08/05/16 Deborah Small

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Deborah Small re savage drug war in Brazil, Hannah Hetzer on Philippine massacre, Tony Papa re commutation of 214 prisoners by Obama & Gov Gary Johnson on ending the drug war

Audio file


AUGUST 5, 2016


DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hi, folks, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today you're going to get a goddamn heaping helping of drug war news.

Well, just today I found out that President Obama has granted clemency to 214 people here in the United States that were locked up on drug charges. Here to fill us in with more detail is a man who understands that situation greatly, Mister Tony Papa, who works for the Drug Policy Alliance, and who spent I think it was 12 plus years behind bars for his drug charges. Tony, are you with us?

ANTHONY PAPA: Yeah, Dean, how you doing? Thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, Tony, I've got to say, this is, it's good news. We need more of such good news, do we not?

ANTHONY PAPA: Yes, we do. And I think that today was a great day for those 214 prisoners that received commutation of their sentences, because it means now they're going to be free. I remember back in 1996, when I got the news that I received executive clemency, I was so happy, I almost fainted, I cried like a baby. So, for these individuals, it's a real big deal. I think Obama's stepped up to the plate once again, and by granting these 214 federal prisoners a commutation, where 67 of them had life sentences, and most of them were for drug crimes, that he is leading the way to show Congress it's got to get off their backsides and do something when they reconvene, and try to initiate federal legislation that's going to really make a big difference, and release a lot of nonviolent drug offenders who are stuck in prison, who fell into the cracks of criminal justice reform, have done an enormous amount of time, who are fully rehabilitated and ready to go home, but they're stuck there because of archaic drug laws that were initiated by Congress, and definitely should so something about it and help these prisoners go home and be united with their families.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right, Tony. You know, I saw the story broke recently that, what was it, Hinkley, the guy who shot President Reagan, is now being released.

ANTHONY PAPA: Exactly. You know, I don't know whether, you know some people want to give him a medal, some people angry that he got out. I don't know, you know, he's paid, he did a lot of time in prison, but imagine, you know, these nonviolent drug offenders still stuck there, stuck in prison while he got out. He's going to enjoy his freedom.

DEAN BECKER: Well, even Manuel Noriega got out after a certain amount of time. But drug prisoners can remain there for life. It's crazy.

ANTHONY PAPA: You know, Dean, I just want to mention my new book, This Side Of Freedom: Life After Clemency, where I talk about, you know, the situation of clemency with Obama stepping up to the plate like he has done. He's trying to leave a legacy of fixing a broken system. He came into office, the system was broken, you know, I mean, a lot of bad laws were made, the crack cocaine/powder disparity laws incarcerated so many men and women, and sentenced them to tremendous amount of time. The federal drug laws were created after the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which were the precursor of all these federal mandatory minimum sentences, and like I said, I talk about it in my new book, which is available on Amazon, and you can go to my website, 15ToLife.com, read about it.

And the work we're doing at the Drug Policy Alliance is trying to create an atmosphere where people can understand that these individuals that are being granted commutations by President Obama have went through strict scrutiny on their cases. He's not just letting them out. You have to apply for clemency, it's a long process, they really check out the cases, and these are deserving individuals, the 214 people that just got it. They deserve a second chance in their life, and my hat's off to Obama for giving these people their second chances.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again folks, speaking with Mister Tony Papa, the Drug Policy Alliance.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! A stirring in the loins, women feel genital warmth and a desire to have sex, men feel an enhanced libido, they feel younger, stronger, and more energetic. Time's up! The answer, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper: PT141. Is this the drug that will save the rhino population?

There's some astounding news coming out of the Philippines. Here to fill us in is the senior policy manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance, Hannah Hetzer. Hannah, please describe for us what's going on in the Philippines.

HANNAH HETZER: Well, it's a really horrific situation right now. When the new Filipino president came to power a couple of months ago, he unleashed this really horrible rhetoric against people who use and sell drugs, and essentially in his vow to fight crime, called to action citizens and police alike to step up and actually murder people, in the street, extrajudicially, without trial, without due process, for either using or selling drugs, for having any link to selling drugs.

And he has promised, you know, medals for people who do so, and protection for police if they're charged with human rights violations while carrying these out. It's really horrific and a huge violation of human rights, what he has implored his population to do, and people have actually made good on his request. So what we've seen in the past couple of months is over 700 people, suspected to have been involved with drugs, have been killed in the streets and a further almost 115,000 people have therefore turned themselves in to authorities who, you know, have previously used drugs for fear of being either turned in or killed by someone who might have known about their past drug use, or even if someone hadn't used or sold drugs, but might be suspected to do so, they also run the risk of being murdered in the streets. It's really an unlawful bloody horrific situation there, and it's like nothing we've seen in recent times.

