Weekly: This Week in History

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July 13, 1931: The "International Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs" is convened in Geneva.

July 14, 1969: President Richard Nixon sends a message to Congress entitled "Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs." The message asks Congress to enact legislation to combat rising levels of drug use.

July 11, 1979: A deadly shootout between Colombian traffickers in broad daylight at Miami's Dadeland Mall brings the savagery of the Colombian cocaine lords to the attention of US law enforcement.

July 17, 1980: Financed by wealthy ranchers and drug lords under Roberto Suarez Gomez, the "Cocaine Generals" of the Bolivian "cocaine coup" seize power. Within months it is learned that Pierluigi Pagliai and Stefano Delle Chiaie were right-wing Propaganda Due (P-2) terrorists with suspected kills on three continents and Klaus Altmann was none other than fugitive Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons. Barbie, who had sent hundreds of Jews to their deaths, had avoided prosecution when Americans in occupied Germany recruited him as an informer in 1947 and engineered his escape.

July 17, 1984: The Drug War and Cold War collide when the Washington Times runs a story detailing DEA informant Barry Seal's successful infiltration of the Medellin cartel's operations in Panama. The story was leaked by Oliver North and purported to show the Nicaraguan Sandanistas' involvement in the drug trade. Ten days later, Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa, and José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha are indicted by a Miami Federal grand jury based on evidence obtained by Seal. In February 1986, Seal is assassinated in Baton Rouge, LA, by gunmen hired by the cartel.

July 13, 1995: The New York Times reports the FDA has concluded for the first time that nicotine is an addictive drug that should be regulated.

July 13, 1998: The Associated Press reports that US drug czar Barry McCaffrey has created a controversy in The Netherlands over his erroneous claim that "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States," which he explained by saying "that's drugs." In actuality the Dutch homicide rate is less than one fourth the US rate. The Dutch ambassador responds, "I must say that I find the timing of your remarks -- six days before your planned visit to the Netherlands with a view to gaining first-hand knowledge about Dutch drugs policy and its results, rather astonishing."

July 15, 1998: ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey visits Switzerland to meet with officials responsible for drug policy and to see the heroin distribution program firsthand. Drug Czar McCaffrey makes clear the administration's concern about this program, noting that while such policies may bring short-term benefits, the US thinks they will in the long run prove detrimental to the well-being of Swiss society.

July 17, 2001: Madison, Wisconsin's Mayor Sue Bauman speaks out about the drug war in her State of the City address. She says: "As a city and as a society, we need to put more monies into prevention programs and thus fewer into policing and the criminal justice system... It is time that the nation, the state, the county and the City view drug and alcohol abuse as a public health problem. Unfortunately, the emphasis for years has been on a war on drugs -- an attempt to end drug usage and alcohol abuse by punishing the users/abusers. This is a failed strategy."

July 12, 2002: The Wall Street Journal reports that former president Bill Clinton acknowledged, "I was wrong" to not lift the ban on federal funding of needle-exchange programs.

July 16, 2003: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo orders weekly public burnings of illegal drugs seized by the police, as well as the publication of mug shots of arrested drug dealers. "Let us put a face and identity to these people and get the public involved in hunting them down," says Arroyo.

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