Dispatches from the international drug war.
Burma: New Opium Eradication Plan Announced
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime announced a new peace initiative in Burma’s eastern Shan State on June 28, aimed at facilitating poppy eradication in the world’s second-largest opiumproducing country. The government has pledged to cooperate with the rebel Shan State Army (SSA) in the pact. The anticipated four-year, multimillion-dollar plan seeks to improve the state’s infrastructure, health and education. “There are increasing rates of poverty and food insecurity,” said UNODC country coordinator Jason Eligh. “Opium farmers are not bad people; they’re just poor and hungry.” Burma, which has ranked just behind Afghanistan in terms of poppy cultivation for the past 20 years, is said to account for 23 percent of the global opium supply.
Colombia: Four Dead in Coca Eradication Protests
At least four people are dead in a protest campaign by coca growers in Colombia’s Norte de Santander department, near the Venezuelan border. Some 10,000 people from the Catatumbo Valley have joined the protests, which erupted on June 10, demanding
that the government halt the eradication of coca crops. Protesters insist the cocaleros have not been offered alternatives to provide for their families. Juan Carlos Quintero, vice president of the Catatumbo Campesino Association, declared that “we directly blame President Juan Manuel Santos” for the deaths after police opened fire on the protesters.
Brazil: 10 Dead as Police Raid Favela
At least 10 people were killed on June 25 when elite troops from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) of Brazil’s Military Police raided the Nova Holanda favela (shantytown) in Rio de Janeiro. Authorities claimed that the deaths
occurred following a gun battle between police and criminals taking advantage of the protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal. One police officer was reportedly among the dead.
Brutal anti-drug raids in the favelas are frequent, fueling local anger. Planned favela evictions to make way for new sports stadiums have also been a key grievance in the protest movement now sweeping Brazil.
Peru: Life Term for Neo-Senderista
Peru’s National Penal Chamber on June 7 sentenced one of the last “historic” leaders of the Shining Path guerrilla movement to life in prison on terrorism, drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges. Florencio Flores Hala, a.k.a. “Comrade Artemio,” raised his fist in defiance as the sentence was read at a naval base in Callao, where the trial was carried out under
tight security. He said that he preferred the death penalty over life in prison, adding: “I have nothing to ask forgiveness for; I have nothing to regret.”
Guatemala: Police Officers Executed in Narco Attack
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said he’s considering imposing a state of emergency in the highland area of Sal caja, after an armed attack on a National Police substation on June 14 resulted in eight officers dead and their commander abducted. Authorities said the slain officers were disarmed, made to lie face down on the ground and then shot in the head executionstyle. Pérez Molina attributed the attack to
drug gangs operating in the area, with possible links to Mexican criminal networks such as the Sinaloa Cartel or Los Zetas. Guatemala has been experiencing a wave of violence that now claims an average of 16 lives every day—one of the highest rates in Latin America. Authorities say that around 50 percent of the violent deaths in Guatemala are linked to the drug trade and gang violence.
West Bank and Gaza: Lawyer Beaten, Cops Stoned
Clashes on June 6 between the Hamas police force and suspected drug dealers at Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip left one person dead. Authorities said that police were tipped off about a family hiding large amounts of unspecified illegal drugs and Tramadol pills in its home. Police obtained a search warrant, but when they arrived at the premises, they were met by hurled stones and even gunfire from local residents.
Meanwhile, Palestinian lawyers in the West Bank announced a strike on June 13 after antidrug police in Bethlehem assaulted and strip-searched an attorney. The lawyers’ union said in a statement:
“One could believe such practices by the Israeli occupation, but not by our own people.”
For updates on these and other stories, see Bill Weinberg’s websites, Global GanjaReport.com and WorldWar4Report.com.
Holland: Legal Battles Over Coffeehouse Crackdown
Prosecutors in the Netherlands are seeking one-month suspended sentences for the owners and workers of cannabis cafes in Maastricht for selling pot to foreign ers in defiance of a new law. At the same time, the Dutch government was ordered to pay damages to the owners of cannabis cafes after a court in The Hague ruled that the new measure, which turns coffeehouses into members-only clubs, was too harsh. The amount that the state must pay has yet to be determined.