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Vietnam Using Drug Takers as Slave Labor [FEATURE]

Vietnamese drug users detained by the police are held for years without due process, subjected to torture and physical violence, and forced to work as low- or no-wage labor in camps that are supposed to be drug treatment centers, according to an explosive new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch, which called for the camps to be closed and the prisoners released.

The report, The Rehab Archipelago: Forced Labor and Other Abuses in Drug Detention Centers in Southern Vietnam, documents the experience of people confined in 14 detention centers controlled by the government of Ho Chi Minh City. It found that the camps, which are mandated to treat and rehabilitate drug users are instead little more than forced labor camps where prisoners work six days a week processing cashew nuts, sewing clothes, and manufacturing other items.

Those who refuse to work or who violate camp rules are subject to punishments that Human Rights Watch said in some cases amounts to torture. It cited the experience of Quynh Luu, a former detainee who was caught trying to escape.

"First they beat my legs so that I couldn't run off again," Quynh said. "Then they shocked me with an electric baton and kept me in the punishment room for a month."

Quynh's case is hardly an exception, said the human rights monitoring organization, which talked to numerous current and former prisoners.

"People did refuse to work but they were sent to the disciplinary room. There they worked longer hours with more strenuous work, and if they balked at that work then they were beaten. No one refused to work completely," said Ly Nhan, who was detained in Nhi Xuan center in Ho Chi Minh City for four years.

"Work was compulsory," said Luc Ngan, who was a minor when he began more than three years in detention at Youth Center No. 2 in Ho Chi Minh City. "We produced bamboo furniture, bamboo products, and plastic drinking straws. We were paid by the hour for work -- eight-hour days, six days a week."

While workers were paid, they never saw the money, said Quynh, who spent five years at Center No. 3 in Binh Duong province. "On paper I earned 120,000 Vietnamese dollars a month, but they took it. The center staff said it paid for our food and clothes."

"If we opposed the staff they beat us with a one-meter, six-sided wooden truncheon. Detainees had the bones in their arms and legs broken. This was normal life inside," said Dong Ban, who was imprisoned for more than four years in Center No. 5 in Dak Nong province.

"Tens of thousands of men, women and children are being held against their will in government-run forced labor centers in Vietnam," said Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. "This is not drug treatment, the centers should be closed, and these people should be released."

The Vietnamese embassy in Washington did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The system of forced labor camps for drug users originated with "reeducation through labor" camps for drug users and prostitutes established after the North Vietnamese victory over the South in 1975. They received a renewed impetus in the mid-1990s as the government launched a campaign to eradicate "social evils," including drug use. Their numbers have grown as the Vietnamese economy has expanded, more than doubling from 56 in 2000 to 123 at the beginning of this year.

Perversely, international donations to support drug treatment centers and to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs have enabled the regime to continue to hold HIV-positive drug users against their will, even though Vietnamese law says they have the right to be released if they are not receiving appropriate medical care. Since 1994, international donors have sought to "build capacity," including training staff in drug treatment and support for HIV interventions, but Human Rights Watch reported that most centers offer no antiretroviral treatment or even basic medical care. The group cites various reports putting the number of HIV-positive detainees at between 15% and 60% of the detainee population.

The report contains testimonies from numerous detainees and former detainees who said they were sent to the centers without a formal hearing and without ever seeing a lawyer or judge. Some were sent to the camps after being arrested by police, while others were turned in by family members who "volunteered" them, believing they would get effective drug treatment there.

"I was caught by police in a roundup of drug users," said Quy Hop, who spent four years in the Binh Duc camp in Binh Phuoc province. "They took me to the police station in the morning and by that evening I was in the drug center. I saw no lawyer, no judge."

A small number of detainees voluntarily placed themselves in the centers to get drug treatment, but even they were not free to leave. Some reported that their detention was capriciously extended by camp managers or by changes in government policy.

