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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

Sentencing: US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Throws out Crack Cocaine Sentence

In a ruling Monday, the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threw out a 24-year prison sentence for a man possessing less than three ounces of crack cocaine. The court held that the US District Court judge who sentenced the man erred in believing he had to sentence the man based on the 100:1 quantity disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Such sentences are no longer mandatory, said the appeals court, only advisory.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/prisondorm.jpg
Under a 1986 law passed in the midst of a wave of anti-drug hysteria, the US Congress enacted a two-tier sentencing scheme for cocaine defendants with crack defendants facing sentences decades longer than powder cocaine defendants for possessing the same amount of the drug. But the appeals court held that since the US Supreme Court last year ruled that federal sentencing guidelines were only advisory and not mandatory, sentencing judges need not be bound by the guidelines.

The three-judge panel held that defendant Johnny Gunter was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. "The limited holding here is that district courts may consider the crack/powder cocaine differential in the guidelines as a factor, but not a mandate, in the... sentencing process," wrote Judge Thomas Ambro for the court.

Assistant US Attorney Robert Zauzmer told the Philadelphia Inquirer the ruling was likely to be cited by every defendant in a crack case. "This is a significant opinion which we are studying closely," he said, adding prosecutors were considering whether to ask the appeals court to reconsider the decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin, meanwhile, told the Inquirer the ruling would help reduce the racial disparities existing in cocaine sentencing. "This has a great impact in helping to reduce the racial disparity that stems from that ratio," McColgin said.

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."

