05/29/16 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

This week: We look back at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs and hear from the presidents of Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia.

Audio file


MAY 29, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

This week, we're going to return to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, which was held in April, to hear some of the presentations from national delegates. While the UN and the international drug control bureaucracy did its best to make sure that very little progress came out of the UNGASS, and that no changes were made to the drug control treaties, national delegations did have the opportunity to speak out.

And speak out they did. Nations like Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Mexico – nations which have been the focus of paramilitary drug control efforts, nations where the phrase “drug war” takes on a much heavier, much more real meaning than it does in most of the US – were able to speak to the world's nations about what they are forced to endure in the name of global prohibition. How many listened at the time, well, that's a good question, so let's give them another opportunity. First, here's the president of Peru, his excellency Ollanta Humala Tasso.

OLLANTA HUMALA TASSO, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF PERU: Usually, countries that produce coca leaf for illegal use have it, it grows where the state has very little actual presence. So what we have done in our five years in the government, is to reduce the area used to grow coca leaf for illegal purposes by approximately fifty percent. When we came to power, there was about 63,000 hectares of coca leaf, which was used in trafficking. But today, we have reduced this area to 35,000 hectares. And so this is a model we've been using which has been successful. Also, we are respecting the age old use of coca leaf, which has been used in peoples -- by people in Bolivia and Peru, and we have full respect for that.

And the third question is, how do we develop those areas where the state has been barely present? And we have done this through education, infrastructure developing, health structures, and and so today, in those areas where, which were used for trafficking, we have built roads, we have brought in the internet, and we have provided scholarships for the children of farmers, so that they can get higher education.

And we also used basic sanitation programs. One family out of every three had access to drinking water, and now, after five years in power, over two in three have access to drinking water. And also, in these areas, only 33 percent had access to electricity, and now, more than 80 percent of people have electricity in the rural areas.

Another thing that we are doing is bringing health centers and hospitals, so that the people in these areas can get support instead of having to go to other parts of the country for healthcare. We are also providing training so that instead of growing coca leaf, they can grow other products. And we are now exporting cocoa, organic coffee, instead of drugs. And we are now the eighth producer worldwide of cocoa, and these were people growing this who used to be growing coca leaf. So this is what we have been doing.

We have been providing training for thousands of families, and trying to diversify production. So today, I would ask, what are the countries where drugs are consumed doing? Drugs are produced because some societies are in a position to pay for cocaine, so those countries that are consuming countries, they're responsible for the great demand for cocaine and drugs in general. I think it's a question of shared responsibility, shared but differentiated. We believe there has to be true political will on both sides. In the case of Peru, Peru is doing what it has to do. Now, we need that there have to be association strategies with the US, with Europe, countries where there is a large demand.

We have to have -- we have to work together with them, because otherwise we will not be able to tackle one of these major challenges to the world, which is a major challenge, just like climate change is. Then, also, throughout our five years in power, we have been setting specific targets, which we can reach, so that this is clear evidence that we are working against the scourge of drugs.

Today, we demand that the industrialized world, the first world, also be committed to combating drugs, and we need a strategic association with them. We don't just need to have cooperation, because cooperation doesn't involve responsibilities on both sides. We all have responsibilities. Peru is doing what it has to do, and so we have a certain moral weight here, and so we demand that those that have money to pay for drugs, should do the work they need to do, and in that way we will be able to build a strategic association to fight against this evil. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That was His Excellency Ollanta Humala Tasso, President of the Republic of Peru, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly at last month's UNGASS. Simultaneous interpretation is provided by the United Nations.

Next up, it's Bolivian president Evo Morales.

EVO MORALES AYMA, PRESIDENT OF THE PLURINATIONAL STATE OF BOLIVIA: I begin my statement by recalling that since the '80s, the misnamed war on drugs has led us to the scenario which systematically violated the sovereignty of countries and led to a deterioration of public health conditions and internal security, becoming a mechanism for destabilization, intervention, interference, and humiliation of the democracies of our peoples.

For example, before the convention of 1961, in Bolivia, there were only 4,700 hectares of coca plantations, but after it was penalized, crops increased by over a thousand percent, reaching the highest figure in 1989, with a surface of over 52,000 hectares. Likewise, there are data that confirm that the war on drugs failed. Drug consumption in the world increased. It is estimated that a total of a hundred twenty thousand people -- or rather, million people between fifteen and twenty years of age consumed illicit drugs in 2003 [sic he meant 1983]. At the end of the '90s, this figure was a hundred fifty million. We're talking about an increase in drug consumption which is of approximately 40 percent in the past two decades.

