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Category Archives: War On Drugs

Forum From the Archives: Brutality of Philippines War on Drugs Laid Bare in Some People Need Killing – KQED

Posted: February 22, 2024 at 7:59 pm

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Patricia Evangelista's new book is Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country(Photo Credit: Mark Nicdao)

In most of the world, salvage is a hopeful word, writes journalist Patricia Evangelista. But in Philippine English, to salvage is also to execute a suspected criminal without trial. The salvages of suspected drug users and dealers encouraged by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are the subject of Evangelistas new book Some People Need Killing, which draws its title from the words of a vigilante she interviewed. According to human rights organizations, more than 30,000 people were extrajudicially executed in the Philippines for alleged narcotics offenses by the time Duterte left office in 2022. Evangelista interviewed the families of victims, and we talk to her about the impact Dutertes terrifying war on drugs had on them and on the country.

Guests:

Patricia Evangelista, journalist; author, Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country

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Commentary: We need to rethink how we address drug use – Maryland Matters

Posted: at 7:59 pm

Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.

By Thomas C. Higdon

The writer is a person in recovery and co-chair of the Maryland Coalition on Drug Use, Treatment, and Recovery.

As a survivor of substance use disorder, Ive seen firsthand the devastating consequences of drug use lives lost, families destroyed, and communities devastated. However, after taking a hard look at the data, it is clear that the harms traditionally associated with drug use (e.g., overdose, crime, poverty) are caused and/or exacerbated by long standing drug prohibition policies.

To put it bluntly, the war on drugs has only made things worse. Thats why I support House Bill 1057 a legislative proposal being considered by the General Assembly that would create a task force to study drug use in our state and make recommendations for a new path forward.

Drug prohibition 52 years of failure!

President Nixon announced his war on drugs almost 52 years ago and it has not been an inexpensive undertaking. To date, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on drug interdiction and enforcement. And what did we get for all that money? Since 1980, the number of people incarcerated for drug related offenses in the United States increased 1,161%, to 353,000 in 2023. Thats more than the populations of Allegany, Caroline, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Annes, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester counties combined.

However, during that same period, drug use increased 23% and overdose deaths increased 1,141%. In 2023 alone, we lost an estimated 107,000 friends and loved ones to overdose death in our country, including more than 2,500 in Maryland. Clearly, drug prohibition is not working. Given the life-or-death stakes, we need to explore options beyond simply locking people up.

Decriminalization works

In 2001, Portugal led the European Union in both drug use and fatal overdoses. In response, they decriminalized possession of drugs and increased investment in treatment and social services. As a result, the number of people seeking treatment increased and rates of drug use and fatal overdose fell. By 2019, Portugals rates of drug use and fatal overdose were among the lowest in the European Union.

In addition, there are numerous other benefits from decriminalization. Fewer lives were destroyed by the collateral consequences of a drug arrest, such as barriers to employment, professional licensing, housing, financial aid, and government benefits. Also, the money saved from reduced criminalization can be reinvested into other services such as voluntary treatment, housing, employment, harm reduction, and peer support.

What about Oregon?

In November 2020, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, making it the first state to decriminalize possession of drugs. At the same time, the state redirected almost $300 million to treatment and recovery support services. While it is still too early to say if Oregon will be as successful as Portugal, early results look promising. For example, in the first three quarters of the year under Measure 110, service providers reported more than 47,000 people seeking substance use treatment thats a 134% increase. In addition, the number of people receiving services also increased:

Critics of decriminalization are quick to point out that Oregons fatal overdose rate has increased since decriminalization. However, it is important to note that overdoses have increased across the country and Oregon is doing better than many other states. In fact, Oregons fatal overdose rate in 2023 was lower than 17 other states 7% less than Marylands, 34% less than Tennessees, and 66% less than West Virginias.

Whats next for Maryland?

