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Middle East: After Lebanon War, Israeli Cannabis Prices Spike

During last summer's 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, some Israeli hash smokers called for a boycott of Lebanese hash. Now that hostilities have ceased, however, Israeli hash heads have a new problem: The stuff is just too damned expensive.

According to an article published in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and picked up by various news agencies, supply disruptions during the war and increased border security since then -- not only on the Lebanese border, but also those with the Palestinian Territories and Egypt -- have caused the price of cannabis to spike eight-fold.

Smoking and selling cannabis are illegal but popular activities in Israel.

The report on increased prices came during a briefing on security and drug trafficking at an Israeli village near the Lebanese border. "While we are sitting here, dozens of kilos of drugs are making their way into Israel through the village," an unnamed Israeli security officer told the newspaper. The official also claimed that Hezbollah militants not only smuggle the drugs, but use the commerce to gather intelligence along the border.

The hash shortage and resulting high prices are only aggravated by the security crackdown in Gaza and along the Egyptian border. Conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces to deter arms smuggling into Gaza, the crackdown is putting a damper on the extra-legal cross-border cannabis trade, too.

Bogota Targets Europe in Cocaine-Awareness Drive

United States
Financial Times

Bush: Stay the Course in Colombia

President Bush never tires of spending our tax dollars losing not winning various wars. Now he wants to give Colombia another $600 million International Herald Tribune reports.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns calls it a strategy adjustment:

"In any counterterrorism or counter-narcotics campaign you sometimes have to adjust strategy to be effective as conditions change," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters in Bogota, announcing the White House was seeking to maintain current levels of support for its caretaker in the war on drugs through 2008. "We'll be open to any suggestions the Colombian government makes."

I think what he meant to say was that we refuse to adjust our strategy and we’re not open to suggestions. And what does he mean "as conditions change"? Nothing's changed since Plan Colombia began eight years ago . That’s the problem.

Meanwhile the police we trained with the last $600 million are getting killed systematically. Sound familiar?

United States

Opium Plan Poppycock, Experts Say

Ottawa, ON
Ottawa Sun

WOLA/USOC Press Release: Planning Murders While Negotiating Peace: Colombian Attorney General’s Office Releases Report on Evidence Found In Paramilitary Leader Rodrigo “Jorge 40” Tovar’s Laptop

From the Washington Office on Latin America and US Office on Colombia: Planning Murders While Negotiating Peace: Colombian Attorney General’s Office Releases Report on Evidence Found In Paramilitary Leader Rodrigo “Jorge 40” Tovar’s Laptop Who is “Jorge 40” and why is his computer so important? Rodrigo “Jorge 40” Tovar Pupo is one of the most powerful paramilitary commanders in Colombia, long-time head of the Bloque Norte of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). He was a lead negotiator with the Colombian government in the paramilitary peace process and is currently under official custody in the detention center in La Ceja, Antioquia, along with the top paramilitary commanders who are waiting to be legally processed under the Justice and Peace law. The computer in question was recovered when Tovar’s right hand man, a paramilitary known as “Don Antonio”, was arrested roughly seven months ago and his laptop was confiscated. The information on this computer sheds light on paramilitaries’ power structures, their involvement in criminal activities, and their links to politicians and to State security forces. What information did Colombian authorities find in “Jorge 40”’s laptop? According to the Washington Post, the internal investigative report by the Attorney General’s Office in Colombia released this month shows how unemployed farmers were paid to act like paramilitary combatants and to participate in demobilization ceremonies while real combatants continued committing crimes. The computer also contains a list of 558 individuals killed by paramilitaries during the cease-fire period. These are persons killed in just one region of Colombia (Atlántico) while paramilitaries were negotiating peace with the government. It provides evidence of paramilitaries’ involvement in the cocaine trade and reveals that the paramilitaries were awarded a number of profitable government contracts during the period. The information found in this computer is highly problematic because it provides evidence of the links paramilitaries have to local, regional and national politicians. This month, Colombia’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into three members of the Colombian Congress (Senators Jairo Merlano and Álvaro García and Representative Eric Morris of Sucre) for alleged links with the paramilitaries. The information found in this computer shows how paramilitaries continued to participate in illegal criminal activities throughout the negotiation and demobilization with impunity. Will the victims of the violence perpetrated by “Jorge 40”’s men obtain justice? Colombian President Álvaro Uribe recently issued a decree which will allow demobilized paramilitaries to reduce their sentences to less than 5 – 8 years. Paramilitaries will be allowed to discount from their sentences time served in the negotiation center and their working in productive projects. The decree issued was meant to clarify interpretation of the Colombian Constitutional Court decision with regards to the Justice and Peace law. Instead it disregards key aspects of the Court’s ruling. What type of justice have victims’ families received so far? On a recent trip to Colombia, WOLA staff spoke with an internally displaced Kankuamo indigenous leader from the Sierra Nevada (an area controlled by Jorge 40’s men). This IDP leader became forcibly displaced after watching his wife and daughter be raped by paramilitaries. His family still cannot return to their lands because of threats from ‘demobilized’ paramilitaries; meanwhile, the rapist, a mid-level paramilitary who was also wanted for 17 murders, served 2 months in jail and was released. Under the new decree, victims of paramilitary crimes committed should be notified of the legal processes against the accused so they can testify. However, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the public notifications issued by the Attorney General’s Office are not being broadcast nationally via radio and television. In addition, they give only 20 days for witnesses to come forward. There are also no provisions to protect those who testify, making it extremely dangerous to do so. The decree also makes individual reparations virtually impossible – so those who have had land stolen by these groups will have little hope of ever getting it back. It is unclear how the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, that include Afro-Colombian and indigenous persons who according to Colombian laws have rights over their territories, will ever have the opportunity to return to their homes if stolen land is not turned in by the paramilitaries. Current U.S. funding to the Colombian paramilitary demobilization The U.S. Congress has approved funding for the Colombian paramilitary demobilization process for up to $20 million in the Appropriations Act for FY 2006. The largest component of this funding is earmarked for reintegration of ex-combatants. The current productive programs for reinserted paramilitaries proposed by the Colombian government have been widely criticized by victims’ organizations. There is concern that some of these productive projects will be implemented on land appropriated by paramilitary groups. It is important that the effectiveness and impact of this funding is carefully monitored by Members of the U.S. Congress to ensure that U.S. funding does not contribute to the strengthening of criminal networks in Colombia. Recommendations · Closely monitor the paramilitary demobilization process and raise concerns about this process to the Department of State (DOS), USAID and Colombian government officials. Congress must make certain that the conditions laid out for assistance to Colombia in the Appropriations Act are being met – this requires the full dismantlement of paramilitary structures and appropriate progress on the process of bringing ex-combatants to justice. · Continue to express support for the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations. · Ensure that U.S. funding of productive projects in Colombia through USAID is not financing projects that allow ex-paramilitaries to consolidate their political power in regions of Colombia and to develop their illegally acquired land holdings. USAID programs must take into account and strengthen the territorial rights of Afro-Colombians and indigenous persons. For more information: October 17, 2006 article by Juan Forero, Washington Post Foreign Service “In Colombia, a Dubious Disarmament” http://www.wola.org/Colombia/article_dubious_disarmament.htm October 13, 2006 article by Hugh Bronstein, Reuters “Colombian warlord incriminated by his own laptop” http://www.wola.org/Colombia/article_Jorge_40_Laptop.htm October 12, 2006 press release by Colombian Commission of Jurists “CCJ asks for changes in the process for notifying of victims of paramilitaries” http://www.wola.org/Colombia/CCJ_release_paramilitary_victims.htm October 4 press release by Colombian Commission of Jurists “In spite of the changes, the Government continues to ignore the Constitutional Court decision in regulating law 975” http://www.wola.org/Colombia/CCJ_release_law_975.htm Contact: Heather Hanson, Executive Director U.S. Office on Colombia 202-232-8090 Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Senior Associate for Colombia and Haiti Washington Office on Latin America 202-797-2171

