Mexico’s new populist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, announced that he is dropping out of the regional US-led drug enforcement pact, and will be turning down the aid package offered through the program, known as the Merida Initiative. “We don’t want armed helicopters,” he said, addressing Washington. Instead, he is proposing a dialogue with Washington on across-the-board drug decriminalization in both nations. Mexican lawmakers say they will pass a cannabis legalization bill by the end of the year. (Photo: El Txoro)
Despite his boast to have “ended” the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico’s new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug “National Guard” drawing from the military and police forces. Use of the military in drug enforcement was already shot down by the Supreme Court, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going around the judiciary by changing the constitution. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and meanwhile the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
Notorious narco-lord "Chapo" Guzmán was convicted by a federal jury in New York and faces life in prison. But violence in Mexico has only escalated since his capture. Few media accounts have noted how Chapo and his Sinaloa Cartel rose as militarized narcotics enforcement escalated in Mexico—a trajectory mirrored by the cartels' move from dealing in cannabis to deadly white powders. (Photo: US Coast Guard via Cannabis Now)
Already officially studying the possibility of cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has now announced a formal end to the "war on drugs" that has only seemed to fuel the narco-violence over the past 10 years. However, military troops are still being mobilized for narcotics enforcement from Chiapas to Chihuahua—including marijuana eradication. (Photo: Sexenio)
The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: “Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project.” Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting dominated by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani. (Photo: Ma’an)
Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)
In Episode 24 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the historic strides toward liberation of the cannabis plant in 2018, from the four corners of the Earth. Yet under capitalism, every advance also opens new contradictions. With the rise of "corporate cannabis," traditional small growers in places like California's Emerald Triangle stand to be pushed off the market as Central Valley agribusiness gets in on the act. Burdensome regulations and heavy taxation have kept some growers on the black market—and big police raids in the Emerald Triangle have continued even after "legalization." High taxes on cannabis have also actually closed the legal space for California's "compassionate care" providers—those who make free or discounted medical marijuana available to the ailing. There are concerns about the corporate privatization of ancient cannabis landraces long grown by small cultivators around the world. Meanwhile, even as overall cannabis arrests have dropped under more tolerant laws and enforcement policies in many states and localities, the racial disparity in those arrests that continue (e.g. for public use) is unabated. In a positive development, California has passed a "cannabis equity" law to address such concerns. But even the federal Farm Bill that just legalized industrial hemp and cannabinoids derived from it irrationally keeps cannabinoids derived from "marijuana" (high-THC strains) illegal. Weinberg calls for challenging the "marijuana" stigma, recognizing that cannabis liberation is an urgent question of human rights and racial justice, and adopting a stance of permanent struggle in fighting for it. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Colombia's newly-elected right-wing President Iván Duque took office pledging to unite the country. As he was sworn in, thousands marched in Bogotá to demand that Duque respect the peace pact with the FARC, and address the ongoing assassination of social leaders—thought to number 400 since the peace deal was signed in November 2016. Exemplifying the depth of the crisis, days before the inauguration armed men opened fire in broad daylight at a pool hall in the town of El Tarra, near the Venezuelan border. Among the slain were at least two demobilized FARC fighters and a local community leader. (Photo via Contagio Radio)
In a joint anti-drug operation code-named Armagedon, Peruvian military and National Police troops carried out a series of raids in the remote Putumayo river valley along the Colombian border this week, arresting some 40, destroying four cocaine laboratories, and seizing large quantities of cocaine sulfate and harvested cannabis. The majority of those detained were Colombian nationals, and authorities said they suspect the presence of "dissident" FARC units, who are trying to establish the zone as a staging ground to keep alive their insurgency. More than 350 troops have been deployed in the operation, with five helicopters and three planes as well as boats. The operation is being coordinated with Colombian security forces, who are carrying out similar missions on their side of the Río Putumayo. (Photo via El Comercio)
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador—known by his initials AMLO—will be Mexico's next president, following his victory in the July 1 election. This marks the first time a Mexican presidential candidate of the left has had his victory honored. An obvious question is how AMLO will deal with Donald Trump—who attained office by demonizing Mexicans and pledging to build a wall on the border (and make Mexico pay for it). Last year, AMLO actually filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Trump's proposed wall. But he also hired Trump's current crony Rudolph Giuliani as anti-crime czar when he was mayor of Mexico City in 2002. As populists and opponents of free-trade economics, there may be unlikely common ground between the two men. (Photo: El Txoro)
A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi's parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia's government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure was building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark International Day Against Homophobia—to be confronted by gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting "death to the enemy!" The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (Photo: OC Media)
Colombia's peace process continues to advance, with institutional mechanisms for a post-war order falling into place. But violence in the countryside across Colombia remains at an alarming level, as social leaders are targeted for assassination by paramilitary factions. The ELN guerilla organization—which, unlike the FARC, remains in arms—released a statement noting that January had seen an assassination every day across the country, and charged that rightist paramilitary networks are carrying out a "systematic genocide."