DEAN BECKER: This is, again, without any kind of judicial process, just based on rumors, and it gives people license to murder their neighbors or those they suspect, or perhaps it doesn't even have to be for drugs, it's just they hate the neighbor. What's your thought there, Hannah?

HANNAH HETZER: Well, that's, you know, that's what some of the, the thoughts behind this are, some people are saying that this is just being used as an excuse in some cases to, you know, settle other disputes. And, you know, whether or not someone uses or sells drugs, there's never any basis for their extrajudicial murder or their killing whatsoever. But without any due process, people can really turn to anyone that they dislike at this point, and potentially, you know, call them a drug user or drug pusher and use it to settle a score or to kill someone else.

DEAN BECKER: Now, like many nations around the world, the United States supports the governments of these nations. Philippines is not unique. We send them money as well, do we not?

HANNAH HETZER: Yeah, and actually just last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Duderte of the Philippines, and had a long, long meeting with him and vowed to commit $32 million to support Filipino law enforcement training and efforts, and made no mention of the unlawful killings currently under way in the Philippines, which is a really horrifying state of affairs, I mean, if the US is supplying money to a government that carries out its anti-drug campaign in this unlawful manner, it is incomprehensible and indefensible, and actually the US has a process called the Leahy vetting process, which requires that the State Department vet countries that it provides assistance to, in terms of security training, and if it found that those responsible for carrying out security in the country violate human rights in a grave way, that assistance has to be withheld. So it is, it really is an indefensible situation right now, where the US has this lawful, you know, vetting process, but seems to be ignoring it in light of these unlawful killings, and is making no mention of it in meetings with the president.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I'm looking at the last line in your email, it's, quote, "in the drug war, lives are taken in the name of saving lives. If the purpose of international drug control is protecting the health and welfare of mankind, this must stop." And it certainly must stop, right Hannah?

HANNAH HETZER: It has to stop. Immediately.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, we've been speaking with Hannah Hetzer. She's senior policy manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance. If you'd like to learn more, please go to their website, which is DrugPolicy.org.

Opening up a can of worms, and going fishing for truth, this is the Drug Truth Network. DrugTruth.net.

We've heard a couple of other folks associated with the Drug Policy Alliance give their thoughts on some of the news, the horrible news, maybe positive news, breaking in the drug war, but there's some really outrageous news that's occurring in the Philippines and in many other countries around the world, that these nations are much more draconian than even the United States in the way they treat people. And here to talk about her recent trip to Brazil, where they're going to be holding the Olympics, we have with us today Deborah Small. Hello, Deborah.

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Hi Dean, how are you? It's great to be with you today.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, it's always good to talk with you, my friend. Deborah, you just returned from Brazil, and would you concur that there are more draconian drug war policies there than in these United States?

DEBORAH SMALL: Well, what I would say is that the execution of the policies are more draconian. The policies themselves are the same, in the sense that they both are based on a framing that sees people who use drugs and the folks who they interact with as public enemies that we have to fight a war against, and therefore the issue becomes how harshly do you fight the war, what techniques do you use to fight the war? Up until recently, we've used some pretty harsh techniques and tactics, but I would say that in the Philippines and in Brazil, we're seeing the logical extension of drug war mentality, where you have state government that under the guise of the drug war are actually murdering their own citizens, without any, you know, pretense of due process.

DEAN BECKER: And, this is, yeah, the situation in the Philippines as I understand it, as of yesterday they had killed over 200 people, I think there were some thousands of people who were turning themselves in rather than risk being shot on the city streets, but in Brazil, I've heard of the, I think it's flavelas, where they have the gangs set up and they distribute the drugs. There's been an ongoing problem with police going in there and just going pell mell, but it's even escalated beyond that now, am I right?

DEBORAH SMALL: Well, I would question the framing, quite frankly, of the way in which we talk about the issue of drugs in Brazil, and in the Philippines, which is one of the reasons that allow governments to be able to engage in these kinds of policies. People talk about favelas as, number one, as if they're these isolated communities like slums that are primarily dominated by drug gangs, but the reality is, is that flavelas are very large communities that one in five Brazilians live in. And so I don't think that when you're talking about areas that almost 20 to 25 percent of the population inhabit on a daily basis that are close to or part of all of the major urban areas, that you can actually have a policy that treats them as if they're alien war zones that police have to go in and pacify, number one.

