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Latin America: Mexican Drug War Targets Informal Saints of the Poor and the Narcos

Beware San Malverde! Watch out, Santa Muerte! The enemies of Mexico's violent and thriving illicit drug trade are after you. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last weekend that Mexican authorities destroyed dozens of religious shrines paying homage to Santa Muerte (Saint Death), an informal Catholic saint favored by the poor as well as by criminals and drug traffickers, and San Malverde, a similar figure based on a peasant highwayman of the late 19th century.

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San Malverde picture, with Malverde pot leaf, Malverde keychain and Malverde pot leaf belt buckle (author's personal collection)
Images of both saints have been appropriated by Mexico's drug traffickers and have been found on walls, tattoos, pendants, belt buckles, even engraved into the grips of pistols. For US law enforcement, coming across either saint is strongly indicative of drug trade activity. But the saints are also widely revered by Mexico's Catholic poor. Marches for Santa Muerte have drawn thousands of adherents in Mexico City, and San Malverde branded beer is available in Sinaloa, his home state and home of the Sinaloa cartel.

Four shrines to Santa Muerte and one to San Malverde were destroyed last Saturday in Tijuana and nearby Rosarito Beach. Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos said it was a military action, but the military has not confirmed that. Two days later, city and federal officials destroyed 34 more Santa Muerte chapels that had sprung up in recent years along the highway between Monterrey and the border town of Nuevo Laredo.

For officials, the unsanctioned saints are, like the narcocorridos (drug ballads), celebrating the exploits of drug traffickers, evidence of the drug culture seeping into broader civic culture. "This is a subject that must open a great social debate in Tijuana," Ramos said in an interview last week. "Should we permit these spaces where hired assassins who kill children, families, police seek protection? What side are we on? I am on the side of tranquility and security."

Ramos, a member of President Felipe Calderón's National Action Party (PAN), is pushing censorship as a response to the spreading drug culture. He is agitating for a package of bills before the Baja California legislature that would ban the broadcast of narcocorridos, as well as videos and images that would "glorify" drug traffickers.

But such plans have their critics, who argue that destroying shrines will not accomplish anything and that the informal saints are adored by many who have nothing to do with drug trafficking. "Destroying these chapels is not going to do anything to diminish crime," said Jose Manuel Valenzuela, a researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a Tijuana think-tank. "Someone who's going to commit a crime could just as easily go to a Catholic church as a Santa Muerte shrine, or go nowhere at all."

The people who came to the Tijuana shrines last week only to find they had been destroyed were not happy. "I feel so angry," said Zaida Romero, 33, a used-clothing vendor and single mother of seven, standing by the pile of rubble and twisted metal on the day the shrines were destroyed March 21. "She has helped me so, so, so much," said Romero, explaining that La Santa Muerte helped her overcome cancer.

Latin America: Peru to Export Coca Beer

A coca trade fair in Lima designed to demonstrate that coca is not cocaine showcased a number of products, but the star of the show was a coca leaf beer whose manufacturer has plans to export it to markets in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The fair was organized by the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers of the Coca Valleys of Peru (CONPACCP), the country's largest coca growers' union.

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Cerveza Apu coca beer (photo from malamarxa.blogspot.com)
The coca beer, sold under the brand name Apu by the entrepreneurial Alarcón family of Andahuaylas, is already being sold (and eagerly consumed) in Peru's Andean region, as well as markets in Lima. General manager Manuel Alarcón told Living in Peru the beer was a big hit with tourists at Machu Picchu. But with a production capacity of 180,000 bottles a month, Alarcón is looking outside the domestic market.

Alarcon said the paperwork is already underway to export Apu to China, South Africa, Argentina, and Venezuela. That seems like a breach of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics, which sought to phase out use of the coca plant, excepting de-cocainized products such as Coca Cola. Some contest that interpretation of international law, however, and given that Venezuela has already inked deals with Bolivia to import coca products, it seems the treaty is sometimes observed only in the breach.

"Thankfully China is a country where coca leaves are accepted and its derivatives can easily enter the country," said Alarcón.

Peru is the world's second largest coca producer, after Colombia and ahead of Bolivia. While some of the country's hundreds of thousands of small producers are registered with the national coca monopoly and deliver their harvests to it, the majority of producers are not legally growing the plant, and much of it is destined for the insatiable international cocaine market.

The situation has led to years of conflict between coca growers and the Peruvian national government. If recent reports are to be believed, it is now leading to a resurgence of the Shining Path and an increasingly violent counterinsurgency operation by the Peruvian military in the Apurímac and Ene River valleys.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District," by Peter Moskos (2008, Princeton University Press, 245 pp., $24.95 HB)

Immortalized by the hit HBO series "The Wire," Baltimore's Eastern District is one tough neighborhood in one of the country's toughest towns. With some 45,000 residents, almost entirely black, it generates 20,000 arrests a year, the vast majority of them drug-related. It's a tough, gritty neighborhood with widespread poverty, open-air drug markets, a healthy heroin (or "hair-on" in Eastern District-speak) habit, and all the attendant problems associated with those ills.