The rate of cocaine consumption in the United States is 1.6 percent, whereas the world average is 0.4 percent. With what basis does the United States certify or decertify countries if we all know that nothing is being done to reduce the demand, when the greatest number of cocaine consumers is in this very country?

According to United Nations data, the illegal drug trafficking community is progressively expanding throughout the world, and in 2013, the sale value was $130 billion, in spite of the hundred billion dollars being spent in the global system to control drugs. For all of the aforementioned reasons, it is important to deeply consider the geopolitical background of the war on drugs.

Brothers and sisters, at the end of the cold war and the Condor Plan, the United States saw less possibility of organizing coups d'etats, and justifying political support for dictatorships. With a problem of drugs, it created the pretext to operate an imperialist logic of control, the police forces and the armed forces of different countries to interfere in the administration of states. The empire used this hypocritical war to reduce -- to enforce an interventionist, militaristic control of natural resources, in order to control them more easily.

Wherever there are air and military bases of the United States, an increase in drug trafficking and crime, privatizing government, police systems of narco-corruption, drug corruption, illegal wealth, millionaire elites which are servile to the empire, banking confidentiality, the criminalization of the coca leaf, are instruments of geopolitical control and this is why as Bolivians we have decided to free ourselves by nationalizing the fight against drug trafficking. And we propose a worthy, sovereign plan, guaranteeing respect for human rights and mother earth in the framework of common, shared, but differentiated responsibility.

The application of our policies, we have been able to decrease between 2011 and 2014 thirty four percent of the coca leaf production, reaching a net surface of over 20,000 hectares. This is certified by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in its monitoring report on coca leaf production in Bolivia in 2014. With this contribution, we confirm a lower area of coca production in the ten years. The report of 2015 for the first time recognized Bolivia's efforts to reach lower levels of production with the participation of 15 percent.

Bolivia has a net regional reduction rate, which is highest, and this demonstrates the success of the Bolivian model. We appreciate the contribution of the European Union in terms of shared but differentiated responsibility, establishing mechanisms of control through cultural participation. We also praise the role of the United Nations in Bolivia, which has strengthened our institutional capacity to respond to organized crime.

I call on this assembly to add specific actions to free ourselves from the problem of drugs, and with the excuse of domination. We should dissolve the DEA, we should put an end to interventionism, get rid of US bases, put an end to unilateral certification, approve a resolution to put to an end to banking confidentiality for once and for all.

Brothers and sisters, finally, the Plurinational State of Bolivia believes that we need to have a broad, diverse debate based on the reality of each and every country, in the framework of the principle of sovereignty, non-intervention, and in accordance with the internal legislation of each state.

Brothers and sisters, I wish to take this opportunity, I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to show you the coca leaf. Green, in its natural state. This coca leaf, in its natural state, is a product of mother earth. A sacred leaf, which has fallen victim to drug trafficking and the interests of capitalism, unfairly used as a pretext for domination. The coca leaf is our healthy, nutritious food, our medicine, part of our community spirit, part of our culture, part of our identity. It is our offering to life, but not to death. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was His Excellency Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

You are listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, let's return to the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs. We next hear from the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA: The first question we have to ask, looking at the efforts made over years, over decades, over a century, is this: After so many lives that have been destroyed, after so much corruption, and so much violence, after so many young people being marched off to jail, can we say that we have won the war? Or could we at least say that we are winning it?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. We have not won the war, and we are not winning it now.

Logic and common sense force us to rethink things. If we have been using an approach, basically one of repression, for so long without resolving the problem, surely this is the moment to rethink things, and that is why we are here today.

At the Cartagena American Summit in 2012, I spoke of the need to have a thorough review based on evidence, setting aside prejudice and ideology, a basic review of the global drug strategy. We are moving ahead in that respect within the Organization of American States. At the global level, together with Mexico and Guatemala, we proposed that this special session should be held. We are adopting a document today which takes a step in the right direction, coming closer to a more integrated and balanced approach to how to combat drugs. But we have to acknowledge, this is not enough. There is a great deal still to be done.

What have been our main achievements? The drug conventions contain some degree of flexibility, and they can be adapted to the particular circumstances of each state. We have moved ahead in ensuring access to controlled drugs for medical and scientific use. We have been doing this in Colombia, and we have been trying to reduce the risks and the damage caused by drug consumption.

