26 May 2016 ~ 1 Comentario

FORUM: Drug Trafficking as a Threat to Democracy

Interamerican Institute for Democracy
Interamerican Bar Association
Demos of the Americas
ICCAS, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.

Carlos Alberto Montaner
May 24, 2016

DSC05244Before I start, I must make a double disclaimer that’s absolutely necessary.

Although my presence here tonight is due to my nature as president of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, the opinions that follow are mine alone, not those of the Institute.

Because I am also a collaborator for CNN en Español, my opinions should not be confused with the editorial views of that television network.

I shall begin by stating my position with regard to the issue of drug trade: I have — and I shall set out — two fundamental reasons to defend the unfettered production and sale of substances that are today prohibited.

The first is of a practical nature; the second, of a moral character.

Let us begin with the practical reason.

Perhaps it will be useful to depart slightly from the title of this conference. Drug trafficking DOES NOT threaten democracy.

Democracy is only a flexible method to make collective decisions about ordinary affairs.

The threat is a lot more serious and complex.

The illegal traffic in drugs threatens the Rule of Law, political stability and the good functioning of institutions, especially because of the corruptive power of the money raised by drug trafficking.

The money raised by the illegal traffic in drugs finances the campaigns of presidents and other high-ranking dignitaries, especially in Latin America.

With the money raised by drug trafficking, someone like the notorious Colombian Pablo Escobar, at one time capo of the Medellín cartel, used democracy to be elected as an interim senator.

The money raised by drug trafficking bankrolls numerous political campaigns, and today it is feared — with reason — that the FARC narcoterrorists, if they finally enter the political game in Colombia, will invest 500 million dollars to buy the nation’s presidency.

After all, the FARC are the world’s third most powerful drug cartel and have more economic resources than any of Colombia’s political parties.

Finally, what threatens the Rule of Law is the existence of immensely rich mafias engaged in drug trafficking.

What furnishes those earnings is the illicit nature of that activity.

The dangerousness of these criminal organizations comes from the complexity of the activity and the enormous flow of resources that it generates.

  • It has an agricultural aspect. Coca leaves must be harvested. To do that, the mafias need to control hundreds of farmers and protect them from police persecution through hefty bribes.
  • It has an industrial aspect. It is necessary to turn harvested leaves into coca paste. Dozens more people are needed for this, some of them with an average knowledge of chemistry.
  • It has a commercial aspect that invariably includes clandestine transportation to international markets.

The creation of a cartel capable of developing this trade requires a cupola with some sophistication, intelligence and, of course, an absolute lack of scruples that enables it to commit all kinds of crimes.

In a way, the process resembles the production and sale of coffee, except that the banned nature of cocaine has exponentially multiplied its price, while the persecution that it’s exposed to forces the drug traffickers to “buy” powerful persons in the public sector or to try to become elected or appointed functionaries, so they can protect such lucrative activities.

If coffee were banned tomorrow and its commerce were persecuted, it is very likely that its price would increase substantially and that mafias or cartels devoted to its production and sale would emerge, same as occurred with alcohol in the Prohibition era.

In Galicia, Spain, some decades ago, a real cartel of imported U.S. cigarettes emerged as a consequence of the excessive taxes imposed upon them. Eventually, that criminal organization shifted toward the traffic in cocaine, which was more lucrative.

In the second half of the 19th Century in Europe and the United States, the Mariani wine — produced in France — was sold successfully and freely. It was lavishly advertised as a reinvigorating tonic because of the Peruvian coca extract it contained.

Indeed, it was powerful stimulant. It was imbibed by, among other figures, Pope Leon XIII — who promoted it in a famous poster — by Queen Victoria of Britain, Thomas Alva Edison, President Ulysses S. Grant and the Cuban writer and patriot José Martí.

Let us look now at the moral aspect of this issue.

I have no doubt that drug consumption is a colossal stupidity, given the damage that it produces in our organism and the painful death it causes.

I also know that, once the diabolical mechanism of addiction is unleashed, it is difficult to distance oneself from the consumption of drugs.

But I do not ignore a vital aspect of this sorry behavior: drug use does not cause harm to third parties.

The only person hurt is the pitiful man or woman who consumes it, same as it happens with morbid obesity or the consumption of cigarettes or alcohol.

Therefore, the State should have NO legal authority to tell us what we should do with our bodies.

If an adult citizen chooses to adopt the foolish practice of smoking marijuana, inhaling cocaine, mainlining heroin or ingesting hallucinogens, the State has no business forbidding him those acts, putting him in jail and designating him as a criminal.

Grotesque though it may sound, that citizen is exercising a freedom, his freedom over the use and abuse of his own body.

Somehow, his absurd conduct (like tattooing) is framed in the growing “right to one’s own body” claimed, for example, by many pregnant women.

That right is taking root everywhere and is expressed in organizations that defend the right of people to commit suicide or to bring death with dignity to those others who, for reasons that seem valid to them, decide that they don’t want to continue to live in the grip of enormous pain or afflicted by a terminal disease that will consume them slowly.

“To live,” said a famous Spanish suicide, “is a right, not an obligation.”

Of course, publicity is something else.

It is up to society, through the State, to warn individuals about the immense damage caused to them by addictions — all addictions, including the pain killers prescribed by certain doctors who end up manufacturing addicts, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes on purpose.

Addictions generate a high cost, not only in those who suffer them but also in the immediate circle of their families and, in general, in the whole of society.

A constant campaign of information about the damage provoked by drugs will probably be more effective than police persecution in achieving the gradual reduction of their use.

