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2014: international drug war round-up

earth2014 witnessed considerable fraying of the international Drug War consensus—but the horrific violence that finally sparked this long-overdue reckoning continued to take its grim toll. On the upside, Uruguay regsitered its first cannabis clubs, and Jamaica is now studying a decrim initiative. In a very hopeful sign, regional bodies in the Caribbean and West Africa are following suit with studies of potential decrim or legalization. And signs of the failure of the prohibitionist model kept mounting. For a second consecutive year, opium cultivation in Afghanistan broke all previous records—despite some $7 billion spent by the US to combat Afghan opium over the past decade. Hashish busts at sea—especially the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean—also soared. Saudi Arabia went on a beheading spree, targeting drug convicts (as well as those found guilty of adultery, "sorcery" and other such wackery). ISIS (whose beheadings somehow sparked far greater media outrage) started eradicating the cannabis fileds of northern Syria, after the Syrian civil war had sparked a regional hashish boom, with a profusion of militias needing narco-profits to fund their insurgencies. The same cycle that Afghanistan saw with both hashish and opium when the Taliban was in power before 9-11.

Police extermination campaign in Brazil's favelas?

Posted on November 10th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

BrazilA harrowing report on National Public Radio Nov. 9 points to the possibility that the crackdown on favela gangs in the prelude to this year's contentious Brazil World Cup may have actually been a police extermination campaign of favela youth. On June 11—one day before the World Cup opened—two officers of the Military Police picked up three Black teenagers in Rio de Janeiro's Zona Norte. The three hadn't committed any crime, although they did have a history of petty offenses. The officers drove them up to the wooded hills of the Morro do Sumaré area, above the city. One was shot in the head and killed. One was shot in the leg and the back and left for dead. Another escaped. We know what happened because the officers left their patrol car cameras on, and the videos appeared on Brazil's Globo TV.  One officer taunts the youths: "We haven't even started beating you yet and you are already crying? Stop crying! You are crying too much! Be a man!" The officers are then heard saying "Gotta kill the three of them." And finally: "Two less. If we do this every week, we can reduce their number. We can reach the goal." The "goal" was apparently a crime-reduction target ahead of the World Cup.

Colombia: Guajira crime lord falls, para links revealed

Posted on October 27th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

ColombiaColombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 22 announced the capture of one of the country's top fugitive crime lords—Marcos de Jesús Figueroa AKA "Marquitos"—in the Brazilian jungle city of Boa Vista. The extraordinary operation was coordinated by police forces in both Colombia and Brazil. "Marquitos" was considered the reigning boss of the lucrative narco trade in Colombia's northern region of La Guajira, with access to both the Caribbean Sea and the porous Venezuelan border. He is held responsible for a long reign of terror by criminal gangs and their paramilitary allies in the region—personally culpable in at least 100 deaths, according to authorities. Santos took the apprehension of Marquitos as an opportunity to crow: "With this, we say to criminals that it makes no difference where you are, we are going to catch you." (El Tiempo, Oct. 23; El Espectador, El Tiempo, Oct. 22)

Brazil: deadly prison uprising ends in deal

Posted on August 27th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , .

BrazilBrazilian authorities reached a deal with inmates Aug. 25 after a deadly prison uprising at Cascavel in Paraná state. The riot erupted the day before as breakfast was being served, when inmates overpowered guards. In apparent score-settling between rival drug gangs, two prisoners were beheaded, and two others thrown to their deaths off the roof of a cellblock. At least 25 were injured in the fighting. Under the deal, two guards who had been taken hostage are to be freed in exchange for a commitment to improve conditions at the facility and the transfer of some inmates to other prisons. The prison had already exceeded its intended 925 capacity. Negotiations on the specifics are ongoing between prisoners and  the Paraná attorney general's office. Some 574,000 are incarcerated in Brazil; only the US, China, and Russia have more people behind bars. It is an open secret in Brazil that with prison overcrowding at unmanageable levels, guards routinely keep the peace by handing control of cellblocks to the inmates. The  overcrowding has been exacerbated by a legal reform eight years ago that dramatically increased sentences for drug trafficking. (AFP, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Aug. 25; AP, Aug. 24)

