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Mexican conference demands legalization of drugs, Portland journalist reports

Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century convened in Merida, Mexico. The US war on drugs is an illusionary excuse to crush Latin American social movements and to control resources and strategic military locations. Portland journalist kim stephenson reports.
Many Indymedia readers have been raised on the "War on Drugs." There were too many socialist-type gains in the 60s and 70s for the taste of President Nixon. With the mind-expansion help of drugs, people were uniting, racial and gender lines blurred and rights were won, communes that questioned land ownership were born, people loved freely and a war was stopped.

From a United States perspective, what has this 30-year war given us? A booming profit-driven prison economy where half of those incarcerated are non-violent drug consumers? An expensive law enforcement system where one half of our "peace officers" are mandated to convict petty sellers and consumers? A drained economy that sends billions upon billions of US dollars to right wing paramilitaries in Latin America to stop drug production, which kills thousands of peasants.

This war has fueled a violent black market, a savage capitalism that will never be diminished because of the enormous profits to be had. And, although our government professes concern for the consumer, thousands die each year due to no quality regulation. A friend of mine died last year because of this.

The war has failed, violently and miserably, and its motivation now as in the beginning is clearly right wing government control. First to slap down US leftists and now to control all of Latin America so the literal superhighways may be paved through such devices as Plan Colombia, Plan Puebla Panama and the extension of NAFTA.

In February a global conference was convened in the beautiful city of Merida, Mexico to demand the legalization of all drugs worldwide to end this madness. It was the second in a series of global conference to happen this year to end drug prohibition. The conference was sponsored by the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DCRnet.com), a US organization, and Narconews, a Mexico-based online publication reporting the truth about the drug war from the bloody frontlines.

The conference began in force on February 13 with a keynote speaker who eloquently outlined the current failed strategy. If anyone would know firsthand about the failed war, it would be Mr. Gustavo de Greiff, former Attorney General of Columbia. With his small stature, silver hair and gently manner, he appears more like a kindly grandfather or professor, not the man who hunted down and killed the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.

"At first glance the US perspective seems convincing," he said. "Destroy the cultivation of plants that drugs are extracted from, destroy the labs and landing strips that make and traffic drugs and put consumers in jail and the consumption will decrease. They think the prices will rise because of this and consumption will decrease. But this logical way of thinking has failed. The US Health Secretary each year publishes the statistics of US drug consumption. It says consistently consumption remains stable and prices go down."

Mr. Greiff emphasized to put treatment and education before cops and jails. He said no matter how many Pablo Escobars were killed or jailed, the huge profits involved in the illegal drug trade will always attract more smugglers. This sentiment was echoed by several US law officers at the conference who have spent lifelong careers in the futile drug war.

Several indigenous coca growers spoke about how sacred the coca leaf is to their ancient culture. They spoke about the horrors of US-mandated and funded crop fumigation with a concentrated form of "Roundup" that sterilizes every inch of their land so they cannot even grow food. The airplane-sprayed toxin also causes miscarriages among village women. But there is a strong, organized resistance growing among coca growers that we never hear about in the US.

Felipe Quispe, and executiveof the Bolivian Farmers Union, passionately addressed the 250 conference attendees about the sacredness of the coca leaf and the arrogance of the US to demand its eradication. He held coca leaves above his head and declared: "This is our sacred coca leaf! This has been with us for thousands of years! We bleed for this, we have a very deep respect for this! Our grandparents have left this to us as our legacy! It accompanies us from our cradle to our grave. Coca is our medicine, we have no other."

Nancy Obregon, the Sub-Secretary of the Confederation of Agricultural Production of Coca in Peru, gave an equally passionate speech about the healing coca. She held coca leaves in her hand and crushed them and as the fragments fell to the floor, she shouted: "If you crush this you get green crumbs, not white powder! Coca is not a perversion, a prostitute like the white powder in the North!"

Coca has many medicinal properties because it is rich in B complex, protein, calcium, potassium, beta carotent, vitamin C and E, zinc, iron and it increases oxygenation in the circulatory system. Just imagine how threatening this is to US corporations!

Another partner in the historic conference was the Transnational Radical Party, a European NGO and party working to change United Nations (UN) conventions concerning drug prohibition. Marco Cappato, a Member of the European Parliament, Italy Radical Party, believes we need transnational political action and unification. His party will initiate a process of revising the UN Conventions this April in Vienna. The immediate goal is to re-classify substances and make other uses of drugs legal besides just medicinial. And the Party hopes to repeal the 1988 UN Convention that is the most prohibitive concerning drug consumption.

