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Latin America: Mexico's President Says Fighting Drugs, Crime His Highest Priority

Marking his first year in office, Mexican President Felipe Calderón said Saturday that fighting the war on drugs and organized crime remained his highest priority. The speech came as the death toll in this year's prohibition-related violence topped 2,000 -- making it the bloodiest year yet in Mexico's drug war -- and as the US Congress contemplates a $500 million anti-drug assistance package crafted by the Calderón and Bush administrations.

"The biggest threat to Mexico's future is lack of public safety and organized crime," Calderón said in a speech at the National Palace. "But with one year in office, I am more convinced than ever that we are going to win this battle."

Just as he began his first year in office by sending troops into Baja California and Michoacán, so Calderón marked its end by army special forces into Reynosa, Tamaulipas, on the Texas border. The area, where the Gulf Cartel is powerful, was the scene of the assassination last week of former Río Bravo Mayor Juan Antonio Guajardo and five companions.

But while the violence continues and the drugs flow north seemingly unabated, Calderón claimed success in the battle, citing the arrest of more than 14,000 people in the drug trade, including 20 regional drug trafficker captains, as well as the extradition of leading traffickers to the US. He also hailed what he called Mexico's largest drug bust, the seizure November of 26 tons of cocaine. That came only a month after authorities in northern Mexico seized another 11 tons of the white powder.

"With each drug confiscation, with each criminal behind bars, with each zone we recover from organized crime, we drive away our children from addictions, from violence and from delinquency," Calderón declared.

While Calderón has controversially deployed more than 24,000 soldiers in his drug war, he did not mention the role of the military in his speech. The military has been criticized for human rights violations.

Southeast Asia: Most Killed in Thailand's 2003 Drug War Not Involved With Drugs, Panel Finds

An estimated 2,500 people were killed during a three-month crackdown on drugs by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003. Now, one of a half-dozen panels belatedly investigating the killings has reported that as many as 1,400 of those victims were killed and labeled drug suspects despite having no link to drugs.

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bloody Thaksin (courtesy Wikimedia)
"The government drug policy was unclear," said a representative of the Office of Narcotics Control Board during a meeting at the Chao Phya Park Hotel in Bangkok. "Operation staff thus did everything to achieve the goal of reducing the number of drug traffickers. The death toll was highest in February when the policy was first implemented. The number of deaths had lowered in the two following months," the representative said, according to an account in The Nation.

Since Thaksin was overthrown in a coup last year, the interim Thai government has moved forward with a review of his government's drug policy and how it was implemented. A complete assessment is expected by year's end.

During Thaksin's drug war, police attributed many of the killings to drug traffickers who were presumably killing their partners to silence them. But the families of many victims protested that their family members had nothing to do with drugs or the drug trade.

Even as the new government investigates Thaksin's drug war, at least one veteran Thai politician is calling for more of the same. Chalerm Yubamrung, viewed as the number two man in the People Power Party and an avowed aspirant to the interior ministry position, told the Bangkok Post Tuesday he was prepared to follow Thaksin's bloody path.

"Drug suppression needs to be handled seriously, the same way the Thaksin administration did," Chalerm said in a lengthy interview. "Regarding the extra-judicial killings, people misunderstood that authorities killed innocent people. Instead, it could be that people were killed by their peers to cut the leads for authorities to pursue," he argued, parroting the line of police at the time of the killings.

While Chalerm said small-time dealers and users should be treated as patients, there is an urgent need to suppress the drug trade. "Illicit drug suppression cannot be handled gradually," he said. "It needs timeframes and targets, as well as authorities staying alert. But when there are mistakes and doubts, we need to clear the air promptly. It needs to be strictly, urgently and hastily handled with the provision of special task forces."

When asked point-blank if he had any criticisms of Thaksin's drug war, Chalerm couldn't find any. "There were not any failures," he said. "Some people just accused the then government. There was a high number of killings, but no one knew who carried out the activities."

Chalerm would like to be Thailand's future. Let's hope his embrace of Thaksin's bloody drug war means he has a tin ear when it comes to current Thai attitudes toward that sort of drug policy.

Southeast Asia: Reports Coming on Thailand's 2003 Drug War Killings

Six subcommittees investigating the killings of an estimated 2,500 drug users or traffickers during a 2003 effort to wipe out drug use in Thailand under the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will issue a first report on December 1, the Bangkok Post reported Tuesday. The subcommittees are part of the Independent Commission for Study and Analysis of the Formation and Implementation of Drug Suppression Policy (ICID) set up by the interim government of Surayud Chulanont to investigate the killings.

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2003 protest at Thai embassy, DRCNet's David Guard in foreground
According to ICID Secretary Chanchao Chaiyanukij, the six subcommittees will present a combined report. Chanchao said a subcommittee uncovering the paper trail of official orders had made the most progress. That panel has gathered evidence documenting orders and policies promulgated by the Thaksin government and videos of meeting where Thaksin "gave instructions and sent signals that led to the extra-judicial killings." The panel also has accumulated evidence of the making of a blacklist of those involved in drug trafficking and the transmission of orders to kill them, Chanchao said. Ministers involved in giving orders to shorten the blacklist by killing those on it could face criminal charges, he said.