Human Rights Watch was unable to provide the names of any foreign companies benefiting from detainee labor, saying "the lack of transparency or any publicly accessible list of companies that have contracts with these government-run detention centers made corroborating the involvement of companies difficult." But it did cite Vietnamese media reports as saying two Vietnamese companies, Son Long JSC, a cashew processing firm, and Tran Boi Production, which manufactures plastic goods, both used detainee labor. Neither company has replied to inquiries from Human Rights Watch, the group said.

"Forced labor is not treatment, and profit-making is not rehabilitation," Amon said. "Donors should recognize that building the capacity of these centers perpetuates injustice, and companies should make sure their contractors and suppliers are not using goods from these centers."

Besides calling on the government of Vietnam to shut down the camps, Human Rights Watch is seeking "an immediate, thorough, and independent investigation into torture, ill treatment, arbitrary detention, and other abuses in the country's drug detention centers." In addition, it wants the government to make public a list of all companies with contracts for detainee labor.

Human Rights Watch also calls on international donors to review their aid to the detention centers to ensure that it is not supporting programs that violate international human rights standards and urges companies working with the detention centers to end all relationships immediately.

"People who are dependent on drugs in Vietnam need access to community-based, voluntary treatment," Amon said. "Instead, the government is locking them up, private companies are exploiting their labor, and international donors are turning a blind eye to the torture and abuses they face."

Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam

Plan Merida Focus to Shift to Border Region [FEATURE]

US officials said this week in El Paso that the Merida Initiative to help Mexico strengthen its security forces and judicial system in their ongoing battle with criminal drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- will shift its focus to Mexico's border states. Other officials defended the "Fast and Furious" Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) gun-running scheme that resulted in weapons from the US being transferred to cartel members.

The remarks came at the eighth annual Border Security Conference at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), just across the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, one of the most deadly cities in the world in recent years because of prohibition-related violence plaguing Mexico. The conference is a joint undertaking of UTEP and US Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), a former El Paso sector Border Patrol head.

Somewhere around 40,000 people -- there are no official figures -- have been killed in the violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed tens of thousands of troops and federal police in December 2006 to confront the increasingly brazen cartels head on. Despite the killing or arrest of dozens of high-profile cartel leaders, the flow of drugs north and guns and cash south has continued largely unabated.

The Merida Initiative, unveiled in 2008, allocated $1.5 billion in US aid to fight the drug traffic. Some of that money was destined for Central America, where Mexican cartels are increasingly encroaching, but the bulk of it is going to Mexico. Much of the Mexico funding has gone to the military and different law enforcement agencies, but given that both the military and the Mexican police are deeply compromised by cartel corruption, it is questionable whether throwing more money at them will accomplish much.

Now, said US Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs assistant secretary William Brownfield in remarks reported by the El Paso Times, the emphasis will shift to Mexico's border states and their state and local police forces. That would be the best way advancing the goals of the initiative's four pillar strategy of disrupting the ability of the cartels to operate, enhancing Mexico's capacity to sustain the rule of law, creating a modern border infrastructure, and building resilient communities, he said.

The US-Mexico border. Drugs flow north, and cash, guns, and violence flow south. (Image via Wikimedia)
"This is where most of the cartels have focused their activities," Brownfield said Tuesday, adding that Plan Merida will continue no matter who wins next year's Mexican presidential election. "I want to make this clear, it does not matter if it is the PAN, the PRI or another party that wins the elections, the initiative will continue working, even if it undergoes some minor adjustments," he said. "We will proceed and we will succeed. We have no choice," he said.

Dallas ATF special agent in charge Robert Champion traced today's horrifying levels of violence not to Calderon's deployment of the troops at the end of 2006, but to conflicts that broke out when the Zetas, former Mexican special forces soldiers turned enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, turned on the Gulf Cartel.

"That's the genesis of where the violence began," said Champion.

Since then, Champion said, gun running has evolved from being a solely a border issue to being an issue as far north of the border as Indianapolis, St. Paul, and Atlanta.

"We now have organized arms trafficking rings," he said, adding that some of them use teenagers to smuggle weapons with the serial numbers erased.

