Category Archives: The Drug War

When the respectable become extremists, the extremists become respectable: Colombia and the mainstream media

Standard

By James Petras
May 20, 2012

By any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human rights conventions, United Nations protocols, socio economic indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European Union regimes can be characterized as extremist.

By that we mean that their policies and practices result in large scale long-term systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and likelihood affecting millions of people through the direct application of force and violence. The extremist regimes abhor moderation which implies rejection of total wars in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the West’s embrace of extremism in all of its manifestation both in domestic and foreign policy. Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implies preserving the status quo and at most tinkering with change at the margins. Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social welfare systems, the elimination of traditional legal restraints on labor and environmental abuses. Liberals and social democrats who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems have been in the forefront of prolonged multiple colonial wars which have killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

Extremism both in terms of methods, means and goals has obliterated the distinctions between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderate opponents to policies subsidizing a dozen major banks and impoverishing tens of millions of workers are called the “hard left”, “extremists” or “radicals”.

In the wake of the extremist policies of public officials, the respectable, prestigious print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism [1]. Colonial wars that devastate civil society and materially and culturally impoverish millions in the colonized country are justified, embellished and made to appear as lawful, humane and furthering secular democratic values. Domestic wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers, which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed are described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in one as well as the other.

To illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious press, we will examine two case studies: US policies toward and the Financial Times and New York Times reportage on Colombia and Honduras.

Colombia: The “Oldest Democracy in Latin America versus “the Death squad Capital of the World”

Following on the heels of euphoric eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as a poster boy in an April issue of Time, and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert on Colombia’s political and economic “miracle”, “Investing in Colombia” [2]. According to the FTs leading Latin American journalist, one John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the “oldest democracy in the hemisphere” [3]. Rathbone’s rapture for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an “emerging power broker” for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe for foreign investors and “exciting the envy” of other less successful regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city “Medellín is living through its best of times” [4]. In line with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly-charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere – a model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders. Colombia under President Santos, has signed a free trade agreement with President Obama, his closes ally in the hemisphere [5]. Under Bush the trade unions, human rights and church groups and the majority of Congressional Democrats were successful in blocking the agreement on the bases of the basis of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. When Obama embraced the free trade agreement, the AFL-CIO and Democratic opposition evaporated, as President Obama claimed a vast improvement in human rights and the commitment of Santos to ending the murder of trade union leaders and activists [6].

The peace, security and prosperity eulogized by the oil, mining, banking, and agro-business elite are based on the worst human rights record in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists Colombia exceeds the entire rest of the world. Between 1986-2011 over 60% of the trade unionists assassinated in the world took place in Colombia, by the combined military-police-paramilitary forces, largely at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders [7]. The “peace” that Rathbone and his cohort at the Financial Times praise is at the cost of over 12,000 assassinations and arrests, injuries, disappearances of trade unionists between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010[8]. In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, hundreds were kidnapped or disappeared. President Santos was the Defense Minister under previous President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In those eight years, 762 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, over 95% by the state or allied paramilitary forces [9].

Under Presidents Uribe Santos 2002 – 2012 over 4 million peasants and rural householders were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and their lands were confiscated and taken over by landlords and narco-traffickers [10]. The terror tactics employed by the regimes counter-insurgency strategy served a dual purpose of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth. The Financial Times journalists ignore this chapter in Colombia’s “resurgent growth”. They are especially enthused by the “security” that ensued because large scale foreign investment, over $6 billion dollars, in 2012 flowed into mining and oil regions that were formerly “troubled” by unrest [11].

Leading drug lords, who were closely linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, and were subsequently jailed and extradited to the US, have testified that they financed and elected one-third of the Congress people affiliated with Uribe-Santos party in what Rathbone refers to as Latin America’s “oldest democracy”. According to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the former 30,000 member United Self-Defense of Colombia paramilitary death squad, he met with then, President Uribe, in different regions of the country and gave him money and logistical support in his re-election campaign of 2006. He also affirmed that many national and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion of the paramilitary death squads. What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with the blood and gore of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists and human rights activists. The gory history of the Uribe/Santos reign of terror has been completely omitted from the current account of Colombia’s “success story”. Detailed records of the brutality of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads, which describe the use of chain saws to cut limbs from peasants suspected of leftist sympathies, are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s leading human rights organizations [12].

The death squads and military act in concert. The military is trained by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers. They arrive in a village in a wave of US supplied helicopters, secure the region from guerillas and then allow the AUC terrorists to savage the villages, killing, raping and disemboweling men, women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers. The terror tactics have driven millions of peasants out of the countryside

Allowing the generals and drug lords to seize their land

Human rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death squads. President Uribe and Santos first accuse them of being active collaborators of the guerillas for exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity. Once they are labeled, the HRA became “legitimate targets” for armed assaults by the death squads and the military who act with complete impunity. Between 2002-2011, 1,470 acts of violence were perpetrated against HRA, with a record number of 239 in 2011, including 49 assassinations during the Presidency of Santos. [13] Over half of the murdered HRA are Indians and Afro-Colombians.