Decriminalization worked in Portugal and is starting to work in Oregon. But that does not mean that Maryland should simply copy those jurisdictions. Carelessly rushing to replace failed prohibition polices could cause more unintended harm. Which is why House Bill 1057 creates a task force to study what has worked in other jurisdictions, while learning from their mistakes. This bill will bring together representatives from law enforcement, public health, treatment providers, people with lived experience, and more to explore options beyond simply locking people up.

The war on drugs has failed. Ironically, the very policies intended to reduce drug use have only made things worse. Clearly, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. It is time that Maryland does more to recognize that substance use disorder is a health issue that requires public health solutions.

For these reasons, I urge every Marylander to contact their representatives in the General Assembly and urge them to pass House Bill 1057. We must change course before more of our loved ones die from failed drug war policies.

The hearing on the bill has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

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Liberia: Boakai’s War on Drugs Gains Momentum – Liberian Daily Observer

Posted: at 7:59 pm

As the curative aspect of the fight kicks off as GOL Secures 1500 Acres for a National Rehabilitation Center for Drug Users

The Joseph Nyuma Boakai administration is demonstrating significant progress in the fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse, with a focus on protecting the health and well-being of all citizens, especially the vulnerable youth population.

A multi-sector committee established by President Boakai has been actively working to address substance abuse challenges through a combination of curative and preventive measures. In a recent development, the Multi-Sector Committee on Drugs and Substance Abuse announced plans to construct a national rehabilitation center for substance abuse victims and secured 1500 acres of land in Bensonville, Montserrado County for this purpose.

Additionally, a Youth Agriculture Training Center (YATC) will be established in Bensonville to provide agricultural training for individuals undergoing rehabilitation at the center. Dr. Louise Mapleh Kpoto, the Chairperson of the multi-sector committee who is overseeing the efforts, stressed the importance of implementing evidence-based practices in the establishment of the rehabilitation center to effectively combat substance abuse and support individuals in their recovery journey.

Dr. Kpoto, who is also the Minister of Health, said her team is carefully considering factors such as accessibility, suitability of the location, potential impact on the community, and resources needed for the smooth running of the facility.

The national steering committee, with the support of President Boakai, the Minister noted, will endeavor to implement evidence-based practices in setting up the rehabilitation center that would significantly contribute to combating substance abuse and supporting individuals in recovery.

We, as a committee, will continue to be proactive in addressing drug issues across the country, she said

The committee, with President Boakai's support, remains committed to addressing drug-related issues across the country.

Emphasizing the severe impact of drugs, especially KUSH, in the nation, President Boakai declared substance abuse a public health emergency, highlighting the imperative to address this pressing issue.

The declaration was made amid growing waves of drug-related deaths, involving young people and the arrests of hundreds of drug traffickers and users in Liberia regularly, concerned stakeholders have sprung into action.

President Boakai, in his maiden State of the Nations Address on January 29, observed that illicit drugs; especially KUSH are destroying the future of the country.

The drug epidemic, especially the use of KUSH, in our country is an existential threat eating away at the future of our children and the country. We must stand up and face this national security risk together. Given the need for immediate action to make good my pledge to the thousands of families burdened by this crisis, I am hereby declaring Drugs and Substance abuse as a Public Health Emergency.

The commitment of key officials, including Col. Abraham Kromah of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and Minister Cole Bangalu of Youth and Sports, reflects the government's concerted efforts to combat drug abuse comprehensively.

Kromah disclosed to newsmen that the enrollment in the mental restructuring program will be exclusively voluntary. No one will be forced to go to the center. We will only take people who are willing to change, he said.

He added that the coding process is ongoing at the moment, a move that will help them embrace positive change. He however informed the journalists that defiant substance users categorized as regular clients, who would be found loitering in street corners would be arrested and taken to the treatment center in Bentol City.

Drug users arrested in ghettos will be processed and turned over to the criminal justice system for prosecution, he noted.

The LDEA boss however stressed the urgent need to rehabilitate substance users because according to him, 20% of the Countrys population is illegally using drugs. He said technical and security mechanisms are being mobilized for the protection of the facility and surrounding communities.