Number two, as in the United States, the conversation about drugs and drug gangs is divorced from reality. It assumes that the majority of drugs that are bought and sold and consumed in Brazil are consumed and sold by poor people, primarily poor black people, who are the folks who live in the favelas. But as we know from the United States, that a majority of drugs are bought and consumed by the people with jobs and disposable income, not poor people. Not people without, you know, privilege or means. And so the framing of the drug war in this way, which primarily promotes this image of it as being centered in poor communities and particularly poor black communities, justifies police action, is completely divorced from the reality of what we know to be true about who's using drugs, who's selling drugs, who's buying drugs.

DEAN BECKER: And, this also sparks the thought that these people selling the drugs, they're not making it. They're not producing it. It is other rich folks who distribute it to those communities. Correct?

DEBORAH SMALL: Absolutely. I mean, you know, Brazil is not really a drug producing country. Most of the drugs that are being consumed and sold in Brazil are coming from other countries. But the truth is that those people who are growing the drugs are doing it for the same reasons as other people, as a means of economic survival, which is one of the consequences of prohibition. Well, for me, what's particularly troubling is that as is true in the Philippines, the war on drugs is not being escalated because the government thinks that they're going to eradicate drugs. It's a way of being able to control communities of people that the government feels the need to control, and in almost every country that you see aggressive drug war enforcement, that enforcement is directed at the poor and the marginalized, either people from ethnic or racial or religious minorities who are pressing for greater rights, for greater social mobility, for greater economic power. The response that they get is political repression and the justification for that is that they're drug users or drug sellers, and therefore they're criminals and are deserving of this treatment.

DEAN BECKER: Unworthy of respect. Scumbags. Just like they used to treat gays, just a decade or three ago. Once again we're speaking with Deborah Small. Deborah, you just returned from Rio. You were able to kind of look at the situation in advance of the Olympics. Do you think they're prepared, is this going to be a first class event?

DEBORAH SMALL: To me, I mean, this is not an issue so much about whether or not Rio is prepared for the Olympics. They are parts that are and aren't, but what I think is more troubling quite frankly is the amount of money that's been invested in promoting this celebration and athleticism in a country where more than half the population is living in poverty, and as a black person, I'm particularly concerned with the situation of Afro-Brazilians who are being subjected to a slow form of genocide under the guise of the drug war. More than 60,000 people were murdered in Brazil in 2015 alone. And a good deal of that is the result of the kinds of violence that's generated by the war on drugs, both by the police and by people within the communities that are being assaulted by the police for drug trafficking.

And, I myself traveled, you know, visited one of the quote unquote "pacified", you know, flavelas, that's supposed to be models of good community policing, and I saw police driving through the community with their guns sticking out of their cars with their fingers on the trigger. And I was quite appalled, because I'm like, if this is what community policing is, I'd hate to think what kind of policing they had before. It was basically treating the entire community of tens of thousands of people as if everyone was a suspect, everyone was a criminal, and anyone could be subject to be shot at any moment.

DEAN BECKER: There are echoes of certain neighborhoods here in these United States contained in that thought, there, Deborah.

DEBORAH SMALL: Absolutely. For me, it was a memory of Chicago, where you have this similar conversation, that these are not really neighborhoods, these are war zones, and the goal of the police was to pacify people, as opposed to protecting them. And so, it justifies the kind of action that doesn't actually protect anybody, and doesn't really promote public safety. So, one of the reasons that I was there in Brazil was to meet with local activists from around the country, in Rio and Sao Paula and Salvador, people from the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the movement for black liberation in Brazil, of people who are really challenging the idea that Brazil was a racial democracy where anyone has an opportunity. The reality is that that, for me, Brazil was very reminiscent of the United States in the 50s, in terms of race relations.

You know, you have cities like Salvador, where the population is 80 percent black and they don't have black people in any major elected office, because they have not been able to achieve political power, where they're still fighting to just have a ten percent quota to have blacks in the colleges and universities, in places where they're more than 50 percent of the population. And so for me, you know, I find it incredibly ironic that you're going to have in Brazil, in Rio, over the next two weeks, a celebration of athleticism where many of the most celebrated and honored athletes will be black people, and that they're going to be doing this in a country that's actively engaged in genocide against black people. And unfortunately, many of the athletes there have no idea about what's going on in Brazil. They believed all the hype that the violence is just between drug traffickers and the efforts of the government to address that. They don't realize that police violence is the second major cause of death for black Brazilians.

