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Taking a cue from marketing guru, peddlars now "package" drugs--Meant for foreign clients, these "packaged products" are smuggled outside India

Location: 
India
Publication/Source: 
Mumbai Newsline/Expressindia
URL: 
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=202890

Possible 40-year term debated for teen accused of drug smuggling

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4211621.html

Hilarious Video: The Hazards of Covering the Drug Beat

Now, I don't know if this is real or not, but it is quite amusing. The video clip shows a British journalist attempting to file his report from the scene of a massive drug burn. He has some problems. This has been floating around for awhile, but I think it's worth posting here. Enjoy. WARNING: This link goes to a web site that features naked or semi-naked people. If you are offended (or easily distracted) by such images, you might not want to go there. Sorry about that; it was the only link I could find. NOTE: When I go to the link, the page appears blank at first even though you hear the sound. Wait a few seconds for the page to load completely, then scroll down a bit to get to the video screen.
Location: 
Colombia

Barnett Rubin Lectures the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghan Opium

On Thursday, I crossed back into the US from British Columbia and spent the day listening to all the back and forth over Chavez's "devil" comments as I drove across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. About 4am, I checked into a motel in Broadus, Montana—which is about 150 miles from nowhere in any direction—flipped on the tube, and lo and behold, there was Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin giving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a tutorial on the complications of US Afghan policy. What really caught my attention was Rubin's closing remarks. Unfortunately, the C-Span video link to Rubin's remarks isn't working as I type these words (but perhaps is by the time you are reading them; give it a try), but the good professor basically lectured the committee on the foolishness of attempting to wipe out the opium crop. Addressing the senators as if they were a group of callow undergrads at a seminar, Rubin explained that the only way to deal with the opium problem was to regulate and control it. That caused Sen. Frank Lugar (R-IN) to stir himself from his lizard-like torpor long enough to mutter something to the effect that "this is a big issue for another day." Here is what Rubin had to say in his prepared remarks:
"The international drug control regime, which criminalizes narcotics, does not reduce drug use, but it does produce huge profits for criminals and the armed groups and corrupt officials who protect them. Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies. As long as we maintain our ideological commitment to a policy that funds our enemies, however, the second-best option in Afghanistan is to treat narcotics as a security and development issue. The total export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan has ranged in recent years from 30 to 50 percent of the legal economy. Such an industry cannot be abolished by law enforcement. The immediate priorities are massive rural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including roads and cold storage to make other products marketable; programs for employment creation through rural industries; and thoroughgoing reform of the ministry of the interior and other government agencies to root out the major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections. "News of this year’s record crop is likely to increase pressure from the US Congress for eradication, including aerial spraying. Such a program would be disastrously self-defeating. If we want to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to help the rural poor (which is almost everyone) and isolate the leading traffickers and the corrupt officials who support them."
What he actually said at the end of his testimony was even stronger. Check it out if that damned C-Span link ever actually works.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan Not a Narco-State

I caught an awkward exchange on Meet the Press this Morning between Tim Russert and Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

Tim Russert: Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-state?

Hamid Karzai: No…

I find both the question and the answer problematic. It should have gone more like this:

Tim Russert: So, quite a narco-state you’ve got over there, huh?

Hamid Karzai: Yeah, no kidding…

In fairness, Karzai subsequently acknowledged that he’s got a major opium cultivation problem on his hands. Still, you gotta wonder what a narco-state looks like if Afghanistan isn’t one.

Among his excuses for this year’s explosion in Afghan opium cultivation was the observation that poppies seem resistant to drought conditions.  I didn’t know that, but it doesn’t surprise me. Drug plants tend to grow vigorously; yet another reason that sending soldiers after them is a ridiculous waste of time.

Maybe we should utilize these resilient flowers instead of fighting over them.


Location: 
United States

Feature: US Uses Annual Drug Certification Report to Attack Bolivia, Venezuela

The Bush administration released its annual "Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries" report Monday, and both the report itself and Bush administration spokesmen used the occasion to launch attacks on Bolivia and Venezuela. The attack on Bolivia is related to the shift away from the forced eradication of coca crops under the "zero cocaine, not zero coca" policy of President Evo Morales, but the attack on Venezuela, which is neither a major drug producing country nor unusual in the region in being used as a transshipment point for Colombian cocaine, appears to have little to do with its adherence to US drug policy goals and much to do with the increasingly adversarial relationship between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bush administration.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/boliviancoca.jpg
Bolivian coca (source: US State Dept.)
Chavez and Morales are close allies in an emerging left-leaning, anti-imperialistic axis in Latin America. Bolivia announced this week it is accepting Venezuelan assistance to construct new military facilities near the Paraguayan border.

