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Andean Drug War

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Bolivia Seeks Coca Legalization, Path to the Sea

Location: 
Bolivia
Publication/Source: 
Jerusalem Post
URL: 
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1157913633521&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Latin America: Colombia's FARC Guerrillas Say End Drug Prohibition

In a communiqué sent this week to the New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL), Colombia's leftist rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) called for the worldwide legalization of the drug trade to put an end to black market drug trafficking and its associated profits. The unusual communiqué also carried a FARC denial that it owned coca fields in the southern Colombia's Macarena Mountains.

"FARC neither sows, nor owns, nor processes, nor transports nor commercializes any kind of narcotic substance or psychotropic product," said the communiqué from the guerrillas' highest decision-making body, the Secretariat.

The Colombian and US governments have accused the FARC of profiting from the coca and cocaine trade, but it is unclear what this means in practice. Some reports have said that the FARC's involvement is limited to taxing the crops and the trade.

Colombian media had recently alleged that the FARC owned some 7,000 acres of coca fields in the Macarena National Park, thus apparently sparking the FARC's denial. According to the long-lived guerrilla group, the coca fields are owned and worked by thousands of peasants who have no other way of making a living.

While the FARC has called for sustainable coca eradication programs in the past, it seemed to be singing a different tune this week. "We are convinced that the battle against the cancer of narco-trafficking con only be won definitively by elaborating a global strategy that includes the legalization of these products, because this will put an end to fabulous profits that they generate," the statement said.

Latin America: In Break With Campaign Promises, Peru's New Government Will Accelerate Coca Eradication

When new Peruvian President Alain Garcia was in a tight race against pro-coca populist upstart Ollanta Humala earlier this year, he promised his government would oppose coca eradication because Peruvians consider the leaf sacred and a part of their tradition. But Reuters reported Wednesday that the Garcia government is now seeking US support for a new push against coca production in what is now the world's second largest coca producer.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocafield.jpg
coca field
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's annual report on coca production, Peru produces 30% of the Andean coca crop. Colombia accounted for 54%, while third place Bolivia accounted for 16%. While the UN reported a slight decrease in Peruvian coca cultivation last year, the US government estimated production had actually increased by 38%.

While some coca is cultivated legally and sold to the Peruvian national coca monopoly to be made into various products, some doubtless is diverted to the black market and made into cocaine. Peruvian police report busting some 500 cocaine labs last year.

More than $330 million in US aid since 2000 has failed to rein in Peru's coca-growing peasantry. Now, the Peruvian government wants more. "We want a greater state presence in coca-growing areas, more effective coca eradication, coca crop substitution and security for export cargo to limit smuggling," Peru's anti-narcotics chief Romulo Pizarro told Reuters. "We can't let these traffickers continue to poison people's lives."

That was music to the ears of Susan Keogh, narcotics affairs director at the US embassy in Lima. She said eradication must be part of the new campaign because alternative development alone would not be enough to end the drug trade. "There are so many illegal drug laboratories that they're like the McDonald's on every corner (in Peru's coca regions)," Keogh told Reuters. "You can't just flood those areas with development, you need eradication too."

While not as politically potent as their Bolivian counterparts, Peruvian coca growers are increasingly organized, if fractious, and they and their representatives in the parliament, like coca grower union leaders Nancy Obregon and Elsa Malpartida, are bound to make life miserable for the Garcia government over this issue. It won't help matters that Garcia is breaking his vows to them.

Latin America: In Southern Colombia, It's Aid Out, Soldiers In

The US Agency for International Development (AID) has given up on an alternative development campaign designed to help farmers in southern Colombia switch to legal crops, the Houston Chronicle reported. The newspaper cited a Colombian government memorandum, and the report was implicitly confirmed by an unnamed US Embassy source in Bogota.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/eradication.jpg
eradication
According to the Colombian government document, US AID suspended the development program in southern Caqueta state, long a stronghold of the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), because the area was too dangerous for its workers and it lacked economic potential. With development assistance making up less than 10% of the $800 million the US is spending to wage the drug war in Colombia this year, US AID will channel funding to more secure areas.

"You can't be everywhere simultaneously, and you have to make choices," the unnamed embassy official told the Chronicle. "Resources have to be focused where they can be used most effectively."

With the US and Colombian governments having given up on developing the region, the departure of the US AID project clears the way as the Colombian military begins its largest ever campaign in the south. The US has spent more than $4 billion since 2000 to help the Colombian government obtain and maintain control in such areas, but now the economic advisers are leaving and the soldiers are coming.

