By Shannon K. O'Neil, CFR
Editor's Note: Shannon K. O'Neil is senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Latin America's moment first appeared here. The views expressed are her own.
As Americans went to the polls to elect their president last week, voters in Colorado and Washington chose to legalize marijuana (by referendum). Not only does this create conflicting state and federal laws, but it also directly challenges the United States’ war on drugs.
These initiatives, Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502, directly conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug (along with heroin and LSD) – deemed to have “a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.” In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would “vigorously enforce” federal laws if marijuana was legalized in California (it wasn’t). Although no official statement on Washington and Colorado has been released, the White House’s website maintains that “the Obama Administration has consistently reiterated its firm opposition to any form of drug legalization.”
By Ted Galen Carpenter, Special to CNN
Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is the author of nine books on international affairs, including the just released The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America. The views expressed are his own.
A striking feature of the presidential debate on foreign policy was the total lack of attention given to Latin America –notably the drug violence wracking our next door neighbor, Mexico. Nearly 60,000 people have perished since 2006 in the Mexican government’s military-led offensive against the country’s powerful, ruthless drug cartels. But while President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both obsessed about the Middle East, they virtually ignored Washington’s relations with our southern neighbors. After a brief observation from Romney near the start of the debate that the region offered important – and neglected – economic opportunities for the United States, both candidates quickly abandoned the Western Hemisphere.
That was extraordinarily myopic. Given its geographic proximity, historical ties, and mounting importance as an arena for trade and investment, Latin America should be high on Washington’s diplomatic and economic agenda. And near the top of the national security agenda should be the alarming developments involving the drug violence in Mexico.
Ahead of a New York state bill that would recognize marijuana for medical purposes, a state supreme judge with cancer writes in its favor in a recent New York Times op-ed.
Gustin L. Reichbach, a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, has spent the last three and a half years battling pancreatic cancer and says inhaled marijuana is his only relief.
In his op-ed advocating legitimate clinical use of marijuana, he writes:
This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue. Being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I am receiving the absolute gold standard of medical care. But doctors cannot be expected to do what the law prohibits, even when they know it is in the best interests of their patients. When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy.
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
The drug wars dominate the discussion in Mexico and in many border states in America as well. There have been nearly 50,000 drug-related killings in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón began his six-year term. That's more than twice as many civilian deaths in the same period in Afghanistan.
Calderón is widely viewed as having blundered in taking on the drug cartels. FULL POST
By Alex Leff, GlobalPost
When the world looks back at 2012 in the Americas, one burning debate will stand out amid the year’s usual chatter: Should Latin America legalize drugs?
What was once taboo has now got presidents talking in public and writing charged commentaries. They’re trying to frame the new drugs debate in terms that Washington - which firmly stands by the drug war solution - will understand: supply and demand.
The U.S. government says it will listen, but will not bend.FULL POST
Editor's Note: Juan Gabriel Tokatlian is Professor of International Relations at the Universidad de Di Tella, Argentina. For more, visit Project Syndicate's great new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, Project Syndicate
In January, US President Barack Obama nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General John F. Kelly to head the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). Based in Miami, Florida, USSOUTHCOM runs military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the key US “drug warrior” in the region. Across the region, the key question, among civilian and military leaders alike, is whether the change in commanders will bring with it a change in focus.
The top priority for USSOUTHCOM is to fight narcotics trafficking from the Andes to the Rio Grande. With the Cold War’s end, fighting communism was no longer the US armed forces main objective; USSOUTHCOM increasingly concentrated on pursuing coercive anti-drug initiatives, and funds to fight the drug war were plentiful. But the change in commanders is an opportunity for the US to revise, at long last, its regional doctrine in order to address other pressing security needs. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
Moscow blames the United States and NATO for failing to stem the flow of Afghan narcotics into Central Asia and Russia. Washington has been trying to strengthen anti-narcotics efforts in the region while not undermining counter-insurgency operations. However, Russia still considers this region its ‘sphere of influence’ and has blocked an attempt to expand U.S. law enforcement presence there. Hence, the pickle.