Noting that the number of high powered rifles being smuggled into Mexico has increased dramatically in recent years, Champion felt compelled to defend ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, which has excited tremendous anger in Congress after it was found that guns smuggled in the operation ended up being used to kill a US Border Patrol agent and in at least two other killings in the US, as well as countless murders in Mexico. The operation was designed to track the weapons, which would lead to the cartels, but ATF lost track of many of them, effectively acting as an arms supplier for the cartels.

"We (ATF) were criticized because we only focused our efforts on attacking the suppliers of these weapons and when we wanted to expand our efforts and attack the criminal organizations, it worked out badly," Champion said by way of explanation.

Despite the determined optimism of US officials, others at the conference warned that the situation was deteriorating. Mexico is unable to retain effective control of parts of its national territory, they said.

The situation in Mexico "is starting to look like a civil war," said UTEP political science Professor Charles Boehmer. "Juarez is one of the hottest battlegrounds," he added.

Nearly 9,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence in Ciudad Juarez in the past two and a half years.

Mexicans are dying to supply the insatiable appetite for drugs north of the border, said Mexican officials. The easy availability of firearms isn't helping either, they said.

"That is what has brought about the violence -- the fight for control of US drug distribution," said Alejandro Poire, technical secretary to the Mexican National Security Council. "It's an unprecedented business opportunity for cartels in Mexico." The availability of weapons from the US has created a cartel "arms race," he added.

The conference featured lots of happy talk about how to win the Mexican drug war, but largely ignored the most radical option for doing so: legalizing the drug supply and sucking out the oxygen on which the cartels rely. That would not mortally wound the cartels, which are now morphing into all-around criminal enterprises, but it would cut off their main source of income. Maybe next year.

El Paso, TX
United States

Houston Deputies Kill Man Fleeing Drug Warrants

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to domestic drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at [email protected].]

A Houston, Texas, man attempting to evade US marshals seeking to arrest him on drug and other warrants was shot and killed by a Harris County sheriff's deputy last Friday afternoon. The man, as yet unnamed, becomes the 33rd person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Sky 2 News, citing law enforcement sources, a bounty hunter had tracked the man to a local motel and the US Marshals Service then tried to stop him, but he managed to escape. The man, driving a Nissan Cube, was cornered by deputies on Highway 6 at West Road.

According to KHOU 11 News, citing deputies on the scene, after they pulled over the vehicle, the driver started driving, hit one deputy, and tried to flee the scene. The deputies, "fearing for their lives," riddled the car with bullets, mortally wounding the driver, who sped through an intersection, then crashed into a curb. He died shortly thereafter at a local hospital.

Two deputies were injured in the incident, one who had his foot run over while directing traffic after the shooting and one was injured in a traffic accident en route to the scene. The deputy allegedly hit by the fleeing vehicle was apparently uninjured.

One man who saw the shooting go down said the driver did not actually hit a deputy, but "almost" did.

"I seen that cop turn his lights on and get behind the car, and I guess the car wouldn't stop. Actually, he almost ran over one of the cops and then they took fire on him. Boom, boom, boom, boom -- they shot out all the windows. I guess he got hit, and he ended up where he ended up," witness Moe Alyson told Sky 2 News.

KHOU 11 News reported that the man's wife later showed up the scene, where she was informed that he was dead. Deputies said the man knew he was being watched and told his wife he would soon be dead.

He was being pursued for at least four warrants, including drug possession, escape, and assault on his wife.

Houston, TX
United States

Western Australia Toughens Marijuana Laws

Marching boldly backward into the 20th Century, the Liberal-National state government in Western Australia announced Sunday that it will put into place more repressive marijuana laws as of August 1. Western Australia had effectively decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot under the previous Labor government, with violators ticketed and fined between $100 and $200.

But Police Minister Rob Johnson said those "relaxed, soft drug laws" would be repealed and replaced by a tougher regime. "What it will mean is that those people caught with cannabis will not simply get a slap on the wrist," he told reporters.

Under the new law, the personal use amount will shrink to 10 grams, and people caught with those small amounts will not be ticketed, but referred to court and will receive a Cannabis Intervention Requirement to attend a mandatory counseling session. People possessing more than 10 grams will face up to two years in prison or a $2,000 fine. Persons possessing more than 100 grams (less than a quarter-pound) will be charged with the Australian equivalent of possession with intent to distribute and could face up to two years in prison or a $20,000 fine.