The list of major drug producing or trafficking nations remains unchanged from last year. Included are Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.

Only two nations -- Myanmar and Venezuela -- were determined to have "failed demonstrably" to meet their obligations under international drug control treaties. Myanmar has reduced opium production, but remains an isolated military dictatorship. Sanctions against Venezuela were nevertheless waived, because of a belief by the administration "programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions are vital to the national interests of the United States" (though many in the hemisphere have suspicions about what that really means since the administration's tacit support for an attempted coup against Chavez in April 2002 and because of where the money is going).

"Venezuela's importance as a transshipment point for drugs bound for the United States and Europe has continued to increase in the past 12 months, a situation both enabled and exploited by corrupt Venezuelan officials," press secretary Snow charged.

The Bush administration might have a little more traction with such charges if it did not single out Venezuela. Mexico, for instance, is not mentioned in the text of the annual report except in the list of major trafficking nations despite rampant corruption, drug trade-related violence at record levels, and a government response that is curiously supine. Nor is Guatemala mentioned, despite the fact that the head of its anti-drug agency, Adam Castillo, pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington just two weeks ago to conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the country.

"This is the same charade they go through every year," said Sanho Tree, head of the Institute for Policy Studies Drug Policy Project. "These are essentially political determinations." The waiver to continue funneling money to anti-Chavez groups is a clear sign of that, Tree said. "If they decertify Venezuela without the waiver, they can't funnel all that money through the so-called pro-democracy opposition," he told Drug War Chronicle.

The Venezuelan government, for its part, rejected its designation as a failed partner in the war on drugs and accused the US government of "politicizing" international anti-drug policy. In an official statement issued Monday, the government said, "Venezuela denounces the continued politicization of important bilateral issues by the US State Department. The Bush administration consciously continues to practice a policy of substituting facts by unfounded statements, driven by simple political differences, the explicit purpose of which is to isolate Venezuela."

The statement went on to note that Venezuela had seized more than 35,000 kilograms of drugs last year and that its anti-drug efforts had won international praise. In comments earlier this month, British officials praised Venezuela's "tremendous cooperation" in fighting drugs, while the French talked of "intense cooperation" and the Spanish said Venezuelan authorities "are efficient in registering and detaining individuals that could be transporting drugs."

The Venezuelan statement also carried an implicit threat. The Chavez government threw the DEA out of Venezuela last year amid accusations it was spying on the Venezuelan government, and since then, the two countries have been negotiating a new agreement allowing the agency to operate there. "Baseless accusations, such as those contained in the Bush administration's report, will not help finalize an agreement as important as this one," the statement warned.

While the Bush attack on Venezuela's anti-drug record stinks of global power politics, its criticism of Bolivia is based on more traditional US drug policy concerns. "My administration is concerned with the decline in Bolivian counternarcotics cooperation since October 2005," Bush said in the report. "Bolivia, the world's third largest producer of cocaine, has undertaken policies that have allowed the expansion of coca cultivation and slowed the pace of eradication until mid-year, when it picked up. The Government of Bolivia's (GOB) policy of 'zero cocaine, but not zero coca' has focused primarily on interdiction, to the near exclusion of its necessary complements, eradication and alternative development."

White House press secretary Tony Snow amplified those remarks at a Monday press conference. "Despite increased drug interdiction, Bolivia has undertaken policies that have allowed the expansion of coca cultivation and have significantly curtailed eradication," he said. Snow warned that the US government is waiting to see whether the Bolivian government will eradicate minimum acreages, make changes to Bolivian law desired by the US, and tightly control the sale of coca leaf. The US will review Bolivia's compliance with US drug policy goals in six months, he said.