State terrorism was and continues to be the main instrument of rule under Presidents Uribe and Santos. The Colombian “killing fields” according to the Fiscalia General include tens of thousands of homicides, 1,597 massacres, thousands of forced disappearances between 2005 – 2010 [14].

The practice, revealed in the Colombian press, of “false positives” in which the military kidnaps poor young men, dresses them as guerrillas and then assassinates them, comes across in the respectable US print media as evidence of Santos/Uribe’s military successes against the guerrillas. There are 2,472 documented cases of military false positive murders [15].

Honduras: New York Times and State Terrorism

The New York Times featured an article on Honduras, emphasizing the regime’s “co-operation” with the US drug war.[16] The Times writer Thom Shanker speaks of a “partnership” based on the expansion of three new US military bases and the stationing of US Special Forces in the country.[17]

Shanker describes the successful operation of the Honduras Special Operations forces guided and directed by trainers from the US Special Forces. Shanker mentions a visit by a delegation of Congressional staff members who favorably assessed the local forces respect of human rights, and cites the US ambassador in Honduras as praising the regime as an “eager and capable partners in this joint effort”.[18]

There are insidious parallels between the NY Times white wash of the criminal extremist regime in Honduras and the Financial Times’ crude promotion of Colombia’s death squad democracy.

The current regime headed by “President” Lobos- which invites the Pentagon to expand its military control over swathes of Honduran territory- is a product of a US backed military coup which overthrew an elected liberal President on June 28, 2009, a point Shanker forgets to mention. Lobos, the predator president, retains control by killing, jailing and torturing critics, journalists, human rights defenders and landless rural laborers seeking to reclaim their lands which were violently seized by Lobos’ landlord backers.

Following the military coup, thousands of Honduran pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, beaten and arrested. According to conservative estimates by Human Rights Watch 20 pro-democracy dissidents were murdered by the military and police.[19] Between January 2010 and November 2011 at least 12 journalists critical of the Lobos regime were murdered.

In the countryside, where NY Times reporter Shanker describes a love fest between the US Special Forces and their Honduran counterparts, between January and August 2011,30 farm workers in northern Honduras Bajo Aguan valley were killed by death squads hired by Lobos backed oligarchs .[20] Nary a single military, police and death squad assassin has been judged and jailed. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti and President Lobos, his successor, have repeatedly assaulted pro-democracy demonstrations, especially those led by school teachers, students and trade unionists and have tortured hundreds of jailed political dissidents. Precisely in the same time span as the NY Times publishes its most euphoric article on the friendly relations between the US and Honduras, the death toll among pro-democracy dissidents rose precipitously: eight journalists and a TV commentator have been killed over the first 4 months of 2012. [21] In late March and early April of 2012 nine farmworkers and employees were murdered by pro-Lobos landlords.[22] No arrests, no suspects, impunity reigns in the land of US military bases. The Times follows the Mafia rule of omega-silence and complicity.

Syria: How the FT Absolves Al Qaeda Terrorists

As western backed terrorists savage Syria, the Western press, especially the Financial Times, continues to absolve the terrorists of setting of car bombs killing and maiming hundreds of civilians. With crude cynicism their reporters shrug their shoulders and give credence to the claims of the London based terrorists propaganda mongers, that the Assad regime was engaged in destroying its own cities and security forces. [23]

Conclusion

As the Obama regime and its European backers publically embrace extremism, including state terror, targeted assassinations and the car bombing of crowded cities, the respectable press has followed suit. Extremism takes many forms –from the omission of reports on the use of force and violence in overthrowing adversary regimes to the cover-up of the wholesale murder of tens of thousands of civilians and the dispossession of millions of peasants and farmers. The “educated classes”, the affluent reading public are being indoctrinated by the respectable media to believe that a smiling and pragmatic President Santos and elected President Lobos have succeeded in establishing peace, market based prosperity and securing mutually beneficial free trade and military base concessions with the US—even as the two regimes lead the world in the murder of trade unionists and journalists. Even as I read, on May 15, 2012 that the US Hispanic Congressional caucus has awarded Lobos a leadership in democracy award, the Honduran press reports the murder of the news director of station HMT Alfredo Villatoro, the 25th critical journalist killed between January 27, 2010 and May 15, 2012.[24]

The respectable press’s embrace of extremism, its use of demonological terminology and vitriolic language to describe imperial adversaries is matched by its euphoric and effusive praise of state and pro-western mercenary terrorists. The systematic cover-up practiced by extremist journalism goes far beyond the cases of Colombia and Honduras. The reportage of the Financial Times Michael Peel on the NATO led destruction of Libya, Africa’s most advanced welfare state, and the rise to power of armed gangs of fanatical tribal and Islamic terrorists, is presented as a victory for a democracy over a “brutal dictatorship”[25]. Peel’s mendacity and cant is evident in his outrageous claims that the destruction of the Libyan economy and the mass torture and racial murders which ensued NATOs war, is a victory for the Libyan people.

