JFP 8/10: US: still don't think Iran's making a-bomb; Aussies doubt US fairness for Assange
Just Foreign Policy News, August 10, 2012
US: still don't think Iran's making a-bomb; Aussies doubt US fairness for Assange
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Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: Arming human rights abusers in Bahrain? There oughta be a law!
Under current U.S. law as interpreted by the Obama Administration, the U.S. can arm a brutal dictatorship if it can be argued that the particular weapons won't be used for human rights abuses and the units being armed don't have a history of documented human rights abuse. Rep. Grijalva's bill would change that, and raise the bar for arming rights abusers. Urge your Rep. to support the Grijalva bill.
We're Still Arming the King of Syria? There Oughta Be a Law!
Making the case for the Grijava bill at the Huffington Post.
Video: Stephen Colbert: Anti-Muslim Attack on Hillary Clinton Aide
Colbert takes on Michele Bachmann.
Video: Tom Waits on war/PTSD
Tom Waits - "Hell Broke Luce"
664 days of cholera in Haiti
664 days, 7,539 dead, 593,051 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still there has been no apology, no compensation, no implementation of an effective plan to eradicate the disease. Now the UN is considering renewing the mandate for UN troops in Haiti. Shouldn't addressing the cholera crisis caused by the UN be a condition for renewing the mandate for UN troops?
1) U.S. officials said the U.S. still believes Iran is not on the verge of having a nuclear weapon and that Iran has not made a decision to pursue one, Reuters reports. Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed Obama had received a new NIE saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability. But a White House National Security Council spokesman disputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year.
2) The failure of the UN to take responsibility for the devastation they have brought to Haiti with cholera makes clear that the "international community" doesn't see Haitians as having the same basic human rights as people in other countries, writes JFP President Mark Weisbrot in a column for McClatchy. "As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic," said Congressional Democrats in an appeal to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, a few weeks ago. The letter was signed by the majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, but Rice has yet to respond.
More than 70 percent of Haitians responding to a recent poll said they wanted UN troops to leave within a year. The UN can use the money it is wasting on the UN troops to wipe out cholera instead, Weisbrot argues.
3) An Afghan police officer shot and killed at least three American Special Forces soldiers on Friday, the New York Times reports. The latest episode brings the total number of coalition service members intentionally killed this year by Afghan forces to 34 in 25 attacks. In 2011, 35 were killed in 21 such attacks.
4) A majority of Australians believe WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would not receive a fair trial should he ever be extradited to the US, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. A nationwide poll also finds more than half do not believe he should be prosecuted for releasing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables.
5) Informed Americans outside the Beltway are much more dubious about the prospect of war with Iran than Beltway media discourse would lead one to believe, argues Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy. He suggests that if Obama and Romney spent less time cuddling up to fat cat donors with bellicose agendas, and more time talking about foreign policy with well-informed regular citizens, public discourse would improve.
6) Three-quarters of National Journal's National Security Insiders disagreed with a recent statement by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that a nuclear Iran represents the greatest threat to the world, writes Sara Sorcher in The Atlantic. If Iran -- or any other country with money -- truly wants to go nuclear, one Insider said, there is not a whole lot the world can do to stop it. "Making such comments reduces your maneuver room when Iran actually gets close to going hot, makes you look impotent when they do, and blinds us to other challenges (e.g., a rising or failing China, Pakistan imploding, etc)," one Insider said.
7) In the eyes of ordinary Iranians, it is they who bear the brunt of Western economic sanctions, writes Saeed Kamali Dehghan in the Guardian. Iran's Haemophilia Society recently blamed the sanctions for risking thousands of children's lives due to a lack of proper drugs.
8) Amnesty International demanded that Bahrain release 13 opposition activists and prisoners of conscience. The 13, who include prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were originally sentenced by military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison on charges including "setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution." Several of the defendants have spoken out in previous court hearings to describe their alleged torture and other ill-treatment in detention, including sexual assault, to coerce "confessions." The Bahraini authorities must "end this travesty of justice, quash all 13 opposition activists' convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally. They are prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly," Amnesty said.
