Uruguay's "C" day has finally arrived: Packets of cannabis are on sale in pharmacies for registered users. It's the long-anticipated final phase of a landmark 2013 law that fully legalized marijuana for recreational use.
The move comes as governments in the region are increasingly leaning away from prohibition, notes the New York Times.
"It’s hard to overstate just how important this moment is to the ongoing shift in the global drug policy paradigm: more than 50 years since the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs banned cannabis for all but medical or scientific purposes, adult residents of Uruguay will be able to purchase cannabis in pharmacies for non-medical use across the country," write Geoff Ramsey and John Walsh for WOLA. They also emphasize the importance of the law's focus on public health, state sales are accompanied by public information campaigns aimed at educating citizens about the general risks of cannabis use.
Don't expect the Amsterdam of South America though -- the law limits access to Uruguayan residents and controls the amount they can purchase. Other aspects of the law -- permitting self-cultivation and cannabis clubs have already been implemented.
And rollout in local pharmacies will be slow, for now it's just 16, selling two varieties of pot at prices intended to undercut the illicit market. Residents will be able to purchase five-gram (0.18oz) sealed packets of marijuana for $6.50 each. A potential downside: low THC content, reports the Guardian.
As of earlier this week, there were 4,959 Uruguayans signed up to begin purchasing cannabis from the state in pharmacies. Meanwhile, 6,948 Uruguayans have registered to grow up to six flowering cannabis plants in their homes (with the understanding that their annual yield should not exceed 480 grams), and 63 “cannabis clubs” have begun operating across the country. Each of these clubs, according to the law, can have between 15 and 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants in the same space, but cannot dispense more than 480 gram annual limit to each member, notes WOLA.
- U.S. officials are considering moving beyond sanctions against individual Venezuelans, in favor of more broad economic sanctions. These could include a potential prohibition on crude and other petroleum product trade with the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. Venezuela could face a "catastrophic" meltdown if the U.S. blocks crude exports, warned opposition lawmakers yesterday. The U.S. is considering economic sanctions if the Venezuelan government moves forward with a plan to rewrite the country's constitution, reports the Miami Herald. Broader penalties are important if the goal is to push President Nicolás Maduro to step down, but it could also significantly worsen the country's current humanitarian crisis, notes the Washington Post. The Trump administration is also considering imposing sanctions on more Venezuelan officials, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)
- Mexico's government has systematically undermined a much-heralded anti-corruption system implemented last year, say sector activists. Instead, government critics have been spied on illegally using government-owned software, civic organizations have been the target of investigations, and congress has failed to name an anti-corruption prosecutor and judges, reports the Guardian. "The delays and harassment have prompted uncomfortable questions over the government’s commitment to stopping graft. And the failure to implement the SNA as it was designed has led to accusations that Mexican politicians are more keen to cover up for each other than to crack down on kickbacks." This week lawmakers missed a critical deadline to appoint an anti-corruption prosecutor, and he Senate also hasn’t appointed 18 judges to hear corruption cases, and almost half of Mexico’s 32 states haven’t passed legislation required at the local level, reports the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this week U.S. officials said they would seek to include anti-corruption measures in the NAFTA renegotiation discussions.
- Mexico is a paradox: mass graves alongside economic growth and international tourism. "How can we understand this paradox and classify this bloodshed? Is it simply a horrendous crime problem, or is it an actual war," asks Ioan Grillo in a New York Times op-ed. "The truth is that the conflict is neither just crime nor civil war, but a new hybrid type of organized violence." He looks at the mass grave phenomenon, and the many "civilian" victims of cartel violence. "Yet at the same time, for many Mexicans, life goes on in apparent normality — with no tank battles or aerial bombardments. This is what separates the conflict from a civil war, even though the death toll is comparable. The pattern of killing is perhaps most similar to that of the death squads of a dictatorship."
- After 13 years the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti is finally packing up in a few months. But the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, leaves behind a significant legacy of abuse that will make it hard for its successor mission, aimed at improving rule of law institutions, to carry out its work, argues Jake Johnston in World Politics Review. "Whatever the Haitian people or their government may think about the U.N.'s presence in Haiti, the future of the mission is not up to them. Like MINUSTAH before it, the next mission in Haiti will operate under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which allows the Security Council to use military force to maintain peace, and does not require the host country's consent. It also means that if the Security Council so determines, foreign troops could be sent back to Haiti at a moment's notice. ... The legacy of cholera and sexual violence, combined with Haiti's enduring economic insecurity and violence, make it hard to consider MINUSTAH a success. The fact that the Security Council has mandated a follow-up Chapter VII mission to monitor human rights and strengthen the rule of law, despite the absence of an armed conflict, may well be a silent admission of failure."
