlier months he had warned of the danger of spreading regional violence because of Plan Colombia, he changed his tune after a pre-summit meeting of Andean leaders in Cartagena, Colombia earlier this month. "What we had warned about, not against Plan Colombia but against its military component, that chapter has been closed," Chavez cryptically explained. "Doubts that existed in any instance regarding Plan Colombia have now been clarified."
In a letter to President Bush, Latin American politicians and intellectuals were equally clear in their opposition to Plan Colombia. "As your Administration considers the future direction of US policy towards the Andes, we ask you to suspend and reformulate US support for the implementation of Plan Colombia, placing a greater emphasis on supporting the peace process," said the signers, led by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. "We are gravely concerned that current policy will cause more harm than good in Colombia and in the region at large -- while having little or no effect on the drug problems of the consumer countries."
Other signatories to the letter include Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto, Chilean-born professor and novelist Ariel Dorfman, esteemed Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, former Bolivian President Lydia Guilier Tejada, Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala and Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina, and more than a hundred other churchmen, unionists, journalists, jurists, and elected officials. (Visit http://www.wola.org/summit_letter_english.htm to read the letter online.)
DRCNet and Students for Sensible Drug Policy are collaborating in bringing the issue of the Higher Education Act Drug Provision and the campaign to repeal it to the media's attention, and coverage has increased dramatically. Some of the highlights:
On Thursday, nationally syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington released a terrific column on the issue titled "Hypocrisy 101: Bush Gets Tough on 'Youthful Indiscretions'" -- check it out at http://www.ariannaonline.com/columns/files/042601.html on the web or in any number of papers around the country.
Thursday's Washington Post included an editorial by the paper calling for passage of Barney Frank's bill to repeal the drug provision.
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal ran an in-depth report, featured on the front page, top left.
A partial list of other coverage includes CNN Headline News, the Fox News Channel, two Associated Press stories, Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice, AP Radio, Bloomberg News Radio, Oliver North, Barry & Wood (Marion Barry's TV show), U-Wire campus wire service, Chronicle of Higher Education and numerous campus papers around the country. More is yet to come!
The HEA drug provision delays or denies federal financial aid for college to students convicted of drug offenses. Please visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to send a free e-mail or fax to Congress in support of the Frank bill, H.R. 786, to repeal the HEA drug provision; and while you're there, download an activist packet to find out how to get involved in the campaign to repeal this bad law.
Last but not least, DRCNet needs your help in the form of non-tax-deductible donations to support this fast-growing campaign. Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html to make a contribution -- large or small -- whatever you can afford or are inspired to give. We and the students thank you!
A new study of young drug offenders in Cook County, Illinois, (greater Chicago) has found startling differences in the way white and non-white offenders are treated. Of 393 teenage drug offenders bound over to adult court in 1999 and 2000, only 3 were white. Last year, of 259 bound over, one was white. Cook County is 47.6% white.
According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, white teenagers are one-third more likely to have sold drugs than African-American teenagers.
The study, "Drugs and Disparity: The Racial Impact of Illinois' Practice of Transferring Young Drug Offenders to Adult Court," was prepared by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice's Justice Policy Institute for Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of children's advocates, researchers, law enforcement professionals and community organizers seeking to protect minority youth in the justice system and promote rational and effective justice policies.
Based on data from state criminal justice agencies in Illinois and national corrections databases, the study zeroed in on the Illinois practice of automatically sending 15- and 16-year-olds charged with certain drug offenses to adult court. Under Illinois' automatic transfer laws, youths charged with drug offenses that occur within a thousand feet of a school or public housing project are automatically sent to adult court.
"These transfer laws arise from the legislature's colorblind attempt to address the impact of illegal drugs in the public schools and public housing," James Compton, president of the Chicago Urban League, told a Wednesday press conference, "but the impact of these laws is anything but colorblind. Illinois has some of the most racially disparate outcomes in the nation."
Compton pointed to the devastation afflicting some inner city neighborhoods as a result of drug law enforcement. "There are some communities in Chicago where more than half the black male youth now have felony records," he said. "State and local officials are contributing to the incapacitation of future generations and exacerbating the problems of crime, addiction, poverty, hopelessness, and despair in the black community. The Urban League supports repeal of those sections of the transfer laws that have disparate racial impact on our youth. We will join with other organizations in a grassroots campaign for a more fair approach to juvenile justice in Illinois," he vowed.
