The Amazon

Peru cracks down on supposed FARC renegades

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

Mexico

Mexico: AMLO-Trump populist convergence?

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)

The Caucasus

Protest, polarization in ex-Soviet Georgia

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)

The Andes

Colombia: rural violence persists despite ‘peace’

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."

The Caucasus

Chechen police state turns ire on druggies

Last year, horrific reports emerged from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya that authorities were rounding up gays in detainment camps and subjecting them to torture —the first time this kind of thing has happened in Europe since Nazi Germany. Now the reign of terror is being extended to drug users and small-time dealers, who are facing torture at the hands of Chechen security forces as part of the same ultra-puritanical campaign. Reports describe electric current being applied to suspects to induce them to “confess.” No one has survived without confessing, victims are told. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Southeast Asia

Philippine paradox: martial law, medical marijuana

In flagrant violation of the Philippine constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte extended martial law in Mindanao for another year. Simultaneously, he announced a return of the National Police to drug enforcement after they were removed due to outrageous human rights abuses. But opposition lawmakers are trying to put the breaks on the militarization, and have even introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana. (Photo: Anakpawis)

Afghanistan

NATO claims crackdown on Taliban hashish

With Afghanistan's opium output now breaking all previous records, hashish continues to remain an important sideline for the country's warring factions—and to hear the US tell it, it's the ultra-puritanical Taliban that are responsible for it. Recent NATO raids have claimed massive hash hauls from the hideouts of the Taliban's elite "Red Units." Operation Resolute Support commanders now say the Taliban have become a "narco-insurgency." (Photo: NATO)

Central America

Nicaragua: women march against army ‘massacre’

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women march in Nicaragua's capital was shut down by the riot police, who blocked the streets off shortly after demonstrators gathered. The Managua march was emotionally charged, as it was led by Elea Valle—a campesina woman whose husband, son and daughter were killed two weeks earlier in a raid by army troops on their home in the country's eastern rainforest.

Mexico

Sinaloa kingpin captured at Calexico

A man believed to be the godson of Mexican narco lord "Chapo" Guzmán was indicted in a San Diego federal court after turning himself in to US border agents at Calexico. Authorities say Damaso López Serrano AKA "Mini Lic" surrendered under pressure of a bloody power struggle over control of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Andes

Colombian coca production in record jump

In unsettling news for the country's peace process with the FARC guerillas, Colombia registered a record-shattering 50% increase in coca-leaf cultivation last year, according to the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The figures, released by UNODC's Integrated Illicit Crops Monitoring System, show 146.000 hectares under coca cultivation in 2016, compared to 96.000 in 2015—actually a 52% jump.

Greater Middle East

UK court approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia

London's High Court of Justice ruled that the UK can continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia, rejecting a case asserting that the weapons have been used in the commission of war crimes in Yemen. A substantial portion of the court's reasoning is contained in a "closed judgment" document only available to the government's legal team and a security-cleared "special advocate" for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Greater Middle East

Kurdish guerillas behind Turkey’s hashish trade?

Turkish government claims that Kurdish rebels in the country's east are profiting from the hashish trade point to an integrated counter-insurgency and drug enforcement campaign.