Canadian MP Libby Davies--statement on Insite and NDP Harm Reduction Resolution

Federal NDP Passes Emergency Motion to Protect InSite, Safe Injection Site Dear Friends, The work and action taken at the grass roots level to bring the issue of InSite to national and international attention was remarkable. I really want to thank all of you who took the time to respond to our call for help. It made a huge difference and really demonstrates how, when we work together, it can pay off! There is more work to do to protect and expand harm reduction programs across Canada, and I won’t give up on it. Please find below, an article I wrote for Rabble.ca on September 7 (www.rabble.ca). I’m also pleased to report that a motion to protect InSite, and further expand similar harm reduction programs across the country, was overwhelmingly supported at the federal NDP policy convention in Quebec City this last weekend. Sincerely, Libby INSITE TAKES ON CONSERVATIVES September 7, 2006 Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East and NDP Spokesperson for Drug Policy Last week, in an uncharacteristic move, the Conservative government was forced to bow to public pressure and allow INSITE, North America's first safe injection facility for Intravenous Drug Users, to continue for another 18 months under a special exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is a huge victory, because the Conservative government has, from day one of the struggle to open a safe site for injecting, vociferously opposed such an idea. It clashes with their narrow views that the correct response to drug use is primarily law enforcement, ignoring harm reduction measures where drug users are treated with respect and dignity. INSITE has been open for three years, but it took six long years prior to that, to take what was a seemingly radical idea from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and turn it into a functioning, publicly-funded, peer-assisted, scientifically-evaluated operation. Located on the much maligned 100 block East Hastings Street, INSITE has been under a media microscope from the beginning and has been scrutinized, poked and batted about and described as everything from the worst evil, to a life-saving centre. This victory to keep INSITE open, at least for now, is worth taking a closer look at. There are some important markers for activists who have been frustrated by the lack of response and accountability of the Conservatives, on so many issues of concern, whether it is child-care funding, housing or safety. What forced them to pay attention this time and apparently change course and make a decision that is contrary to their political direction? During the early days of the last federal election, Stephen Harper blew into Vancouver and threatened a Conservative government would close down INSITE, scaring the pants off everyone. So what changed? The short answer, I believe, is the Conservatives were overwhelmed by a well-planned, well- executed, and multi-layered campaign, that made it politically impossible to just say no. This well-organized community campaign had tremendous impact and included an interactive website. That, in and of itself, set the momentum and direction for INSITE's survival. In my office, we had already written numerous letters, statements, press releases etc, but it was our call for emails and letters to support the community campaign and to write to the federal health Minister that generated the biggest response I have ever seen on any issue I have worked on. The response from many hundreds of people from across Canada was immediate and solid. I attribute this in part, to the growing media coverage that became national, and even international, as the World AIDS Conference, took place in Toronto in August. Certainly the media attention helped focus and direct people who were generally sympathetic to INSITE and wanted to act. But it's important to note that it was the community activists who set the media stage and kept it going with new developments, actions and new support every few days. Two other factors made a key difference: multi-party support, and academic support. For example, INSITE had the backing of three former Vancouver Mayors and the current Mayor, representing support from across the political spectrum. The ongoing scientific/academic comment and validation fuelled the case that INSITE is part of a bigger drug policy strategy that is working and helping people and local communities, were very important. So often, I encounter folks who understandably feel discouraged and hopeless about changing the political course to a progressive outcome in the face of neo-conservative politics. Yet when we take something on, define it, organize, and develop broad and multi-faceted actions, there can be clear victories. In the case of INSITE it ran the gamut from stopping traffic at busy Toronto intersections for a breathtaking minute (so well-organized through the community coalition group, INSITE For Community Safety), to publicizing academics and their papers and evaluations, to masses of emails and letters from ordinary people at all layers of society. But most importantly, it was drug users themselves — so often marginalized and demonized by society, who spoke out about their own lives and experience, and demanded our attention and support. There was a very strong underlying message that came through again and again. It is that, all lives matter. Human dignity matters — whether it's AIDS victims in Africa or poor drug users in the Downtown Eastside. This powerful message, spoken in so many ways, by so many different people, could not be countered by Conservative bafflegab and rhetoric. Now, there is one last piece to this story, for the bigger battle is yet to come. When after months of silence, the Conservatives finally put out their press release giving the reprieve for INSITE on September 1, only 11 days until the deadline, late on a Friday, on the eve of a long weekend, hoping no-one would notice (most of all them!), the biggest part of the story went largely ignored in media coverage. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief — but the Conservatives had a final message: INSITE is okay for now, but by the way, the Conservatives are going to re-write Canada's drug strategy. In his press release, the Health Minister promises more “studies,” more anti-harm reduction, more funds slated to punitive enforcement, and more regressive legislation. “The Minister also noted he will be working with his federal counterparts at Justice and Public Safety, along with the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, to accelerate the launch and implementation of a new National Drug Strategy (NDS), which will put greater emphasis on programs that reduce drug and alcohol abuse.” (September 1, 2006, Health Canada.) Interestingly, the media gave little attention and coverage to this part of the announcement, yet it is a clear signal that the Conservatives are gearing up for something bigger. In 2002, a special Parliamentary Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs I was on, supported the so-called 4 Pillar Approach: Harm Reduction, Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, as a sensible drug policy for Canada, recognizing the need for a health-based strategy that moves from the fundamentally flawed law enforcement framework. These recommendations came after comprehensive hearings and extensive testimony from across Canada. Of course the Conservative members of the Committee were opposed to this approach, and the call in the report for the government of Canada to “...remove any federal regulatory or legislative barriers to the implementation of scientific trials and pilot projects, and assist and encourage the development of protocols to determine the effectiveness of safe injection facilities in reducing the social and health problems related to injection drug use.” So, they appear determined to undo years of research, by the Parliamentary Committee as well as by groups like the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users), BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and endless international research that supports INSITE, harm reduction, and the comprehensive strategy it is part of. All in all, a bigger battle is looming, and it will come soon. Clearly the Conservatives think they have bought themselves some time to undo progressive drug policy reform work. But I am optimistic. The community is well organized on this one, indeed we are already moving far ahead, as groups like Creative Resistance (www.creativeresistance.net), challenge drug prohibition laws and policy as the cause of much pain and misery. There are always lessons and tactics to be learned as we move forward. The Conservatives may think they have this one in the bag but I don't think so. When we organize and get creative, we have a lot of power!
Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Feature: Vancouver's Safe Injection Site Gets Only Limited Continuing Exemption

Insite, Vancouver's pioneering safe injection site, won a reprieve from the Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper last Friday -- but only a limited one. The site's three-year exemption from Canada's drug laws was set to expire next week, and the Harper government had dallied for months on whether it would re-approve the controversial harm reduction experiment. Supporters, including the city of Vancouver, the current and two former mayors, local activists, researchers from around the world, and Canadian politicians had sought a renewal of the three-year exemption, but the Harper government instead announced it would renew the exemption only through December 2007.