Chanchao said the reports would give the ICID a clear picture of human rights violations in the course of Thaksin's anti-drug campaign. They will also describe how innocent people were framed for drug offenses they did not commit, he said.

Another subcommittee has concluded that the families of four victims killed in Thaksin's drug war should receive compensation. One was Nong Fluke, a nine-year-old boy shot dead in his father's car during a police sting operation. His mother was seized by police in that incident and has not been seen since. That panel will also present an analysis of what impact Thaksin's war on drugs had on drug use and drug sales in the country.

The other four panels will make their findings known in a second report to the ICID later this month. The ICID will submit the findings of the subcommittees to the Surayud government by year's end for evaluation.

Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Executed in Iran

Two more drug offenders were executed in Iran, this time in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchstan, the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain reported, citing accounts in Iranian state media. The executions come a week after Iranian authorities executed five men for violent crimes. Iranian authorities say most executions are for drug trafficking, but human rights groups have claimed that some people put to death for ordinary crimes, particularly drug crimes, are actually political opponents of the regime.

Jomeh Gomshadzehi was hanged in the city of Zahedan after being arrested with 3,300 kilos of opium, 84 kilos heroin, and 95 kilos of morphine. The state news agency IRNA identified him as a notorious drug trafficker who sent narcotics to Turkey and Arab states in the Gulf. It said that while trafficking drugs four years ago, he killed a policeman and then escaped to Dubai.

The second man, identified as Esmail Barani Piranvand, was sentenced to death in a prison in Iranshahr in the same province for the possession of 2.5 kilos of heroin, the state television website said.

Under Iranian law, the death penalty can be imposed for possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or five kilos of opium. Other death penalty offenses in Iran include blasphemy; apostasy; adultery; prostitution; homosexuality; and plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime, as well as murder, rape, and robbery.

Southeast Asia: Drug Crackdowns Spread HIV/AIDS, Experts Say

Repressive law enforcement responses to injection drug users in Southeast Asia are undermining the effort to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, analysts meeting in Bangkok said last week. Needle sharing among injection drug users could account for up to 50% of all new infections, they said.

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Thai embassy protest in Washington (DRCNet's David Guard in foreground)
Harassment and arrests of clients at needle exchange programs means many avoid them, while heavy-handed police crackdowns in places like Thailand have driven users deep underground, away from needle exchange programs and treatment services.

In Thailand, where a government "war on drugs" killed a reported 2,500 people over three months in 2003, police often blur the line between dealers and users, hindering efforts to treat addicts, said Precha Knokwan of the Thai Drug Users' Network. "The drug users themselves are afraid that they might be a victim of the police," he said.

It's a similar situation in Indonesia, where prisons are full of HIV-positive drug users who have no access to services, said Aditya Anugrah of the Indonesian Drug Users' Association. "Drug policies in Indonesia do not separate users from dealers," he said. That leads to needle-sharing and the spread of HIV, he said. "Our policies are focusing on sending people to jail and treating them as criminals rather than as health problems."

What is needed is harm reduction, but that requires the cooperation of governments and law enforcement, said Daniel Wolfe of the Open Society Institute. "Harm reduction measures can only work if law enforcement understands them and helps to enforce them," he said.

Editorial: Enough Already -- Stop Funding the Taliban Through Opium Prohibition

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
The drug war is in part a human rights issue. With half a million people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, with medical marijuana providers being hounded by the authorities, with needle exchange programs that are needed to save lives getting blocked, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy itself opposing San Francisco's proposed safe injection site (when did it become wrong to save lives?), with countries pressured by us to spray their lands with harmful chemicals to attack unstoppable drug crops, the United States through its drug policy has become a major human rights violator. It is a sad chapter.

We at DRCNet partly see drug reform as a human rights movement, and so ten years ago when very few Americans had heard of the Taliban, but the UN and the Clinton administration intended to fund them to do opium eradication, we condemned the Taliban in this newsletter and criticized the proposal. The fear of human rights advocates was that the brutal regime would be able to use the money to further establish its hold on power. Anyone who watched the footage of Taliban atrocities airing on US news stations after 9/11 can understand why that's a bad thing. Other reasons for opposing the Taliban are quite well known now.

Today we continue to fund the Taliban -- we don't say we do, we claim to be fighting them, we even send our soldiers to fight them in person -- but we are funding them. We are funding them by prohibiting drugs. Because drugs are illegal, they cannot be regulated, and so their source plants are grown wherever and by whomever is willing and able to gain a foothold in the market. For a large share of the global opium supply, at the moment that means Afghanistan. And the Taliban are cashing in on that.