But wait, there's more: Under Labor, the possession of up to two pot plants was treated as a ticketable offense, while under the new law, violators will face up to two years in prison. The new law also criminalizes pot paraphernalia sales, with fines of up to $10,000 for sales to adults and a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to $24,000 for sales to minors.

The Liberal-National government had complained that under the existing system, 95% of those ticketed chose to pay "the equivalent of a parking ticket" instead of attending educational sessions. "Hardly anybody ever turned up, so it just didn't work," Johnson said, adding that nearly a third of those who chose to be fined never paid up.

The Liberal-National state government has made its fight against illegal drugs a signature issue, and Johnson was in fine form Sunday. Johnson said to expect more drug initiatives in the near future. The rising number of methamphetamine labs in Western Australia is a hot issue, but it was all about marijuana Sunday.

"The amount of toxicity in cannabis is enormous these days and it's very damaging to people's brains," he said. "It can cause schizophrenia and create terrible mental health problems. The heady days of growing, rolling and smoking your own that was allowed under the previous Labor government are over," he said. "Under the new scheme, anyone caught will have no option but to attend a one-on-one intensive Cannabis Intervention Session within 28 days of the offense or face prosecution through the courts."

But opposition Labor Party police issues spokeswoman Margaret Quirk told the Sydney Morning Herald the government's move toward more repressive pot policies was misguided and an effort to deflect criticism over harder drugs.

"The only reason the government is making a big fuss of these laws now is it's under increasing pressure in relation to the growing amphetamine problem," she said, adding that drug labs were exploding in the Perth suburbs." The new pot laws were a "nice, symbolic thing for the government to do to show they're tough on drugs" but it was much harder to get on top of the amphetamine problem, she said. "It's all about the smoke and mirrors, it's not about really targeting our laws where they're needed," Quirk said.

Labor wasn't alone in criticizing the new law. The Australian Lawyers Alliance quickly stepped up to rip into it.

"There is nothing novel about this approach," Alliance spokesman for Western Australia Tom Percy told Western Australia Today. "It will take no toll against crime. We're fighting an old war, lost a long time ago. To say you plan to fight drugs by increasing penalties is like going into a nuclear war armed with medieval weapons. It makes no difference and is nothing more than a political stunt. It's hardly a serious act that will have the drug overlords quaking in their boots," he said. "A public campaign will be far more successful than increasing the penalties."

For a few years in the past decade, Western Australia was looked to as an example of how to implement progressive marijuana law reforms. Not any more, at least not until the current state government is replaced.

Perth
Australia

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 38,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Bust after bust... and still no impact besides more violence. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Thursday, June 2

In Nadadores, Coahuila, soldiers confiscated a massive weapons cache which included 154 assault rifles, an RPG launcher, over 60,000 rounds of ammunition and four mortar rounds.

In New York City, a panel of high-profile personalities declared the War on Drugs "a failure" and called for a shift in policies, including decriminalization and a more public health-oriented response. The Global Commission on Drug Policy includes several former Presidents. Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo was among them.

Saturday, June 5

In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were murdered in separate incidents. In one incident, witnesses claim that a man was killed by federal agents after having been taken into one of their patrol cars. The still unidentified man was later found beaten to death.

In the town of Delicias, Chihuahua, six people were killed, including three men who were ambushed by heavily armed gunmen wielding AK-47s.

In Cuernavaca, a group of marching protestors led by writer Javier Sicilia started moving towards Ciudad Juarez, where they are expected on June 10. In late March, Javier Sicilia's son was killed near Cuernavaca alongside several friends.

Sunday, June 6

In Ciudad Juarez, a journalist was shot and killed in a store parking lot. Alan Eduardo Rico Flores, 22, was in a vehicle with four friends when a hooded gunman opened fire on them with an assault rifle, killing him and wounding two others. No arrests have yet been made.

