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Europe: British Conservatives Call For Legal, Licensed Afghan Opium Production As Troop Toll Mounts

Using the occasion of a visit to Afghanistan this week by Conservative Party leader David Cameron, several leading Tory Members of Parliament urged him to push for legal, licensed opium production in that war-torn country, The Guardian reported. The calls came as at least six British soldiers have been killed this summer battling a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan's southern opium-producing provinces and echo the position first elaborated last year by the Senlis Council, an international security and development group.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
In concert with the Americans, NATO forces have taken responsibility for security in Afghanistan's Taliban-friendly south, and now Tory MPs are complaining that the coalition's insistence on eradicating the opium crop is endangering the lives of British soldiers. With opium accounting for nearly half of the national economy, farmers and traffickers alike are fighting to save their livelihoods, and sometimes turning to the Taliban for protection.

"The poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem," Tory whip Tobias Ellwood told the Guardian. "We're in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working. Last year we spent $600 million on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country."

Instead, Ellwood said, opium farming should be licensed, with the harvest being sold legally in the open. That would help farmers, address a global shortage of opioid pain medications, and limit the supply of opium to the black market, where, after being processed into heroin, much of it finds its way into the veins of European junkies. According to Ellwood, the licensed opium plan has the support of several Conservative MPs and senior military figures in Afghanistan.

Conservative leader Cameron has been open to outside-the-box thinking on drug policy issues. He has called for prescription heroin and even urged the United Nations to consider legalizing drugs.

The Guardian quoted one unidentified NGO worker who has traveled extensively in Helmand province as saying that eradication efforts were merely driving peasants to join the Taliban. "The better-off farmers pay local commanders bribes so they don't have to eradicate, but the others have their main source of income cut off," said the worker, who did not wish to be named because of the danger of being identified in southern Afghanistan. "Then the Taliban come to their villages and say, 'We will pay your son to work for us and give him weapons and food.' If you look at the timing of the eradication programs and the flare-ups of the violence, often it happens in the same week."

The NGO worker said Taliban members had been spotted walking the streets armed in broad daylight in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gar, and that Arab fighters had been spotted within 10 miles of the capital. "We're pouring gas on the flames of the violence with this eradication campaign. By alienating the locals we're playing into a sophisticated political plan on the part of al-Qaida and the Taliban to destabilize southern Afghanistan. The political naivety of the international community in doing this is mind-boggling," the worker said.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. Cops getting arrested, cops pleading guilty, cops going to prison. And, of course, the ever-present drug-dealing prison guard. Let's get to it:

In Miami, three Boston police officers were arrested last Thursday after taking $35,000 to protect a cocaine shipment in an FBI sting operation. Ringleader Robert Pulido, 41, and fellow officers Carlos Pizarro, 36, and Nelson Carrasquillo, 35, traveled to Miami to celebrate their drug protection deal and plot more deals with undercover narcs they thought were cocaine traffickers, the Associated Press reported. Pulido allegedly got into a variety of criminal activities, with his junior partners sometimes joining in. Those offenses include protecting drug shipments, identity theft, sponsoring illegal after-hours parties with prostitutes, money laundering and insurance fraud, according to prosecutors. They are in jail awaiting an August 2 removal hearing.

In Deming, New Mexico, a Luna County Sheriff's Deputy was arrested Tuesday on methamphetamine possession charges after he took the dope off a man during a traffic stop, but never turned it in as evidence, the Luna County Sun-News reported. Deputy Tommy Salas, 33, turned himself in Tuesday afternoon and was release on $7,500 bail on one count of meth possession. Salas had been on paid administrative leave since June 9, when the sheriff's office and local prosecutors opened an investigation into "discrepancies" in the traffic case. Another officer at the scene had watched Salas take the drugs from the driver and heard him vow to turn them in, but it never happened.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Warren County prison guard was arrested Monday for accepting drugs and money to be smuggled in to a prison inmate, Cincinnati's Fox19-TV reported. Corrections Officer Michael Miller, 37, went down after accepting marijuana and $600 from an undercover agent, capping what local police said was a three-month investigation. Miller is charged with two felony counts of conveyance of drugs and is in "mandatory incarceration" because he is a corrections officer.

In Laredo, Texas, a former drug task force deputy commander pleaded guilty last Friday to extortion charges for accepting tens of thousands of dollars from drug dealers to protect their operations. According to the Associated Press, Julio Alfonso Lopez, 45, accepted at least $44,500 from his middleman with the traffickers, Meliton Valadez, who has already been convicted for his role in the scheme. The pair were also accused of providing sensitive police information to traffickers and providing storage spots for cocaine shipments. Lopez pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis police officer has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy, the Associated Press reported. Former officer Antoine Gordon was convicted in an April trial of checking police databases to see if people buying heroin from the drug ring leader were working as snitches for police. Gordon was one of 19 people who have pleaded guilty to drug or weapons charges in the case.