Randolph Stone, director of the University of Chicago's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, elaborated on the differential impact of Illinois' automatic transfer laws. "This law sets up is two systems of justice," he told the press conference. "For committing the same offense, kids in the inner city get adult felony convictions, while kids in the suburbs get juvenile court and treatment. These are prosecutorial decisions," said Stone, "and they have a huge impact. These kids won't get a second chance, they can be denied financial aid for college, they'll have restricted opportunities for employment. Those kids most in need of a second chance, of an opportunity for rehabilitation or treatment, are shunted aside, labeled as felons."
The study also found that while African-American youth make up 15.3% of the state's youth population, they constitute 59% of all teen drug arrests, 85.5% of all teens automatically transferred to adult court, and 91% of all teens sent to state prison from Cook County.
"The data clearly show that the enormous impact of prosecution, imprisonment, and collateral consequences for young drug offenders is not borne equitably by youth of different races and ethnicities," said Justice Policy Institute analyst Jason Zeidenberg, the author of the study. "Illinois' 16-year experiment with automatic transfer for drug offenses does not affect suburban or rural white youth in a way even remotely comparable to the way it affects urban minority youth," he added.
The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer explained how a supposedly colorblind policy created such racially disparate results. "This law illustrates two significant problems in the criminal justice system. First is the failure by policy-makers to project forward what the impact of the policy will be. Inner city kids are hit hard because urban areas are more dense, so there is a greater likelihood that drug offenses will occur within a thousand feet of a school or a public housing project," said Mauer.
"Second, this illustrates the abuse of the criminal justice system as a means of dealing with complex social problems. Once again, we see kids of color put through the justice system as adults, while in the suburbs it is dealt with in juvenile court or not handled as a criminal justice problem at all. This is a two-tiered system of justice where the same behavior is handled in different ways," he explained.
The Rev. Charles Collins, head of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, cut to the heart of the issue. "Can Illinois afford to have a juvenile justice system that is separate and unequal?" he asked. "Whatever the legislature's intent, we see here the law of unintended consequences at work. There is no redemption, no second chance for the youth that enter the adult criminal justice system."
"We must pray and encourage our legislature to find the moral fortitude to stand up and repeal this law," he concluded.
The study is available at http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org online.
Attorney/activist Don Wirtshafter has reported that Will Foster, the Oklahoma medical marijuana patent who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for keeping a small cultivation room in his basement, was released on parole yesterday.
Foster, a 42-year-old father of two, was arrested in 1995 for growing marijuana in the basement of his Tulsa home. He used marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused by acute rheumatoid arthritis. Foster used marijuana because other medication he was receiving, specifically Percodans and Percocets, made him moody and could not be adequately dosage controlled.
Police raided Foster's home on December 28, 1995. They were acting on a fraudulent tip that Foster was selling methamphetamine. The raid terrified Foster and his family, including their five-year-old daughter, who watched police tear apart her teddy bear looking for drugs. Only when they forced open a locked steel door did police find Foster's small, 25 square foot growing room. During Foster's trial, the prosecution claimed the plants were equivalent to 2,652 joints. Ed Rosenthal, a marijuana cultivation expert, testified that the yield would be at most 600 joints.
At the time of the raid, Foster was a highly paid computer programmer. "My medical use of marijuana never interfered with my work, I ran a successful business. "I told my conservative doctor what I was doing, he did not really agree with it cause of the health risk of smoking, but he witnessed my positive results. I was minding my own business taking care of my health and my family. What was I doing to anybody that got me 93 years?"
Despite an absence of evidence of any sales, a jury was convinced to convict him with cultivation and intent to distribute. Aggravating factors of possession "in the presence of a minor under age 11" and failure to obtain marijuana tax stamps increased the sentence to 93 years. In 1998, an appeals court found that the 93-year term "shocks our conscience" and reduced the sentence to 20 years, which opened up the possibility of parole for Foster.
The parole board quickly issued a unanimous recommendation for the release of Foster, but the requests was turned down by Oklahoma governor Frank Keating. The following year, Foster came up for parole and received the recommendation of the board, but again was rejected by the governor.
On his third attempt, Foster was freed. Activists speculate that Keating was willing to approve his release because he is no longer a potential candidate for president, attorney general or drug czar.
Foster immediately flew to California where he plans to rebuild his life.
Reformers aren't getting much rest these days. After the NORML conference last weekend in Washington, DC, and the North American Syringe Exchange Convention going on right now in Minneapolis, the action continues.
