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.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article