|Week Online: Last
week, we reported briefly on the new set of penalties for drug offenses
in Peru (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/296.shtml#perudrugpenalties).
But we reported that the changes were under consideration, not yet law.
Did we get it wrong?
You are talking about Law 28002, which revises the penal code. It
was recently promulgated by the government after being approved by the
congress a few months back. It reduces penalties for some drug trafficking
crimes, but it also brings nearer the criminalization of the simple growing
of marijuana or poppies. In this fashion, the government is attempting
to comply with the recommendations of the US Embassy to become more extreme
in its treatment of this subject.
WOL: What is going
on with the Toledo government? There has been a state of emergency,
his popularity is rapidly dropping, and he has had to change his cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Peruvian press is full of stories about the reappearance
of the Shining Path. Is change coming?
Dr. Solari has left his post as premier -- it is now held by a woman, Dr.
Beatriz Merino -- nothing indicates a real change in the general policies
of the government. The main ministries -- foreign relations, economy,
defense, and interior -- continue with the same ministers, and President
Toledo appears resigned to defending himself to remain in power until the
end of his term without really assuming any real leadership. Meanwhile,
what is certain is that the "drug traffic" will grow and the violence will
reappear in the coca production zones most at risk, particularly the Ene-Apurimac
river valley, because of which the area will be militarized. That
brings with it the risk that the armed forces will get involved in the
conflict, and their eventual corruption, as has been the case in past decades.
The mass media seem ready
once again to throw up a smokescreen with a slew of stories emphasizing
violence in order to hide the real business, as they did in the 1980s.
The bombastic announcements of the resurrection of the Shining Path, in
any case, cover up more burning questions, such as what to do about popular
We have a problem with the
political class. The politicians prefer to walk blindly past the
skinny cows on their way to their own state-sponsored comforts. While
the politicians get personal and family security and private guards, benefits
for retirees and the unemployed, like the buying power of the great majority
of state workers, have been shrinking for the past 20 years. This
has created a vast discontent directed at the political class, which continues
pirouetting across the stage while we continue paying the price for their
irresponsibly taking the country into debt and their submission to the
US Embassy. It is no longer enough to "reengineer" the budget, it
is not enough to create another front of political leaders to "work together."
Unless there is radical change, they will not be able to confront the growing
wave of discontent.
WOL: When we spoke
with cocalero leader Nancy Obregon (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/292/nancyobregon.shtml),
she told us despite the setbacks in recent negotiations with the Toledo
government, she thought the government was keeping "a door open" for further
talks. What is the state of the cocalero movement, and, in your judgment,
is there an open door?
that last round of meetings with the ministers, where they deceived the
cocaleros there in Lima through a Supreme Decree already denounced by the
peasant leadership, the movement has entered into a period of retreat.
I hope the movement recomposes and reconsolidates itself, and toward that
end, there is a meeting of representatives of all the coca-growing valleys
set for Cuzco in October. As for the good faith of the government,
I would say that the door is open just enough to prevent it being said
that it is completely closed, because they are prepared to resist any effort
to clarify the problem of coca. This could be why they asked Nancy
Obregon to ask me not to attend the meeting which had been brought to head
by Solari's effort to take care of business.
WOL: There have been
two international conferences where drug reformers have gathered this year,
at Mérida in February and at Cartagena in June. You were at
both. What kind of impact do you see coming from them?
that we who object to the drug war are a minority, each one of these meetings
reinforces us by making us aware of the universal character of our protest.
The personal relationships that are being built will hugely facilitate
the consolidation of our movement. As for the proposal by Mama Coca
(http://www.mamacoca.org) for an
international commission, that would be a means of institutionalizing the
task of questioning the "world order." I will collaborate in that,
but I am proposing that more than a study commission, it would be a protest
commission! Personally, I was very interested in Cartagena because
you do not hear any defense of the coca leaf there since they lack our
tradition of use. Because of my defense of the coca leaf, I have
been invited to talk about my vision of coca at the 2nd International Symposium
on Biodiversity in Cali in October.
WOL: You are a social
psychologist and you have written about the role of psychiatry in creating
and maintaining drug prohibition. What are you getting at?
Cáceres: I believe
that ever since its separation from medicine at the end of the 19th Century,
psychiatry has been accepted by society as a sort of priesthood because
it attributes to itself a scientific character that it has not had for
some time. It has created the pathological entity "addiction" or
"dependence," which demonstrates a lack of respect for the medical experience
acquired throughout the 19th Century regarding plants that have medicinal
uses for the nervous system. Opium and opiates, cannabis, coca leaf
and cocaine -- all were gratuitously discredited by psychiatry. Today,
thanks to the advances in neuroscience coming from new technologies, it
is time to reconsider the received wisdom of that bookish psychiatric tradition,
which is kept alive by the World Health Organization's famous Expert Committee
on Pharmacodependency, which in 1992 decided not to bring to light new
information about coca.