Tuesday, June 7

In Torreon, 11 young people were killed after gunmen attacked a rehab clinic for drug and alcohol abuse. According to reports, at least five vehicles full of gunmen arrived at the clinic and spent about half an hour there. Two people were wounded and taken to the local Red Cross, which was soon heavily guarded by the Mexican army.

In Mexico City, prosecutors said they have officially charged former Tijuana mayor Hank Rhon with illegal weapons possession. He was arrested Saturday. Soldiers discovered some 40 rifles, 48 handguns, and almost 10,000 rounds of ammunition inside his residence. Only 10 were registered, only 5 of which were registered to him. Rhon, a billionaire whose properties include a private zoo, has long been suspected of corruption. He was mayor from 2004-2007.

Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last year's. As of this month, we believe the total death toll has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,883

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 38,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Drug prohibition funds the bloody mayhem in Mexico (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Wednesday, May 22

In Nayarit, 29 people were killed during ferocious clashes between rival groups. Of the dead, 17 were found stacked in the bed of a pick-up truck. Many of the dead were wearing military-style ballistic vests and dark clothing. In the past, much of the fighting in Nayarit has been between El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.

In Michoacan, over 1,800 people fled the village of Buenavista because of heavy fighting between the Mexican military and gunmen from an unknown cartel.

Saturday, May 25

In Texas, a Bexar County sheriff’s sergeant was killed by a gunman who opened fire on his patrol car with an automatic weapon, possibly an AK-47 similar to those favored by Mexican cartel gunmen. The incident is being investigated as possibly being connected with Mexican criminal organizations.

In Apatzingan, Michoacan, a Mexican Air Force MD530 helicopter crashed during operations against drug traffickers. It was originally reported the helicopter had crashed after being struck by gunfire, but the Mexican military has denied this.

In Acapulco, five gunmen were killed in a fire fight with members of the municipal police.

Sunday, May 26

In Saltillo, Coahuila, the offices of Vanguardia newspaper were attacked with a hand grenade. Nobody was injured in the attack, which appears to have been intended to intimidate the local media. In January 2010, Valentin Valdes, a local reporter, was executed after being kidnapped by two trucks full of gunmen.

In Ciudad Juarez, nine people were murdered. Among the dead was a female who worked for the police department who was shot at a gas station. Four others were wounded, including the victim's mother and sister.

Monday, May 30

In Ciudad Juarez, a girl of six years old was among five people who were murdered. The girl died in the hospital after being shot when a Jeep Cherokee pulled alongside her family's car and opened fire. Some reports indicate that a federal police patrol car was in front of the vehicle, but that they somehow didn’t notice the attack.

Tuesday, May 31

In Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexican police arrested 25 people for being members of or helping the Zetas. Among those detained are 10 police officers, including a police chief and two senior officers. The arrests were made after suspects detained on Sunday in the nearby mountains told police that they received protection from the police chief and some members of his command.

In Manzanillo, 54 tons of meth precursor chemicals were found in shipping containers which had come from China. Manzanillo is a major port of entry for precursor chemicals from Asia which are then taken to large-scale meth labs for meth production.

Wednesday, June 1

In El Salvador, the country's defense minister said that Mexican cartels are attempting to buy assault rifles, grenades, and other military-grade weaponry from members of the security forces. Last week, Salvadoran NCO’s and four enlisted soldiers were arrested and stand accused of attempting to steal 1,812 grenades from a military facility.

Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last years. As of this month, we believe the total death toll has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,883

Mexico

Escalating Drug Prohibition Violence in Northern Mexico Overwhelms Authorities

Location: 
Mexico
Northern Mexico’s drug prohibition war continues to claim victims, with more than 360 bodies discovered in mass graves just last week. The situation in Northern Mexico is devolving into chaos as prohibition-created organizations fight for control of the lucrative Northern Mexico drug route into the United States. The Mexican government is powerless to end the violence. Overpowered authorities basically have abandoned the area, recognizing their inability to restore any sort of order to the area.
Publication/Source: 
Newsmax (FL)
URL: 
http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Mexico-drug-violence-cartels/2011/05/19/id/397041

At Least Seven Police Officers Died for Drug Prohibition Last Year [FEATURE]

Last Friday, thousands of police from across the country, as well as civilians, gathered in downtown Washington, DC, for a candlelight vigil to honor law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the course of their duties. The event was a highlight of National Police Week, sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Fund, which is set up to honor those who have died.