Rio: favela violence spills into Copacabana

Posted on April 30th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

BrazilAt least three cars, including a police vehicle, were set ablaze in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Complexo do Alemão on April 29 after the fatal shooting of an elderly woman—the latest in a series of such outbreaks as Brazilian authorities attempt to clean up Rio's slums before the World Cup games open next month. Arlinda Bezerra de Assis, 72, died after being shot in the stomach during a gun battle between police and presumed gang members. In another incident on April 23, the favela violence actually spilled into Rio's posh beachfront tourist districts—an unprecedented occurrence that doubtless struck fear deep into the hearts of the city fathers. The protests broke out in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela, perched on the hills overlooking the famed Copacabana district. The riots were sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, 25, a popular dancer on Brazil's Globo TV network, had been discovered in the favela—apparently killed as "collateral damage" in another one of the frequent police shoot-outs with drug gangs. Residents swept down into  Copacabana, setting fires and hurling bottles at police, vehicles and businesses. The violence also spilled over into nearby Ipanema, another posh tourist district. The young dancer's funeral two days later also exploded into a riot, as mourners blocked traffic after leaving the Sao Joao Batista cemetery, chanting  "Justice! Justice! Police murderers!" Police used tear-gas to clear the intersection. The Military Police "pacification" campaign aimed at getting the favelas under control ahead of the World Cup and  2016 Summer Olympics looks like it may be backfiring horribly. (World Bulletin, April 29; AFP, April 25; Daily Mail, VOA, April 23)

Brazil: riot rocks Rio favela

Posted on April 21st, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

BrazilMilitary Police occupied the favela, or shantytown, of Caramujo, in the city of Niteroi outside Río de Janeiro, following riots sparked by the death of two local youths in incidents with the security forces April 19. One of the victims, Anderson Luiz Santos da Silva, 21, was outside a church with his family on Good Friday when he was hit by a stray bullet—apparently from a shoot-out between police and local drug dealers. His nine-year-old brother was also wounded in the incident. "The young man died trying to protect his mother and sister," said Niteroi's Catholic Church in a statement. The second victim, Emanoel Gomes, 17, was killed when a police  armored vehicle crashed his motorbike. Residents set fire to vehicles and battled police, calling for justice. Amnesty International says some 2,000 people die every year in Brazil in careless and violent police actions. The favelas have been targeted for aggressive police action ahead of the World Cup, which Brazil is to host in June. Rio de Janeiro is also slated to host the 2016 Olympics. (Notimérica, April 20; BBC News, April 19)

Rio de Janeiro: military operation against favelas

Posted on April 4th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

Southern ConeBrazilian Military Police backed by Marine troops occupied the massive Maré favela next to Rio de Janeiro's Galeao international airport on March 31, allegedly without firing a shot. The aim was to secure one of the city's most violent districts, long under control of drug gangs, ahead of the World Cup, to be held in Brazil in June. Shock troops of the elite Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) and Marines in armored vehicles and helicopters secured the Maré area, where 130,000 people live in poverty on the north side of Rio. Police said they seized guns and 450 kilos of marijuana, and arrested two suspected dealers. But residents said most gang leaders slipped out the favela ahead of the occupation. The operation had been expected; in preceding days Police Pacification Units (UPPs) were installed in 174 of Rio's favelas— home to around 600,000 people. (InSerbia, April 1; MercoPress, March 31)

Brazil: prison violence spills into streets of Maranhão —again

Posted on January 9th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

Southern ConeThe ongoing prison crisis in Brazil's impoverished northeastern state of Maranhão again made brief headlines this month after newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo released a gruesome video of gang warfare victims inside the violence-plagued and dangerously overcrowded Pedrinhas facility. The video was recorded on Dec. 17, the newspaper reported, describing how "other prisoners pose with the bodies, showing them off like trophies." The footage was turned over to the paper by a prison workers' union to raise awareness of the depth of the crisis. But Maranhão residents had sure been aware of it. There were more than 60 deaths at the facility last year—a higher murder rate than the outside world. Gang control of the prison was so complete that there were reports of inmates' wives being raped in conjugal visits. This finally prompted federal authorities to launch a crackdown over the new year. Military police took over the facility, and found 300 improvised weapons, as well as cell phones by which ranking inmates presumably controlled their outside drug networks. In response to the crackdown, gang leaders called for their supporters on the outside to launch an uprising. That's when the trouble really began...

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