Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Seeking alternatives to the War on Drugs paradigm - the Latin American example (Sept 16, 2015)

A new report put together by 17 social organizations from Latin America -- led by Argentina's Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) -- looks at the negative effects of the "War on Drugs" paradigm on human rights in the region.

The results of the current prohibitionist paradigm have been catastrophic, explains the report. Its policies have exponentially increased violence and militarization related to drug trafficking. The War on Drugs has created an immense illegal market, controlled by criminal groups, and led to the increase of violent conflicts in the region. Impoverished areas have seen further deterioration of living conditions and increased stigmatization.

Alternatives include regulation of markets, orienting state persecution towards criminal organizations and violent groups, decriminalizing consumption and home cultivation, establishing proportional punishments for drug crimes, establishing alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent drug crimes and developing human rights oriented health policies for drug users, said Gastón Chillier CELS's executive director.

The report, "The Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights," builds on a Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regional thematic hearing on the topic last year. It comes ahead of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs which will be held next year and seeks to showcase policies from around the region that question the current drug model, change the focus and provide alternatives to punitive state responses.

The issue first came to CELS's attention after seeing the impact drug legislation has had on Latin American prison populations, Luciana Pol, one of report's editors, told InSight Crime

The report has special significance coming from a region where many countries are already starting to debate alternatives to the prohibitionist model.
On that note, Bolivian authorities say 11 neighboring countries back that country's proposal to legally sell coca leaves and certain derivatives.
Deutsche Welle has an interview with several regional experts advocating reform as a method to combat Latin America's skyrocketing levels of drug-related violence.

Back at the War on Drugs epicenter, the U.S. declared that Myanmar, Bolivia and Venezuela have "failed demonstrably" to do enough to fight drug-trafficking from their countries over the past year. These countries can theoretically face sanctions, though for now aid programs to support democracy in Myanmar and Venezuela will continue, reports the AFP.

News Briefs


  • Mixed messages on the Venezuela-Colombia front: Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos said Venezuela's gestures over the past few days could help facilitate a meeting with President Nicolás Maduro. But Maduro took to the air in a four hour speech in which he said he had the sense his Colombian counterpart did not want to meet, reports Reuters. Santos noted that there haven't been reports of abuses of Colombians over the past few days, Venezuelan authorities have permitted Colombian children living over the border to cross in order to attend school in Colombia and have permitted the reunification of families split by the border crisis.
  • "We're vaccinating the fatherland of a 'Pinochet'," Maduro said yesterday, apparently comparing Leopoldo López -- the Venezuelan opposition leader convicted last week on charges of inciting violence, in a case that has been roundly condemned by international human rights organizations -- to the former Chilean dictator, reports Reuters.
  • Now that former president Otto Pérez Molina is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges, and that voters have rejected the political status quo by favoring a political rookie television comedian to replace him, how will Guatemalan's leverage their moment of indignation into improving the lives of its citizens, asks a piece in the New York Times. It's Central America's biggest economy, but the country remains plagued by stubborn inequality. According to the World Bank, Guatemala collects the lowest taxes in the world and spends the least on health, education and infrastructure as a proportion of its economy. "The question, as citizens push for more changes, is how much the business and political elite will yield."
  • For those looking for a little more depth on the Guatemala situation, Francisco Goldman's New Yorker piece goes into some of the longer history, including human rights violations allegations in Pérez Molina's past. Goldman says that Pérez Molina is an embodiment of of the role the Army has played in Guatemalan politics. He also emphasizes that his downfall really was brought about by social pressure. "When one considers Guatemala's long history of violent repression, internal division, censorship, extreme social injustice, endemic corruption protected by a nearly impenetrable system of impunity, what has happened seems almost miraculous," writes Goldman. 
  • Jimmy Morales will face off against former first lady Sandra Torres in October's runoff election to select the next president. Morales, a political outsider, obtained 24 percent of the vote earlier this month, while Torres obtained nearly 20. (See yesterday's briefs.) Torres said she would refocus her campaign on anticorruption proposals. "I'll make public my disclosure of assets and taxes before the runoff. And if I win, every member of my government will have to do the same," she told the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Los Angeles Times has a cute feature on Guatemala City's urban layout and it's "missing" zone 20.
  • At least 292 people have been added to the list of missing from the Iguala area since the 43 students disappeared there a year ago. The Associated Press has a piece on the "other disappeared" and their families, many of whom hadn't come forward to report the missing before the Ayotzinapa scandal drew international attention to the issue of enforced disappearances.
  • Mexico is enhancing its radar capabilities in order to better monitor it's northern border. The new technology will permit authorities to spot illegal flights leaving Mexico toward the United States and vice versa, which has important policy implications, explains El Daily Post
  • Brazil's Senate approved a tax increase on financial firms' profits, part of a government effort to boost the country’s revenue and cut its budget deficit amid weak economic growth, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Miami's Cuban exiles are anxious to see how Pope Francis handles authorities on the island during his upcoming visit, reports Reuters. Expectations are high, especially considering his pivotal role in the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. 
  • Yet, despite the renewed relations between the two countries, the U.S. Coast Guard says the number of Cuban migrants seeking to reach U.S. shores by sea has increased over the past year:  4,235 in the 2015 fiscal year compared to 3,731 in the last, reports Reuters.
  • A 24-hour airport workers strike in Chile has grounded flights across the country and affected about 50,000 passengers, reports AFP. They are demanding better retirement benefits.

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