2009 NLEOMF ceremony (oregon.gov)
There were plenty to remember. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 158 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year. Not all of them were killed by criminals. Forty-three died in auto accidents, 12 died of heart attacks, seven were struck by vehicles, five died in motorcycle accidents, four died in vehicle pursuits, two each died of falls, aircraft accidents, and accidental gunshot wounds, and one each died of heat exhaustion, unspecified accident, training accident and boating accident.

According to FBI statistics released Monday, 56 of those law enforcement deaths were felonious, 55 by gunfire and one by motor vehicle. According to a Drug War Chronicle analysis, seven of those deaths were related to drug law enforcement. Our parameters are conservative, but unavoidably subjective, fuzzy, and open to challenge. Those incidents where officers were killed because of the way we address illicit drug use and sales are:

  • On May 3, 2010, Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff was shot and killed after responding to a 3:30am report of shots fired at "a drug house." Huff and several other officers surrounded the house. When Huff and other officers made entry, they were hit by gunfire. Huff was killed, and four other officers were wounded. The suspect, who was also wounded, was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
  • On May 20, 2010, West Memphis, Arkansas, Police Officer Bill Evans and Sgt. Brandon Paudert, who were working drug interdiction on Interstate 40, were shot and killed when they pulled over a vehicle carrying a heavily armed father and son with a serious grudge against the government. When the two officers ordered the men out of the vehicle, a struggle ensued and they were both killed by fire from an AK-47. The suspects fled, but both were later killed in separate shoot-outs with law enforcement. The Crittenden County sheriff and one of his deputies were wounded in one of the shoot-outs.
  • On July 21, 2010, George County, Mississippi, Sheriff Garry Welford was struck and killed by a vehicle being pursued by deputies. The driver of the vehicle was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear for sentencing on a narcotics charge. The driver and his passenger were later arrested and charged in connection with Welford's death
  • On July 28, 2010, Chandler, Arizona, Police Officer Carlos Luciano Ledesma was shot and killed while conducting an undercover "reverse" sting operation in Phoenix. Working with two other undercover officers, Ledesma was attempting to sell 500 pounds of marijuana when the suspects came out firing. The other officers were able to return fire, killing two suspects and taking six others into custody. The two other officers were also wounded.
  • On November 14, 2010, Green County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Kevin Roberts was shot and killed at his home by the target of a narcotics investigation the sheriff's office was undertaking. The subject had gone to his home and knocked on the door at about 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. When Chief Deputy Roberts answered the door he was fatally shot by the man, who then killed himself.

If these seven deaths all qualify as drug war-related, that means police killed as part of the drug war account for 12.5% of all felonious officer deaths. The number may seem small -- only seven dead officers -- but that is seven officers who most likely would not be dead today but for drug prohibition. And nobody seems to know how many were wounded, sometimes with grave consequences, but it is almost certain to exceed the number killed.

[Editor's Note: Nor is anybody counting how many civilians are being killed in the name of drug law enforcement -- except for Drug War Chronicle. This year, we are tallying every reported death due to US domestic drug law enforcement operations. Just for perspective, so far, we have 25 dead civilians and two dead law enforcement officers.]

"One dead police officer is too many in my book, said Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland State Police who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "If we can save one life through drug policy reform, it's worth it to me."

"I may have to die as a cop, but I certainly don't want to die just because some 13-year-old is slinging crack," said Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer and author of Cop in the Hood, who is now on the faculty of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

There are ways to reduce that likelihood, both men said. They range from harm reduction measures such as decriminalizing marijuana possession, decriminalizing all drug possession, and providing heroin maintenance for addicts, to rebuilding police-community relations, especially in the inner cities, to revisiting and revising police tactics, particularly SWAT-style no-knock raids and perhaps those "reverse sting" operations, to shifting police resources and priorities.

