Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Global Commission calls for market drug regulation (Nov. 22, 2016)

The Global Commission on Drug Policy recommended ending all penalties – both civil and criminal – on people who use drugs in their new annual report released this week. The report calls for the implementation of alternatives to punishment for all low-level, non-violent actors in the drug trade, and to consider market regulation as the next logical step.

The report notes "a significant shift has taken place in global drug policy, both in terms of public discourse, scientific evidence and policy implementation," over the past few years. "It is, however, time to challenge more fundamentally the way societies view drugs and those who use them," writes chairman Ruth Dreifuss. "As long as drugs are considered as evil, and thereby criminalized, they will remain in criminal hands. Because they are potentially harmful they must be regulated by responsible governments, who are in charge of the well-being of their population. Exploring models of regulated production and markets is necessary and these experiences have to be scientifically monitored and the results made available. It is time for States to assume their full responsibility and to remove drugs from the hands of organized crime. It is time to take control."

The report calls for the urgent decriminalization of drugs. "The harms created through implementing punitive drug laws cannot be overstated when it comes to both their severity and scope. On a daily basis, human rights abuses—from the death penalty and extrajudicial killings, to inhuman and coerced drug treatment—are committed around the world in the name of drug control, while strict drug laws have escalated public health crises in the form of HIV and hepatitis C epidemics. Furthermore, in a number of countries drug laws have caused severe prison overcrowding. These extensive damages wrought by a punitive approach to drugs and drug use fundamentally undermine the principle of human dignity and the rule of law, fracturing the relationship between States and their populations."

Former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria cited the U.S. election, where voters in several states legalized marijuana as an example of how drug policy can fall outside of partisan lines, according to the Guardian. But Gaviria also warned that the U.N. is not the global leader to steer the issue. "The only answer they have for everything is: the conventions, the conventions, the conventions," Gaviria said.

In fact the report singles out U.N. special drug sessions as creating conditions where billions of people around the world suffer from inadequate access to pain relief medication because of restrictions placed on prescribing them. "This lack of access violates the international right to the highest attainable standard of health."

News Briefs
  • FARC leadership arrived in Bogotá yesterday ahead of the signing of a new peace accord with the Colombian government, reports Reuters. There are expectations that the signature could take place this week, though there's no confirmation, reports the Miami Herald. The accord is expected to be presented to congress tomorrow. Over the weekend, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he would allow the agreement to be debated by legislators before they vote, reports Reuters.
  • However, following a six hour meeting with government delegates, the Colombian opposition rejected the new deal, which modifies the one narrowly rejected by voters last month, reports AFP. It's very bad news, according to La Silla Vacía, which has details on the hours of fighting yesterday that led to the break. There is the possibility of a direct meeting between opponents of the agreement and FARC leadership, though the government rejects that tactic.
  • Over the past 45 years, a stunning 60,630 people were disappeared in Colombia, according to a new report Colombia's National Center for Historical Memory. The report says Colombia's armed actors -- from state security forces, to paramilitaries and guerrilla groups -- used forced disappearances in a massive and systematic manner, according to TeleSur.
  • Wonderful in depth piece by Sarah Maslin for Colombian Journalism Review on El Faro, the pioneering Salvadoran digital newspaper. El Faro has changed the landscape of reporting in the region, and has gained unprecedented access to the street gangs behind the country's horrific violence. But critics say its long-form narrative style is not the best way to get information to readers. Others in El Salvador accuse the journalists of being gang spokesmen. Maslin delves into the workings of the paper, and details how journalists became closer to their sources. "The more time they spent in the slums, the more they understood that for a poor kid in a violent country, the only real question was this: Do you want to be a victim or a perpetrator?"
  • The foreign ministers of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras met yesterday to form a joint strategy to protect their citizens trying to get to the U.S., in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory, reports Reuters. The Central American countries asked Mexico for help to create a migrant protection network, liaise for coordination with U.S. authorities, and to meet regularly for regional talks. 
  • Trump named a Cuba embargo hardliner, Mauricio Claver-Carone, to his transition team. Naming one of the harshest critics of Obama's rapprochement policy could signal a change in policy, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Trump's promise to withdraw from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office effectively scuttles the trade deal that was to be the Obama administration's signature trade policy, reports Reuters. Instead countries, including Chile and Peru, are looking to potentially enter into tariff reduction agreements with China.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Peru yesterday, where he signed several pacts with President Pedro Pablo Kyczynski. They include plans to promote mining projects, including one postponed due to deadly protests in 2009, reports Reuters.
  • Bolivia's government declared a state of emergency related to water shortages throughout the country, and will make alleviation funds available to families and the agricultural sector, reports Reuters.
  • Two nephews of Venezuela's first lady have been convicted in a U.S. court of conspiring to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine into the U.S., reports the BBC. Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores were arrested a year ago in Haiti by a DEA sting operation and were accused by U.S. prosecutors of plotting to use a Venezuelan airport's presidential hangar to send the drugs to Honduras and on to the U.S. The verdict will likely support U.S. allegations that Venezuela's government has ignored drug smuggling and could worsen already negative relations between the two countries, according to the Miami Herald.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said he hopes for better relations with the U.S. under a Trump presidency, though he called the real estate tycoon a "bandit and thief" last year, reports Reuters.
  • A corruption trial against former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is set to start this week, and is causing even deeper rifts in an already hyper polarized society, reports the Financial Times. The court case against the wildly popular ex president "promises to be Latin America’s trial of the century," and will call his legacy of combatting poverty into question.
  • Brazilian economic officials continue to call for austerity measures to combat the country's worst recession on record -- amid further difficulties in emerging markets caused by Trump's election, reports the Wall Street Journal. National debt could reach the equivalent of the national GDP, said President Michel Temer, urging a reform that would cap spending, reports Reuters.
  • Tensions are running high in Haiti as citizens await results from Sunday's presidential election. Though final results could take a week, already various candidates were claiming victory and shots were fired outside the presidential palace yesterday, reports Reuters.
  • CEPR has a five part election primer on Haiti. The final installment yesterday argues that the election, which was held against the wishes of major international donors, could be an evolution in the island's foreign dominated political cycle.
  • Will Chile be the next country to jump on the populist bandwagon? Widespread anger by protesters who say they have been failed by the establishment indicate that the normally staid and conservative country could head that way, according to the Financial Times.
  • Fourteen bodies were found in Mexico's Guerrero state this weekend, including 9 decapitated men found by the roadside with visible signs of torture, reports the Guardian

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