The United Nations’ 2011 World Drug Report will be released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today at 10:00 New York time. This annual report highlights developments across the global drug market to explain the factors that drive the world's consumption, production and trafficking of illicit drugs. An official launch will be held at the UN headquarters and can be watched online via the UN’s Webcast. According to the UNODC website, the event will be attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, Russian Federal Narcotics Service Director Viktor Ivanov and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske.
Because the theme of the 2011 World Drug Campaign is “Global Action for Healthy Communities without Drugs,” the report is expected to highlight the role that communities play in addressing society’s drugs challenge. Additionally, since the UNODC also incorporates the secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the investigation is also expected to include some of the data from the INCB’s 2010 report, which was released in March of this year.
Perhaps the most significant of the INCB’s findings was that South America has experienced an overall reduction in coca cultivation, mainly because of a drop in Colombia's production (the region reported 158,000 hectares in 2009, 8,800 hectares less than 2008; while Colombia reported 68,000 hectares in 2009, a 16 percent decrease from 2008). The report also notes there has been an increase in local demand throughout Latin America, a worrisome trend for anti-drug officials.
· At yesterday’s Central American Security Conference (SICA) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised $300 million in U.S. security funding year. For its part, the World Bank unveiled a billion-dollar funding plan, and was joined by Inter-American Development Bank, which also said it would provide some $500 million, spread over two years, AFP reports. Although in her remarks Clinton claimed that the U.S. contribution was $100 million more than the “more than $200 million” that President Obama promised in his March visit to El Salvador, The New York Times points out that this aid is only a 10 percent increase from 2010.
· Following the failure of an extensive international campaign to amend the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotics yesterday the Bolivian Congress approved President Evo Morales' request to withdraw from the Convention on Narcotics. Although Morales and his MAS party claim that the move is intended to bring its international duties in line with its constitution, which allows coca cultivation for traditional use traditional usage, the opposition claims that it will reduce international faith in Bolivia’s counternarcotics operations. The law will allow Bolivia to readmit itself to the Convention in January of 2012, but will not apply to Article 49, which considers all coca production unlawful, even that which is grown for chewing or for medicinal purposes.
· The much-anticipated meeting between Mexican President Felipe Calderon and anti-violence movement leader Javier Sicilia has been relocated by authorities from the Museum of Anthropology to Chapultepec Castle, due to security concerns. The president, and some members of his cabinet, will meet with 35 representatives of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity at 10:00am local time (11:00am EST). El Milenio will have a live video feed of the proceedings, available here. It is not yet clear whether the cabinet members involved will include Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, who has been a target of the movement since they first demanded his resignation during a public protest in May. For more on this, see my article over at InSight Crime.
· The body count in Durango’s mass grave has risen to 250, of which 236 are men and 14 are women, according to InfoBAE. The grave is far and away the largest “narcofosa” found to date in Mexico.
· Salvadoran guerrilla leader turned centrist Joaquin Villalobos presents his take on Mexico’s drug war in Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica.
· The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the winners of its Knight News Challenge today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference. The 16 winners will receive $4.7 million in funding for digital news experiments that inform and engage communities. One of the winners is Miguel Paz, a Chilean whose project, Poderopedia .com is intended to be a “who’s who” of business and politics in Chile.
· Colombia Reports says President Santos has proposed the creation of a series of regional security centers to collect information on crime and illegal arms in countries in the region, in a joint effort to combat regional organized crime.
· Putting an end to some of the recent speculation about his health, Venezuelan Minister of Defense Carlos Mata Figueroa said Thursday that President Hugo Chavez is recuperating well from his surgery in Cuba, reports El Universal. His brother Adan Chavez, who is also the governor of Barinas state, said late on Wednesday that he is expected to return to Venezuela within 10-12 days.
· State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and released by McClatchy reveal that Catholic Church officials in Venezuela supported efforts to remove President Hugo Chavez in the 2002 coup attempt, with the encouragement of the Bush administration. All of this occurred despite explicit orders by Pope John Paul II to stay out of the matter.
· The Miami Herald takes a look at a bill in Congress that would allow immigration officials to hold convicted foreign nationals until they can be deported. For Cubans, who cannot be deported, immigrant rights activists say could lead to their indefinite detention.
· In Peru, La Republica reports that three people died in clashes between police and students protesting a cut to a local university’s funding earlier this week. According to Reuters, more than 90 people have died in similar incidents in the past three and a half years, which is a sign of an emerging wave of “social conflicts” that President-elect Ollanta Humala will have to confront.
· A cyber attack from the self-styled “Lulz Security” hacker group blocked traffic to several Brazilian government websites on Wednesday, AP reports. The latest incident follows cyberattacks launched by another hacker group, “Anonymous,” who have announced a campaign against the governments of Chile and Peru in what they call "Operacion Andes Libre." Although denial of service attacks are more of a nuisance than a security threat, Latin America is ill-equipped to deal with such attempts, as freelance writer James Bosworth notes.
· Finally, Guatemala’s elPeriodico reports on the process that led to the arrest of General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes. The former military commander is accused of committing crimes against humanity, including ordering genocide and rape in the context of war. As the article notes, although Rios Montt was technically in charge of the Guatemalan armed forces at the time these abuses occurred, there is little hope that the former de facto head of state will be implicated in the investigation.