The totalitarian twist in the respectable press is a direct consequence of its toadying to the extremist policies pursued by the western regimes. Since extremist measures, like the use of force, violence, assassination and torture, have become routinized by the incumbent presidents and prime ministers, the reporters have no choice but to fabricate lies to rationalize these crimes, to spit out a constant flow of highly charged adjectives in order to convert victims into executioners and executioners into victims. Extremism in defense of pro-US regimes has led to the most grotesque accounts imaginable: Colombia and Mexico’s Presidents are the leaders of the most thoroughly narcotized economies in the hemisphere yet they are praised for their war on drugs, while Venezuela the most marginal producer is stigmatized as a major narco pipeline. [26]

Articles with no factual bases, which are worthless as sources of objective information, direct us to seek for an underlying rationale. Colombia has signed a free trade agreement which will benefit US exports over Colombian by over a two to one ratio [27]. Mexico’s free trade policy has benefited US agro-business and giant retailers by a similar ratio.

Extremism in all of its forms permeates Western regimes and finds its justification and rationalization in the respectable media whose job is to indoctrinate civil society and turn citizens into voluntary accomplices to extremism. By endlessly prefacing “reports” on Russia’s Putin as an authoritarian Soviet era tyrant, the respectable media obviate any discussion of his doubling of living standards and the 60% plus electoral triumph. By magnifying an authoritarian past, Gadhafi’s vast public works, social welfare programs and generous immigration and foreign aid programs to sub-Sahara Africa can be relegated to the memory hole. The respectable press’s praise of death squad Presidents Santos and Lobos is part of a large scale long term systematic shift from the hypocritical pretence of pursuing the virtues of a democratic republic to the open embrace of a virulent, murderous empire. The new journalists’ code reads “extremism in defense of empire is no vice”.


[1] There’s a general consensus that the respectable print media include The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

[2] Financial Times (FT) 5/8/12; See also FT (5/4/12)”Colombia looks to consolidate gains in country of complexities”

[3] FT 5/8/12 (p. 1)

[4] FT ibid

[5] BBC News, May 5, 2012

[6] ibid

[7] Renan Vega Cantor Sindicalicidio! Uncuento poco imaginativo) de Terroismo Laboral Bogotá, Feb. 25, 2012.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] Inforrme CODHES Novembre 2010.

[11] FT 5/8/12 p. 4.

[12] See the Annual Reports of CODHES, Reiniciar and Human Rights Watch

[13] Claroscuro Informe Aual 2011; Programa Somos Defensores Bogota 2012; Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados. Jan. – March 2012.

[14] Fiscalia General. Informe 2012

[15] http://www.falsos.positivos.blogspot.com

[16] Thom Shanker “Lessons of Iraq Help US Fight a Drug War in Honduras” New York Times, May 6, 2012.6

[17] ibid

[18] ibid

[19] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012

[20] Honduran Human Rights, May 12m, 2012.

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

[23] The notorious cover-up of the car bombing is the handiwork of the FT’s star Middle East journalists. See Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith “At Least 55 Die in two Damascus Explosions: Responsibility for Blasts Disputed”, FT 5/11/12.

[24] Honduras Human Rights, April 24, 2012.

[25] Michael Peel, “The Colonels Last Stand” FT 5/12 – 13/12

[26] One of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary narco traffickers described the close financial and political ties between the Colombian United Self Defense terrorists and the Uribe-Santos regime. Se La Jornada 5/12/12.

[27] BBC News, 5/15/12. According to the US International Trade Commission estimates the value of US exports to Colombia could rise by $1.1 billion while Colombia’s exports could grow by $487 million.

Source

Advertisements

Hondurans attack Government buildings, demand U.S. leave

Standard

By John Glaser
May 17, 2012

People in Honduras have burned down government offices and demanded U.S. drug agents leave the area after news got out that American and Honduran forces shot and killed up to six innocent Hondurans.

The dead included two pregnant women and two children. The Drug Enforcement Administration agents, with their Honduran counterparts, fired from U.S. helicopter gunships at a boat carrying the civilians, mistaking it for their intended target – a boat carrying drug traffickers.

Anger is aimed at both Honduran authorities and U.S. authorities. ”These innocent residents were not involved in the drug problem, were in their boat going about their daily fishing activities … when they gunned them down from the air,” Lucio Vaquedano, mayor of the coastal town of Ahuas, said Wednesday.

“For centuries we have been a peaceful people who live in harmony with nature, but today we declared these Americans to be persona non grata in our territory,” the statement continued.

Honduran news media and human rights organizations began publicizing the incident, of which the American people were not informed, and claimed the DEA agents themselves did the shooting. But after news broke out, U.S. authorities started claiming the American agents merely assisted Honduran forces, without doing any of the shooting themselves and that didn’t shoot first.