And how. Just this week, a NATO commander said opium may provide as much as 40% of the Taliban's revenues, hundreds of millions of dollars -- some experts say it's more like 60%, he added. If opium-derived drugs were legal and regulated, that wouldn't happen. And governments are therefore at fault for creating a funding source for a movement that is destabilizing Afghanistan, that is abusing the rights of its people, and that may still be helping Al-Qaeda, all of this five years after we thought we had gotten rid of them for good.

US officials continue to press for more opium eradication, but experts agree that eradication helps the Taliban too, by driving the farmers into their arms -- of course while failing to reduce the opium crop, instead only moving it from place to place. And while Afghanistan's government has not unleashed all the eradication the US government wants, it has done enough to hurt. A hundred thousand Afghans are employed in the opium trade and don't have another way to make a living. We can't just tell them they can't grow opium anymore, and expect them to comply or that serious damage to the nation-building and counter-insurgency programs won't result.

Ten years ago, the west helped the Taliban for the sake of fighting the drug war. Today, the Taliban is an enemy, and we fight the drug war supposedly to fight them, but in the process instead help them -- see how no matter what direction the drug war compass points, one way or its opposite, it never points to anywhere good. That is why I say, enough already, stop funding the Taliban and other dangerous people through drug prohibition, legalize drugs to make this world a safer place.

Latin America: Citing Human Rights Abuses, Mexican Official Calls for Pulling Army Out of Drug War

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Mexican army drug patrol
Mexico's top human rights official called last Friday for an end to the use of the Mexican Army in President Felipe Calderón's war against powerful drug trafficking organizations. The army has committed numerous human rights violations, he said, including rape, robbery, torture and murder.

José Luis Soberanes, head of the governmental National Human Rights Commission, made the call for the removal of the military from Mexico's bloody drug war -- more than 1,500 people have been killed so far this year -- as he released reports on four widely-publicized incidents of human rights abuses by the military. They are:

Soldiers are not trained for law enforcement, Soberanes said, and should be replaced by civilian police. "A policeman is trained to deal daily with citizens," Soberanes said, "and in necessary cases uses gradual and measured force. A soldier, because of the delicate nature of his task, is physically and mentally trained to fight enemies and obey orders."

Faced with escalating violence among drug trafficking organizations and between them and Mexican police, President Calderón deployed the military in various cities and states in the country beginning late last year. Thousands of troops were sent to Michoacán, Sinaloa, and other drug producing states.

Soberanes made his remarks as the US General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report critical of US cooperation with Mexico to combat drug trafficking. That report, Drug Control: US Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts, But Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow Into the United States, found that 90% of cocaine entering the US now comes through Mexico. While critical of corruption and lack of effort on the Mexican side, too, it praised Calderón for deploying the military in the battle against the drug trade.

Amnesty International Hour - Colombia: Human Rights & Wars

This is a global radio webcast broadcasted from Cincinnati, OH on 88.3 FM WAIF and streamed live on the Internet via www.waifstream.com. The discussion features Paul Paz y Mino of Amnesty International and Sanho Tree, from the Institute for Policy Studies. For more info, contact Rob Ryan at 888-385-2843 or [email protected], or see www.waifstream.com.
Data: 
Thu, 09/13/2007 - 8:00pm - 9:00pm
Localização: 
United States

drug war killings

One of the articles we published in the Chronicle this morning is a newsbrief about investigations starting in Thailand about the 2,500 extra-judicial drug war killings. User "eco" has posted a couple of pictures in the comment section at the bottom of the page, with a link to a web site that has more. If you have the heart for it, you can see them here.
Localização: 
Thailand

Southeast Asia: Probe into Thai Drug War Killings Getting Underway

In early 2003, then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared that he would wipe out drugs in Thailand by spring's end. That didn't happen, but some 2,500 alleged drug users and traffickers were killed by shadowy death squads as part of the Thaksin government's drug war that year alone.

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2003 protest at Thai embassy, DRCNet's David Guard in foreground
With Thaksin overthrown by a military coup some months ago, the new Thai government has said it would investigate the killings. This week, the investigation took a step forward with the naming of former Attorney General Khanit Nakhon to lead an independent committee looking into the killings.

Justice Ministry permanent secretary Jarun Pukditanakul told theBangkok Post Saturday the commission will ask the Department of Special Investigation to provide information to help bring guilty officials to justice. ''The government has to give priority to this issue," he said. "Those who had a hand in the extra-judicial killings must be held responsible for their acts."

That sounded good to Somchai Homlaor, head of the Foundation for Human Rights and Development, who said the murders involved people from low-level policemen all the way up to former Prime Minister Thaksin. ''This is a big issue. The government should be serious about it,'' said the human rights activist.

Thaksin acted amidst growing concern over the rapid increase in the use of methamphetamine in Thailand early this decade. Known in Thailand as "ya ba," or "crazy medicine," the drug has been popular among workers, students, and night-clubbers. Thaksin's bloody offensive to wipe out drugs failed, of course, and methamphetamines are still widely available in Thailand, but 2,500 are dead. Now they just might get some justice.

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