Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala call for UN review of drugs laws

The governments of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have issued a joint statement addressed to United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon questioning the efficacy of current drug laws and calling on the UN to convene an international conference to enact reforms.

The 11 point statement, translated here by the Guatemalan Times, declares that the drug trade is a “powerful incentive” for criminal groups, which now have the resources to “penetrate and corrupt institutions of the States” and will “continue to threaten to threaten our societies and governments” as long as “the flow of resources from drugs and weapons” continues.

Noting that “despite the efforts of the international community … the use of these substances continues to increase globally,” the statement calls for a rigorous policy review with a scientific basis, adding that nations should “intensify their efforts to further strengthen the institutions and policies of each country in the prevention and punishment of crime, their social programs in education, health, leisure and employment, as well as prevention and treatment of addictions to preserve social fabric.”

The three countries call on the UN to “exercise its leadership”.and “conduct deep reflection to analyze all available options, including regulatory or market measures, in order to establish a new paradigm that prevents the flow of resources to organized crime organizations.”

They go on to “invite” member states to undertake a consultation process that would culminate in an international conference with a view to “allow[ing] the necessary decisions in order to achieve more effective strategies and tools with which the global community faces the challenge of drugs and their consequences.”

According to Milenio, the letter was sent by ambassadors Luis Alfonso de Alba from Mexico, Néstor Osorio from Colombia and Gert Rosenthal from Guatemala.

The statement follows speeches in front of the UN last week by the Presidents of all three countries, in which Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Felipe Calderón of Mexico and Otto Perez of Guatemala all called for a new international debate on drugs.

The presidents’ appeals were widely reported, yet the statement, which has so far received scant attention from the English speaking media, could prove to be more significant. As Milenio reported, last week the director of of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov stated that for there to be any change to the legal conventions UN member states would have to send a formal request to Ban Ki Moon to convoke an international forum - which appears to be exactly what the three countries have now done.    

Ban Ki has yet to officially respond to the letter but Fedotov warned last week that any potential process to revise drugs laws would be “long and delicate.”

News Briefs
  • The New York Times reports on a recent spate of murders of police officers in the state of São Paulo in Brazil. Seventy officers have already been murdered this year - a 40% rise on last year - and some are blaming the First Capital Command (PCC), the criminal organization that waged a brief urban war against local police in 2006, which left approximately 200 people dead. 
  • Also in the NYT is an article on the shooting of border patrol agents on the U.S. Mexican border on Tuesday, which left one dead and another seriously injured. According to the Times, Republican Congressman have linked the shooting to the now infamous botched gun tracking case “Operation Fast and Furious”, even though there has so far been no official suggestion of any ties. The Christian Science Monitor has a more detailed look at the story, including a video.
  • Rory Carroll, the Guardian’s former Latin America correspondent, returns to Venezuela to pen a pre-election portrait of Hugo Chavez, which attempts to cut through the “tales of the demon or gospels of faith.” Carroll concludes that Chavez “is a hybrid: a democrat and autocrat, a progressive and a bully” and that the real failure of his government is to be found in that “in wasted potential lies tragedy.” Meanwhile, the Guardian also features a video of Chavez on the campaign trail.
  • In other election coverage the Washington Post looks at the potential role of the youth vote while the New York Times reports on the response of Venezuelan ex-pats to the closing of the Venezuelan consulate in Miami.
  • Also in the Guardian is an opinion piece questioning the conventional wisdom that the recent “moderate” center-left Brazilian governments stand in opposition to the “extreme” left government of Hugo Chavez. Instead, Raul Zobechi argues,  the two countries have demonstrated a “high level of contact and co-operation” and their political models are “closer than we are led to believe.” 
  • Following yesterday’s news that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will undergo an operation for prostate cancer, the Colombian Congress has approved a motion calling for a medical evaluation of Vice-president Angelino Garzon, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, to see if he would be fit to replace Santos if necessary, reports El Tiempo.
  • NPR has a report on a new “No More ‘Lying’” law passed in Argentina that means gender reassignment operations are now available for free on the public health system and makes changing gender on public ID a quick and easy process. The report includes the shocking statistics that in Argentina the life expectancy of a transgender person is between 30 and 32 years and that 95 percent turn to prostitution to support themselves. 
  • Carlos Dada from El Faro writes a point by point examination of the evidence for recent claims in the U.S. media linking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital to El Salvadoran death squads. According to Dada, while it may be true that Bain received some funds from people tangentially associated to death squads, the media outrage is based on a “logic that doesn’t function in El Salvador,” as in such a small country almost everyone had some connection to the conflict. He concludes that while it is difficult to build a conclusive case that El Salvadorians linked to death squads financed Bain Capital, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the U.S. government funded the death squads but, for the U.S. press “this doesn’t matter anymore.”
  • The Miami Herald features an article from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting who interviewed former Cuban double agent Juan Pablo Roque. Roque is infamous in the Miami Cuban exile community for his alleged role in the shooting down of two civilian planes in Cuban airspace belonging to “Brothers to the Rescue” - an exile group that flew over the Florida Straits looking for Cubans attempting to escape the island on rafts. Four people died in the attack.  
  • Reuters looks at a new program to fly Mexicans being deported from the U.S. straight to Mexico City instead of leaving them at border towns where they may attempt to re-enter the country or fall into the hands of criminal groups. However, the L.A. Times notes the program has been significantly scaled back - it was first slated to run from November to April next year but will now run for just 2 months and involve 20 flights, after which the governments of both countries will assess the program. 
  • Also in the L.A. Times is a look at attempts in Mexico to save the ajolote salamander, “regarded as the aquatic manifestation of the god Xolotl and a metaphor for the Mexican soul.”