The Bolivians responded with only slightly less asperity than the Venezuelans. "The administration of the United States has a mistaken reading with respect to Bolivian anti-drug policy," said government spokesman Alex Contreras in an official statement Monday. "Bolivia invites the United States to join the policy of zero cocaine and to recall that it is the principal producer of precursor chemicals to transform coca into cocaine. Also, it has the largest market of illegal drug consumers."

The Bolivian government will accomplish its goal of eradicating 5,000 hectares of coca this year, Contreras said, adding that that benchmark "will have been smoothly surpassed, not by the imposition of the US government, but by our own will and without using any tear gas, let alone repression and confrontations," a clear reference to the bloody conflicts between coca growers and former Bolivian governments that attempted to impose US-style forced eradication policies.

Voluntary eradication is indeed going on, said Kathryn Ledebur of the Bolivia-based Andean Information Network, who questioned the Bush administration's strict timelines. "I find it ironic that forced eradication took nine months during the Banzer administration and now they want radical results in six months. No nation can comply with that," she told the Chronicle. "The real sticking point is the six-month deadline to eliminate farmers' personal coca plots. That could push the Bolivian government to the breaking point. This suggests the Bush administration has no real idea what should be done, but it wants a firm scolding on the record."

Ledebur also found irony in the US complaints about the lack of progress with alternative development. "That is funded and driven by the US," she pointed out.

Both Ledebur and Tree agreed that Bolivia is energetically tackling the cocaine trade. "The interdiction of cocaine is a concrete result the Bolivian government can point to," said Tree. "Coca does not equal cocaine, and until it does become cocaine, coca should be a domestic matter and not something on the US agenda. If Bolivia can successfully regulate where the coca goes, it should not be an issue. Evaluating Bolivia on how many hectares of coca it eradicates is a meaningless metric."

Southwest Asia: Proposal for Turning Afghan Opium Into Legal Morphine Gains Support

A proposal to license Afghanistan's illegal opium production and turn it into morphine for the legitimate global medicinal market picked up more support this week as the Italian Red Cross and the Afghan Red Crescent launched a campaign to promote the idea. While so-far scoffed at by the governments of Afghanistan, the US, and the NATO countries, the carefully researched licensing proposal from the Senlis Council, a European security, development, and drug policy think tank, has already won backing from some political figures in England and from the Italian government.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
The United Nations reported less than three weeks ago that despite ongoing eradication efforts, Afghan opium cultivation had increased a whopping 60% and would produce an all-time record 6,100 tons of opium this year. Afghanistan currently accounts for 92% of illicit opium production worldwide.

According to the UN, some 2.9 million Afghans are involved in opium growing, representing more than 12% of the population. The crop will bring in an estimated $3 billion this year, with farmers pocketing about $750 million and the rest going to traffickers and their allies, who range from the Taliban and Al Qaeda to government ministers, members of parliament, and provincial governors and warlords.

In a Monday press conference, the Italian Red Cross joined the campaign for the Senlis Council proposal. "This system we advocate provides for one part of the Afghan opium to be used to make legal morphine, rather than illegal heroin," Massimo Barra, president of the Italian Red Cross told reporters in Rome. To transform illicit poppy fields into licit ones would "reduce the importance of illegal practices in Afghanistan and would address the pain crisis in developing countries," where opium-based painkillers are needed to treat patients with cancer, AIDS and other diseases, Barra said.

The Afghan Red Crescent is also joining the call to adopt the Senlis proposal. The Crescent, the Italian Red Cross, and the Senlis Council also used the Monday press conference to announce the opening of a 50-bed hospital wing in Kabul for the treatment of drug addicts.

For Senlis Council executive director Emmanuel Reinert, who also addressed the press conference, eradication has proven ineffective and counterproductive because it is taking livelihoods away from hard-pressed farmers.

"Farmers right now do not have a choice; if they could, they'd want to do the right thing," he said, adding that it wouldn't be difficult to pay licensed farmers the equivalent of their net income from illegal cultivation. "The farmers will have the same financial incentive," Reinert said.

US Raps Venezuela, Myanmar on Illegal Drug Trade

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/18/AR2006091801303.html

Bolivia Drug Fight Faulted: The White House Cited Concerns About Contributions to the Illegal Drug Trade By Bolivia

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/15552243.htm

Afghan Fighting Blamed for Opium Bonanza

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
The Daily Telegraph
URL: 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/09/15/wafg15.xml

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