Thursday, April 21, 2016

More from UNGASS frontlines (April 21, 2016)

Countries from around the world exposed extremely varied approaches to drug use yesterday, at the second day of the U.N. General Assembly special session to address global drug policy. On the liberalization side, for example, Jamaica defended its policy of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. On the other hand, Cuba opposed the legalization of drugs or declaring them harmless. Hardliners against liberalization include advocates of "zero tolerance" against drugs, such as Iran and Indonesia, reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's post.) 

Speaking after the U.N. General Assembly voted to maintain support for prohibitionist policies, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the Guardian that it is "insane" to keep employing failed policies against the global drug problem. He called on drug war hawks to understand that "the old way of doing things is the wrong way." He will address the general assembly today. (See yesterday's post.)

A Tuesday speech by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto calling for legalization of medical marijuana was hailed as a radical departure from prohibitionist policies by the media (including this blog). El Daily Post columnist Alejandro Hope argues that it's "much ado about nothing." He deconstructs Peña Nieto's proposals, arguing that it's mere tinkering with existing policies and wonders whether it's a distraction tactic from Mexico's increasingly criticized human rights record. (See briefs below.)

Among the many negative effects of the war on drugs in Latin America is a high and growing rate of incarceration of women, most of whom are jailed for non-violent drug offenses, explains Maya Thomas-Davis of Equis: Justicia para las Mujeres in a Guardian op-ed. They share a similar profile, she writes, "they are first-time offenders; sole carers for children and other dependents; have had minimal access to education and little formal employment; and in many cases they have experienced gender-based violence." (See post from Nov. 3, 2015, on a series of studies by the Mexican Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho (CEDD) that show an increase in widespread incarceration for non-violent drug crimes around the region.)

News Briefs

  • Mexico's U.N. office said there is a crisis of impunity for rape cases in the country. There are about 15,000 reports of rape each year, only 20 percent of which receive a sentence, reports El País. (See April 14's post.)
  • After Cuba's exuberant welcome of U.S. President Barack Obama last month, a chill has set in on the island's would be reformers, reports the Associated Press. Omar Everleny Perez, one of Cuba's most renowned advocates of economic reform was fired from a University of Havana think tank for sharing information with Americans without authorization, among other alleged violations. This comes after a four day Communist Party congress that ended Tuesday in which officials called for a defensive stance against U.S. "imperialist intentions." Perez told the AP that he believed Cuban authorities were retaliating against his criticisms about the slow pace of economic reforms.
  • The leaders of El Salvador's three main gangs told El Faro that they had an electoral pact with the FMLN to favor them in the 2014 presidential election. Any cooperation is now over, they said, assuring the paper that they won't allow the party to organize in their communities. They were promised  reduced pressure and open channels of communication by an FMLN government, said the gang leaders. (See March 31's post.)
  • Ecuador's government is searching for ways to pay for the two to three billion dollar reconstruction of homes, roads and buildings destroyed by a powerful earthquake this weekend. (See yesterday's briefs.) This comes as Ecuador is facing a deep economic contraction due to the collapse in oil prices and sagging exports of bananas and flowers, reports the Wall Street Journal. President Rafael Correa said yesterday the government would temporarily increase some taxes and might issue new bonds on the international market, reports Reuters. Correa estimated the tragedy could knock 2 to 3 percentage points off growth, meaning the economy will almost certainly shrink this year.
  • Venezuela's pro government National Electoral Council is delaying an opposition attempt to recall President Nicolas Maduro. The opposition MUD coalition has requested forms it needs to collect nearly four million signatures in three days in order to trigger a recall referendum. But the CNE has delayed approving the request, leading the opposition to threaten mass mobilization reports El País.(See yesterday's briefs.)
  • In an article intended for an audience unfamiliar with Venezuela, Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blogger David Smilde reviews the current political stalemate in the country and concludes that the struggle between government and opposition forces represents a crisis of representation.
  • Business Insider piece covers a HRW/PROVEA report detailing extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations carried out by security forces in Venezuela as part of a crackdown on violent crime. During raids carried out by the national guard, national police, intelligence-service officials, and state-police forces last year, 245 people were killed.  (See April 4's briefs.)
  • Later this week Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will speak at a U.N. gathering of global leaders to sign the climate deal negotiated in December in Paris. The opportunity will allow her a global platform to defend her government as she faces impeachment at home, reports the Wall Street Journal. She will use her visit to New York to defend herself against an impeachment that she has called a "coup d'etat without weapons" against a legitimate democratic government, reports Reuters. (See Monday's post.)
  • Speaking to foreign journalists yesterday, Rousseff lashed out against her political opponents, noting that the House Speaker Eduardo Cunha who spearheaded her impeachment in the lower chamber is charged with far greater crimes, reports the Guardian. "This process was initiated by a misuse of power, revenge, an explicit revenge ... I feel the victim of a process, a process in which my judges, especially the speaker of the chamber, has a background that does not behove him to be a judge of anything – it behoves him as a defendant."
  • An explosion at a major Pemex petrochemical facility in the Mexican state of Veracruz yesterday killed at least 13 people, reports Reuters. Local emergency officials said hundreds of people had been evacuated from the site.
  • The daughter of slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres is calling on the EU to stop aid to Honduras and on European companies to suspend investment in hydropower projects until the country complies with human rights norms, reports the Guardian.
  • Community activist in Peru have succeeded in heading off a $5 billion open-pit mining venture by Newmont Mining Corp, a modern day David and Goliath tale, reports the Guardian. The efforts have been spearheaded by Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, a subsistence farmer who has refused to sell her 60 acre plot of land in the middle of the proposed dig.  Activists say that Peru's rightward swing in this month's presidential elections could lead to an escalation of conflicts between local communities and mining companies, reports Vice News.
  • A Colombian community built by women displaced by conflict could be a model for policies after a FARC peace deal is signed, reports the Guardian. The community, known as the City of Women, has been an experiment in empowering women who had lost everything to the country’s rampant violence. 

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