Today and tomorrow (April 27th & 28th), the National Lawyers Guild Detroit chapter is hosting "Beyond the War on Drugs: Why it Failed. What it Cost. What Now?"
This weekend (April 28th & 29th), the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy is convening "Illuminating Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic, and Faith Based Approaches to the War on Drugs in the 21st Century."
And coming up on May 4th, Hampshire College SSDP will host "Financial Aid and the Higher Education Act Drug Provision" in beautiful Amherst, Massachusetts, a day of presentations by student activists, financial aid professionals and Hampshire's President, concluding with a ceremonial signing of the HEA reform resolution.
Of course, "Drug Policies for the New Millennium" will meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico from May 30th to June 2nd, the largest annual international drug policy reform conference. See our Reformer's Calendar below for information on all of the above.
(adapted from the ACLU News, http://www.aclu.org)
In a narrow 5-4 ruling, on April 24 the US Supreme Court said that people stopped for minor offenses punishable only by a fine, such as not using seatbelts or jaywalking, can be subject to a full-scale police arrest including being handcuffed,booked,and jailed.
A divided court also made it harder to enforce the nation's civil rights laws, ruling that any recipients of federal funding, including states, schools and colleges, may not be sued for policies that have a discriminatory effect on blacks, Latinos or other minorities.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases, called the rulings a blow to civil liberties and warned that the decisions may have dire consequences for the nation's people of color.
"In one fell swoop, the Court has both increased the potential for racial profiling and diminished 30 years of civil rights law designed to protect victims of discrimination," said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU.
At issue in the police arrest case, Atwater v. Lago Vista, No. 99-1948, was whether someone who is charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable only by a fine, not jail time, could be arrested and jailed prior to conviction at the sole discretion of a police officer.
The case involved a Texas "soccer mom" who is white; but in its legal brief, the ACLU warned that giving the police such discretionary authority too often represents an open invitation to racial profiling of African American, Latino and other minority motorists.
Indeed, noted Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, author of the dissenting opinion, "as the recent debate over racial profiling demonstrates all too clearly, a relatively minor traffic infraction may often serve as an excuse for stopping and harassing an individual."
Susan Herman, author of the ACLU brief and a professor at Brooklyn Law School, said that the case had offered the Justices an opportunity to address the critical question of whether there are any objective limitations on the power to arrest. But instead of setting much-needed boundaries on police authority, "the Court settled for no limits at all," she said.
The ACLU's legal brief in the Atwater case is online at http://www.aclu.org/court/atwater.html.
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)
April 25-28, Minneapolis, MN, North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, for further information call (253) 272-4857, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.nasen.org on the web. At the Marriott City Center Hotel, 30 South Seventh Street.
April 27, 8:45pm, New York, NY, Benefit for Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center's Women's Program. Little Annie, aka Annie Anxiety, will perform at The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street (corner of Stanton Street), accompanied on piano by Nicky Paraiso. Minimum donation $5, all profits going to the program. For further information, call (212) 253-7246 or visit http://www.brainwashed.com/anxiety/ on the web.
April 27-28, Detroit, MI, "Beyond the War on Drugs: Why it Failed. What it Cost. What Now?" Conference presented by the National Lawyers Guild, Detroit Chapter. At Wayne State University Law School, 471 West Palmer, free and open to the public. For further information call (313) 963-0843, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.michigannlg.org online.
April 27-29, San Francisco, CA, "Press Freedom Conference and Alternative News Media Exposition." At San Francisco State University, registration $50 or $25 student/low-income. For further information, call (707) 664-2500 or visit http://www.projectcensored.org online.
April 28, Hartford, CT, Youth Rally against Connecticut's proposed 4,500 supermax prison, emphasizing the failure of the war on drugs. For further information, contact Adam Hurter at (860) 285-8831 or e-mail [email protected].
April 28, noon, Kingston, RI, Third Annual Hempfest. Sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Hemp Organization for Prohibition Elimination (HOPE), featuring live music and speakers. For further information, e-mail Tom Angell at [email protected].
April 28-29, Madison, WI, "Illuminating Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic, and Faith Based Approaches to the War on Drugs in the 21st Century." For further information, visit http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~ssdp/ on the web.
May 4, 8:30am-3:00pm, Amherst, MA, "Financial Aid and the Higher Education Act Drug Provision." At the Red Barn, sponsored by Hampshire College and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Call (413) 559-5091 or visit http://ssdp.hampshire.edu for further information.