Think about that. Here in the United States, we're protesting the ability of police to kill black people with impunity and looking for ways to hold them accountable, but literally in Brazil, you have 8 Michael Browns happening every single day. And it hardly gets any attention at all. And so to me, you know, the idea that you would have the NBA pull the game from North Carolina rightfully in protest of their discrimination against the LGBT community, which I think is totally appropriate, but that you don't have black athletes protesting, going to these games in a country that's engaged in genocide, that's very similar to the violence that accompanied the Nazi games in 1936, where there was an overall conspiracy to not let the world know about the kinds of discrimination and violence that was being perpetrated against the Jewish population by the Nazis in that country, so that they could have a spectacular games.

Well, similarly, there's a conspiracy of silence to keep the world from knowing about the violence being perpetrated against black people in Brazil so that they can have a beautiful game.

DEAN BECKER: I tell you what, that's just creepy. Once again, we're speaking with Deborah Small. Deborah, this situation in Brazil, this situation in the Philippines, it's the headline grabber, it's the big story right now. But over the years, over the decades of this drug war, we've had horrible ghastly situations in Mexico, now Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sierra Leone. Around the world. These escalations of violence against drug users, drug sellers, just continues unabated, and yet the drug war doesn't seem to be ending, does it?

DEBORAH SMALL: Well, unfortunately, it really doesn't, because quite frankly it's a very convenient tool. And one of the things that I've really, you know, come to understand as a result of my years of doing this work, is that as I've always said, the drug war really isn't about drugs. It's about the ability of government to continue to suppress and oppress whatever group in their country they feel the need to exercise control over. And so, in the United States, it's blacks and Latinos, in the Philippines, it might be ethnic minorities, in other countries it's religious minorities, in many places you find women are particularly subject to draconian drug policies. What I see is that the drug war on drugs, at least in the Americas, from Canada to Chile, has been a tool for continuing the history of slavery and genocide and subjugation that the American empires were built on. I mean, from -- all of these countries had their beginnings in the genocide of indigenous populations and the enslavement of African populations as a way of deriving wealth, and in many ways, the drug war has just been one tool in a long line of tools that's been able to maintain that racial hierarchy and power dynamic.

DEAN BECKER: What we're talking about here remind me of the escalation, the initiation, of the drug war. It was Nixon and Ehrlichman talking about they would use the drug war to go after the blacks and the war protesters, and I guess my question here is, here we are four decades or so later, and politicians are still clinging to that propaganda, that hysteria, that was put forward back then, and are so unwilling to open the discussion, and to truly examine what's before our eyes and what should be done about it, and I guess my question, Deborah, is, what the hell can we do to initiate that conversation?

DEBORAH SMALL: Well, I think we people have to continue to organize the way they are here. I've seen a huge shift in the United States in public attitudes and acceptance of both drug war orthodoxy and drug war policies. The fact that the majority of states have really shifted their attitudes toward marijuana use, and consumption, which has accounted for more than half of overall drug arrests, represents a major shift. And it's also gotten people to think about the fact that regulation and control can be a better option. So I believe that while it's taking time, that we are going to move towards an end to prohibition, and the real challenge to me is are we going to do it in a way that empowers those people who've been most affected by punitive drug policies, and more importantly, once we've changed the policies, are we going to repair the damage that's been done to those communities as a result of decades and decades of drug war?

DEAN BECKER: All right friends, there you have it, the profound words of what I consider to be a drug reformer, human, extraordinaire, my friend Deborah Small. Deborah, any closing thoughts, a website you might want to share?

DEBORAH SMALL: Dean, it's just wonderful to be with you. I really am happy that we're having this conversation. I would just urge your listeners as they're watching the Olympics to think about the people who live in the community around who are not going to be able to have access to the water that they've cleaned up for the Olympics, that aren't able to ride the trains that they built to take the visitors to the Olympic ground, that aren't going to be able to benefit from the more than $12 billion that was spent on generating this event. And ask themselves, do they think it's really worth it?

DEAN BECKER: All right, we have just enough time for me to share a little slice of my last visit with Gary Johnson, who's running for president of this nation.

Obama said no to the Latin American leaders who were wanting to talk about, just talk about, ending the drug war, and his answer was a flat no. He's afraid that some cartel will take over countries once it's legalized.

GARY JOHNSON: Well, that's ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous, and I think that legalizing marijuana would reduce border violence by 75 percent. If the cause of violence is prohibition, disputes that are being played out with guns rather than the courts, you know, get these disputes in the courts and out of the streets, you know, dead people laying in the streets. I'm running for the Libertarian nomination for president of the United States, and I intend to talk about legalizing marijuana as a good thing, that this country should do.

DEAN BECKER: That's it. Got to wrap it up. But we do want to remind you again, that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.