When I was young, we smoked because smoking was “cool.” My grand-daughters believe it is unpleasant.

There’s no doubt that the campaign against tobacco, which is a struggle against nicotine addiction, is giving results.

The repulsive images of people deformed by the abuse of tobacco, who tell about the horror of pulmonary emphysema, or who explain the relationship between their addiction and the cancer they’re suffering, have a tremendous dissuasive effect.

I suspect that this form of dealing with drug trafficking is a lot more effective than insisting on police repression and the Penal Code.

We already know that that road leads to failure.

One Response to “FORUM: Drug Trafficking as a Threat to Democracy”

  1. Sam Ramos 2 June 2016 at 1:36 pm Permalink

    Ya la desvergonzada OEA acaba de darle un respiro a Maduro. Vean esto:
    ¿Argentina protege a Venezuela?

    Por Andrés Oppenheimer

    ¡Qué vergüenza! La decisión histórica del Secretario General de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), Luis Almagro, de convocar a un debate regional sobre la ruptura del estado de derecho por parte del gobierno de Venezuela pretende ser descarrilada por un grupo de países que dicen respaldar la democracia, pero que de hecho están ayudando a comprar tiempo al régimen venezolano.

    El grupo es encabezado por Argentina, cuya canciller Susana Malcorra necesita el respaldo de Venezuela –miembro del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU– para su candidatura para la Secretaría General de las Naciones Unidas. El grupo está proponiendo una resolución alternativa a la de Almagro, que dice contar con el respaldo de más de 20 miembros de la OEA, y que –aunque criticada por el gobierno venezolano– en la práctica haría postergar la discusión regional propuesta por Almagro.

    El borrador de resolución del grupo pide dar más tiempo al esfuerzo de mediación de los ex presidentes José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, de España, Leonel Fernández, de República Dominicana, y Martín Torrijos, de Panamá, para “la reapertura de un diálogo efectivo” entre el gobierno y la oposición en Venezuela.

    Malcorra ya me había anticipado su postura en una entrevista reciente. La canciller me dijo que respalda los actuales esfuerzos de mediación de Rodríguez Zapatero y el bloque de la Unasur para permitir un referendo revocatorio en Venezuela, pero que “no están dadas las

    Read more here: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/opinion-es/opin-col-blogs/andres-oppenheimer-es/article81230317.html#storylink=cpy

    condiciones” para aplicar la Carta Democrática de la OEA a Venezuela.

    Segun Sergio Jellinek, portavoz de Almagro, el jefe de la OEA presentó su propuesta de aplicar la Carta Democrática de la OEA el 31 de mayo, después de que Argentina no le mostró la lista de los países que supuestamente respaldaban darle una nueva oportunidad a la misión mediadora de Rodríguez Zapatero.

    Algunos países miembros de la OEA dicen que Almagro actuó precipitadamente, sin consultar con otros países miembros. Otros países temen que la acción de Almagro siente un precedente para que la OEA aplique la Carta Democratica a Brasil, u otros países inmersos en crisis políticas.

    La convocatoria de Almagro a un debate regional sobre Venezuela propone crear una nueva comisión de mediación mas plural, que podría pedirle al presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro que reconozca las leyes aprobadas por la Asamblea Nacional dominada por la oposición, libere a los presos políticos y permita un referendo revocatorio autorizado por la constitución venezolana.

    La propuesta respaldada por Argentina ofrece “respaldo” al esfuerzo de mediación de Rodríguez Zapatero “con el fin de encontrar alternativas para favorecer la estabilidad política, el desarrollo social y la recuperación económica” en Venezuela.

    El problema es que lo que se necesita para resolver la crisis en Venezuela es un comisión de mediación mucho más amplia que la de Rodríguez Zapatero, que es vista por la oposición como muy cercana al régimen de Maduro. Bajo la propuesta de Almagro, debería haber una comisión de mediación que incluyera a la OEA, Unasur, las Naciones Unidas y ex presidentes como Rodríguez Zapatero.

    “Durante los últimos 17 años, los así llamados diálogos entre el gobierno venezolano y la oposición han sido shows mediáticos que han ayudado al régimen a comprar tiempo sin cambiar nada”, dice Carlos Vecchio, un conocido dirigente opositor venezolano. “La única manera de resolver la crisis será a través de la presión internacional para una diálogo real que produzca resultados”.

    Al momento de escribir esta columna, la resolución impulsada por Argentina tenía buenas probabilidades de ser aprobada. Estados Unidos y la oposición venezolana estaban considerando respaldarla, porque la alternativa –someter a un voto la propuesta de Almagro y perderlo– le podría dar al régimen de Maduro una gran victoria propagandística.

    Mi opinión: La resolución patrocinada por Argentina es un caso típico de hipocresía política. Uno no puede decir que apoya la democracia en Venezuela y al mismo tiempo demorar los esfuerzos de Almagro por poner mayor presión internacional sobre el régimen de Venezuela para que deje de actuar como una dictadura, y empiece a respetar las reglas democráticas como el derecho del congreso venezolano de aprobar leyes.

    Venezuela necesita la acción de la OEA, y ahora. Si los países miembros quieren darle una última oportunidad a la comisión de mediación de Rodríguez Zapatero, que así sea, pero deberían poner una fecha límite para producir resultados, a más tardar el 13 de junio, cuando la Asamblea General de la OEA se reúna en la República Dominicana. Para entonces, debería haber fuerte respaldo regional para una comisión de mediación creíble en Venezuela

    Read more here: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/opinion-es/opin-col-blogs/andres-oppenheimer-es/article81230317.html#storylink=cpy

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