9) General Motors' management representatives walked out on negotiations with a group of fired Colombian GM employees with work-related injuries, Hispanically Speaking News reports. GM's move suggests that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of workers in Colombia, the report says.
10) Two Chilean senators officially proposed legislation that would decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana for personal and therapeutic use, the Santiago Times reports. "It is important to understand that when you permit personal cultivation you are attacking illegal purchase and narcotrafficking," Senator Rossi said. "Specialists in these issues have said that the only way to hit organized crime and narcoterrorism where it hurts is from an economic standpoint."
11) A plan by Uruguay's leaders to turn the government into the nation's marijuana dealer has been presented to Congress, AP reports. President Mujica's entire Cabinet signed onto the proposed law. But lawmakers are divided on the idea, even within Mujica's Broad Front coalition. Mujica has said he'll push the plan only if it gets at least 60 percent support in polls. An official in the president's press office said the bill isn't expected to advance quickly.
1) U.S. still believes Iran not on verge of nuclear weapon
Tabassum Zakaria, Mark Hosenball and Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Thu, Aug 9, 2012
Washington/Jerusalem - The United States still believes that Iran is not on the verge of having a nuclear weapon and that Tehran has not made a decision to pursue one, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed U.S. President Barack Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability.
Later, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that the new U.S. report, which he acknowledged might be something other than a National Intelligence Estimate, "transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one."
But a White House National Security Council spokesman disputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year.
"We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government," the spokesman said. "We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon."
U.S. officials would not directly comment on whether there was a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which is a compilation of views of the various U.S. intelligence agencies.
The last formal NIE on Iran in 2007, partially made public by the administration of President George W. Bush, became highly controversial because it said Tehran had halted nuclear weaponization work in 2003, although other aspects of the overall program continued. A later update to that report retained that central assessment, sources have previously said.
James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said in congressional testimony in January: "We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."
2) UN Should Get Rid of Cholera Epidemic That It Brought to Haiti
Mark Weisbrot, McClatchy-Tribune, August 9, 2012
Haitians have had a long and arduous struggle just to achieve the rights that most people in the rest of the hemisphere have enjoyed. From the revolution of Haitian slaves that won independence from the French in 1804, through the U.S. occupation (1915-1934), the Duvalier family dictatorship (1957-1986), and the last 20 years of devastating foreign intervention, the "international community" just hasn't seen Haitians as having the same basic human rights as people in other countries.
They still don't, perhaps because Haitians are too poor and black. While the horrific earthquake of January 2010 brought international sympathy and aid – much more pledged than delivered – it didn't bring a change of attitude toward Haiti.
This is perhaps most clear in the failure of the United Nations to take responsibility for the additional devastation they have brought to Haiti with the deadly disease of cholera. Since the outbreak began in October 2010, more than 7,445 Haitians have died of the disease and more than 580,000 have been infected, and these official numbers are an underestimate. It is now firmly established, by a number of scientific studies, that UN troops brought cholera to Haiti by dumping their human waste into the country's water supply.
This is gross negligence that would have landed them a multi-billion dollar lawsuit if they were a private corporation, or even criminal prosecution. But the UN has so far refused to even admit responsibility; although Bill Clinton, who is the UN's special envoy for Haiti acknowledged in March that the UN brought cholera to Haiti.
"As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic, " said Congressional Democrats in an appeal to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that the letter was signed by the majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was ignored by the media in the United States. And Rice has yet to respond.
But controlling and putting an end to the epidemic is the least that the UN can do for Haiti, having caused this disaster. We know that it can be done, too – as it has in many other countries – by building the necessary infrastructure so that Haitians can have access to clean drinking water. The cost has been estimated at about $800 million, or the amount that the UN spends on keeping its soldiers there for a year.
Haiti has no civil conflict or peacekeeping agreement. The UN military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) therefore has no legal or legitimate basis – on the contrary, it was sent there in 2004 to occupy the country after Washington and its allies organized the overthrow of the country's democratically elected president.
Besides bringing the cholera epidemic to Haiti and wasting billions of dollars, MINUSTAH troops have committed serious abuses, from killings of civilians to sexual abuse. Last September Uruguayan troops were caught on video sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man. In the latest MINUSTAH sexual abuse scandal, Pakistani troops were found guilty of raping a 14-year-old boy; they received a year in prison from a Pakistani military tribunal. Perhaps more damning for the UN in this case is that higher UN officials have been implicated by Haitian authorities as having attempted to cover-up the crime.
