Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Mexican Supreme Court permits recreational marijuana (June 29, 2021)

Mexico’s supreme court struck down laws prohibiting the use of recreational marijuana in an 8-3 decision yesterday. The ruling found that sections of the country’s general health law prohibiting personal consumption and home cultivation of marijuana were unconstitutional. "Today is a historic day for liberties," court president Arturo Zaldivar said. (Aristegui Noticias, Animal Político)

The court ordered Mexico's congress to create a legal cannabis market in 2017, but lawmakers have dragged their feet and asked for extensions twice, reports the Guardian. The latest deadline had been set for April 30. Mexico's lower chamber of congress passed a landmark legalization bill in March, but the Senate hadn't voted yet, and said it was considering postponing until September.

The decision was welcomed cautiously by activists, who said cannabis users were in a legal vacuum while Congress stalled, reports AFP. Marijuana permits have been granted for Mexicans who file court injunctions since 2015, but now they will be available for the general public. Mexicans who want to smoke marijuana recreationally or grow a number of pot plants for private use will now be able to apply for a permit from the government. The sale of marijuana will continue to be illegal. (Deutsche Welle)

Nonetheless, the ruling left cannabis users facing many uncertainties. Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organization, said the decision "does not decriminalize the activities necessary to carry out consumption" such as production, possession and transportation of marijuana.

A law would create a system of permits not only for buying and selling marijuana, but also for the cultivation, transportation and export of the drug. Supporters believe it would reduce drug-related violence.

News Briefs

  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled the Honduran government was responsible for the 2009 killing of Vicky Hernández, a transgender woman. Yesterday's landmark decision could have broad implications for trans rights in Latin America, one of the world’s deadliest regions for L.G.B.T.Q. people, reports the New York Times.
Regional Relations
  • Across Latin America, China and Russia have waged a successful vaccine diplomacy campaign this year. But after a slow start, the United States is beginning to push back, rolling out its own vaccine distribution effort, albeit in a less self-serving, global strategy, with a lot less flag waving, reports Univisión. Data also reveals that while China may have done a good job marketing its distribution strategy, sales at fairly high price points have far exceeded donations.
  • Brazil could have saved 400,000 lives if the country had implemented stricter social distancing measures and launched a vaccination program earlier, according to Pedro Hallal, a professor at the Federal University of Pelotas, who testified at a Senate inquiry into the Bolsonaro administration's handling of the pandemic. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree to dispatch Brazilian soldiers to the Amazon in a bid to curb surging deforestation, reports the Associated Press. It will be the third time the Bolsonaro administration attempts to defend the rainforest with military might -- experts say the “Operation Green Brazil” deployments, the most recent of which ended in April, were ill-prepared and had limited efficacy.
  • Thousands of Haitians are illegally crossing into the Dominican Republic, stoking perennial xenophobia in DR. Smugglers say Haiti's exacerbated political crisis has changed migration demographics: more children are fleeing Haiti, reports Vice News.
  • The French medical charity Médecins Sans Frontière is temporarily closing one of its health facilities in Haiti after doctors and patients were the target of an armed gang attack over the weekend. (Miami Herald)
  • Haitian authorities announced that a postponed (and controversial) constitutional referendum will be held on Sept. 26, the same date as presidential and legislative elections. (Reuters)
  • Remember Vladimir Montesinos? The "Peruvian Rasputin," Alberto Fujimori's former spymaster, has re-emerged after nearly two decades in relative obscurity in an attempt to aid the former dictator's daughter. Keiko Fujimori has challenged the results of June 6's presidential runoff, which she lost by a razor thin margin, with allegations of irregularities. Montesinos, serving multiple sentences for human rights crimes, corruption and arms and drugs trafficking in a maximum security naval base prison, was somehow able to make 17 phone calls to a retired military officer to suggest bribes be paid to members of the electoral tribunal to favour Fujimori in a recount, reports the Guardian.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been wooing investors with promises of a land of opportunity -- what might make this time different is political and economic necessity, argues Luz Mely Reyes in the Post Opinión.
  • El Toque has a multimedia deep-dive into Cuba's food crisis -- and looks at how archaic production, lack of supplies and climate change, among others, have contributed to an island with three problems: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cuba imports more than 70 percent of its food, an increasing challenge given the country's current economic crisis, compounded by the pandemic. Cubans trying to navigate the labyrinth of actually obtaining food are stymied by cost and availability.
  • There are about 80 medical schools in the Caribbean -- most are for-profit and tend to have more lax admissions standards than their U.S. counterparts, reports the New York Times. Though some charge tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and fees and they often fail to position their students for career success internationally: graduates from Caribbean medical schools have been frustrated by difficulties in accessing U.S. residencies. 
  • The movie White on White is a sombre study of the corrupted values and decayed morals that enabled a 19th century genocide in southern Argentina, reports the Guardian.
  • A UN report that analyzed racial justice in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd has called on member states to end the “impunity” enjoyed by police officers who violate the human rights of black people. The report includes cases of deaths in the U.K., France, Brazil and Colombia, as well as the U.S. In examining deaths in police custody in different countries, the report notes the patchwork of available data paints “an alarming picture of system-wide, disproportionate and discriminatory impacts on people of African descent in their encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system in some states”. (Guardian)
  • Latin America's electoral processes increasingly have less legitimacy. Whatever you call it -- "polarization, populism, crisis of political representation, neototalitarianism of the right or left" -- it's a problem in a region with a long authoritarian tradition, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in New York Times Español.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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