I am committed to enforcing the drug law of Liberia to the core, he said.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Cole Bangalu, also a member of the committee, said that a more sustainable approach to combating drugs does not only focus on apprehending substance users but also on capacitating them to be more useful in society.

Bangalu noted that rehabilitation and capacity-building programs, which lead to employment and meaningful contributions to society, are in line with the governments agenda.

We are working out modalities to ensure that the process is implemented immediately. The President has said this is his priority, so we will work in line with the Presidents priority and his concern about these young people so that they can become useful citizens, said Minister Bangalore.

Efforts to rehabilitate substance users and provide them with opportunities for societal contributions are being prioritized by the government.

Technical experts and support personnel, such as Dr. Moses Ziah and Marlee Yekeh, are actively engaging in awareness campaigns and capacity-building initiatives to address substance abuse effectively.

Dr. Moses Ziah, III, a Psychiatrist providing technical support in the area of mental health, calls for publicity and educational awareness to make sure other school-going kids who are abusing drugs will stay at home and school and be treated or come for treatment.

The mental restructuring process, according to Dr. Ziah, is just a tiny component of the bigger picture lying ahead to be collectively tackled. Marlee Yekeh, a technical support team member, said she believes that at-risk youth are not zogoes but young, talented, smart, and resilient people who are using drugs and need a rehabilitation program that will bring about change.

I see them as my brothers, sisters, loved ones, and myself, Yekeh said. She said the holistic approach towards combating substance abuse will help reform the youth and make them productive. Those abusing drugs are productive citizens who need the support of the citizens to help solve the problem, she noted. The President remains committed to fighting drugs and making more drug users useful to society.

Unlike in the past, since its establishment by the President, the Kpoto Committee has been doing all it can to address the challenges posed by substance abuse through both curative and preventive measures.

During the administration of former President George Weah, Liberia witnessed a surge in the proliferation of narcotic substances, particularly the dangerous drug known as Kush. Millions of dollars worth of these illicit substances were being smuggled into the country and intercepted at various entry points.

Until the Weah administration, Liberia was not a significant transit country for illicit narcotics, but its nascent law enforcement capacity, porous border controls, and proximity to major drug transit routes contributed to trafficking to and through Liberia. While the country is not a significant producer of illicit narcotics, local drug use, particularly marijuana, is very common. Other drug usage includes heroin and cocaine. The government later reported an increasing prevalence of amphetamine-type stimulants and intravenous drugs. Then came the deadly KUSH.

However, this influx of narcotics had a profound impact on the country's youth population, leading to an increase in substance abuse among young people. In response to this crisis, the new government under President Boakai declared a war on drugs and substance abuse, recognizing it as a pressing public health emergency.

The President has committed to rescuing the youth from the clutches of this menace and safeguarding their well-being and as such his administration is dedicated to combating drugs and empowering individuals to play constructive roles in society, with a strong focus on curative measures, prevention strategies, and community engagement.

Meanwhile, the collaborative efforts of the multi-sector committee and stakeholders underscore the government's commitment to fighting substance abuse and ensuring the well-being of all Liberians.

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Tactics are shifting in the war on drugs – Financial Times

Posted: September 23, 2023 at 9:59 am

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Tactics are shifting in the war on drugs - Financial Times

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End overreliance on punitive measures to address drugs problem … – OHCHR

Posted: at 9:59 am

GENEVA (20 September 2023) A UN human rights report today calls for a shift from punitive measures to address the global drugs problem to the use of policies grounded in human rights and public health, arguing that disproportionate use of criminal penalties is causing harm.

The report urges States to develop effective drug policies, including by considering decriminalization of drug possession for personal use. If effectively designed and implemented, decriminalization can be a powerful instrument to ensure that the rights of people who use drugs are protected, it says.

Laws, policies and practices deployed to address drug use must not end up exacerbating human suffering. The drugs problem remains very concerning, but treating people who use drugs as criminals is not the solution, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Trk.

States should move away from the current dominant focus on prohibition, repression and punishment, and instead embrace laws, policies and practices anchored in human rights and aimed at harm reduction.

