Rehabilitating Mexico’s Drug War: Drug Challenges Rising in the U.S. and Mexico
by COHA Research Associate Christina Esquivel
The U.S. Department of Justice decision yesterday to cease the prosecution of the state-sanctioned use and distribution of medical marijuana constitutes a significant step away from militarized federal enforcement of drug laws, and toward a model more responsive to local needs and in line with international realities. In recent weeks, the international community has grown increasingly critical of the negligible gains and onerous costs brought on by Washington’s forty-year prohibition strategy. Countries from Northern Europe to Latin America have embraced an approach to drug policy emphasizing public health over criminalization through new strategies to reduce harm and treat addiction. The Obama administration now appears ready to de-escalate the “War on Drugs” waged by its predecessors, rejecting prior terminology and relinquishing greater power to the states. However, Washington continues to play a crucial role in setting the tone for a drug policy debate with its southern neighbors, who have suffered the brunt of decades of drug warfare. Even as Washington recedes from its dominant role in the War on Drugs at home, it must reform its policy guidelines abroad to accommodate the regional debates and national initiatives aimed at alleviating the damages of the drug war to many societies throughout the hemisphere.
The School of The Americas: New Legislation Brings Limited Transparency
By: COHA Research Associate Nicholas Maliska
After years of lobbying by human rights activists, Congress has approved the release of information on the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, the military training facility infamous for producing some of Latin America’s most notorious human rights violators. The final amendment incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 requires the Pentagon to release the names and enrollment information of students and instructors at the facility for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. However, the bill falls far short of the expectations of the human rights community by not disclosing the same information for the years 2005 through 2008, leaving a large hole in the public record of who the U.S. military was training and what was being taught to the Latin American military personnel in attendance during those years.
COHA and the 34,000-member Newspaper Guild-CWA are proud to announce that Alejandro Santos Rubino has been awarded the inaugural Charles A. Perlik Jr. Award for Excellence in the Field of Print Journalism Throughout Latin America, for his groundbreaking work with Colombia’s weekly Semana Magazine. Before Santos delivered his acceptance speech, Melissa Nelson, a high-ranking official of the Newspaper Guild-CWA, extolled the accomplishments of the late Charles Perlik, who was the longest standing president of the Guild, and described his dedication to human rights causes and labor issues throughout the hemisphere. Ricardo Gjivoje, a COHA Senior Research Fellow and former OAS senior advisor on policy to its Secretary-General, discussed the obstacles facing journalists in Latin America, particularly in Colombia where 136 journalists have been murdered in the past two decades.
On August 31, 2009, a Guatemalan court in the mountain town of Chimaltenango convicted Felipe Cusanero, a former paramilitary officer in the country’s 36-year-long civil war. His crime was the forced disappearance of six indigenous villagers between 1982 and 1984. In many regards, the conviction could mark a turning point in the fight against governmental impunity and is a major step towards reconciliation in the violence torn nation. However, such optimism may be out of order because this is the first disappearance case ever to be brought before a Guatemalan Court. It cannot be ignored that former government officials responsible for the deaths and disappearances of thousands during decades of bloody civil war are still being held unaccountable while claiming amnesty and thereby avoiding the coils of justice.