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For a bit more than a year, the Eastern District was Peter Moskos' beat. The Harvard educated sociologist (now on the faculty of City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice) with an interest in police socialization joined the Baltimore Police Department to become a "participant-observer" on the sociology of policing in that department, enabling him to achieve a degree of intimacy with his fellow officers rarely achieved by outside academics.

For Moskos, and for his readers, his sojourn on the mean streets has paid off handsomely. Moskos got a book deal (and presumably a dissertation) out of his experiences, and we readers get a real treat. The uniformed Moskos -- he served exclusively as a beat officer -- was able to win the trust and fellowship of his colleagues, and in so doing, he was able to open a window on what it is like to be a police officer in the drug war.

I would imagine that most Drug War Chronicle readers -- LEAP members excluded -- have little knowledge of or empathy for the men in blue. The cops, after all, are the front line in the drug war. And, as Moskos reports, drawing on extensive notes, the drug dealers and users of the Eastern District are relatively easy pickings for police officers looking to generate arrest statistics.

"In high drug areas, there is no shortage of drug offenders to arrest," he writes. "The decision to arrest or not arrest becomes more a matter of personal choice and police officer discretion than of any formalized police response toward crime or public safety."

Not only do police routinely arrest suspect Eastern District residents -- for loitering, if nothing else -- they almost universal despise them and their drug habits. Moskos really shines at getting his comrades to speak openly and honestly about their attitudes, and in that sense, "Cop in the Hood" is as revelatory as it is sometimes disturbing. Such attitudes may be deplorable, but they are also understandable. When all you see is the worst of humanity, it's easy to get alienated. As one officer put it, "You don't get 911 calls to tell you how well things are going."

But not all beat officers are eager to arrest drug offenders. As Moskos details, the cops get frustrated by the revolving-door that sees drug offenders sent to county jail on arrest only to be spit out a few hours later or to have drug dealing charges reduced to simple possession because prisons are packed and prosecutors overworked. (Moskos observes that the drug war would grind to a halt if drug offenders uniformly demanded jury trials. Now, there's a reason to unionize drug users!)

Police officers don't want to be social workers, Moskos reports, and they are not interested in the root causes of drug use and attendant social ills. What they are interested in is doing their job with a minimum of hassle (from the streets or their superiors), returning home safely each night, and retiring with a nice pension. That means that for many officers, high drug arrest numbers early in their careers will drop off over time as they confront a combination of a sense of futility, overtime, and paperwork. As one officer put it:

You'll get out there thinking you can make a difference. Then you get frustrated: a dealer caught with less than 25 pieces will be considered personal use... Or you go to court and they take his word over yours. You're a cop and you're saying you saw something!... After it happens to you, you don't care. It's your job to bring him there [to court]. What happens after that is their problem. You can't take this job personal. Drugs were here before you were, and they'll be here long after you're gone. Don't think you can change that. I don't want you leaving here thinking everybody living in this neighborhood is bad, does drugs. Many cops start beating people, thinking they deserve it.

While Moskos by no means sugarcoats the behavior or attitudes of his coworkers, his reporting will undoubtedly help readers attain some understanding of how they got that way. "Cops in the Hood" is also useful for understanding the bureaucratic grinder facing police officers in large urban departments, where they are caught between pressures from above for more arrests, from Internal Affairs to do it by the book, from the neighborhoods to clean out the riff-raff and from the same neighborhoods to respect the civil rights of residents.

Moskos brings the added advantage of not writing like an academic. "Cops in the Hood" is engaging, even riveting, and makes its points straightforwardly. Yes, Moskos references policing theory, but he does so in ways that make it provocative instead of off-putting.

He also includes a well-researched and -written chapter on the evils of prohibition -- it's subtitled "Al Capone's Revenge" -- but in this case, it's hardly necessary. Like a good student listening to his English composition instructor, Moskos has shown us and he really doesn't need to tell us. Still, it is a strong chapter.

Moskos writes about his experience as a beat officer. That's a different animal from the largely self-selected group of police cowboys who end up in drug squads and SWAT teams. I have less sympathy for them, but that's another book, not this one.

People interested in the nitty-gritty of street-level drug law enforcement need to read this book. Criminal justice students and anyone thinking about becoming a police officer need to read this book, too. And the politicians who pass the laws police have to enforce (or not), need to read this book as well, although they probably won't.

