Jaime Malamud-Goti, former
Solicitor General of the nation of Argentina (the equivalent of the Attorney
General position in the US) drew international notice during the administration
of President Raul Alfonsin, when he managed the human rights trials of
members of the Argentine junta that kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands
of Argentines (and others) during the military dictatorship's "dirty war"
against "subversives" in the late 1970s.
Since then, Malamud has authored
two books, one on state terrorism in Argentina and one on the drug trade
in Bolivia, and pursued a career as a legal scholar and ethicist.
A MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow, he currently teaches morality, ethics
and criminal law at the University of Palermo and is involved with the
founding of a new school of law at St. Andrew's University in Scotland.
Malamud-Goti is a member of the Out from the Shadows Mérida steering
-- END --
|Week Online: How did
you develop an interest in drug policy?
Jaime Malamud-Goti: When
I was Solicitor General under Alfonsin, he also appointed me head of the
Argentine drug policy apparatus. I guess you could say I was the
drug czar. Even though in those days we concentrated more on public
health and education, I was also in charge of the country's drug law enforcement.
I began to become aware of the issues involved in the question of drug
policy. Back then the number of drug addicts in Argentina was relatively
low. But since then, even while different administrations have altered
the emphasis toward law enforcement and the stopping of contraband, the
problem drug use has been rising in Argentina. My training in ethics
and political philosophy also drew me to consider alternatives to the war
WOL: In your book,
"Smoke and Mirrors: The Paradox of the Drug War," you examined the impact
of the war on drugs on Bolivia. What did you find?
Malamud-Goti: I had
been challenging the drug war from a political philosophical standpoint,
and I realized that a philosophical approach was not working. So
I looked for something empirical. I found that drug repression in
Bolivia has been lethal and destructive, and its results paradoxical.
The criminal law is used to repress deviants, but when you have something
as high-yielding as coca in Bolivia, the criminal law is powerless to stop
it. So the Bolivian and US governments -- the US funds most Bolivian
anti-drug activities -- try to repress coca and they create the paradox
of a powerful mass movement, a political opposition. Evo Morales
[leader of the Chapare coca growers' federation] is a national hero now
and a powerful political figure. I don't think that is what the drug
But there are other paradoxes.
Hardly anyone in Bolivia believes it is immoral to produce coca, but the
government sets out to smash it. Then there is the paradox of success.
The Americans measure success in drug repression in terms of arrests and
pounds seized. But when the industry faltered here because US pressure
deflected drug buyers from Brazil and Colombia and Peru, the price dropped,
nobody sold, and activity was low. Arrests and seizures dropped,
too, and that upset the Americans. They told Bolivian police they
would lose their bonuses if they didn't make better numbers. How
irrational! Then there is the paradox of competing anti-drug agencies.
You would think the more drug fighters, the more efficient the drug war,
right? In Bolivia, while the DEA was supervising the repression of
coca, the CIA was profiting off drug laboratories and using the proceeds
to hire Argentine and other Latin American military officers to teach the
Contras all those lessons they learned in the dirty war.
WOL: So, do you take
a position on drug legalization?
I believe we should legalize and regulate, but probably in stages.
First, we should take marijuana out of play, and then we should decriminalize
use, and then legalize the traffic. You still want to be able to
go after big drug smugglers just as you go after smugglers of other goods,
but petty dealing should be legalized, and the sooner the better.
Prosecuting people for drugs is a violation of fundamental rights and dignity.
WOL: How did you get
involved with Out from the Shadows?
Malamud-Goti: I'm not
sure. Former Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff suggested
my name. But I think a conference like this is critical. The
war on drugs is so wrong and so destructive that it demands a collective
political response. This conference, and others like it, are the
beginning of that process. But the drug war is a self-sustaining
enterprise, and I fear we have a long road ahead of us. I haven't
decided what I will say at the conference. Maybe something derived
from my Bolivia research. Maybe something from the perspective of
political philosophy. I guess I'll surprise the audience. I
may surprise myself.
Issue #271, 1/10/03
The Road to Mérida: Interviews with Participants in the "Out from the Shadows" Campaign | The Road to Mérida: Interview with Mario Menéndez, Publisher of !Por Esto!, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | The Road to Mérida: Dr. Jaime Malamud-Goti, former Argentine Solicitor General | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Canada Cannabis Conundrum Continued: Government Will Appeal Ontario Ruling, Prosecutors to Put Possession Cases on Hold | Newsbrief: Eyeing Stiffer Meth Penalties in West Virginia | Newsbrief: First Local Salvia Divinorum Ordinance Proposed | Newsbrief: Huffington SUV-Terrorism Ad Parodies Drug Czar's Drug-Terrorism Campaign | Newsbrief: Corrupt Cops of the Week | Newsbrief: Ontario Court Clears Tokin' Motorist of DWI Charge | Newsbrief: Massachusetts Cops Slow to Act on Racial Profiling Law | Newsbrief: New Jersey Seeks to Delay Ban on Asset Forfeiture, Will Appeal Ruling | Newsbrief: Federal Court Ruling on No-Knock Search Raises Questions About Standard Procedure in Kansas City | Web Scan: Maia Szalavitz in Slate, GAO on Colombia Coca, Globe and Mail on Ontario Marijuana Ruling | DC Job Opportunity at DRCNet -- Campus Coordinator | The Reformer's Calendar
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