U.S. and Them

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."
-- Ernest Benn

July 24 -- The Houston Chronicle reports: Peru has seen a huge increase in crops of heroin-producing opium poppies as a result of U.S.-backed efforts to fight drugs in neighboring Colombia, Peru's ambassador said in a letter to U.S. lawmakers.

In the letter, Ambassador Carlos Alzamora said that "the situation is a clear indication of the first effects of the spillover of Plan Colombia: Intelligence information shows that Colombian criminal cartels are relocating their opium poppy operations in Peru."

July 25 -- The Washington Post reports: The House last night rejected a White House request to allow unlimited numbers of American civilians to work under contract on U.S. military and other aid operations in Colombia, reflecting rising congressional concern over the deteriorating situation in that country and fears of expanded U.S. involvement.

The administration won a victory as two amendments were defeated that would have transferred a significant portion of the Andean funds into global health programs. Any cut, Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC) argued, would be "wrongheaded, dangerous and could jeopardize the future of the democracies in the Andes, as well as the lives of American children."

But with few exceptions, even the strongest defenders of staying the military course in Colombia offered little testament to its success so far in stemming either the export of Colombian cocaine, which has a 90 percent share of the U.S. market, or the extent of human rights abuses there. Instead, they argued that the United States could not "surrender" the drug war by retreating just because success has been slow in coming.

July 26 -- The Japan Times reports: Sir David Ramsbotham, the outgoing British chief inspector of prisons, suggested last Sunday, "The more I look at what's happening, the more I can see the logic of legalizing drugs, because the misery that is caused by the people who are making criminal profit is so appalling and the sums are so great that are being made illegally. I think there is merit in legalizing and prescribing, so people don't have to go and find an illegal way of doing it," he said.

July 28 -- New York's Times Union reports: The county's top prosecutor plans to order a sweeping review of some 2,000 felony drug cases his office has prosecuted over the last six years, based on admissions from two police officers that they doled out drugs to informants.

The FBI's probe into corruption on the police force has been ongoing for nearly two years, but it was only this week that details emerged as to how a group of rogue patrol cops, praised for the high number of arrests they made, routinely broke the law when dealing with informants.

On Monday, (former officer Michael) Siler pleaded guilty to four of eight felony crimes, admitting that he regularly gave crack cocaine to addicts in Hamilton Hill as a reward for information. Siler, the second city cop to be convicted in the FBI's ongoing criminal probe, has indicated that other officers have also given drugs to informants.

July 29 -- The St. Petersburg Times reports: The United States and Canada are as friendly as any two countries on Earth. Each is the other's biggest trading partner, and they share the world's longest undefended border. But when it comes to illegal drugs crossing that border, the two nations don't always see eye to eye.

The U.S. government criticizes Canada, especially its courts, for not doing more to curb the international drug trade. "Canadian courts have been reluctant to impose tough sentences, reflecting a widespread view that drugs are a "victimless' crime and should be treated primarily as a health issue," the U.S. State Department said in its most recent report on global drug trends.

But many Canadians counter that the United States' punitive approach has clearly failed to curb Americans' appetite for marijuana. "They don't seem to have a handle on their own problems," Robert Metzer, a chief judge in British Columbia, told a Vancouver newspaper. "I don't see why they should be criticizing us for ours."

Send tips or comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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