Honduras has become a hub of drug-trafficking, particularly cocaine, which has earned it renewed focus from Washington.

The Obama administration chose to support the illegal military coup in Honduras in 2009, which ousted democratically elected Jose Manuel Zelaya. The coup leaders continued to receive U.S. aid as American military and DEA presence in the country began to expand. This began a descent into what Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, called “a human rights and security abyss.”

More than 600 U.S. troops are stationed in Honduras and the DEA has a Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team based there. By the end of 2011, 42 Honduran law enforcement agents were working with the DEA, despite widespread human rights abuses and forced disappearances of political opponents and journalists.

“We have seen over the years that whenever the military interfaces with the populace, incidents of human rights abuses go way up,” said George Withers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. “We’re concerned that the U.S. is encouraging the use of the military for police work.”

In a written statement, the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), a human rights organization, said that “a foreign army [i.e., the U.S. army] protected under the new hegemonic concept of the ‘war on drugs,’ legalized with reforms to the 1953 Military Treaty, violates our territorial sovereignty and kills civilians as if it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.”

COFADEH called Honduras “a failed state” and said “the so called Honduran authorities have the ethical and political duty to demand from the U.S. Department of State an explanation and a public apology, and to punish those responsible.”

Source

Consequences of the Military Occupation of Honduras

Standard

May 15, 2012

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS–Although we have not read the official reaction of the U.S. Embassy about the tragic military actions of the Drug Enforcement Agency in detriment of the civilian population of the municipality of Ahuas in La Mosquitia, we can draw three preliminary conclusions.

The first one is that the operation launched at night against suspected drug dealers early Friday, was led by U.S. military uniformed agents of the DEA.

Mayor Baquedano from Ahuas confirmed it, and Commissioner Ramirez del Cid, a former liaison between the US Embassy and Casamata, admitted it.

The second conclusion is, then, that a foreign army protected under the new hegemonic concept of the “war on drugs”, legalized with reforms to the 1953 Military Treaty, violates our territorial sovereignty and kills civilians as if it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.

Two pregnant women, two children and two adult males were killed by shots fired from helicopter gunships piloted by U.S. soldiers on a boat on River Patuca returning to their community. They were workers in the local lobster and shellfish diving industry.

The third conclusion drawn from the above is that the “failed state” of Honduras gave way to the foreign military occupation under the script of the “war against the drus cartels”, similar to what has happened in the past eight years in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala.

And this reality, from the perspective of a human rights organization, is unacceptable and reprehensible.

In a country under military occupation, as it occurred between 1979 and 1990, as part of the strategy of low intensity warfare against armed insurgencies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, the main victims were civilians.

The so called Honduran authorities have the ethical and political duty to demand from the US Department of State an explanation and a public apology, and to punish those responsible for the Ahuas massacre.

To keep an act of terror covered up in the midst of media confusion was always a strategy of psychological warfare, a special chapter of state terrorism.

We should not accept this. We demand an official statement immediately!

Source

Fidel Castro’s Reflections: The horrors offered to us by the empire

Standard

May 15, 2012

A cable from AP, the principal U.S. news agency, datelined today in Monterrey, Mexico, explains it with irrefutable clarity. It is not the first and doubtless is not the last about a reality which demolishes the mountain of lies with which the United States attempts to justify the inhuman destiny it reserves for the peoples of Our America.

What does the cable relate?

“MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) Forty nine people were found mutilated and scattered in a pool of blood on a highway that connects the industrial city of Monterrey with the U.S. border, in what would seem to be the lastest blow in the presumed fight between Mexico’s dominant drug cartels to outdo each other in bloodshed and expand their territory and smuggling routes.

“The 43 men and six women were dumped at the entrance to the town of San Juan, on a no-toll highway leading to the border city of Reynosa. “100% Zeta” was spray painted on a stone arch welcoming visitors where the bodies were dumped.

“Nuevo León state security spokesman Jorge Domene stated at a press conference that a ‘narcomanta’ (symbolic banner) was found with the decomposing bodies, in which Los Zetas claimed responsibility for the killing.

“The victims could have been killed as long as two days ago, which leads authorities to believe they could have been transported from another location. The dead would be hard to identify because of the lack of heads, hands and feet, which have not been found, said the official.

“State Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said that there had been no reports of mass disappearances in the last few days, so the victims may have been brought from other Mexican states, or were even U.S.-bound migrants from Central America.

“Mexican drug cartels have been escalating their bloody war to control smuggling routes, as well as the national drug market and extortion, and their victims include migrants seeking to reach the United States.

“So far this month, 18 bodies have been found in a tourist area near Guadalajara; 23 corpses were found decapitated or hung from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, where violence among cartels has escalated. Bodies have appeared this year in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

“De la Garza stated that there are no leads to link the new wave of violence with the July presidential election. It has the dynamic of a war between cartels, he said.”