One of the most powerful speeches that brought tears and shouts from audience members was the keynote address from the Father of Authentic Journalism, Mr. Mario Menendez, conference partner and editor of the truth-telling daily paper Poor Esto! Mr. Menendez still has the strong barrel-chested body of the champion wrestler he once was; he held a microphone but did not need it as he gave the US government an honest one-two punch.

"This war is fueled by the United States!" he bellowed. "By the elite who handle all the resources! Who benefits from all this? Our neighbor, the government who says he is struggling against it! US authorities who say that they fight against drugs allow smugglers to come into their country because they receive economic benefit from the drugs! The DEA allows huge cargos to pass, there is no other way for them to enter beside these routes. If any official would stand up and tell the truth there would be death to trafficking!"

In sum, the gentle Latin American attendees were far too kind toward the United States. Concerned with insulting US attendees, speakers often took time to discern between the US government and its people. This writer fears these people who live so close to the earth and value love, family and friendship so strongly, cannot comprehend the evil intent and spiritual depravity of the corporations that control the US government.
Precisely 20.Feb.2003 09:50

James

Consider Oregon's current budget problems. Were it not for this "War on Drugs", there would be no budget problem. Far from it, the goverment would be swimming in surplus.

As it stands, 30.5% of those in Oregon's prison system were placed there as a result of drug arrests. Oregon spends close to 900 million a year on prisons alone. Were drugs made legal, Oregon would save nearly 300 million dollars a year on it's prison system. (Actually, more - As the prison population expands, Oregon continually needs more prisons - So both the operational costs as well as the forever continuing capital costs of building new prisons would end).

And as the article above points out, 1 half of all law enforcement time is spent enforcing drug laws. Oregon currently spends 391 million dollars annually on the Department of State Police. So it stands to reason that expenditure could be cut by half.

It's rediculous that this issue is so beyond approach for politicians. Any politican who proposed the idea of legalizing non-violent drug offenses would be comitting political suicide. Yet another useless waste of tax dollars - only this waste of tax dollars has criminalized a large portion of the population (Probably upwards of 30%).

FREE 20.Feb.2003 10:22

THE

plants!!!

EXCELLENT ARTICLE 20.Feb.2003 16:48

Rebel Waltz

Great article Kim!

Maybe you could send another with pictures and with more of a diary format. I know lots of people would like to know more about what it looks like arould where you are (Chiapas?) and know more about the mood. Are you talking to people about how they feel about war on Iraq? I assume you are! I would be great to hear things like that reported. And pictures! although I realize it would be tough for you to get them into jpeg.

Keep up the good work.

La Lucha Continua!

Legalize the Shiznit! 21.Feb.2003 20:41

Mitchell mitchellstghetto@hotmail.com

A friend of mine was sent to state prison with murderers for 1 1/2 years for smoking a joint. He's a hippie. He's never hurt anyone in his life. I was looking on a prison inmate look-up page the other day, and I found a guy that was sentenced to 14 months for "CHILD MOLESTATION". My friend smoked a FU%*ing joint and got 16 months.Our laws are a joke. They don't make any sense.

Here in Georgia, 3 strikes and you're out (Three drug felonies and you get a mandatory-life sentence in prison). I've got 2 strikes, for my own personal substance use choices, and I'm only 21. I almost got a "10-year prison sentence" for overdosing on Heroin. They call this a free country? I don't think these substances are good, and in fact, I don't use any of them anymore... but our laws are rediculous.

DID YOU KNOW: that our government could produce $1,000 worth of crack for $20. Think about that. Most violent drug crimes are committed by addicts trying to get their dope (or money for it). If our government sold the stuff, an addict who had a $1,000 a week habit could get his dope for $20. He wouldn't need to steel, rob, murder to do it. The dealers wouldn't have a market... and drug crimes would completely stop. Our government doesn't care about these things... Drugs are good for their war. They need them to be illegal.

Senator Baca (from California) is about to make another sacred plant (currently completely legal) a felony to posess. In case you're wondering what it is... it's SALVIA DIVINORUM. The government can't even say that it's harmful to your health (why, because it isn't, and they know it), but they're still going to make it just as illegal as crack or heroin. A quick google search will give you all the info you need on this plant. "Another one bites the dust."

Unfortunately, I don't think our government will ever legalize anything... (not before we all get nuked, anyway), but that's just me. Here's to dreaming!

Excuse for Drug War 22.Feb.2003 10:36

Stephen Principle matterof@yahoo.com

The War on Drugs is but an Excuse for Societal Control!