Colombia to Aid in Afghan Drug War

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Washington Times
URL: 
http://washingtontimes.com/national/20060725-110053-5562r.htm

Pressure Mounts on Karzai as Afghan Violence Surges

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-07-23T053339Z_01_ISL42604_RTRUKOC_0_UK-AFGHAN-KARZAI.xml&archived=False

Drug Gangsters Immortalized in Song

The Associated Press reported Saturday on Colombia's "narco-ballads," songs that "pay lyrical homage to the lifestyles of the rich and dangerous: drug-lords, assassins, leftist rebels and far-right warlords," according to the story. Among the thugs being rhapsodized in song are two of the most murderous, Carlos Castano, who founded the infamous right-wing paramilitary movement that has massacred tens of thousands, and Pablo Escobar, who murdered hundreds of Colombia government officials and once had an airplane blown up in order to take out two people who were on it.
"These songs are about what's happening in our country, we sing about the paramilitaries, the rebels and the drug-traffickers and they all love it," said Uriel Hennao, the king of the genre, responsible for such anthems as "Child of the Coca," "I Prefer a Tomb in Colombia (to a jail cell in the US)" and "The Mafia Keeps Going."
One of the more pernicious consequences of drug prohibition is the glorification that ends up accruing to violent criminals. I don't know enough about the culture in Colombia and among the people who like this music to know whether they are listening in admiration of drug lords like Escobar and terrorists like Castano or simply because, as Hennao said, it's about what's going on in their country, so I'm not going to pass judgment on either artist or audience. But I don't think it's good for any country to be in that kind of a place. I wrote about this phenomenon here in the US (a situation not involving music, but the same cultural corruption idea) in February 2005 in Boston, before moving to Washington, the case of a gangster named Darryl Whiting who by the account of the prosecutor who put him away was someone who lured young people into lives of crime. The prosecutor, Wayne Budd, was the same guy who had brought federal civil rights charges against the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. But getting Whiting off the streets, he said, was one of the things he was most proud of. I saw Budd speak on a panel at Harvard -- he predictably did not express agreement with my contention that legalization would have been the way to keep Darryl Whiting and people like him from ever getting into that position. But legalization is what is needed for that purpose. Alcohol prohibition turned Al Capone into a pop hero, and drug prohibition is doing the same thing to top-level gangsters now, even if they don't become as well known to mainstream, majority society as Capone did.
Location: 
Colombia

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Massachusetts State Police sergeant goes to prison, a former Milwaukee detective cops a plea, a Virginia sheriff's deputy gets busted, and so do a pair of would-be drug-dealing prison guards. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Norfolk, Massachusetts, a former Massachusetts State Police sergeant was sentenced to 15 years in prison July 12 after pleading guilty to one count of trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine and one count of larceny of more than $250. Sergeant Timothy White, who had worked at the Framingham State Police barracks Narcotics Inspection Unit, had been stealing cocaine from the unit to sell and use. White went down in flames in 2002, when he assaulted his now former wife in the middle of cocaine binge, and his troubles only deepened when police raiding his home in 2003 found a pound of missing cocaine there. He has already been sentenced to 2 ½ years for the assault.

In Greensville County, Virginia, a Greensville County Sheriff's deputy was indicted July 12 on federal drug dealing charges. Deputy Timothy Williams, 35, is charged with conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, powder cocaine and marijuana. According to the indictment, Williams used his position to seize drugs from dealers and then handed them over to his co-conspirators to be resold on the street. He is also accused of extorting money from drug dealers by threatening to arrest them if they didn't pay up.

In Milwaukee, a former Milwaukee Police detective agreed to plead guilty July 12 to federal cocaine distribution charges, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Former Detective Larry White, 35, was charged with ferrying drugs from Illinois to Wisconsin for his brother-in-law on several occasions. According to an FBI affidavit in the case, White made $1,000 a trip. He now faces a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

In Kershaw, South Carolina, a Lancaster County prison guard was charged with taking what he thought was Ecstasy from undercover agents to sneak into the prison, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced in a July 12 press release. Joseph Sanders, 29, was arrested the night before and charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner. According to the arrest warrant, Sanders took the fake drug from the SLED narc with the intention of smuggling it into the prison.

In Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a Franklin County Prison guard was arrested July 7 in a state police sting aimed at preventing the illegal delivery of Oxycontin to inmates, according to the Cumberland Sentinel. The unnamed guard faces charges of attempting to obtain the medication for sale at the prison, but those charges had yet to be filed.

Bribery at Border Worries Officials (US-Mexico)

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Washington Post
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/14/AR2006071401525.html

DRCNet in Afghanistan

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Drug War Chronicle
URL: 
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/afghanistan/index.shtml

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