For its part, the BBC Mundo website reports:

“The scenes of decapitated and mutilated bodies in Nuevo León, where 49 bodies were dumped on the highway this Sunday, shook many given the extreme barbarity displayed by the killers. Even in Mexico, which after five years of intense war among cartels, would seem to have seen everything.”

More than a few countries of Our America are affected by these problems.

In our homeland, the problems related here do not exist; could this be why the empire is trying to defeat it through hunger and hostility? Half a century has not sufficed, and I very much doubt that the empire has another half century before, sooner or later, it sinks in its own mire.

Fidel Castro Ruz
May 14, 2012
4:36 p.m.

Source

Former NYPD Detective Testifies that Police Regularly Plant Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quota

Standard

DPA Statement: Drug War Corrupts Police, Ruins Lives, Destroys Trust Between Law Enforcement and Community

October 13, 2011

Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD narcotics detective, testified yesterday that he regularly saw police plant drugs on innocent people as a way to meet arrest quotas. Mr. Anderson is testifying under cooperation with prosecutors after he was busted for planting cocaine on four men in a bar in Queens. “It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators,” said Anderson.

“One of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it’s easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people,” said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing – and quotas further incentivize such practices.”

The NYPD has also come under heat recently for arresting more than 50,000 people last year for low-level marijuana offenses – 86% of whom are black and Latino – making marijuana possession the number one offense in the City. Most of these arrests are the result of illegal searches by the NYPD, as part of its controversial stop-and-frisk practices. Marijuana was decriminalized in New York State in 1977 – and that law is still on the books. Smoking marijuana in public or having marijuana visible in public, however, remains a crime.  Most people arrested for marijuana possession are not smoking in public, but simply have a small amount in their pocket, purse or bag. Often when police stop and question a person, they say “empty your pockets” or “open your bag.” Many people comply, even though they’re not legally required to do so. If a person pulls mari¬juana from their pocket or bag, it is then “open to public view.” The police then arrest the person.

Last month, in a rare admission of NYPD wrongdoing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered all officers to stop charging people with misdemeanor marijuana violations based on improper searches. The new policy directive comes on the heels of a 2011 report released by DPA highlighting the enormous costs of marijuana arrests in New York and a public pressure campaign by advocacy groups and elected officials.

“Whether the issue is planting drugs (like this instance) or falsely charging people for having marijuana in public view (as is the case with the majority of marijuana arrests in NYC) the drug war corrupts police, ruins lives, and destroys trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve,” said sayegh.

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Anthony Papa 646-420-7290

Source

The Drug War Is the Inevitable Result of Capitalism Gone Mad; Ciudad Juarez Is All of Our Futures

Standard

By Ed Vulliamy

June 21, 2011 | War, as I came to report it, was something fought between people with causes, however crazy or honourable: like between the American and British occupiers of Iraq and the insurgents who opposed them. Then I stumbled across Mexico’s drug war – which has claimed nearly 40,000 lives, mostly civilians – and all the rules changed. This is warfare for the 21st century, and another creature altogether.

Mexico’s war is inextricable from everyday life. In Ciudad Juarez, the most murderous city in the world, street markets and malls remain open; Sarah Brightman sang a concert there recently. When I was back there last month, people had reappeared at night to eat dinner and socialise, out of devil-may-care recklessness and exhaustion with years of self-imposed curfew. Before, there had been an eerie quiet at night, now there is an even eerier semblance of normality – punctuated by gunfire.

On the surface, the combatants have the veneer of a cause: control of smuggling routes into the US. But even if this were the full explanation, the cause of drugs places Mexico’s war firmly in our new postideological, postmoral, postpolitical world. The only causes are profits from the chemicals that get America and Europe high.

Interestingly, in a highly politicised society there is no rightwing or Mussolinian “law and order” mass movement against the cartels, or any significant leftwing or union opposition. The grassroots movement against the postpolitical cartel warriors, the National Movement for Peace, is famously led by the poet Javier Sicilia, who organised a week-long peace march after the murder of his son in the spring. This very male war is opposed by women, in the workplaces and barrios, and in the home.

But this is not just a war between narco-cartels. Juarez has imploded into a state of criminal anarchy – the cartels, acting like any corporation, have outsourced violence to gangs affiliated or unaffiliated with them, who compete for tenders with corrupt police officers. The army plays its own mercurial role. “Cartel war” does not explain the story my friend, and Juarez journalist, Sandra Rodriguez told me over dinner last month: about two children who killed their parents “because”, they explained to her, “they could”. The culture of impunity, she said, “goes from boys like that right to the top – the whole city is a criminal enterprise”.

Not by coincidence, Juarez is also a model for the capitalist economy. Recruits for the drug war come from the vast, sprawling maquiladora – bonded assembly plants where, for rock-bottom wages, workers make the goods that fill America’s supermarket shelves or become America’s automobiles, imported duty-free. Now, the corporations can do it cheaper in Asia, casually shedding their Mexican workers, and Juarez has become a teeming recruitment pool for the cartels and killers. It is a city that follows religiously the philosophy of a free market.

