A group of former world leaders says current global anti-drug policies have “clearly failed” in their objective to curtail both supply and consumption of illegal drugs. In a 24-page report, available here and set to be officially unveiled later today in New York, the Global Commission on Drug Policy recommends new steps be taken toward the legalization of certain drugs while also demanding an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do no harm to others.”
In addition, the commission calls on governments around the world to be more willing to experiment with alternative drug policies and legislation.
The BBC notes that the report is particularly critical of the US, saying the country must abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in health treatment and human rights.
“We hope this country (the US) at least starts to think there are alternatives,” says Cesar Gaviria, adding that the report’s authors do not believe US polices have been evolving in a way that is “compatible with our (countries’) long-term interests.” Gaviria says countries like Mexico and Colombia have an important role to play in pushing for such a discussion to begin in the US.
Responding to the report, the office of US drug czar Gil Kerlikowske rejected those claims, as well as many of the commission’s recommendations about legalization. “Making drugs more available - as this report suggests - will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy said in statement released Wednesday.
Among the 19-person commission are former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, Brazil's ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria. The group also includes former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Latin American writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, the EU's former foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and former US secretary of state George Schultz.
The Global Commission has been co-funded by Richard Branson of Virgin Group Ltd., George Soros's Open Society Foundation, the Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and the Centro Edelstein de Pesquisas Sociais in Brazil. It’s a continuation of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and published its report on drug policy in Latin America in 2009.
The Guardian notes that the release of the Global Commission’s report is accompanied in the UK today by an open letter from a variety of legal experts, academics, artists, performers, and politicians to PM David Cameron, urging Britain to undertake a “swift and transparent” review of its current drugs policies. The signatories call for new drug decriminalization policies similar to those implemented in Portugal in 2001. The letter comes on the 40th anniversary of Britain’s 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
Today’s bullet points:
· In a 32-1 vote in Washington, the OAS voted to restore Honduras to the inter-American organization Wednesday. The Miami Herald reports. Ecuador was the only country to vote against restoration at the present moment. With far-right opinions about Zelaya’s return over the weekend – a move which opened the door to Wednesday’s vote -- Roger Noriega and José Cardenas obsess over Hugo Chavez at Fox News and Foreign Policy, respectively. At Upside Down World, meanwhile, Chuck Kaufman of the Alliance for Global Justice writes on last week’s congressional briefing organized by the Americas Forum and entitled “How 21st Century Socialism Subverts Democracy in Latin America” – perhaps a sign of things to come, in Honduras or elsewhere, from the Latin Americanist Right.
· The Nation, in partnership with Haiti Liberté, has begun releasing stories from the Haiti archive of diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks. Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives report yesterday on the ultimately unsuccessful efforts of Washington and US petroleum companies to prevent then-President Rene Preval from joining Venezuela’s regional discount oil initiative, PetroCaribe. The full story is worth reading at The Nation.
· In Peru where the influence of Hugo Chavez has been much-written about in recent months, Jo-Marie Burt and Coletta Youngers profile left-leaning nationalist candidate, Ollanta Humala (See their profile of Keiko Fujimori here). The two authors highlight the coalition of intellectuals and former political figures who have lined up behind Humala, many out of fear over the possible return of fujimorismo. Last week former president Alejandro Toledo was the latest to come out publicly for Humala. Many figures in the country’s human rights community have made similar pronouncements. Perhaps the most unlikely Humala supporter has, of course, been Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, who announced this week he will no longer allow Peru's El Comercio to reprint his biweekly column, calling the conservative paper “a propaganda machine” for Keiko Fujimori. El Comercio responds here. AFP, meanwhile, reports on a decision by indigenous activists in Peru’s Puno region to halt anti-mining protests against a Canadian silver company until after Sunday’s vote. The region, says the news agency, is considered to be a Humala stronghold.
· Lula da Silva is on a regional tour this week. After visits to Nicaragua, Panama, and the Bahamas, the former Brazilian president is meeting with Raul Castro today in Cuba before going on to Caracas. For his part, Hugo Chavez re-appeared in public Tuesday after being down for weeks with a bum knee. The Venezuelan president said he will be heading to Brasilia for his first official meeting with Dilma Rousseff on June 6 before going on to Ecuador and Cuba.
· The New York Times says final approval has been granted by Brazil’s top environmental agency for the construction of the huge Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) has been among the dam’s critics. In mid-April Brazil withdrew the candidacy of the former Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi for a seat on the IACHR because of the inter-American body’s request that the project be halted.
· CNN says a Spanish Court has approved the extradition of former Guatemalan interior minister Carlos Vielmann back to Guatemala to face murder charges stemming from incidents at two prisons in the country in 2005 and 2006. Vielmann will likely appeal the extradition ruling.
· Reuters with a long report on what drug wars in Monterrey could presage for the rest of Mexico.
· AP on the arrest of a top FARC commander, Guillermo Torres, alias "Julian Conrado," by Venezuelan authorities this week.
· Insight on the discovery of some 200 FARC “uniforms” in the possession of on-duty members of the Ecuadorean military. Three soldiers have been arrested.
· The Guardian says a Chilean judge will examine claims that agents of Augusto Pinochet injected poison into Neruda's stomach while he was treated in Santiago's Santa Maria clinic for prostate cancer less than two weeks after the Sept 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende. Chile's Communist Party called for the investigation after the poet's former driver said agents of the dictator injected the 69-year-old on the day he died.
· El Faro on Salvadoran Mauricio Funes’s proposal to implement a system of obligatory military service for “at risk” youth in his country.
· Colombia’s El Tiempo on the final approval of the Ley de Victimas. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for signing.
· Human Rights Watch’s Daniel Wilkinson pens an essay in the New York Review of Books reviewing Claudia Lopez’s new edited collection “And They Refounded the Nation” about parapolitics under Alvaro Uribe.
· And finally three human rights press releases: HRW condemns the imprisonment of six Cuban dissidents convicted in recent weeks for distributing pamphlets criticizing Raúl and Fidel Castro in Havana’s Revolutionary Square. Amnesty International calls on the Venezuelan government to investigate the murder of a seventh member of a single family killed over the weekend in Aragua. Aragua police officers are suspected to have been involved in each of the killings, says Amnesty. And the Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a grenade attack late Sunday on the offices of the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia in the Coahuila city of Saltillo.