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State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Washington Office on Latin America
URL: 
http://www.wola.org/publications/mexico_state_of_siege_06.06.pdf

Latin America: Guatemala Imposes "State of Prevention" in Drug Crackdown

The Guatemalan government announced Tuesday that it was suspending some constitutional rights in municipalities along the Mexican border as part of an effort to uproot opium crops and drug trafficking in the region. Residents of Concepción Tutuapa, Ixchiguán, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Tajumulco and Tejutla woke up Tuesday morning to find their towns and villages surrounded by 800 police who arrived in the middle of the night, the Guatemala City newspaper Prensa Libre reported.

Under an emergency two-week order called a state of prevention, the government has suspended the right to carry firearms or hold demonstrations or meetings in the affected area. The measure also expands the government's right to conduct searches. In addition, the government warned the news media "to not incite rebellion because on previous occasions radio stations have urged people to resist the destruction of drug crops."

On Tuesday, police checkpoints blocked access to the affected region and all vehicles were being subjected to searches. Police had also raided at least 22 locations by Tuesday afternoon, when Guatemalan officials held a press conference to announce the offensive.

"The idea of this high impact operation, at the end of 15 days, is to have eradicated the poppy crops, captured people linked to the trade, and confiscate heavy arms," Guatemalan President Oscar Berger told reporters. "We are trying to fight drug trafficking and organized crime," Interior Minister Carlos Vielman added.

For residents of the municipalities, all located in the department of San Marcos, the police operation is causing some nervousness. "The neighbors came to see me very worried, and the only thing I could tell them was that he who has nothing has nothing to fear," Jeronimo Navarro, the mayor of Ixchiguan told Prensa Libre.

US Officials Grapple With Worsening Narcotics Trade in Afghanistan

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
URL: 
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/15400252.htm

Afghan President Says Opium Production Threatens Nation

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20060822-1000-afghan-drugs.html

Kabul Conference Tackles Rising Opium Farming

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Radio Free Europe
URL: 
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=16560

Poppy Scare in New Mexico!!

There was a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican this morning titled "Seized Poppies Perplex Officials" in which police raiding a marijuana plantation discoverd a tub full of poppies in the middle of the pot field. Despite a lack of clarity about whether the poppies in question were actually opium poppies (papaver somniferum), the cops consulted by the newspaper were ready to declare that the end times are upon us. From the article: Capt. Gary Johnson, head of criminal investigations at the Santa Fe Police Department, said he'd never heard of poppies being grown in New Mexico and called the implications of such cultivation ``enormous.'' ``Now heroin has to be shipped in (to the U.S.),'' he said. ``If it is able to be grown here -- man, I can't even fathom the depth of death and destruction.'' A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official in New Mexico who is not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity, said not only is it rare to find poppies in New Mexico, it is rare to find them within the borders of the United States. Most heroin comes from Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia, the official said. ``Not only is it uncommon, but if it's true, it raises a serious concern ... that there could actively be a heroin conversion lab operating in the United States,'' the official said. ``That is over the top.'' Hyperventilating cops notwithstanding, this discovery probably does not represent the Afghanistanization of New Mexico. First, we're not even sure if they were opium poppies. Second, opium poppies are grown legally all over the US. My mother has some in her yard. So do lots of other old ladies. Third, the 90 poppy plants would have produced about an ounce and a half of opium or--if converted into heroin through a complicated chemical process--would produce about 4 grams of smack. Come to think of it, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the US produced its own opium supply. Then we wouldn't have to give our money to Colombian drug lords, Mexican mafiosos, or Mullah Omar. Just a thought.
Location: 
NM
United States

Feature: SSDP, Drug War Rant Blog Score Media Hit with Attack on DEA Drug-Terror Exhibit

For more than four years -- since the day of the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks -- the US Drug Enforcement Administration and its museum have hosted an exhibit that attempts to link drugs and terrorism. Known as Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause, the traveling exhibition has aroused much grumbling and sneering from people who argue that it is not drugs but drug prohibition that generates the illicit profits sometimes used by violent political groups.