"Why are the cops selling pot?" asked an incredulous Moskos as he reviewed the killing of Chandler Police Officer Ledesma in a "reverse sting" gone horribly awry. "Why sell 500 pounds of marijuana? What were you hoping to do?"

"We're starting to see marijuana decriminalization in more states, and I think that's important," said Franklin, citing New York City's policy of mass stop and frisks and mass marijuana possession arrests, almost always against young people of color. "If more states starting moving toward decriminalization, we could relieve some of the pressure from this steaming tea kettle. That would make for a more relaxed environment between police and young people. Prohibition has made our communities extremely tense and dangerous, and the cops are on edge. We have to rebuild this relationship."

"We can fight the war on drugs less," said Moskos. "Police do have discretion. They can focus on other crimes and shift resources accordingly."

And they could rethink the gung-ho paramilitary raids, said Moskos. "I always think of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco," he said. "They could have just picked him up at McDonald's. But from the cop perspective, these raids are pretty safe. They represent a shift in police mentality. They're not so safe for civilians, but that's a risk police are willing to take. They would rather have collateral damage than damage to their own ranks."

Both Franklin and Moskos said that only counting incidents where there is a direct drug war connection probably results in undercounting the number of police officers killed because of drug prohibition. The case of Georgia State Patrol Officer Chadwick LeCoy, which didn't make the list, is illustrative of the broader impact of decades of drug war on the safety of police. LeCroy was shot and killed after a short vehicle pursuit on December 27. He wasn't enforcing the drug laws, but the driver who killed him had extensive experience with the criminal justice system, including prior drug, firearms, and eluding police convictions.

Given the millions of drug arrests in the past few decades, the tens of millions of years worth of prison sentences handed out, the lives knocked off track by a drug-based encounter with the criminal justice system, it is no leap of the imagination to think there are plenty of people out there nursing very serious grudges -- grudges that might manifest themselves as attacks on police even if there is no immediate drug link.

"Maybe we need a separate category: this would not have occurred if drugs were not illegal," said Moskos. "If someone has a long record because of drugs and then shoots at a cop at traffic stop, that could fit that category. Police get the brunt of it because of the war on drugs."

"These decades of drug war have poisoned the well," said Franklin, recalling his teenage years in Baltimore. The kids would be hanging out, and when the patrol car rolled around the corner, they would chat and joke with the officer before he went on his way, he said.

"Now, in that same neighborhood, when a police call turns the corner, the first thing you hear is shouts of '5-0' and everyone scatters," he related. "If I tried to talk to them, they were very standoffish and using words you don't want to repeat. It's a very antagonistic and uncomfortable situation; you can feel the tension. They will tell you they don't trust the police and that the police mainly come into their neighborhoods to search them, their cars, and their homes for drugs. The foundation for this separation of police and community is our drug policies and the environment they create."

There are ways to reduce the death toll, both law enforcement and civilian, in the war on drugs. We know what they are and how important the task is. The problem is political will. And the very law enforcement organizations whose officers' lives could be saved are among the biggest obstacles to change.

[Click here for a Flickr slideshow from the 2011 NLEOMF Candlelight Vigil.)

Drug Warriors Gun Down Young Father (Opinion)

Location: 
AZ
United States
James Peron, President of the Moorfield Storey Institute, recounts the recent drug prohibition related death of a young husband, father, and Iraq veteran who was shot at 71 times by heavily armed men who then allegedly prevented medical assistance from being given until he was dead. The heavily armed men were from the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Another drug raid gone bad.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/jose-guerena_b_863278.html

Mexico Drug Prohibition Baron Named 'World’s Most Wanted' After Osama's Death

Location: 
Mexico
Enriched by drug prohibition, Joaquin Guzman Loera reportedly possesses a personal fortune capable of rivalling Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Loera is believed to be responsible for more deaths in the United States than bin Laden because of his drug transportation business and the inherent dangers associated with it created by prohibition.
Publication/Source: 
DailyIndia.com (FL)
URL: 
http://www.dailyindia.com/show/440356.php

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