The UN Human Rights Office report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, finds that disproportionate use of criminal penalties discourages people who use drugs from seeking treatment and feeds stigma and social exclusion. According to the latest available statistics from the 2023 World Drug Report, people who use drugs are disproportionately affected by blood-borne viruses, nearly 660,000 die of drugs-related causes each year, and 10 percent of all new HIV infections globally in 2021 were among people who injected drugs.

The ill effects of these policies are profound and far-reaching, the report finds. Militarization of law enforcement in the so-called war on drugs contributes to severe human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings. And disproportionate use of criminal penalties contributes significantly to prison overcrowding.

The report highlights that the effects of these policies are most severe for people of African descent, women, indigenous peoples and young people from poor backgrounds.

Todays drugs policies have the greatest impact on those who are poorest and most vulnerable, Turk stressed.

There has also been an increase in the use of the death penalty for drug-related convictions worldwide, contrary to international human rights law norms and standards. The recorded number of people executed for drug-related offences more than doubled in 2022 compared to 2021, amounting to 37 percent of all executions recorded globally, the report states.

The current overemphasis on coercion and control to counter drugs is fanning an increase in human rights violations despite mounting evidence that decades of criminalization and the so-called war on drugs have neither protected the welfare of people nor deterred drug-related crime, Trk said.

The report shows that an increasing number of countries across regions are adopting policies and practices that decriminalize drug use and treat drug usage as a public health and human rights issue, and applying evidence-based, gender-sensitive andharm reduction approaches. The High Commissioner called on States to build on this positive trend.

ENDS

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HSCSO making a dent in the local war on drugs – Malvern Daily Record

Posted: at 9:59 am

The Hot Spring County Sheriff's Office continues to make headlines and even garnered a spot on KARK regarding all the coordinated efforts to find and arrest offenders all around the county for illicit drugs, stolen property and other criminal behavior.

The Little Rock news station spoke to HSC Sheriff Scott Finkbeiner about the non-stop pursuit of criminals his office has undertaken since he took office in January, as they have made over 30 drug arrests in that time, including 10 arrests in three separate incidents last week.

Methamphetamine is the most popular drug, fentanyl is picking up over the last couple of years, Finkbeiner said. We unfortunately had a fentanyl overdose about a week ago.

Even since Finkbeiner's statement on KARK, the department has made another big hit in the local war on crime. The HSCSO released the following statement on Thursday:

"This morning HSCSO made three arrest in the Bismarck area. The investigation lead to the discovery of five suspected stolen firearms $3000 cash, Marijuana and a stolen vehicle. This will result in multiple felony charges. We'd like to thank ADC ORU dog team for their assistance. Thanks!"

Finkbeiner said deputies have increased patrols in specific area looking for the worst of the offenders, and they hope to add a K-9 unit and more deputies to the force. He also wants to see more done, not just locally but also on a state and federal level, to stop or slow the flow of drugs coming into the county.

We really, as a county, as a country and state, need to look at these problems so find the root causes of this, how can we address these issues, Finkbeiner said.

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The Drug War on the Border Doesn’t Work – Progressive.org

Posted: at 9:59 am

During the Prohibition Era, the U.S.-Mexico border was rife with liquor smuggling. One rancher who lived about twenty miles north of Nogales, Arizona, decided to get into the game with his string of self-directing mules. At night, the rancher would lead the mules south through the canyons into Mexico. The next night, hed load up the team with booze and let them go. The mules would make a beeline back, while the rancher went home another way. The mules consistently arrived before dawn, ready to be unloaded.

It took the feds two years to discover what was going on. They finally tracked the liquor-laden mules to the ranch and arrested their owner. He was fined, and the mules were sold to a miner who used them to haul ore.

I tell this story not to be quaintProhibition was a time of deadly violence on the border (and in Chicago, for that matter)but to draw a parallel to today.

Alcohol smuggling boomed under Prohibition, just as drug smuggling booms today under draconian drug laws. We can end it the same way.