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DEA Targets America flyer
There was some sniping against the exhibit when it played Dallas, Omaha, Detroit, and New York, when two years ago, Patricia Perry, mother of NYC police officer John Perry, who lost his life on 9-11, criticized the exhibit in this newsletter. But it was only when it hit Chicago last week that drug reformers succeeded in hitting back with a carefully planned and well-executed counterattack that managed to generate critical media attention toward the exhibit.

It all started with some home-town concern on the part of Illinois State University theater arts professor and Drug War Rant blog author Peter Guither. After publicizing the exhibit's impending arrival on his blog and creating a new web site, DEA Targets America, the response from readers galvanized Guither, and allies began to arrive. By the time the exhibit hit Chicago last week, activists were on hand to hand out flyers in front of the museum and Guither and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) had issued press releases in an effort to draw media attention.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dea-exhibit.jpg
DEA's offensive exhibit
"Back when they first showed this exhibit, I remember thinking is the DEA propagandizing at a science museum?" said Guither. "I grew up with the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology, and I remember thinking my museum would never do that. Then, a couple of years later, I look at the upcoming exhibits and I see the DEA exhibit. This is so clearly propaganda that I had to do something," he told Drug War Chronicle. "I mentioned it on my blog, and one of my readers volunteered to pass out flyers, then I produced the press release and the web site, and then SSDP got involved -- they're a great group! SSDP's Tom Angell helped with the flyer and with getting the press interested, and then it was up to the press to do its job."

"I e-mailed our members in the Chicago area, and we were able to get some people to hand out flyers," said Angell. "We have some good people in the area."

The gambit paid off handsomely with a Washington Post story last Saturday titled "Drug-Terror Connection Disputed." That story, which was also picked up by newspapers in Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Tampa, quoted both Guither and SSDP's Angell, as well as Chicago teacher Jeanne Barr, who is also a member of SSDP. Congressional Quarterly also ran a story about the exhibit mentioning the contention that it is drug prohibition -- not drugs themselves -- that feeds terrorism, and even UPI ran a short piece mentioning the controversy on its international wire, a story that was picked up by the Washington Times.

The stories put the DEA on the defensive, with spokesmen Steve Robertson telling the Post: "We're a law enforcement agency -- we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn't have drug laws there wouldn't be a problem, but there was a problem before and that's why laws were established."

"I think we got the DEA flatfooted," said Guither. "You have that agent saying they just enforce the law, but they're out there lobbying for those laws. I don't think the DEA was ready for this."

"We did a little bit of judo on the DEA," said SSDP's Angell. "We took their message and spun it right back around on them. Reporters were intrigued by what we were saying. On the one hand, we were agreeing with the DEA's main point -- that profits from the black market drug trade can finance terrorism -- but we highlighted the fact that they are leaving out a large part of the story," he told the Chronicle.

"I was disappointed in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, though," Angell continued. "They just toed the DEA line. They didn't mention us by name or give us any quotes; they just had a line or two about 'critics say this.'"

Guither said he didn't really expect anything better from the local press. "Since both the Sun-Times and the McCormick Tribune Corporation were sponsors of the exhibit, I didn't expect either paper to do much criticizing. The mere fact that they mentioned critics saying the exhibit is propaganda is a victory in my view."

Activists were careful to target their ire at the DEA, not the Museum of Science and Technology. "We didn't want to protest the museum but the DEA," said Guither. "And we didn't feel like we could get into picking their implied falsehoods apart, so our focus was on the inappropriateness of the DEA connecting drugs to terrorism since it is prohibition that makes drug trafficking and its profits possible. Also, since this is Chicago, we have the whole Al Capone legacy. Mayor Daley invited this exhibit, yet he seems to have missed the whole connection between drug prohibition and alcohol prohibition and how the latter made Al Capone. What we have with this exhibit is a federal agency with a failing scorecard blowing its own horn and linking itself to the war on terror, when it is really the problem."