For the past decade, Afghanistan has manufactured and exported more heroin than any other country. The United Nations estimates that about 10% of Afghanistan's gross economic output derives from opium poppy cultivation. The country produced about 6,000 tonnes of opium in 2011, valued at 1.4 billion dollars. Moreover, Afghan growers’ gross income from opium poppy doubled between 2010 and 2011 (to $10,700 per hectare). FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is an interview with Russia's top drug czar, Viktor Ivanov, who was recently in Chicago to meet with U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
Why is drug production rising in Afghanistan?
Viktor Ivanov: Drug production is always connected with the political and military situation in the country. The more tension and military clashes there are, the fewer chances the peasants have to grow legal, traditional agricultural crops. History has seen a number of examples of this. For example, military tension in Southeast Asia gave rise to the appearance of the so-called Golden Triangle –Thailand, Laos and Myanmar - which became notorious for producing drugs. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Viktor Ivanov is the Director of Russia's Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Viktor Ivanov.
By Viktor Ivanov - Special to CNN
In early September, the upper house of the Afghan parliament accused the international community of failing to wage a successful fight against drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan. This accusation is supported, in their view, by the growth of the heroin manufacturing industry in the country to an estimated worth of about $50 billion.
Equally disappointing is the conclusion of the U.S. Congress Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, co-chaired by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley, which acknowledges the absence of distinctive results of international efforts in Afghanistan to combat drug production. Both senators draw attention to the need to destroy opium poppies as the main way of eliminating drug production. FULL POST
By Frank Newport, Gallup
PRINCETON, NJ - A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.
When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana, in 1969, 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed. Support remained in the mid-20s in Gallup measures from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but has crept up since, passing 30% in 2000 and 40% in 2009 before reaching the 50% level in this year's Oct. 6-9 annual Crime survey.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States." The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 found that "16.7 million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed, an increase over the rates reported in all years between 2002 and 2008." FULL POST
By Ioan Grillo, GlobalPost
Flanked between Mexican and U.S. flags, President Felipe Calderon was unleashing his familiar tirade against drug gangs in a speech in New York on Monday. The cartels are carrying out mass murder, he said. They are a regional threat. And then he dropped his bombshell. If the United States can’t cut demand for drugs, Calderon said, it must look for alternative solutions.
“We are living in the same building. And our neighbor is the largest consumer of drugs in the world. And everybody wants to sell him drugs through our doors and our windows,” the Mexican president said. “If the consumption of drugs cannot be limited, then decision-makers must seek more solutions — including market alternatives — in order to reduce the astronomical earnings of criminal organizations.” FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following piece comes from Global Post, which provides excellent coverage of world news.
KOSTROMA, Russia — Yuri Frolov, 24, started using heroin when he was 16 and living in the city of Kostroma, north of Moscow.
Kostroma isn’t known for heroin. The city of almost 300,000 is on Russia’s Golden Ring, a collection of picturesque cities northeast of Moscow visited by tourists for their typical Russian architecture and onion-shaped church domes.
My wife and I met Frolov in May at a drug rehabilitation center in the countryside in southern Russia, near the city of Stavropol. The center is austere. There is no running water and residents have to use outhouses. It’s part work camp, part monastery. The ascetic lifestyle and fresh air are thought to help addicts give up their dependencies. But this bucolic patch of land in the rolling hills of the northern Caucasus comes as a shock for many of the young addicts, who are used to cell phones and urban apartment blocks.
Before he came to the center, Frolov had never worked with livestock. Here he is in charge of collecting water from a nearby reservoir via horse-drawn carriage. In his free time he works with the center’s horses in a sprawling field.
Frolov had been clean for five months when we met. He is broad-shouldered and tall. But there is something delicate about his long face and green eyes.
Sitting on a concrete slab near the stables, Frolov spoke of how easy it was for him to purchase heroin back in Kostroma:
“There was a Gypsy village only three miles from the town I’m from. You’d go there. There’d be cops standing outside. You’d pay them 100 rubles ($3.60) to get in and 50 rubles to get out. The gypsies would yell at you, ‘Buy from me. I’ve got the best stuff.’ You didn’t need to look or anything. There was good quality heroin everywhere.” FULL POST