But what still remains to be done? A very great deal. We still have to agree that human rights and the human rights conventions cannot be subordinated to the drug conventions. Many states in the world, including Colombia, do not have the death penalty. There should a least be a moratorium on the use of the death sentence for crimes relating to drugs, until there is agreement to eliminate it fully.

Another achievement is that, in the document, we have included an alternative sentences, sentencing, rather than imprisonment, and we have also declared how important is the principle of proportionality in sentencing. From the standpoint of human rights, we still have to state clearly that drug use is a health, a public health problem, and it should not be treated as crime.

There is something I've done that I would like to suggest that each and every one of you does. Ask a mother, any mother at all, if she would prefer her son, who may be a drug addict, to spend five years in jail, or if she would prefer him to get treatment for rehabilitation through the health services. Not one single mother would choose to send her son to jail, because mothers want the best for their children, and because jails are for criminals, not for addicts. And may I mention in passing, that addicts often become criminals while in jail.

We still have to recognize that repression has affected the weakest links in the drug trafficking chain more than anybody else. Small farmers, so-called mules, drug users, are filling the prisons all over the world. How do you explain to a humble Colombian peasant that he is going to jail because he is growing marijuana, when anybody in Colorado or Washington in the US, anybody at all, can grow marijuana, sell it, and consume it, freely?

It simply doesn't make sense. We have to focus in our struggle against the strongest links in the chain, the major drug traffickers, those who provide the chemical precursors, organizations that engage in money laundering. We have to hit the mafias where it hurts the most. How do we do this? By moving against their ill-gotten gains, taking away their exorbitant assets, that have brought so much violence and corruption in their wake.

We have to recognize honestly, we do not have a world free from alcohol, tobacco, or violence. And we must recognize honestly that we will not have a world free from drugs. But there is a huge range of actions that we could look into, so that we can better tackle this scourge, thereby protecting human beings and providing opportunities to rural communities that are being held ransom by drug traffickers.

Colombia is not advocating legalization of illicit drugs. Let there be no doubt, Colombia will continue attacking organized crime. We will continue replacing illicit crops with lawful ones, alternatives. We will continue intercepting drug traffickers' boats and planes. Because for Colombia, combatting drugs is not only a moral imperative, it is a matter of national security for us. We have been successful in many areas. We crushed the major cartels, which were regarded as invincible in Medellin, Cali, and the Norte del Valle.

Today, we are working to sign a peace agreement with guerrilla groups that have been involved in drug trafficking, so that they will become our allies in eliminating illegal crops, and promoting alternative crops. If we are able to do this, this will be a historic turnaround, not only for Colombia, but for the entire world, and a step in the right direction. Today, we are working against small cartels, because criminals adapt and change. We cannot let down our guard.

Madame President, distinguished delegates, we are taking a brave step forward today, but we must continue moving ahead. The debate on drug policy does not end today with this special session, it is barely begun. By 2019, we must bring together the different positions so that in 2019, when we assess what has been done on the 2009 action plan, we have to have achieved a goal, a new global consensus on drug policy.

This must be an even broader debate, involving in addition to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Secretary General, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the specialized agencies dealing in health, human rights, and development, and we must also include civil society and academia.

And also, so that we can be fully objective, we need support from a group which will be committed to reviewing global policies and goals, so that we can better prepare for 2019. In that connection, we agree with a proposal made by various countries that we ask the Secretary General to set up a high level group of eminent persons helping to evaluate the foundations of our current policies, and to propose necessary reforms.

Colombia will continue doing its utmost in this respect. We will continue cooperating and collaborating with other countries, so that they can benefit from our experience. We have already been doing this with various countries in Central America and other parts of the world. Today, we have begun an irreversible process to change the policy on drugs, and we are going to continue. We must, for the wellbeing of humanity, we must continue to do so. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That was His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of the Republic of Colombia. As I mentioned, simultaneous interpretation was provided by the United Nations.

South and Central American nations have been at the epicenter of the international drug war. The transnational trade in weapons, drugs, and money have created a situation where violence and human rights abuses abound, and law enforcement, military, and government institutions have been corrupted or threatened into becoming tools of criminal organizations, where innocent people are constantly caught in the crossfire and countless lives are sacrificed in the name of the US drug war and the global prohibition of some drugs. Their blood is on our hands, and only by ending the madness of drug war can we be cleansed.

And well, that's it for today. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.