While the DEA lists no more cities on its traveling exhibit schedule, SSDP will be ready to go if and when the DEA show hits another city. "Since we already have the materials and the press releases, we'll just follow it wherever it goes," said Angell. "If we have people on the ground, we will organize them to pass out materials. They should know we're coming after them. If we annoy them enough, maybe they'll go away one of these days."

"I'm very pleased," said Guither. "This was fun. If we hadn't done what we did, it would have been the standard announcement: Here's a new educational exhibit. Bring your kids to learn about the dangers of drugs and how the DEA is saving you. But because of the work we did here, we've managed to turn this around on the DEA. That feels good."

Southwest Asia: Afghan Opium Cultivation Jumps to Record Level

Unnamed "Western officials" in Afghanistan are saying that the country's opium crop has increased by a whopping 40% over last year despite hundreds of millions of dollars in counter-narcotics funding and thousands of NATO and American troops in the zones of cultivation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Given what they were telling the AP, it is understandable why no one wanted to be named.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
Afghan opium
According to one "Western anti-narcotics official" citing preliminary crop projections, Afghanistan will top the previous record of 324,000 acres under cultivation in 2004 with more than 370,000 acres planted this year. That is up from 257,000 acres planted last year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's annual report on Afghan opium production. This year's UN report is expected in September.

Afghanistan already accounts for almost 90% of total global opium production. Profits from the crop and the trade are widely viewed as helping fund Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, who, along with drug lords threatened by eradication, are fighting Afghan, US, and NATO forces in an increasingly bloody campaign centered in the opium-growing southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Eradication efforts are also emerging as a double-edged sword: Wiping out the crop advances the aims of the drug war, but pushes peasants into the willing arms of the rebels. According to the UN, opium accounted for 52% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product last year.

"We know that if we start eradicating the whole surface of poppy cultivation in Helmand, we will increase the activity of the insurgency and increase the number of insurgents," said Tom Koenigs, the top UN official in Afghanistan, and about the only person willing to go on the record. He said the international community needs to provide alternative livelihoods for farmers, but warned against expecting quick results. "The problem has increased, and the remedy has to adjust," he said.

"It is a significant increase from last year... unfortunately, it is a record year," "a senior US government official based in Kabul" told the AP. "Now what they have is a narco-economy. If they do not get corruption sorted they can slip into being a narco-state," he warned. "We expected a large number (crop) this year but Helmand unfortunately exceeded even our predictions."

Editorial: Legalize the Drug Trade to Cut Off Terrorism Funding

David Borden, Executive Director

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden12.jpg
David Borden
A conflict that doesn't make the US radar screen as often as it merits is the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. The Tigers are a nasty group that among other abuses uses children as soldiers. (I don't know enough about Sri Lanka's government to venture an opinion on its own human rights record -- a quick web search did not turn up anything quite so obvious or outrageous, though I'm slow to trust any government overmuch.) I'm not too familiar with the causes of the conflict or the issues that are driving it. Regardless, the Tigers are bad news. Naturally, media outlets located closer to the conflict cover it much more prominently.

An article in the Asia Times last weekend reported in detail on the buildup of arms on both sides and predicted intense resumed fighting. The drug trade came up:

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly charged that the Tigers' ships transported illegal drugs from Myanmar, though no concrete evidence of this has been presented. However, the Tigers do seem to have close links to organized criminal groups in Russia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, as well as foreign terrorist groups.

Whatever their source, the Tamil Tigers appear to have ample funds to acquire weapons from anywhere and everywhere. Modern assault rifles, machine-guns, anti-tank weapons (rocket-propelled grenades), mortars and even man-pack SA-7 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, China and Europe.

Without concrete evidence, one should never fully trust any government's accusations of drug trafficking made against its opponents -- not only because the government has an incentive to make its opponents look as awful as possible, but also because there are drug-fighters within the government who want the money and crave the attention, and because it is a tactic governments use to try and get the international community and the US in particular more involved with their fights.