May 4, 9:30am-3:00pm, Peabody, MA, "Reducing Harm - Strategies with HIV and Hepatitis C." Featuring Edith Springer and other speakers, at the Peabody Marriott, exit 28 off of Route 128. Registration $25, payable by mail in advance only. Send checks payable to: The North Shore AIDS Collaborative, c/o Lynn Community Health Center, P.O. Box 526, Lynn, MA 01903-0526. For further information, call (781) 596-2502 ext. 729.
May 4, Tucson, AZ, protest of the War on Drugs. Sponsored by the Y.U.R. political activism club, at the US District Court on Congress & Granada. For further information or to volunteer, contact [email protected].
May 5-6, international, "2001: The Space Odyssey," marches for marijuana law reform. For further information, visit http://www.2001thespaceodyssey.com on the web.
May 5-6, Austin, TX, March for NEW Drug Policy, Benefit Concert and Drug War Awareness Conference. March at noon, 5/5, at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. followed by rally and speakers at the Capitol. Concert from 6:00-10:00pm at the Flamingo Cantina, proceeds going to the M5 Coalition. Conference from noon-6:00pm, 5/6, location to be announced. For further information, call (512) 493-7357 or visit http://www.m5coalition.org.
May 6, 4:00-10:00pm, New York, NY, reception honoring the publication of Dr. Karl Jansen's new book, "Ketamine Dreams and Realities" by the Muldisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). At the Cathedral House of the Church of St. John the Divine, 112th St. & Amsterdam, lectures by Dr. Jansen at 5:00pm and 7:30pm. Optional RSVP by 4/30 to (941) 924-6277 or [email protected].
May 8, noon, New York, NY, Protest the Rockefeller Drug Laws, marking their 28th anniversary. Featuring Rev. Al Sharpton and many other speakers, at Gov. Pataki's NYC office, 3rd. Ave. between 40th & 41st Streets. For further information, visit http://www.kunstler.org or call (212) 539-8441.
May 11, 9:00am, New York, NY, "Mother in Prison, Children in Crisis." Rally by the JusticeWorks Community, featuring ex-prisoner mothers, children of formerly incarcerated parents, city and state legislators, religious leaders and criminal justice experts. At the Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Centre St., assemble one block west at 8:30am at Thomas Paine Park. For further information, contact Mary-Elizabeth Fitzgerald at (718) 499-604 or [email protected].
May 12, noon, St. Louis, MO, "Thomas Jefferson Birthday Party," rally for marijuana law reform. Sponsored by Greater St. Louis NORML, at Tower Grove Park. For further info, contact (314) 995-1395, [email protected] or visit http://www.mo-norml.org online.
May 17, 6:00-9:00pm, Brooklyn, NY, First Annual JusticeWorks Award Benefit. Tina Reynolds will receive the 1st annual Rev. Dr. Constance M. Baugh Achievement Award. At the Beaux Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum, $75 per person. For further information, contact Tara Powers at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].
May 19, 2:00pm, Syracuse, NY, ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy Annual Meeting. Keynote address by Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, at the May Memorial, 3800 East Genesee St. For further information, visit http://www.reconsider.org or e-mail [email protected].
May 20-27, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Study Tour of Dutch Drug Policy, organized by the White Dog Cafe, particularly for persons with a background in health and social services, legislation, activism, drug law or policy. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit http://www.whitedog.com for further information.
May 25-28, Vandalia, MI, "Hemp Aid 2001." Call 616-476-2808 or visit http://www.rainbowfarmcampground.com for information.
May 30-June 2, Albuquerque, NM, "Drug Policies for the New Millennium." First annual conference of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, following in the footsteps of the 13 years of the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform. For further information, call (202) 537-5005 or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/conference/ on the web.
June 9, New York, NY, Organizers' Training to Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Session sponsored by the Interfaith Partnership for Criminal Justice in New York City, for individuals interested in organizing in Harlem against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to be held at Harlem' St. Aloysius Church. For further information, contact Jessica Dias at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].
June 30, New York, NY, Rally in Harlem to Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Sponsored by the Interfaith Partnership for Criminal Justice in New York City. For further information, contact Jessica Dias at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].
July 27-29, Clarkburg, WV, "Neer Freedom Festival." Benefit for West Virginia NORML and upcoming medical marijuana campaign. For further information, contact Tom Thacker at [email protected].
December 1-4, 2002, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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