Latin America: Brazilian Cops Kill With Impunity, Moonlight as Drug Gang Executioners, UN Report Says

Brazilian police are responsible for a large number of the 48,000 murders committed in that country each year, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions said in a report issued late last month. Not only do police routinely resort to deadly violence in the course of their work, they also moonlight as death squad killers for a variety of entities, including drug gangs, said Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.

"In Rio de Janeiro, the police kill three people every day," Alston reported. "They are responsible for one out of five killings," he added in a Monday press statement.

Alston's report came after a fact-finding trip to Brazil last year. While there, Alston met with government officials, including police commanders and senior ministers, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and over 40 witnesses to human rights abuses.

Brazil's murder rate is among the world's highest, and police vigilantism has played a role for years. Police regularly engage in massive sweeps of poor slum neighborhoods, where drug gangs -- the notorious "commandos" -- often have strong influence or even outright control. Alston was particularly critical of the sweeps, or "mega-operations," which have grown increasingly frequent in Rio de Janeiro.

The report examined one such sweep, a June 2007 operation in Complexo do Alemão. In that sweep, more than 1,450 police attacked the slum, killing 19 people, with independent experts concluding that many of the dead had been executed. But for all the violence, police seized only two machine guns, six pistols, one sub-machine gun, and 300 kilos of drugs.

"Local officials claim that these impressive sounding mega-operations are protecting residents from drug gangs, but the operations have hurt ordinary people far more than they have hurt the drug gangs," Alston said.

The report said there has been little or no outcry over police violence in Brazil because people are skeptical that traditional law enforcement measures are working against the drug gangs. But police death squads have also been implicated in the killings of criminal suspects, the homeless, and even street children, with little outcry.

Police criminality in Brazil extends beyond the job, said Alson. "A remarkable number of police lead double lives. While on duty, they fight the drug gangs, but on their days off, they work as foot soldiers of organized crime," he said. "Clearly, the institutions for holding police accountable are broke, but they are not beyond repair. My hope is that the detailed recommendations in my report will provide a starting point for undertaking the necessary reforms."