- Poverty rates are climbing in Brazil, and threaten to put the country back on the U.N.'s hunger map, reports the Guardian. A new progress report on the country's 2030 sustainable development agenda warns that austerity measures will increase poverty in Brazil and said the country should reduce other costs and adopt a fairer tax system.
- Brazilian prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot is in no rush to file new charges of corruption against President Michel Temer, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
- Rural communities in Colombia affected by decades of civil war will be assigned land titles within the next six years promised the high commissioner for post-conflict affairs.The title registration process will be implemented this year in 200 municipalities, reports EFE.
- With the peace process well underway, Colombian farmers are being pushed by the government and former FARC fighters to replace their coca crops with legal -- but less lucrative -- products, reports the New York Times. As part of its reconstruction plan for Colombia’s war-ravaged countryside, the government is promising money to the first 50,000 coca-growing families that take the offer: a monthly payment of about $325 for the first year that farmers give up coca, followed by subsidies to plant new crops and education on how to grow them. And forced manual eradication will be applied to farmers who do not wish to abandon illicit crops. And already prices for coca have dropped, in the wake of increased land under cultivation and fewer growers with the rebels out of the picture.
- In the meantime, new data this week shows that Colombia is producing more cocaine than ever. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says production grew more than 34 percent last year. And hectares under cultivation grew by over 50 percent. InSight Crime analyzes the numbers in detail, and looks at the changing face of Colombia's criminal groups. "The first thing is to forget about traditional drug cartels along the lines of the Medellín and Cali Cartels. They are long gone as organized crime structures. Forget also the heavily-armed paramilitary army of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC). While the generation of criminal groups born out of the AUC demobilization, the BACRIM (so named after the Spanish for criminal bands, "bandas criminales") has its roots in the AUC, it does not have the same military capacity nor territorial control of its paramilitary predecessors. Today it is all about networks, and the most powerful one is group under what we call the "Urabeños" franchise, although this group prefers to call itself the Gaitanista Self Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC). This franchise has reach across Colombia and is responsible for moving the lion's share of cocaine across the Colombian border. The Urabeños used to work closely with the FARC. The guerrillas would sell them coca base and protect shipments going through their territory. However the departure of the FARC from the criminal scene has changed the drug trafficking landscape, just as the demobilization of the AUC in 2006 did. The new chapter in Colombia's criminal history is now unfolding as the cocaine industry adapts to the FARC withdrawal and seeks to fill the vacuum left by the rebel army. Charting this new criminal chapter is one of InSight Crime's primary aims for the remainder of 2017."
- Chile's senators approved a bill that would allow abortion in limited cases -- rape, risks to mothers health and fetal inviability. The bill, which would end the country's total ban, goes back to the chamber of deputies now. It has the backing of President Michelle Bachelet, reports the BBC. The bill passed narrowly after a long and fractious debate, reports Reuters.
- Two Peruvians living in Chile were doused in gas and set on fire by a mob of local fisherman, amid a national debate over increased migration and heightened racial tensions, reports the Guardian. (See June 29's briefs.) The two brothers, who have collected seaweed in the Antofagasta region for the past five years, were left with second- and third-degree burns to over half their bodies after the attack.
- Peru's unionized miners started an indefinite, nationwide strike today to protest government-proposed labor reform, reports Reuters.
- Paraguayan farmers are asking the government to forgive $34 million in debt owed by rural smallholders to both public and private institutions, reports EFE.
- The Bolivian government plans to massively invest in the country's lithium production sector, reports Deutsche Welle.
- Ecuador will not comply with OPEC's production curbs, saying it needs more oil to cover its fiscal deficit, reports the Guardian. The decision is not numerically relevant, but its the first crack in unity regarding the cartels recent agreement to cut 1.8 million barrels per day until next year.
- Bloomberg takes a look at how the very wealthy keep partying in Caracas after a day in the protest barricades.