Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Is it time to decriminalise drugs?

  1. With trafficking-related violence increasing across Latin America, leaders call for policy changes.

    Acapulco drug violence

    Family members grieve at the site of a suspected drug-related execution on March 1, 2012 in Acapulco, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

    As drug cartels expand their operations in Central America, the region is seeing the world’s highest homicide rates. Some Latin American leaders now say they are ready to discuss the decriminalisation of narcotics. We look at how the drug war between the military and the narco-traffickers impacts the people of Latin America. 

    In this episode of The Stream, we talk to journalist Phil Rees; Rodolfo Pastor, a former Honduran diplomat; and Eduardo Vergara, a drug policy expert. 

    What do you think? Would decriminizalising drugs reduce violence by organized crime? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream. 

    Here are some social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream:

  2. In May 2011 Mexican citizens took to the streets to participate in a campaign called No Más Sangre (translated No More Blood in English). The campaign tried to bring attention to the drug cartels and government crackdown that has led to nearly 50,000 deaths in the past 5 years. About 75 per cent of all murders in Mexico are reported to be drug-related.
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  5. The Andean countries of Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia are the main growers of the coca leaf, the main ingredient in cocaine. This map from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2011 World Drug Report shows the global flow of cocaine. 
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  7. The UNDOC estimates cocaine traffickers made $84 billion in 2009 in gross profits. In comparison, the coca farmers were estimated to have earned less than $1 billion in the same time frame.

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  9. Bolivian President Evo Morales maintains that the coca leaf is not a narcotic in its natural, unprocessed form  and is an integral part of Andean culture. The next two videos from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union show President Morales speaking at a United Nations meeting in 2009 to advocate for the leaf’s traditional uses and even chewing on a leaf to prove his point. The UN has classified the coca leaf as an illegal drug and calls for the eradication of coca bushes. 

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    Morales is chewing coca at the UN - part 1 [Sub: ENG]
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    Morales is chewing coca at the UN - part 2 [Sub: ENG]
  12. An indigenous coca farmer chews on coca leaves.  Although the coca leaf has many health benefits—it is believed to cure altitude sickness and curb hunger—it is also the main ingredient in cocaine.

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  14. These pictures show coca growers harvesting their crop in the fields and gathering them in storehouses.
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  19. The film Cocalero by Alejandro Landes documents the effects of the war on drugs from the perspective of the indigenous coca farmers in Bolivia. The film highlights Evo Morales’ bid for the presidency as he defends the rights of the farmers, who would go on to form a powerful union.

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    Cocalero Trailer
  21. In its War on Drugs campaign, the US has funded the aerial fumigation of coca crops in Colombia. Thousands of Colombians protested the spraying of their coca fields with pesticides in September 2011. Critics argue that the aerial fumigation has done little to combat the drug problem while destroying the livelihood and damaging the health of coca farmers. These photos show Colombian coca farmland after fumigation. 
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  24. This video shows clips of police and military effort to fight the "War on Drugs" in Mexico.
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    La Guerra contra el Narcotráfico en México
  26. This map and graph documents both the total and drug war-related homicides in Mexico from 2004 to 2010. 
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    Drug War in Mexico - Map | Visual.ly
    This interactive map lets compares homicides and drug-related homicides, with the ability to examine marijuana, opium, and drug-lab-relat...
  28. This map illustrates the various Colombian drug-trafficking organizations in Central America. The red placemarks in the region indicate areas where Colombian authorities claim the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) sells cocaine. The yellow markers are transfer points and the red exclamation point marks in Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic indicate areas where officials have discovered cocaine-processing labs.
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  30. Guatemalan President Perez Molina is the first serving head of state to directly challenge decades of US policy by calling for drug decriminalisation. He believes the so-called "War on Drugs" is failing and wants regional leaders to join him in a dialogue on the subject. The leaders of El Salvador and Panama have not expressed support for legalising drugs, though they say they are open to discussing the issue when the Central American leaders meet on March 24 in Guatemala. This video shows President Molina delivering his inauguration speech in January. 

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    Discurso del Presidente Otto Pérez Molina
  32. Under the Mérida Initiative, the United States government provides millions of dollars to the governments of Mexico and Central American countries to combat drug trafficking, organised crime, and money laundering. The Mérida Initiative is in its fourth year and has shifted focus away from providing heavy equipment and towards training and capacity building.

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    Policy Brief 188: Merida's New Direction
  34. This video from Learn Liberty states the detrimental effects that drug prohibition has on society from an economics standpoint. It argues that prohibition does not eliminate the supply or demand for illicit drugs but simply transfers it into the black market, where it is not afforded legal protection. The video also argues that prison costs and homicide rates increase with drug prohibition.

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    What You Should Know About Drug Prohibition
  36. The group Intelligence Squared will host a debate on the drug war on Google+ on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. GMT. Speakers will include Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Julian Assange, Eliott Spitzer, and Vicente Fox.

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    The War on Drugs : Versus Debate : 13th March, 7pm GMT
  38. This cartoon is in reference to Mexican President Felipe Calderón's visit to Stanford University in 2011. A plane flew overhead during his commencement speech with a banner that read, "No more blood. 40,000 dead! How many more?" The cartoon has him responding, "Soon they'll stop bothering me about the 40,000 dead and will start complaining about the 50,000 to-be dead..."
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