Press Release: Nimbin Museum -- Update on Museum Situation

I had an appointment today with Lismore police, Area Commander Bluey Lyons, Crime Manager Stephen Clark, and the applicant, Detective Sargent Michael Smith who is threatening the Museum’s landlord with the Restricted Premises Act 1943. It was agreed that we had common ground in that we all wanted “a Nimbin where mums and dads can walk with their kiddies without seeing any drug dealing” (Bluey’s words). The mutual understanding finished there though, because we had entirely different approaches to achieving that. I think we need regulated cannabis cafes or a cannabis market place, and an attitude that drug use is a health issue. The police believe in the war on drugs despite making no impact, or even going backwards, with street cameras live to their police station in Nimbin and nine permanent officers in the tiny village. As we have warned from Nimbin for over a decade, the increased policing of easy to bust cannabis has helped create a new illegal pharmaceutical drug industry with an unending supply of almost invisible, odourless pills with no quality control. At least with organic outdoor grown cannabis which Nimbin is famous for you know what you’re getting. I also talked to the landlord of the Museum today. I expect an eviction letter soon giving me one month’s notice. The police appear to have made this conditional if the landlord wants to avoid court and potential costs. They are also asking that the new tenants of the Museum building install surveillance cameras covering every room and the extensive back yard. Police want access to this footage at any time, perhaps if it was all live on the net they would be satisfied. It makes little sense even when you realize this discussion with the Crown Prosecutor, is happening in Sydney where the Museum landlord lives. He has never been to Nimbin. If the community is keen enough for the Museum to stay alive, we may find a willing taker but it is very disappointing we had no say in any discussions, because after all we do by far the majority of the police work in the village which resembles a refugee camp from the war on drugs. In fact the feeling in town is that closing the Museum will do little to stop any drug dealing but have a major impact on tourism. And anyway, if they can’t keep drug dealing out of jails, which are surely on CCTV, how can we be expected to? Further info Michael at the Museum 6689 1123 or home 6689 7525 LAST WEEKS MEDIA ETC…………MUSEUM OFFERS TO CLOSE FOR A MONTH TO ASSIST POLICE The Nimbin Museum is a cultural icon in the tiny Northern NSW village inland from Byron Bay, internationally famous for its alternative culture. Police have put the squeeze on the Museum’s landlord to evict the curator Michael Balderstone because of drug supply on the premises. He says in response to the threat of the Museum closure, “We offer to close the Museum for a month to see what difference it makes to drug dealing in the village. It is offensive for police to suggest we haven’t tried our hardest to keep dealing out of the Museum since we began here over twenty years ago. It has been an impossible chore and caused more than one nervous breakdown for Museum volunteers. We have never stopped policing the dealing and extremely difficult behaviour associated with it, in and around the Museum, as the police themselves are rarely here. The many police I have had to work with for two decades all know how much I and the Museum volunteers have tried to stop drug dealing in the Museum.” “In the month we are closed I ask that artists be allowed to work inside to restore some of the damage done to exhibits by the young, disrespectful, alienated, angry and paranoid youth who risk jail daily in Nimbin just to sell a bit of pot. Why?” Elspeth Jones, almost a resident artist and exhausted dealer ‘thrower outerer’ says, “The Museum is a gathering place for the community. Every day we welcome many people to the Museum, both visitors and locals. Our youth, young children with ever extending families and their elders share tables, pots of tea and good conversation with people from all over the world. It is really a place for cultural exchange, education and for breaking down barriers. It has become such a popular attraction because visitors ultimately want to see a place where the locals are getting on with their lives, where they can meet with the people who make Nimbin such a colourful and different place and feel part of it. They see Nimbin warts and all, and mostly love it”. “We aim to maintain a friendly atmosphere inside, and have never denied entry to the police. They become in a way part of it, we have on display the ins and outs of prohibition to all. Visitors can see for themselves that the war on drugs is futile, and our endeavours to curb the dealing around the Museum and indeed throughout Nimbin have been as successful as the war on drugs world wide.”, said Elspeth “The permanent closure of the Museum would create a huge gap in village life, scattering and diluting the alternative and indiginous culture here even further. