Saturday, May 27, 2006

All posts were moved (11/2006) to

Drugs... again

A lot of nonsense was put out in the United States when Congress tried to reform the drug laws down here, and President Fox, after denying that there was pressure from Washington, vetoed the reforms. It was never a dead issue, but the U.S. has been focused on fence-building and "illegal immigration", and just hasn't been paying attention. There are some objections, mostly from PAN (some of whose supporters see any liberalization as likely to encourage drug use) and the Church, and some concerns over giving enforcement authority to local police and prosecutors, but overall, the feeling was that prosecuting Mexico's relatively small number of users is a waste of time and money. What support there is for the growers (protectionist policies in the U.S. and Canada have made marijuana and opium poppies some of the few export crops where Mexico has an edge over its NAFTA partners) and the dealers, is followed by the shame-faced admission that the business is either a necessity (for the farmers) or -- while it is devestating to others, it provides some local benefits within communities. Fox's veto was always seen as a favor to the world's largest consumer nation. And, overriding a Presidential veto is very rare here. Fox will be out of office in December, and it was always assumed here that the bill will be introduced in the next Congressional session. I don't think it has anything to do with the U.S. debate over immigration, but Mexico doesn't have much reason to trust, or listen to Washington right now. And -- although Felipe Calderón continues to support Fox's veto -- either the PANistas realize his support may be evaporting, or, being "lame ducks" themselves, see no reason not to push through the reforms sooner, rather than later. There has been discussion in the press (Statement from the President of the Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Commission in support of the reforms, a Financial Times report -- "U.S. Users cause problems for countries like Mexico", and editorials in El Universal and Jornada. Ione Grillo, who also writes from Mexico City -- and writes very well -- for the Dallas Morning News, covers the story in today's Herald (Lawmakers work to revive drug decrim) Lawmakers are working to revive their bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and hope to override a veto if necessary, so that police can better respond to the waves of drug-related violence that has killed more than 600 people this year. President Vicente Fox called on Congress to drop decriminalization from the drug-law overhaul after intense lobbying from the U.S. State Department and mayors of several U.S. border cities, who called it a disaster that would encourage hordes of U.S. youngsters to cross the border for "drug tourism." ... But the issue isn´t going away, and with every new battle over drugs in Mexico City, Acapulco or the violent northern border cities, public pressure grows for reforms to laws that many say have handicapped law enforcement agencies here. "Consumption and addiction are public health issues while drug dealing is a criminal problem," said Rep. Eliana García, who worked with the federal Attorney General´s Office as well as the health and public safety departments to draft the original bill. "When you mix them you get corruption." ... Under existing law, drug dealing is a federal crime, and so local police usually avoid taking on armed drug gangs, instead filling arrest quotas by detaining small-time users, García said. The bill Congress passed last month with the support of all major parties would empower local police as well as federal agents to investigate drug pushers. The president´s spokesman initially said Fox would sign it. He sent it back a day later after an uproar in the United States and criticism from the Roman Catholic Church over the drug possession details. While increasing penalties for large amounts of drugs, the bill would decriminalize possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, 5 grams of marijuana (about four joints) or 0.5 grams of cocaine - the equivalent of about four lines. The leading presidential candidates, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador and conservative Felipe Calderón, haven´t taken positions on the bill. But García and other members of López Obrador´s Democratic Revolution Party are among the most outspoken supporters, while Roman Catholics, part of Calderón´s base, are generally against it. "Mexico, I fear, could become even more violent," said Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the Archbishop of Mexico City. ... Only 5 percent of Mexicans say they have gotten high once in their life, compared to 40 percent of U.S. citizens. However, these numbers hide the gravity of the growing problem of hard drug use among Mexico´s urban youth, nearly 1 million of whom have used crack, heroin or methamphetamines. ... Gang violence surrounding drug consumption now mixes with bloodshed unleashed by the big smuggling cartels, adding up to more than 1,500 drug-related killings last year, with violence plaguing border towns like Nuevo Laredo as well as big cities. ...


Post a Comment

<< Home