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InSite (courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health)
In an announcement last Friday afternoon -- seemingly timed to make the story vanish during a three-day holiday weekend news dump -- Health Minister Tony Clement said the results of the first three years of Insite's operation raised new questions that must be answered before the Harper government would make a decision about the long-term future of Insite or approve any other safe injection sites in Canada.

"Do safe injection sites contribute to lowering drug use and fighting addiction? Right now the only thing the research to date has proven conclusively is that drug addicts need more help to get off drugs," Minister Clement said. "Given the need for more facts, I am unable to approve the current request to extend the Vancouver site for another three and a half years."

Clement's remarks reflected the Harper government's ideological antagonism toward harm reduction practices in general and any form of dealing with drug users that does not involve abstinence in particular. "We believe the best form of harm reduction is to help addicts to break the cycle of dependency," Clement said, "We also need better education and prevention to ensure Canadians don't get addicted to drugs in the first place."

Although Insite and Vancouver Coastal Health, the government entity charged with operating the site, have produced reams of research showing that the site has reduced drug overdoses, attracted users at risk to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, increased the number of users seeking treatment or counseling, and reduced needle sharing -- all without leading to increases in crime or drug use -- the Health Ministry insists it wants more.

"We looked at research put out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others," Health Ministry spokesman Erik Waddell told Drug War Chronicle. "We want more research done to show that this form of harm reduction will actually help addicts get off drugs."

While Minister Clement and the Harper government are calling for more research on the efficacy of Insite, they aren't willing to pay for it. The federal government had been sponsoring research at Insite to the tune of $500,000 a year, but Waddell said that had come to an end. "We will not be providing any additional funding for research," he said.

That was news to Vancouver Coastal Health and supporters of Insite. "We hadn't heard that," said Viviana Zanocco, spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health. "We're still trying to get in touch with them and waiting for details," she told Drug War Chronicle. "Still, we are pleased the extension has been granted, even though it's not for the 3 ½ years we requested."

"It's good news that the exemption has been extended and they didn't close it down," said Gillian Maxwell of Insite for Community Safety, a coalition created to help ensure the site's continued existence. "Insite is staying open because of the broad support for it and the depth of research carried out that shows what is has already achieved," she told the Chronicle.

But Maxwell also complained that the Harper government is moving the goalposts. "They have raised the bar on us," she said. "We have a harm reduction program that helps people get into treatment, but now the Harper government wants it to show it helps people stop taking drugs. We can never get everyone to stop taking drugs. This means we have a lot of work to do to protect Insite."

Maxwell said she was shocked but not surprised by the Health Ministry's refusal to fund the additional research it calls for. "They are ideologically opposed to this, so they try to make it as difficult as possible. They may think things should be a certain way, but reality and the research say otherwise."

While the short term extension of the exemption is better than shutting down the facility, said Maxwell, it could well signal that the Harper government will try to shut it down permanently later on. "They didn't feel confident enough to try to close it down now, but they have already made it clear they favor a three-pillar, not a four-pillar, approach. They have little use for harm reduction, and I think they believe that 16 months from now there will have been another election and they will have a majority and then they can shut it down."

Representatives of Insite and the Vancouver city drug policy office were on vacation this week and unavailable to comment.

Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) predicted months ago that the Harper government would seek an interim solution. "I guess I was right," she told Drug War Chronicle. "I know these guys, and they don't want to let us mount a campaign. If they had said no outright, that would have been great, we could have really mobilized."

But Livingston and VANDU are not just sitting back and waiting for December 2007. The group filed a lawsuit late last month seeking an injunction to keep the site open and charging the Harper government with discriminating against people with diagnosable illnesses like drug addiction. "Criminalizing a group of people who are addicted to drugs is blocking them from health care, and that's a Charter right," she said. "The lawsuit will continue."

The lawsuit also charged that Insite does not need an exemption from the Canadian drug laws and even if it does, the government has provided no application process. "The staff at Insite doesn't handle drugs, so they shouldn't need an exemption," Livingston argued. "If they are going to argue that they do need a permit, they have to tell us how to do that. Right now there is no application process; it's all at the whim of a minister."

The safe injection site has survived one execution date, but the would-be executioners in Ottawa are still sharpening their axes. Fortunately for Insite, it has a lot of friends and a proven track record. This battle is going to continue for awhile.

Beheadings a Sign of Mexico Turf War: Bloody Scene in Once Tranquil State Underscores Growing Violence

Location: 
MIC
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4168805.html

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

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

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