MP calls for licensing of opium--Afghanistan's huge opium trade should be licensed as a way to undermine the Taleban, a Tory MP has suggested.

United Kingdom
BBC News

Rumsfeld Urged to Change Afghan Drug Trade Policy

Washington, DC
United States
USA Today

People are Getting Beheaded in Mexico

It’s horrible. But there’s nothing very surprising about it. The drug war promises endless violence and always delivers. Pablo Escobar killed three presidential candidates in the same election and blew up an entire passenger plane to kill two snitches.

This year beheadings are popular. I wonder what people would say if things like this were happening on American soil:

In the most horrendous instance, drug lord gangs busted into a nightclub, toting rifles, and rolled five heads across the dance floor, terrifying onlookers.

People were surprised, but I’m sure everyone knew what it was all about. This kind of thing has been commonplace ever since the drug war began.

Various anti-immigration bloggers are now citing these incidents as evidence that our borders must be secured, for fear that Mexicans will come to America and start cutting peoples’ heads off.

It’s a bit silly, because the worst drug traffickers have no reason to leave Mexico. They’ve got the run of the place. The people crossing the border are poor folks who come here for economic opportunities, less-overt corruption, and white picket fences that don’t have severed heads impaled on them.

If you’re concerned about immigration, note that our drug war incentivizes traffickers to dig tunnels and cut holes in the fence.

If you don’t want your tax-dollars spent educating foreigners, note that you’re footing the bill to train counter-narcotics police in Colombia that just get massacred ten at a time.

And if you’re troubled by all the beheadings near our border, note that our current policy ensures their continuation for the remainder of human history.

Stopping the drug war is our only chance to defund drug terrorists and bring a close to this global catastrophe.

United States

Ok, Now I'm Pissed

This is outrageous:

The Chicago Crime Commission will hold its Stars of Distinction, 2006 Awards Dinner to recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions in fighting crime. DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy will accept the Education Award along with Museum for Science and Industry partners responsible for bringing “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Danger Drugs Cause” to Chicago.

The Chicago Crime Commission, whose motto is "combating crime since 1919" ought to know a thing or two about prohibition. It’s Chicago for crying out loud. That they would give an award to the head of the DEA for putting together an exhibit blaming drug users for 9/11 demonstrates a dramatic misunderstanding of every issue the commission works on.

What kind of non-profit gives awards to Washington bureaucrats for excellence in the field of smarmy government propaganda?

The whole thing reeks of string pulling. I’m convinced that this epic travesty is a convenient PR move in response to Pete Guither’s terrific campaign against the exhibit.

So I wasn't surprised to discover that Peter Bensinger, former head of DEA, is on the Chicago Crime Commission’s board of directors.

Coincidence? Hell no.

Afterthought: It’s super annoying that this ridiculous exhibit is now an award-winning ridiculous exhibit. But the Bensinger connection proves this is political, which in turn proves that Pete Guither’s efforts genuinely rattled these guys. Nice job, Pete!

United States

Afghanistan's Opium Production 'Soaring Out of Control,' UN Agency Warns

Associated Press

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