Tuesday, October 20, 2015

UNDOC backpedals on decriminalization policy paper (Oct. 20, 2015)

The UNDOC has denied quashing a policy paper advocating decriminalization of all drugs, as reported yesterday by the BBC. (See yesterday's briefs.)

But that came only after the story made attention grabbing headlines, especially after Sir Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, published a blog post on the Virgin website applauding the UNODC for the policy shift, reports Slate

The Guardian notes that the leaked policy paper does say that it clarifies UNODC's position and explains that decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal consumption is consistent with international drug control conventions. But it also makes clear that  it is asking states to consider decriminalising personal drug use and possession "as a key element of the HIV response among people who use drugs." 

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance emphasized the importance of such an advance, even with yesterday's backpedalling. "...It’s promising that such a powerful statement strongly affirming the need to decriminalize drug use and possession made it this far in the UN process – that in itself represents a dramatic evolution from previous decades when any talk of decriminalization was studiously suppressed."

But at least in Latin America the War on Drugs paradigm is being challenged, and many countries areskewing strongly towards decriminalization of marijuana at least. Chile is inching closer, and there are cases before the Mexican (see below) and Brazilian Supreme Courts pushing the issue. and See Sept. 16th's post on a regional report that looks at the negative effects of the "War on Drugs" paradigm on human rights in the region.

News Briefs

  • On the issue of decriminalization, the Mexican Supreme Court announced that tomorrow it will examine a case that could overturn five articles in the General Health Law that prohibit personal and recreational use of marijuana. The ruling could effectively open the path to legalization, specifically limited to the personal use of marijuana without fear of being charged with any crime or misdemeanor, reports El Daily Post. However, legal prohibition of selling, marketing, warehousing and distributing marijuana would remain in place. Still, don't get too excited, warns Alejandro Hope: the decision could go either way, and even a favorable one would have limited consequences as it would be applicable only to the plaintiffs in the case. Of course, it would still set precedent ... Political pressure on Mexico to liberalize its stance on marijuana has been rising since the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession and sale of the drug for recreational use in 2012, according to Reuters.
  • Who hasn't heard of the vast and ever growing investigation into corruption at Brazil's state-run oil giant Petrobras? The federal judge behind the case, has become something of a cult figure in Brazil, but a recent Supreme Court decision will take some corruption cases out of his hands, possibly affecting the investigation, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • People in Brazil retire early and draw on generous pension benefits that are then inherited by their (sometimes very young) spouses, reports the New York Times. The generous payouts to pensioners, who can retire well before reaching their sixties is a flashpoint in the intensifying political fight to reduce government spending.
  • And a piece in the Washington Post on a cheating public employee caught in the act features Brazilians wondering about the impact of small corruption in every-day lives. "Swerving around the rules is called "the little Brazilian way" and considered acceptable because attempting to follow the country's convoluted and Kafkaesque bureaucratic procedures can be impossible."
  • Jaime A. Alves makes the case that police killings in Brazil are part of a routine practice and asks: "How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations?" The numbers are terrible: "In the last ten years (from 2002-2012), the Brazilian police force killed 11, 200 individuals allegedly for resisting arrests." Alves denounces the impunity of these cases and calls on the international community to pressure Brazil for change.
  • Venezuela said yesterday that it will not permit the OAS to send observers to monitor the December 6 parliamentary elections, reports AFP. It's worth revisiting this piece by Eugenio Martínez on the Consejo Nacional Electoral's (CNE) policy on observe missions, which have been limited since 2006.
  • In an interview with the Huffington Post former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz draws attention to the issue of violence against women in Guatemala. Though the country has made progress, it's not enough she says, and represents a driver of migration out. "I’m sure that homicidal violence is one of the things forcing people to leave the country."
  • Last week a Paraguayan court suspended a case regarding the "Curuguaty Massacre" a violent confrontation in 2012 between landless farmers and police officers that ended in the death of 11 rural workers and six police officers, reports TeleSur. Defense lawyers for the rural workers have questioned repeated delays in the case. (See June 16th's briefs.)
  • A piece in NACLA reviews the right to housing in Chile, and the relative success of decades of policies to support low-income housing.

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