That said, it could certainly be true -- John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Canadian think-tank concerned with organized violence and political instability, discussed the issue of terrorist groups using the drug trade to finance their activities in an interview with this newsletter in October 2001 -- it is a substantial factor for many such organizations, and something that tends to keep them around as mere criminal organizations once the political and ideological conflicts have faded.

An arguably more reliable information source than many governments on the issue -- the Orthodox Anarchist blog, published from Jerusalem -- has made a similar observation about the hashish trade in Israel, which is extensively if not primarily supplied by Hezbollah, according to sources quoted. Author Dan Sieradski wrote last month that, "with a heavy heart, I am officially boycotting hashish effective immediately," confessed to having unintentionally helped to fund Hezbollah rockets through his consumption of it, and urged "all my Israel-based readers to cease their consumption of hashish immediately, for the sake of Israel and for the sake of the Lebanese living under the yoke of Iran and Syria's oppression by proxy."

Sieradski went on to recommend, as "an imperfect solution," that the foreign trade be replaced with a domestically-supplied market through decriminalizing the growing of a small number of marijuana plants in the home. So while Sieradski has proferred this confession for himself and friends for their small part of the illicit drug trade with all its evils, he has also implicitly pointed out the blame that governments deserve for creating all of it through drug prohibition. On that idea, outright legalization would be closer to a perfect solution.

Not a perfect one, of course -- there is no perfect policy toward the permanent human issues and shortcomings that exist in relation to the use of mind-altering substances. But it is a better solution than any other. I can't say to what extent the illegal drug trade is helping Hezbollah, but clearly drug prohibition is a major contributor to violence, be it global, localized, political or economic. It is only because of prohibition that the world's underground economy is of such a size that it can help terrorist groups so very much, enough to literally cause civil wars to escalate in places like Sri Lanka or Colombia.

In a time for which political violence has become the defining issue, to continue to support it through ill-conceived laws when viable alternatives exist is senseless. It is time for some clear thinking on this issue from our leaders.

Middle East: Now, Israelis Call for Boycott of Hezbollah Hashish

Israeli drug users have long been happy to puff on Lebanese hashish, but now, as war between the two countries rages, some are calling for a boycott because the cross-border trade helps finance Hezbollah, The Jewish Daily Forward reported Thursday. Hashish is the most popular form of marijuana in Israel, and Lebanon is the number one supplier, according to Israeli law enforcement.

The boycott call came from activist and Jerusalem resident Dan Sieradski, who posted the idea on his Orthodox Anarchist blog. "A Persian-backed terrorist organization is the primary supplier of hashish to the Israeli market today," Sieradski wrote. "And this is why, with a heavy heart, I am officially boycotting hashish, effective immediately."

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Persian smoking hashish (from DrugLibrary.org)
Hashish grown in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley has traditionally been smuggled into Israel by Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze nomads, but the Forward reports that since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has taken over the trade -- and the associated profits. "Hezbollah is directly overseeing the entire operation," Police Captain Avi ElGrisi was quoted as saying in The Jerusalem Post. "They say where, when, and how much drugs are brought in."

Sieradski's call has met with mixed results. For some Israeli hash heads, the boycott is a way of expressing their dismay at the war and Hezbollah's relentless rocket attacks on Israel. "The thing is, if you buy your drugs from Lebanon, you could well be funding terrorism through Hezbollah against Israel," one user commented. "Who among us would want that on their conscience? Not me!" Another young boycotter commented: "It's bad enough that they're trying to blow up our country. I'm not going to pay them to do it."

Not everyone is on board. The Forward quoted one Jerusalem area dealer as saying, "It all comes from Hezbollah," but he could care less. His comment on the boycott? "Roll that shit, light that shit, smoke that shit."

The boycott call has also prompted some to argue that it is time to legalize the hash trade in order to weaken Hezbollah. As long as there are illicit profits to be made, it's money in the bank for the Shiite resistance organization, they noted.

The boycott call may also be an expression of the reality on the ground inside Israel. With the Lebanon-Israel border the scene of heavy fighting, it is questionable just how much Lebanese hash is getting through right now.

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