“It’s a city based on markets and on trash,” says Julián Cardona, a photographer who has chronicled the implosion. “Killing and drug addiction are activities in the economy, and the economy is based on what happens when you treat people like trash.” Very much, then, a war for the 21st century. Cardona told me how many times he had been asked for his view on the Javier Sicilia peace march: “I replied: ‘How can you march against the market?'”

Mexico’s war does not only belong to the postpolitical, postmoral world. It belongs to the world of belligerent hyper-materialism, in which the only ideology left – which the leaders of “legitimate” politics, business and banking preach by example – is greed. A very brave man called Mario Trevino lives in the city of Reynosa, which is in the grip of the Gulf cartel. He said of the killers and cartels: “They are revolting people who do what they do because they cannot be seen to wear the same label T-shirt as they wore last year, they must wear another brand, and more expensive.” It can’t be that banal, I objected, but he pleaded with me not to underestimate these considerations. The thing that really makes Mexico’s war a different war, and of our time, is that it is about, in the end, nothing.

It certainly belongs to the cacophony of the era of digital communication. The killers post their atrocities on YouTube with relish, commanding a vast viewing public; they are busy across thickets of internet hot-sites and the narco-blogosphere. Journalists find it hard that while even people as crazy as Osama bin Laden will talk to the media – they feel they have a message to get across – the narco-cartels have no interest in talking at all. They control the message, they are democratic the postmodern way.

People often ask: why the savagery of Mexico’s war? It is infamous for such inventive perversions as sewing one victim’s flayed face to a soccer ball or hanging decapitated corpses from bridges by the ankles; and innovative torture, such as dipping people into vats of acid so that their limbs evaporate while doctors keep the victim conscious.

I answer tentatively that I think there is a correlation between the causelessness of Mexico’s war and the savagery. The cruelty is in and of the nihilism, the greed for violence reflects the greed for brands, and becomes a brand in itself.

People also ask: what can be done? There is endless debate over military tactics, US aid to Mexico, the war on drugs, and whether narcotics should be decriminalised. I answer: these are largely of tangential importance; what can the authorities do? Simple: Go After the Money. But they won’t.

Narco-cartels are not pastiches of global corporations, nor are they errant bastards of the global economy – they are pioneers of it. They point, in their business logic and modus operandi, to how the legal economy will arrange itself next. The Mexican cartels epitomised the North American free trade agreement long before it was dreamed up, and they thrive upon it.

Mexico’s carnage is that of the age of effective global government by multinational banks – banks that, according to Antonio Maria Costa, the former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, have been for years kept afloat by laundering drug and criminal profits. Cartel bosses and street gangbangers cannot go around in trucks full of cash. They have to bank it – and politicians could throttle this river of money, as they have with actions against terrorist funding. But they choose not to, for obvious reasons: the good burgers of capitalism and their political quislings depend on this money, while bleating about the evils of drugs cooked in the ghetto and snorted up the noses of the rich.

So Mexico’s war is how the future will look, because it belongs not in the 19th century with wars of empire, or the 20th with wars of ideology, race and religion – but utterly in a present to which the global economy is committed, and to a zeitgeist of frenzied materialism we adamantly refuse to temper: it is the inevitable war of capitalism gone mad. Twelve years ago Cardona and the writer Charles Bowden curated a book called Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future. They could not have known how prescient their title was. In a recent book, Murder City, Bowden puts it another way: “Juarez is not a breakdown of the social order. Juarez is the new order.”

Source

Global Commission on Drug Policy declares war on drugs ‘a failure’

Standard

June 2, 2011

The commission recommends that certain drugs, including cannabis, be legalised.

A high-level international commission has declared the global “war on drugs” to be a failure, and has urged countries to consider legalising certain drugs, including cannabis, in a bid to undermine organised crime.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy, in its report released on Thursday, called for a new approach to the current strategy of reducing drug abuse by strictly criminalising drugs and incarcerating users.

It said the new approach should focus on battling the criminal cartels that control the drug trade, rather than targeting drug users.

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the report said.

The study urged “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs”, adding: “This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalisation and legal regulation.”

Illegal drug use

About 250 million people worldwide use drugs that are currently deemed illegal, with less than a tenth of them classified as “dependent”. Millions are also involved in the cultivation, production and distribution of drugs, according to the United Nations estimates quoted in the report.

The study said decriminalisation initiatives have not been accompanied by a significant spike in drug use, citing the implementation of such policies in Australia, Portugal and the Netherlands.

“Now is the time to break the taboo on discussion of all drug policy options, including alternatives to drug prohibition,” Cesar Gaviria, the former Colombian president, said.

The commission called for the urgent implementation of fundamental reforms in national and international drug control policies.

In particular, it recommended that the focus of drug control policies be moved from users as well as “farmers, couriers and petty sellers”, and onto the large criminal organisations involved in the drug trade.

It called on governments to “end the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others”.

“Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organisations,” the report said.

Treatment services recommended

It said that drug users who need health and treatment services should be offered them.

“Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalising cannabis,” Fernando Cardoso, the former Brazilian president, said.

The changed approach would focus law enforcement resources more against violent organised crime and drug traffickers, while providing alternative sentences for small-scale or first-time drug dealers.

The report said “vast expenditure” had been spent on criminalisation and repressive measures.

“Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use,” it said.

The 19-member panel includes current Greek prime minister George Papandreou, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, British businessman Richard Branson and former US secretary of state George Shultz.

Other members include former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss, former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and former US Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

Source

“Law as a weapon of war” people’s assembly held in Atlanta

Standard

By Kosta Harlan | May 17, 2011

Over 80 people attended the Atlanta people's assembly, "Law as a weapon of war" (Fight Back! News/Kosta Harlan)

Atlanta, GA – Over eighty people from across the South gathered at the Auburn Research Library in downtown Atlanta on May 14 for the people’s assembly, “Law as a Weapon of War”.

The assembly brought together people directly affected by repression from the war on terror, anti-immigrant legislation, and the war on drugs. As Stephanie Guilloud of Project South said in opening remarks, “Everyone here is on the front lines of a crisis.”

On the front lines of state repression

The assembly began with a panel of speakers to discuss the impact of state repression from the “war on terrorism” on their families.

Wall of names showing people targeted by preemptive prosecution

Laila Yaghi, the mother of Ziyad Yaghi, one of the “North Carolina 7”, spoke to the assembly. Ziyad is facing trial for terrorism-related offenses in which he maintains his innocence. Laila reported that Ziyad faces harsh treatment at the detention center, including being denied medical care and isolation.

Barandra Bujol, whose brother Barry is imprisoned for attempting to provide material support to terrorists, talked about the affects of state repression on dissent. “It is not until they hit your doorstep,” Bujol said, “that you realize anyone could be labeled a terrorist for dissenting from foreign policy.” Bujol urged people to speak out against government repression, stating, “Silence is not only complacency but complicity.”

Laila Yaghi, mother of imprisoned Muslim youth Ziyad Yaghi.

Jess Sundin, who had her home raided by the FBI in the September 24 raids on anti-war and international solidarity activists, spoke about her ongoing case. The assembly broke out in applause when Sundin emphasized that the 23 activists subpoenaed to the federal grand jury in Chicago are refusing to participate in the witch hunt against the anti-war movement. Sundin also described the broad support that the Committee to Stop FBI Repression has received in the last six months, with hundreds of organizations issuing statements of solidarity, labor unions representing over 600,000 workers in support, and thousands of people pledging to resist and protest should activists be indicted or imprisoned. Sundin also mentioned the growing response from congressional representatives, eight of whom have written letters of concern to President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder about the FBI raids.

Jess Sundin from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Following up on Sundin’s talk, Steve Downs from Project SALAM told audience, “If they can do it to the peace activists, that could happen to anyone.” Downs also talked about the unjust imprisonment of Iraqi-American Dr. Rafil Dhafir and the highly political nature of the “material support for terrorism” charges.

Law as a weapon of war

A second panel in the afternoon covered some of the repressive tools being used against people targeted by the war on terror and war on immigration. Nahal Zamani from the Center for Constitutional Rights gave a sobering overview of the Communication Management Units (CMUs) in which prisoners are kept in isolation. Zamani explained that while 6% of the federal prison population is Muslim, 65-72% of the CMU population is Muslims. Zamani also talked about the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which like the CMUs, are used to isolate and repress prisoners.

Azadeh Shashahani of the ACLU discussed the attacks on the immigrant community in Georgia, as the Georgia governor had just signed into law a copycat SB1070 boil, HB 87. “HB87 is not happening in isolation,” Shashahani stressed. “All of these attacks on our communities are related. The only way to resist is to work together.”

Building unity against repressive laws and institutions

Sonali Sadequee from the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative spoke about the importance of building unity, and discussed ways in which the community, organizations, and mass movements can unite in support of each other when facing different kinds of repression. Mauri Salaakhan with the Peace Thru Justice Foundation also spoke about the importance of cross-movement organizing.

A large contingent of student and youth organizers from Gainesville Florida attended the conference. “It was important for Gainesville SDS to mobilize for this conference because we need every part of the community coming together to resist and struggle against government repression,” said Fernando Figueroa with Gainesville SDS and the Gainesville Committee to Stop FBI Repression. “It doesn’t matter if the government is repressing Muslims or anti-war activists or African-Americans – only by uniting our causes and resources can we beat back oppression in our cities and towns and ensure our own right to be free.”

The people’s assembly is one of many being organized across the country in the coming months. The main goal is to unite different sections of the people in a common struggle against state repression. The Atlanta assembly was an important event in building such unity in the South.