US analysts and Colombian politicians contacted by the Houston Chronicle called the move a bad idea. "This is not a good way to win hearts and minds," said Sanho Tree, a Colombia expert at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "We're driving people away from the government and into the hands of our declared enemies: the guerrillas and the drug traffickers," he told the Chronicle.

"This decision runs contrary to the whole concept of Plan Colombia," said Luis Fernando Almario, a congressman from Caqueta.

Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert at the Center for International Policy in Washington, told the Chronicle that writing off the war-torn south would be a grave error. Drawing parallels to the war in Iraq, he likened the current approach to saying: "Forget about the Sunni Triangle."

Hastert's Office Balks at Counter-Narcotics Plan

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Hill
URL: 
http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/Business/091206_narcotics.html

Washington Office on Latin America Book Launch Reception

The Washington Office on Latin America is pleased to invite you to a reception to celebrate the publication of Washington Office on Latin America: Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice by Coletta A. Youngers Tuesday, September 19, 2006 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm WOLA’s office 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20009 You have been an important part of our history. WOLA is celebrating its 30 years of history with friends, staff and board members with the launch of our most recent publication Washington Office on Latin America: Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice. We would like to share this special evening with you. Come celebrate WOLA’s history and mingle with our current staff and board to discuss WOLA’s present and to discover WOLA’s future. Please RSVP by Monday, September 18th to Ana Paula Duarte: [email protected]
Date: 
Tue, 09/19/2006 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Location: 
1630 Connecticut St. NW Suite 200
Washington, DC
United States

Opportunities and Challenges for Drug Control Policy in Bolivia

The Washington Office on Latin America is pleased to invite you to a seminar: Opportunities and Challenges for Drug Control Policy in Bolivia with Felipe Cáceres, Vice Minister of Social Defense Tuesday, September 12, 2006 12 pm to 1:30 pm The Root Room Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington, DC 20036 A former mayor from Bolivia’s Chapare region, Felipe Cáceres is responsible for implementing Bolivian government drug control policy. The Morales government is controlling coca production through voluntary crop reductions that seek to avoid conflict and violence as well as the re-planting that has undermined past eradication efforts. At the same time, the government has also stepped up interdiction of illicit drugs at all stages of production. Cáceres will discuss international cooperation, the new government’s drug control strategy, the results obtained to date, and prospects for the future. The presentation will be in Spanish with simultaneous interpretation into English. Light food and beverages will be served. Please RSVP by Monday, September 11th to Jessica Eby [email protected].
Date: 
Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:00pm - 10:30pm
Location: 
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Calling in the Drug Calvary

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-colafghan6sep06,1,4418859.story?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=1&cset=true

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.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/deatargetsflyer.jpg
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."

Latin America: New Report Says Colombian Cocaine Production Seriously Underestimated

"For a long time, the statistics on eradication of illicit crops have been mistaken. It's incredible that nobody has realized that Colombia produces much more cocaine than the reports say," said Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos back in June.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/eradication.jpg
eradication: much pain, no gain
He was responding to the release of report on his country's cocaine production conducted by US, UN, and Colombian experts at the request of the Colombian government. Now, the Colombian newsweekly Cambio has published an article based on that report, and the rest of us get to understand what Santos was talking about.

According to the report, the UN, the US, and the Colombian National Police have all seriously underestimated total cocaine production in the country, currently the world's leading cocaine producer. The Colombian police estimate was 497 tons in 2005, while the US estimated 545 tons, and the UN estimated 640 tons. But the authors of this most recent report estimate that cocaine production last year was actually a staggering 776 tons, or nearly half again as much as the US or Colombian police estimates.

The Colombians undertook the new survey after noticing that despite massive seizures of tons of cocaine, the price of the drug stayed stable. Investigators visited 1,400 coca growers and ran tests at more than 400 plantations. They found that growers had improved their growing techniques and were now able to produce not four harvests per year, but six.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocainebricks.jpg
cocaine bricks (source: US DEA)
According to Cambio, "That explained why the strategies designed to confront the phenomenon have not produced the expected results and the drug trade is flourishing as much or more than before."

The research results raised questions about the effectiveness of the much-criticized aerial fumigation program financed by the United States. Colombian and US officials had suggested the lack of results from spraying herbicides was because traffickers had large stocks of cocaine warehoused. "Without a doubt, that's a big mistake," Colombian anti-drug police subdirector Carlos Medina told Cambio. "The narcos don’t need to store cocaine because the market demands coca and more coca."

The US has about $5 billion invested in this farce so far. One can't help but wonder when the politicians in Washington will notice all those tax dollars going down the rat hole.

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