Tuesday, June 4, 2013

OAS to Assess Drug Policy in Guatemala General Assembly

Two weeks after the release of an Organization of American States (OAS) report calling for a hemisphere-wide discussion of drug policy alternatives, Guatemala is hosting an OAS General Assembly with drugs at the top of the agenda.  Considering the United States’ unenthusiastic response to the report, however, progress will likely be limited.

Prensa Libre reports that 28 foreign ministers in the region will be attending the 43rd assembly in Antigua, Guatemala, which has been titled “For a comprehensive policy to fight the global drug problem in the Americas.” Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera told reporters yesterday that participating nations had already reached an accord on 18 of the 20 points to be included in a final statement.

Meanwhile, El Pais has an interview with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza in which he discusses the recent OAS report as a successful starting point for debate. “I am satisfied that it called for a break with the past and to open a new path,” he told the paper.  

However, it seems the report has had little impact on the United States, the biggest market for illicit drugs in the hemisphere.

The U.S. government, EFE reports, is expected to maintain that its drug policies fit with the recommendations of the report, and that it shares the vision of a regional consensus of drug policy as a public health issue. Secretary of State John Kerry and Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R. Brownfield are both expected to attend the summit.

The Spanish news agency quotes Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson as saying that the U.S. delegates will use the meeting to “ensure [U.S. anti-drug] strategy is understood, that it is clear that it goes far beyond security.”

News Briefs
  • An announcement by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last Saturday that he intends to sign an agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) regarding intelligence sharing “with a view towards joining the organization” has set off alarm bells in the region. La Razon reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales  called the move “a provocation, a conspiracy against anti-imperialist governments” in the hemisphere like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia. He was joined by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. AFP reports that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said the U.S. would support Colombia in a membership bid, but that this is “ultimately a decision that all of the NATO members would have to make,”   as Colombia is currently ineligible from membership due to its geographic location.
  • In Caracas yesterday, President Maduro announced the deployment of some 2,000 members of the National Guard in nine different anti-kidnapping and extortion   units throughout the country. He also, according to Noticias24, offered some alarming statistics on police corruption, claiming that “some 90 percent” of all kidnappings in Caracas are committed by police. Maduro further claimed that these officers are largely employed by the neighboring state of Miranda, of which opposition leader Henrique Capriles is governor.
  • In the latest development in the diplomatic spat between Venezuela and Colombia, Univision reports that Maduro has said he has given his foreign minister Elias Jaua “precise instructions” to take steps towards rebuilding ties with the neighboring country.
  • In Sunday’s Washington Post, the paper’s editorial board endorsed the truces between MS-13 and Barrio 18 in El Salvador and Honduras, and recognized the need for more work to be done in both cases to organize job training and societal reinsertion programs. The editorial ends by calling on Congress to authorize a 20 percent increase in the  Central American Regional Security Initiative requested by the Obama administration.
  • Writing for the New York Review of Books, veteran human rights campaigner Aryeh Neier looks at the Reagan administration's role in facilitating the human rights abuses committed by former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt. He is also able to look on the positive side of the recent annulment of the decision which found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, noting that he will still be remembered largely as “the person most responsible for the crimes specified in the verdict that was set aside.” The magazine’s NYR blog also features an interesting analysis by Alma Guillermoprieto of the scandal which broke out in Venezuela after the opposition leaked a conversation between TV personality Mario Silva and a Cuban intelligence officer in which the former detailed a power struggle within the ruling party.
  • Bloomberg profiles the latest scandal in Argentina, in which President Cristina Fernandez and her deceased husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, have been accused of taking part in a money laundering scheme. While there is no evidence to support the allegations, they have contributed to a loss of public approval for Fernandez, which analysts say will hurt her party’s chances in mid-term elections in October.
  • Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced on Monday he will be meeting British Foreign Secretary William Hague this month to reach a solution on the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since last year.
  • Colombia’s La Silla Vacia has an interesting interview with FMLN guerrilla turned international conflict resolution consultant Joaquin Villalobos, in which he compares the peace talks in Colombia to those which ended El Salvador’s civil war. In the interview Villalobos suggests that “every peace process requires some impunity to make it viable.”

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