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, creating a dull “Everytown” where tourists eat and leave none the wiser.” Further information 66891123 or after hours 66897525 www.nimbinmuseum.com Below is a copy of the letters to the Museum landlord, and Judge, sent today. Richard, I went to Lismore Courthouse this morning and left the letter below for the Judge. I’ll send a copy to Emma Sullivan at the Crown Solicitor’s Office also. I also went next door and left a note and copy for Detective Sargeant Michael Smith, who I’ve known for twenty years. I’m offering to close the Museum for a month to see what difference it makes to Nimbin’s drug dealing. I also ask that artists be allowed to work inside during this time to restore some of the damage done to exhibits and paintings by the young, disrespectful, angry and paranoid youth who risk jail daily in Nimbin, and we have to deal with on a daily basis. I think the police are trying to make you and I responsible for this which is unfair. Prefer to talk to you on the phone to try and sort this out. I have lots of upset people and free legal help offers. We all want to fix the ugly dealing scene in Nimbin, but not at the expense of our best attractions. Best wishes, Michael Thursday August 28 2008 To the Presiding Judge, Lismore Court House. I began my life in Nimbin over 20 years ago when I rented the Museum shopfront as a second hand, antique shop. Dealing of illegal drugs was a small issue then in the village, but even then a divisive one. As tourism grew and the popularity of cannabis spread, so the dealing grew along with the shops in the town, now nearly all dependent on the tourist trade. Over the now I5 years that I have operated the Museum as a tourism enterprise, my assistants and I have strived tirelessly to keep drug dealing off the premises. This has often been at great personal risk and many volunteers have quit because of the abuse copped in the process. There are numerous signs throughout the Museums 8 rooms saying ‘no dealing’, and even detailed, large writing explaining our predicament and asking for co-operation. Of course many of the young men dealing cannot read! The police are fully aware of all this and I have always tried to communicate openly and honestly with them for approximately twenty years. All that time I've been a member of the Police Community Consultation Committee. The big change came when CCTV cameras were installed in the street, live to the police station, several years ago. Displacement is a well documented consequence, but it was accepted that this would eventuate, and it did. All over town, everywhere the cameras don't cover, the dealing moved there. This included inside the Museum and in the extensive unfenced backyard and adjoining block, none of which is on camera, nor in my lease. So it seems totally unfair that the Museum, Nirnbin's main tourist attraction, is threatened because the more tourism grows here, and the more police stop walking the beat like they had to before the cameras, the worse the situation is getting. It doesn’t help that Nimbin has a closed Youth Club and SK8 Park, and the Museum building used to house the youth club. Also, dealing occurs all over Nimbin and yet the police continue to target the two business premises, Hemp Bar and the Museum, who have both been lawfully and actively lobbying for cannabis law reform. The very reason we have been calling for a trial of licensed cannabis cafes is to deal with this impossible and longstanding situation. We have an implied constitutional right to political association and freedom of speech. The oppressive and unconscionable use of this legislation by the police in this matter is a burden on our rights I believe. I invite you to visit the Museum and Hemp Embassy’s websites, see links below. Since the closure of the Museum at MardiGrass this year, May 3 & 4, Nimbin's busiest weekend of the year, we have strived conscientiously to keep the dealing outside the premises and have succeeded mostly because the dealers take our threats more seriously now because we have a copy of the affidavit and police DVD of the April 1st raid. Police have observed this change and there has not been any supply charges that I am aware of over the previous 4 months. This can be confirmed by police records. Before we reopened after that weekend closure I purposefully went to the police station to discuss what was expected from me by the police and was told by Detective Sergeant Michael Smith and the local Sergeant Mat Johnson, who agreed that the eradication of drug dealing from Nimbin was an impossible objective, and that I should just continue “to do my best and try and keep the dealing outside". I have engaged in an endless dialogue with the Police including the Area Commander about how to make Nimbin more peaceful and how to deal with the illegal cannabis trade and the people attracted to it. It is disappointing that the police recently ceased to include me in any discussions and there is no acknowledgement of the more than reasonable effort we make everyday. Please consider our situation in any decisions which you are required to make in relation to the Nimbin Museum. Please also note that I have only been given a few days notice on this matter the affect of which will have a major long term impact on Nimbin tourism and the many volunteers involved in keeping the Museum operational. As the occupant of the premises I ask to be given a say in the matter when it is heard. Please advise us of any hearings or how I should go about getting heard. I have been advised that undercover police have been offered marijuana in the Museum since the MardiGrass, the fresh evidence, and wonder why they didn’t arrest these people. I cannot do their job for them. The Museum won a major North Coast Tourism Award some years back and has an international reputation for it’s extraordinary art, murals, sculptures etc. Our joy is welcoming visitors from across the planet who come in busloads daily. I understand the police are just trying to do their job but I believe they will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this case. And it is not adressing the issue of the dealers who will remain everywhere else in town. Wishing you could find the time and come and see the situation for yourself. My landlord lives in Sydney and has never been to Nimbin. I am a good tenant, always pay the rent on time and maintain the old and leaking building at my own expense usually. If they cannot keep all drug dealing out of the jails, what hope do i have? Your sincerely, Michael Balderstone P.S. I offer to close the Museum for a month to see if it helps stop the drug dealing in Nimbin. Nimbin Museum, 62 Cullen st, Nimbin, 2480 phone 66891123 www.nimbinmuseum.com www.hempembassy.net
Location: 
Nimbin, NSW
Australia