We keep hearing that getting tough on the border is the solution to drug smuggling and migration. But weve been getting tough on the border for more than thirty years. And despite the billions spent, irreparable environmental damage, and massive body countmore than 7,800 have died since 1998, making the Mexican border the deadliest land border on Earth for migrantsmore drugs and migrants seem to be entering the United States than ever.

The reason people and contraband keep flowing into this country is because there is a market for them. We, of all people, should understand the laws of supply and demand.

Alcohol smuggling boomed under Prohibition, just as drug smuggling booms today under draconian drug laws. We can end it the same way. Legalization is already happening with marijuana; here in Arizona, it seems as if there are pot stores on every corner.

This is progress, although national standards and regulation of the industry are clearly needed. Predictably, marijuana legalization made the cartels switch to harder drugs like fentanyl, with deadly results. We must take away the illegal market by treating all drugs like we treat alcohol and cigarettesas a public health challenge, rather than a law enforcement problem. That means legalization and taxation and using the profits to expand education, health care, treatment and other support services for addicts.

Like drugs, the United States is dependent on immigrants. Our population would be declining without them and experts say they are keeping the economy afloat. On a macro level, immigration is good. But on a micro level, as were seeing on the border and in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities, migration causes painful dislocation and difficulties for both the migrants and the communities receiving them.

Migrants and refugees need to be carefully screened, given work permits, and settled in towns and cities across America where their labor is needed. Locals need help to prepare. Money spent on useless and harmful political stunts, like the nearly $200 million it cost the taxpayers of Arizona to place and then remove shipping containers in the desert that did nothing to deter migrants, could be used for this purpose.

Those of us who live and work on the border dont want open borders. We want an end to the fantasy that more crackdowns on the border will solve complex problems, or that the border was somehow under control when Trump was in charge. Those of us with memories longer than three years recall migrant surges were happening then too. We want an end to the border-bashing, wasteful spending, and threats to invade Mexico and kill even more people than the tens of thousands already killed by the war on drugs.

With more than $64 billion in trade and 350 million legal crossings every year, the U.S.-Mexico border is a thriving part of our economy and in many ways a model of peaceful, international cooperation. If we reframed these challenges of drugs and migration not as intractable local problems but as a national concern with positive solutions, we could reduce the needless death and suffering happening on the border and across our two great nations.

September 21, 2023

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‘When I walk to school, I can see people shooting up.’ How Seattle’s … – KUOW News and Information

Posted: at 9:59 am

J

oe Clark lives two blocks from Summit Sierra High School, located on King Street in Seattles Chinatown-International District.

The neighborhood always felt safe, Clark says, until his daughter Julienne began sharing alarming stories about her walk to the school.

"'When I walk to school, I can see people shooting up in their neck to get a vein, and if they can't find a vein in their neck, you see them bent over, looking between their toes,' Clark recalls Julienne saying to him.

Bearing witness to the suffering of people struggling with addiction is just one part of his daughter's story, he adds, that has led to her being too afraid to walk to school by herself.

For her, it escalated to a different level of being followed, of things being thrown at her, things said to her that are inappropriate for a 15-, 16-year-old girl to hear, Clark says.

Stories like Clark's are one reason why drug policy is now at the center of this years city council races. Voters tell pollsters drugs are a top issue, but what exactly do they want?

RELATED: Seattle 'poised' to get serious about public drug use, Mayor Harrell says

The answer to that is complicated in a city like Seattle, where nearly half of respondents in a recent Crosscut/Elway poll called themselves progressive," and where many people remember the failed War on Drugs, in which punitive drug policies disproportionately harmed people of color.

Nearing the corner of 12th Avenue South and South King Street, Clark suggests crossing the street to avoid walking through the middle of what looked like it could be a drug deal. He sometimes feels afraid, too, he says. But he doesnt believe a heavier law enforcement presence is the best path forward.

We need to come up with solutions to help this need that they're in, and not have more police or more police activity, because that's not going to help anyone, he says.

Last spring, Clark wrote to his local representative, Councilmember Tammy Morales, asking for help. Like Clark, Morales doesn't think law enforcement is the answer. She favors drug treatment and harm reduction.