The assembly was organized by the National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF); Center For Constitutional Rights (CCR); Project South; Families United For Justice In America (FUJA); The Peace Thru Justice Foundation, Project SALAM, Atlanta International Action Center, National Committee to Stop FBI Repression, Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), National Jericho Movement, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-GA, Amnesty International-GA, Georgia Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition, Movement to End Israeli Apartheid (MEIA-GA); Friends of Human Rights-Tampa; Rights Working Group-Washington, DC; and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MAS Freedom).

Source

Mass grave discovered in Mexico

Standard

April 7, 2011

Officers found 72 murdered migrants at another site in San Fernando last August.

At least 59 bodies have been found in a series of pits in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas, near the site where suspected drug gang members massacred 72 migrants last summer, authorities said.

The bodies are being examined to determine whether they were bus passengers who were reportedly abducted on March 25, the Tamaulipas state government said in statement on Wednesday in which it “energetically condemned” the crimes.

The pits were found in the farm hamlet of La Joya in the township of San Fernando, in the same area where the bodies of 72 migrants, most from Central America, were found shot to death on August 24 at a ranch.

The victims in the August massacre were illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil.

Authorities blamed the killings on the Zetas drug gang, which is fighting its one-time allies in the Gulf cartel for control of the region.

An Ecuadorean and Honduran survived the attack, which Mexican authorities say occurred after the migrants refused to work for the cartel.

Mexican drug cartels have taken to recruiting migrants, common criminals and youths, Mexican authorities say.
Drug gunmen also operate informal checkpoints on highways in Tamaulipas and other northern states, where they hijack cars and rob and sometimes kill drivers.

Protests against violence

The wave of drug-related killings, which has claimed more than 34,000 lives in the four years since the government launched an offensive against drug cartels, drew thousands of protesters into the streets of Mexico’s capital and several other cities on Wednesday in marches against violence.

Many of the protesters said the government offensive has stirred up the violence.

“We need to end this war, because it is a senseless war that the government started,” said protester Alma Lilia Roura, 60, an art historian.

Several thousand people joined the demonstration in downtown Mexico City, chanting “No More Blood!” and “Not One More!”

A similar number marched through the southern city of Cuernavaca.

Parents marched with toddlers, and protesters held up signs highlighting the disproportionate toll among the nation’s youth. “Today a student, tomorrow a corpse,” read one sign carried by demonstrators.

The marches were spurred in part by the March 28 killing of Juan Francisco Sicilia, the son of Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, and six other people in Cuernavaca.

Source

Jena Six Activist Convicted, Faces Decades in Prison

Standard

by Jordan Flaherty
April 4, 2011

Civil rights activist Catrina Wallace, who received national acclaim for her central role in organizing protests around the Jena Six case, was convicted today of three counts of distribution of a controlled substance. She was taken from the courtroom straight to jail after the verdict was read, and given a one million dollar bail. Her sentencing is expected to come next month.

Wallace, who is 30, became an activist after her teenage brother, Robert Bailey, was arrested and charged with attempted murder after a fight in Jena High School. Bailey and five others later became known as the Jena Six, and their cause became a civil rights rallying cry that was called the first struggle of a 21st-century Civil Rights Movement. Their case eventually brought 50,000 people on a march through the town of Jena, and as a result of the public pressure the young men were eventually freed. The six are all now in college or — in the case of the youngest — on their way. Wallace and her mother, Caseptla Bailey, stayed in Jena and founded Organizing in the Trenches, a community organization dedicated to working with youth.

Catrina Wallace was represented by Krystal Todd of the Lasalle Parish Public Defenders Office. The case was prosecuted by Lasalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, who also prosecuted the Jena Six case, and famously told a room full of students: “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen.” The case was presided over by 28th District Judge J. Christopher Peters, a former Assistant District Attorney under Reed Walters. Peters is the son of Judge Jimmie C. Peters, who held the same seat until 1994. The 12-person jury had one Black member.

Wallace was arrested as part of “Operation Third Option,” which saw more than 150 officers, including a SWAT team and helicopters, storm into Jena’s Black community on July 9, 2009. Although no drugs were seized, a dozen people were arrested, based on testimony and video evidence provided by a police informant, 23-year-old convicted drug dealer Evan Brown. So far, most of those arrested on that day have pled guilty and faced long sentences. Devin Lofton, who pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute, received ten years. Adrian Richardson, 34, who pled guilty to two counts of distribution, received twenty-five years. Termaine Lee, a twenty-two-year-old who had no previous record but faced six counts of distribution, received twenty years.

In response to the verdict, community members responded with sadness and outrage. ”We don’t have any help here,” said Marcus Jones, the father of Mychal Bell, another of the Jena Six youths. ”Catrina tried to keep in high spirits leading up to the trial, but when a bomb like this is dropped on you, what can you do?” Jones and others are calling for the US Department of Justice to investigate.

Wallace, a single mother, has three small children, aged 3, 5, and 10. The youngest child has frequent seizures.

For more background on this case, see “Jena Sheriff Seeks Revenge for Civil Rights Protests.”

Source