Press Release: Nimbin Museum Offers to Close for a Month to Assist Police

MEDIA RELEASE: NIMBIN MUSEUM FRIDAY, AUG 29 NIMBIN MUSEUM OFFERS TO CLOSE FOR A MONTH TO ASSIST POLICE The Nimbin Museum is a cultural icon in the tiny Northern NSW village inland from Byron Bay, internationally famous for its alternative culture. Police have put the squeeze on the Museum’s landlord to evict the curator Michael Balderstone because of drug supply on the premises. He says in response to the threat of the Museum closure, “We offer to close the Museum for a month to see what difference it makes to drug dealing in the village. It is offensive for police to suggest we haven’t tried our hardest to keep dealing out of the Museum since we began here over twenty years ago. It has been an impossible chore and caused more than one nervous breakdown for Museum volunteers. We have never stopped policing the dealing and extremely difficult behaviour associated with it, in and around the Museum, as the police themselves are rarely here. The many police I have had to work with for two decades all know how much I and the Museum volunteers have tried to stop drug dealing in the Museum.” “In the month we are closed I ask that artists be allowed to work inside to restore some of the damage done to exhibits by the young, disrespectful, alienated, angry and paranoid youth who risk jail daily in Nimbin just to sell a bit of pot. Why?” Elspeth Jones, almost a resident artist and exhausted dealer ‘thrower outerer’ says, “The Museum is a gathering place for the community. Every day we welcome many people to the Museum, both visitors and locals. Our youth, young children with ever extending families and their elders share tables, pots of tea and good conversation with people from all over the world. It is really a place for cultural exchange, education and for breaking down barriers. It has become such a popular attraction because visitors ultimately want to see a place where the locals are getting on with their lives, where they can meet with the people who make Nimbin such a colourful and different place and feel part of it. They see Nimbin warts and all, and mostly love it”. “We aim to maintain a friendly atmosphere inside, and have never denied entry to the police. They become in a way part of it, we have on display the ins and outs of prohibition to all. Visitors can see for themselves that the war on drugs is futile, and our endeavours to curb the dealing around the Museum and indeed throughout Nimbin have been as successful as the war on drugs world wide.”, said Elspeth “The permanent closure of the Museum would create a huge gap in village life, scattering and diluting the alternative and indiginous culture here even further. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, creating a dull “Everytown” where tourists eat and leave none the wiser.” Further information 66891123 or after hours 66897525 www.nimbinmuseum.com Below is a copy of the letters to the Museum landlord, and Judge, sent today. Richard, I went to Lismore Courthouse this morning and left the letter below for the Judge. I’ll send a copy to Emma Sullivan at the Crown Solicitor’s Office also. I also went next door and left a note and copy for Detective Sargeant Michael Smith, who I’ve known for twenty years. I’m offering to close the Museum for a month to see what difference it makes to Nimbin’s drug dealing. I also ask that artists be allowed to work inside during this time to restore some of the damage done to exhibits and paintings by the young, disrespectful, angry and paranoid youth who risk jail daily in Nimbin, and we have to deal with on a daily basis. I think the police are trying to make you and I responsible for this which is unfair. Prefer to talk to you on the phone to try and sort this out. I have lots of upset people and free legal help offers. We all want to fix the ugly dealing scene in Nimbin, but not at the expense of our best attractions. Best wishes, Michael Thursday, August 28, 2008 To the Presiding Judge, Lismore Court House. I began my life in Nimbin over 20 years ago when I rented the Museum shopfront as a second hand, antique shop. Dealing of illegal drugs was a small issue then in the village, but even then a divisive one. As tourism grew and the popularity of cannabis spread, so the dealing grew along with the shops in the town, now nearly all dependent on the tourist trade. Over the now I5 years that I have operated the Museum as a tourism enterprise, my assistants and I have strived tirelessly to keep drug dealing off the premises. This has often been at great personal risk and many volunteers have quit because of the abuse copped in the process. There are numerous signs throughout the Museums 8 rooms saying ‘no dealing’, and even detailed, large writing explaining our predicament and asking for co-operation. Of course many of the young men dealing cannot read! The police are fully aware of all this and I have always tried to communicate openly and honestly with them for approximately twenty years. All that time I've been a member of the Police Community Consultation Committee. The big change came when CCTV cameras were installed in the street, live to the police station, several years ago. Displacement is a well documented consequence, but it was accepted that this would eventuate, and it did. All over town, everywhere the cameras don't cover, the dealing moved there. This included inside the Museum and in the extensive unfenced backyard and adjoining block, none of which is on camera, nor in my lease. So it seems totally unfair that the Museum, Nirnbin's main tourist attraction, is threatened because the more tourism grows here, and the more police stop walking the beat like they had to before the cameras, the worse the situation is getting. It doesn’t help that Nimbin has a closed Youth Club and SK8 Park, and the Museum building used to house the youth club. Also, dealing occurs all over Nimbin and yet the police continue to target the two business premises, Hemp Bar and the Museum, who have both been lawfully and actively lobbying for cannabis law reform. The very reason we have been calling for a trial of licensed cannabis cafes is to deal with this impossible and longstanding situation. We have an implied constitutional right to political association and freedom of speech. The oppressive and unconscionable use of this legislation by the police in this matter is a burden on our rights I believe. I invite you to visit the Museum and Hemp Embassy’s websites, see links below. Since the closure of the Museum at MardiGrass this year, May 3 & 4, Nimbin's busiest weekend of the year, we have strived conscientiously to keep the dealing outside the premises and have succeeded mostly because the dealers take our threats more seriously now because we have a copy of the affidavit and police DVD of the April 1st raid. Police have observed this change and there has not been any supply charges that I am aware of over the previous 4 months. This can be confirmed by police records. Before we reopened after that weekend closure I purposefully went to the police station to discuss what was expected from me by the police and was told by Detective Sergeant Michael Smith and the local Sergeant Mat Johnson, who agreed that the eradication of drug dealing from Nimbin was an impossible objective, and that I should just continue “to do my best and try and keep the dealing outside". I have engaged in an endless dialogue with the Police including the Area Commander about how to make Nimbin more peaceful and how to deal with the illegal cannabis trade and the people attracted to it. It is disappointing that the police recently ceased to include me in any discussions and there is no acknowledgement of the more than reasonable effort we make everyday. Please consider our situation in any decisions which you are required to make in relation to the Nimbin Museum. Please also note that I have only been given a few days notice on this matter the affect of which will have a major long term impact on Nimbin tourism and the many volunteers involved in keeping the Museum operational. As the occupant of the premises I ask to be given a say in the matter when it is heard. Please advise us of any hearings or how I should go about getting heard. I have been advised that undercover police have been offered marijuana in the Museum since the MardiGrass, the fresh evidence, and wonder why they didn’t arrest these people. I cannot do their job for them. The Museum won a major North Coast Tourism Award some years back and has an international reputation for it’s extraordinary art, murals, sculptures etc. Our joy is welcoming visitors from across the planet who come in busloads daily. I understand the police are just trying to do their job but I believe they will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this case. And it is not adressing the issue of the dealers who will remain everywhere else in town. Wishing you could find the time and come and see the situation for yourself. My landlord lives in Sydney and has never been to Nimbin. I am a good tenant, always pay the rent on time and maintain the old and leaking building at my own expense usually. If they cannot keep all drug dealing out of the jails, what hope do i have? Your sincerely, Michael Balderstone P.S. I offer to close the Museum for a month to see if it helps stop the drug dealing in Nimbin. Nimbin Museum, 62 Cullen st, Nimbin, 2480 phone 66891123 www.nimbinmuseum.com www.hempembassy.net
Location: 
Nimbin, NSW
Australia

Latin America: Mexico's PRD May Call for Legalization

According to Mexican press reports this week, Mexico's Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD -- Democratic Revolution Party) is preparing to consider legalization of the drug trade as a response to the wave of narco-violence that has swept the country in the last year and a half. Around 5,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderón escalated Mexico's long-running drug war by enlisting the military in the fight in December 2006.

PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador came within a handful of votes of winning the presidency in 2006, and the party remains the second strongest political force in the country, behind the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN -- National Action Party). But because of party infighting since that election, the PRD may drop into third place after this year's midterm elections, behind both the PAN and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI -- Revolutionary Institutional Party).

According to the Mexico City newspaper El Universal, the PRD's national council is calling on the party's legislators to begin discussing legalization as part of a "grand national accord" to deal with violence and insecurity in the country. The proposal came from the PRD's New Left faction, led by Jesús Zambrano, and was approved unanimously by the national council.

In an interview with Mexico's Televisa TV network, the PRD coordinator in the lower house, Javier González Garza, upped the ante, saying legalization should be considered not only in Mexico, but also in the US. "We can't continue thinking that we are going to combat the problem of drug trafficking without more radical measures, and one of them has to be the legalization of drugs in the United States," he said. "After the United States will we continue with Mexico? Of course, or both at the same time... This war, the way it is outlined, is going to be lost, we're all going to lose, it makes no sense and there need to be some changes."

Some 25,000 Mexican army troops are fighting drug traffickers along the border and in a number of major cities and drug-growing areas. Many observers blame the spike in violence -- more people have been killed already this year than in all of last year -- on the aggressive stance of the Calderón government. But the US government is pleased; it recently passed a $1.4 billion, three-year anti-drug assistance package for Mexico, most of which will go to beefing up military and police capabilities.

Presidential Politics: Bob Barr Criticizes High-Profile Drug Raid on Maryland Mayor's Home

Former Republican Congressman and current Libertarian Party Candidate for president Bob Barr Monday issued a statement criticizing the widely publicized police raid on the home of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, Mayor Cheye Calvo. Barr used the occasion to condemn the generalized use of no-knock search warrants in drug cases and to call for greater accountability for law enforcement misbehavior.

In the July 29 raid, Prince George's county police posing as package deliverymen delivered a package they knew contained 32 pounds of marijuana to the mayor's home. The package waited on the front porch until Calvo returned home after work, when he picked it up and took it inside. Police then broke down Calvo's door, shot his two dogs (one as it was running away), handcuffed Calvo in his underwear for several hours, and cuffed his mother-in-law as well. Police announced last week that Calvo and his family were the innocent victims of a drug smuggling scheme, but have yet to apologize for anything. Local and federal investigations into the incident are underway.

In his Monday statement, Barr, a former US attorney, wrote: "We typically make fun of bungled police operations by saying they were conducted by the gang that couldn't shoot straight. In this case they could shoot straight -- as a result, they killed a family's two dogs in the midst of a misguided drug raid."

The raid was wrong on several levels, Barr wrote, and indicative of a deeper problem with American drug law enforcement. "Rather than carefully checking the facts, including talking to the local police department, the county authorities acted rashly, illustrating how the drug war threatens the liberties of all Americans. The police broke down the door rather than knocking and charged in with guns drawn," he noted.

"Absent exigent circumstances, not present here, so-called no-knock raids are an affront to the Constitution," Barr continued. "So is a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy by the police. Yet the Prince George's police have done this before -- last fall they invaded a house at the wrong address and shot the family dog. All Americans are at risk when the police behave this way. Just ask yourself what might happen if a suspicious package is delivered to your home and the cops bust in," he wrote.

"But there is an even larger point. Law enforcement agencies have become more arrogant and less accountable in cases other than those involving drugs. Most people are aware of well-publicized examples like Waco and Ruby Ridge, but similar abuses are common across the country, though they usually receive little or no public notice," noted Barr. "We all want police to do their jobs well, but part of doing their job well is respecting the people's constitutional liberties."

Barr ended by promising to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies set a good example for the rest of the country. "In a Barr administration, government officials will never forget that it is a free people they are protecting."

Neither Democratic nominee-to-be Sen. Barack Obama nor his Republican counterpart Sen. John McCain have commented on the Berwyn Heights case. Neither has independent candidate Ralph Nader, although given the broadside he launched this week at bipartisan complicity in maintaining the drug war, he can be excused for not commenting on this one, particularly egregious example.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Southeast Asia: Drug User Group Demonstrates for Legal Drug Use in Jakarta

Indonesia's harsh drug laws have not succeeded in stopping illicit drug use in the Southeast Asian archipelago, and now some of the people those laws are aimed at are speaking out. On Monday, denizens of some of Jakarta's most notorious drug dealing spots were witness to an usual demonstration as two dozen motorcyclists roared through them calling for the legalization of drug use.