Emails went back and forth. But after a few months, the emails from Morales's office just stopped.

There's been no response. And it's kind of disappointing that she runs on this platform of being a progressive, but she doesn't respond to her constituents, Clark says.

KUOW contacted the staffer on the email thread for comment but did not hear back.

Morales voted against a new law passed by the council this week, which allows the Seattle city attorney to prosecute public drug use and possession cases. It emphasizes a public health approach, which encourages referrals to drug treatment programs. But the ordinance doesn't allocate any new funds for those programs.

The bottom line is that this bill will not address the fentanyl crisis in any meaningful way," Morales said before casting her no vote.

"While we sit here on the dais, people are dying and we're spending a lot of energy on a bill that won't help them.

On the other side of the drug debate is candidate Tanya Woo, an activist in the Chinatown-International District who is running to unseat Morales in District 2. She showed up before the council's drug ordinance vote on Tuesday to urge Morales and her colleagues to pass it.

How many of you have had a friend die from fentanyl? We've seen too many deaths and we need something to be done. We cannot have a perfect plan be an enemy of a good plan, she said.

Woo favors more treatment and hiring and deploying more police.

For his part, Joe Clark is thinking about the upcoming election and who hell support in the race for District 2.

I don't know, I don't know, he says.

While he's impatient with Tammy Morales, he doesnt agree with the approach of her opponent Tanya Woo, either.

RELATED: Is the 'generation gap' back in Seattle City Council races? District 2 offers clues

In the meantime, Clarks family has made a big decision. His daughter now takes a 40-minute bus ride to school in Bellevue, rather than walk the two blocks to her neighborhood high school.

But Clark still thinks about the kids at Summit Sierra who don't have a better option.

"I have the privilege to have my daughter go to a different school. What about the people who don't?"

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The best gifts ever? Being named after drugs and declaring war on … – POLITICO Europe

Posted: at 9:59 am

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

Whats the most important gift you can give someone? Perhaps its to give your child a great name something cool but not weird, and not one of those names that everyone has, like Methamphetamine Rules!

What? Yes, an Australian journalist has called her son Methamphetamine Rules (Meth for short?). What were the parents thinking? Methamphetamine is obviously a girls name!

Kirsten Drysdale said she was testing whether the authorities had the power to change a babys name if the one submitted by the parents was deemed offensive or unacceptable. Drysdale said she was mulling between Methamphetamine Rules and Nangs Rule, which is the Australian slang for nitrous oxide canisters that some people use to get high. Thank goodness they didnt pick the latter, or the kid would have been bullied mercilessly!

Politicians dont have to worry about naming a child when they visit their counterparts, but they do need to bring a gift. The European Parliament has a vault where diplomatic giftsare kept. Items down in the vault include a pot of French mustard and a Huawei smartphone given to European Peoples Party chief Manfred Weber in 2013 thats clearly recording all of the important events at the Parliament. Nothing of interest has happened yet but its only been a decade.

This week, Keir Starmer leader of the U.K. Labour Party and next British prime minister barring a complete meltdown visited Emmanuel Macron and very subtly threw shade at the French president with his choice of gift.

Starmers present for Macron was an Arsenal football shirt and Arsenals club crest is a cannon pointing at France (if you stand with your left arm facing France). On the back of the shirt was Macron 25, a clear reference to the Battle of Sandwich in which the English defeated the French on August 24, 1217. As everyone knows, the next day August 25 the English forces celebrated by eating sandwiches (probably). Shots fired by Starmer!

Macron is a football fan he supports Olympique de Marseille but that Arsenal shirt was 100 percent put in the bin within 10 minutes of Starmer leaving.

A day after Starmer was allowed into the Elyse via the tradesmans entrance, the red carpet was rolled out for King Charles, with an itinerary that included a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe and a banquet dinner at the Palace of Versailles (where royals have always enjoyed a warm welcome). Apparently, the choice of dinner venue was a close-run thing between Versailles and a branch of Flunch.

Listen, if you promise never to try and sneak into the Concerned Women event ever again, I wont call the police.