According to the Jakarta Post, the bikers were members of a drug user group called the Forum for Victims of Drug Addiction, or Forkon. They stopped in such notorious locales as Baturaja in North Jakarta, Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta, and Manggarai in South Jakarta to hand out fliers making their case.

Drug use should not be a crime, Forkon coordinator Yana told the Post. "It's a disease that needs to be treated, not punished," the 28-year-old said.

Ilicit drugs are easily available in Indonesia, Forkon members said, despite a pair of 1997 laws mandating prison sentences of six months to six years for convicted drug users, and sentences up to the death penalty for trafficking offenses. On Wednesday, Indonesian officials said that they would execute 39 convicted drug traffickers by the end of 2009.

Drug users and even uninvolved people in the neighborhood of a raid are often arrested and subjected to abuses while detained, Forkon members said. One former drug user, Maya, added, "Women also face sexual abuse." Maya said she is conducting research on the physical abuses endured by female drug addicts in detention.

While a drug use legalization demo in Jakarta may come as a surprise to many, it is the second one this year. In late June, Indonesia drug user activists and others used the occasion of the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to hold a march in Jakarta where they called for an end to discrimination against people who use drugs, the implementation of laws decriminalizing drug use, and programs to prevent HIV in prisons.

The June protestors asked the Indonesian government to fulfill its mandate to ensure the right to health for all and to provide drug treatment, including medication-assisted treatment. This week's protestors called on the government to change the drug laws. The group said it had urged both the National Commission on Human Rights and the House of Representatives to act.

"We'll continue with our campaign until parliament repeals the 1997 laws," Yana said.

Law Enforcement: Killer Cop Walks in Ohio SWAT Raid Shooting, Relatives File Wrongful Death Suit

An all-white jury found Lima, Ohio, Police Sgt. Joe Chavalia not guilty on all counts in the January shooting death of 27-year-old Tarika Wilson during a January SWAT team raid on the home of a low-level crack cocaine dealer who was her live-in boyfriend. Wilson was shot and killed as she cowered at the door of a second-floor bedroom holding her infant child, Sincere Wilson, in her arms. The child was also hit; he had a finger amputated because of his wounds.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/limaswat1.gif
animated GIF appearing on Lima SWAT team's web site, taken down shortly after Wilson killing
In the midst of community outrage over the killing of Wilson, whose five other children were in the bedroom behind her, Sgt. Chavalia was indicted in her death -- but only on misdemeanor charges. He faced a maximum of eight months in prison if found guilty in her killing.

During his testimony at the trial, Sergeant Chavalia said that he believed his life was in danger when he entered the home and saw a "shadowy figure" down the hallway at the same time that he heard gunshots. He then opened fire, killing Wilson. Testimony at the trial determined that the gunshots Chavalia heard were in fact fired by two other SWAT team members, who were killing a pair of pit bulls on the ground floor.

"There was absolutely, positively no doubt in my mind right then and there that whatever this was is shooting and they're trying to kill me," he told the jury.

Chavalia's attorney, Bill Kluge, waged an aggressive case, even stooping to blaming the victim for getting herself killed. Wilson had chosen to live with a drug dealer, he said, and she had failed to identify herself to the yelling intruders who broke down her door.

"Why would she put those children in that position? I don't know the answer to that," Kluge said. "Love is a strange thing."

After hearing 3 1/2 days of testimony in the case, the jury deliberated for three hours before clearing Chavalia.

"We're supposed to take this with a smile? We're supposed to believe in justice?" asked an incredulous Ivory Austin II, Wilson's half-brother, in remarks reported by the Toledo Blade.

"We've got to do better. We've given people the license to kill," Jason Upthegrove, president of the Lima chapter of the NAACP, said afterward.

The Rev. Arnold Manley, pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, told the Blade he came to the trial to see justice prevail but that did not happen. "As a pastor, I'm hurt deeply that we can walk away from this and say justice has been done," he said. "How do I go out to tell the people on the streets, 'Let the law prevail'? How do I say that? White man justice. Black man grief."

Darla Kaye Jennings, grandmother of Sincere Wilson responded to Lima's "white man justice" by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against Chavalia and the city of Lima the day after the verdict was announced. The lawsuit asks for compensation for Sincere's injuries as well as an end to "police abuse by requiring that high risk search warrant executions be limited to situations where they are truly needed and where the least amount of force necessary to the situation is employed."

According to the lawsuit, the shooting that led to Wilson's death and her son's injuries was "excessive, unreasonable, and completely unnecessary." The lawsuit further said that Sergeant Chavalia acted "negligently" when he used deadly force.

Another killer cop has walked. But perhaps the city of Lima will learn a hard lesson when it is forced to pay for its misdeeds.

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