Can you do better? Email [emailprotected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

Last time we gave you this photo:

Thanks for all the entries. Heres the best from our postbag theres no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.

And now, for my friends to the right, I will perform a double backflip U-turn on my climate-change policy, by Tom Morgan.

Paul Dallison is POLITICOs slot news editor.

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Latin America This Week: September 20, 2023 – Council on Foreign Relations

Posted: at 9:59 am

At 32 years old, Mercosur faces an existential crisis. Talks to establish a trade agreement between the Mercosur customs union and the European Union (EU)20 years in the makingwere on the brink of stalling out for good before they restarted on September 14. Still, if the two parties dont seal the deal by years end, it could put Mercosurs future in doubt. Spain, the most vocal European advocate of the deal, steps down as EU president in December, and Brazilian President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, its biggest South American champion, hands off Mercosurs rotating presidency in January. European politicians are turning their attention to next years European Parliamentary elections. Even before the latest crisis, Mercosur was in trouble. Trade flows between its membersBrazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguaypeaked in 2011, at US$54 billion, and havent fully rebounded since. Political disagreements divide the bloc, too. Members clash over whether to readmit Venezuela, which the union suspended in 2016 for breaking with democracy. Uruguay is already toying with going it alone by negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with China and Turkey as well as by applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-country FTA with many of the major Indo-Pacific economies. If the EU-Mercosur agreement doesnt come together quickly, other Mercosur members may have no choice but to go it alone, following Uruguays lead.

Petro signals a big shift on drug policy. If hes counting on U.S. support, he should move fast. Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who consistently blasts the war on drugs as a failure, just unveiled a new drug policy for Colombia. Petros policy shifts away from the forced eradication model of years past and toward crop substitution and the creation of alternative livelihoods for rural communities that depend on growing coca. For now, Washington is listening. As synthetics have overtaken plant-based drugs and U.S. drug overdose deaths have topped 100,000 per year, the Biden administration has increasingly focused on harm reduction, rehabilitation, and stopping the flow of precursor ingredients for fentanyl, meth, and other synthetics produced largely in China. Report after report to Congress, the executive, and by leading NGOs show that forced eradication operations using Colombias police and military just havent worked. Instead they have pushed coca cultivation into new areas (including Colombias national parks) and wreaked havoc on the environmentall while coca production hit an all-time high in 2022. Biden administration officials suspended satellite monitoring of Colombias coca crops and voiced support for the Petro governments holistic approach to counternarcotics last October. Even so, Petro wont have an easy time implementing his plans. For one, he faces weak domestic support: 65 percent of Colombians believe the narcotrafficking situation is worse now than when Petro took office, and 61 percent disapprove of his government. Republicans distrust Petro. If the party wins control of the White House in 2024, expect the next administration to pressure Colombia to return to a more traditional approach to drug policy. The clock is ticking.

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Massas pre-election spending spree will hobble the next government. Argentinas Economy Minister and ruling party presidential candidate, Sergio Massa, announced a slew of new spending and social policies that go into effect immediately. The plans include tax breaks for huge swaths of the population, more social spending, and wage increases for government workers. The Central Bank helped out by not raising interest rates, despite accelerating inflation. The largesse wont win over voters tired of economic crisis. But it will leave the next president in even more of a financial bind. The spending spree comes just weeks after negotiating a US$7.5 billion disbursement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Argentina conducted a complicated shell game to pay off a US$1.8 billion debt with loans from Qatar and the Development Bank of Latin America and a US$1.7 billion swap with the Chinese to cover payments. With the new tranche of capital, the government renewed promises to keep the fiscal deficit at 1.9 percent and 0.9 percent of GDP in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Massas largesse will pull Argentina even further from these commitments ahead of the next rounds of reviews and negotiations with the IMF, set for November 2023 and March 2024.

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Latin America This Week: September 20, 2023 - Council on Foreign Relations

Posted in War On Drugs | Comments Off on Latin America This Week: September 20, 2023 – Council on Foreign Relations

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