No wonder more than 70 percent of Haitians responding to a recent poll said they wanted MINUSTAH to leave within a year. The UN can use the money currently wasted on this military force to rid the country of cholera. Then, at least, they will have cleaned up one of their biggest crimes in the country.
3) Attacker in Afghan Uniform Kills 3 U.S. Soldiers
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, August 10, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - An Afghan police officer shot and killed at least three American Special Forces soldiers on Friday after inviting them for a meal at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said, in what appeared to be premeditated killings of American soldiers by one of their Afghan allies.
Details remained sketchy, and Afghan and coalition investigators were still trying to piece together how the shooting unfolded as dusk approached. A dawn-to-dusk fast is being widely observed in Afghanistan as Muslims observe Ramadan.
The American command in Afghanistan, which functions alongside the NATO-led coalition, issued a terse statement saying that three soldiers had been killed by a man in an Afghan uniform - standard phrasing used by the military authorities here when a member of the Afghan security forces kills a coalition service member.
Afghan officials offered more details. Muhammad Sharif, the governor of Sangin, said a police commander had invited the Special Forces soldiers to eat at his post. He then shot them when their guard was down and fled, Mr. Sharif said. He put the number of dead Americans at four.
A prominent tribal elder said he had been told by the local authorities that his son, Assadullah, 25, a police officer, was suspected of carrying out the killings at a checkpoint in the village of Khanan, which lies near a base used by American Special Forces soldiers.
The elder, Shamsullah Saharai, said in a telephone interview that his son had worked with the Special Forces soldiers for four years, and that he had not heard from him in six days.
Killings by Afghan forces of their coalition counterparts have intensified in recent years in Afghanistan, where the military's term for such attacks - it calls them green-on-blue killings - has entered widespread usage. The latest episode brings the total number of coalition service members intentionally killed this year by Afghan forces to 34 in 25 attacks. In 2011, 35 were killed in 21 such attacks.
4) Most Australians back Assange, poll finds
Phillip Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2012
A majority of Australians believe the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would not receive a fair trial should he ever be extradited to the United States.
The nationwide poll, conducted by UMR Research, also finds more than half do not believe he should be prosecuted for releasing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables.
He is seeking asylum in Ecuador but if unsuccessful could find himself sent to Sweden. Officially, the US government says it has no plans to then extradite him to the US - but a grand jury has been convened to probe the release by WikiLeaks of about 250,000 allegedly stolen diplomatic cables, raising suspicions to the contrary.
UMR Research, the company Labor uses for its internal research, sampled the views of 1000 people at the end of July, when Mr Assange was ensconced inside the embassy.
It finds 58 per cent believe he will not receive a fair trial in the US while 22 per cent believe he will be afforded proper justice. Another 20 per cent are unsure.
The poll also finds 52 per cent believe Mr Assange should not be prosecuted for releasing the leaked cables, while only 26 per cent believe he should be prosecuted. Another 21 per cent are unsure.
The managing director of UMR, John Utting, said if Mr Assange was extradited, his popularity would most likely increase "due to an underdog effect, more prominent in Australia than other countries".
"The lack of confidence in the ability of the US judicial system to deliver a fair result has resonated with the Australian public and its sense of fair play," he said.
5) What Americans outside the Beltway think about war with Iran
Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 1:02 PM
I'm just back from a brief trip to Maine, to give a lecture at the Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations. As I have in a couple of other venues, I spoke on the similarities and differences between the earlier campaign for war with Iraq and the current debate over war with Iran. The main similarity, of course, is that the same groups and individuals who pushed hardest for war with Iraq are also in the vanguard of the groups pusshing for war with Iran today. But there are also some critical differences, most notably the fact that the Obama administration isn't staffed by die-hard neoconservatives and Obama isn't as gullible as Bush and Cheney turned out to be. For those of us who believe that war with Iran is neither necessary nor wise, this is good news.
My hosts were exceptionally welcoming, and the attendees asked a lot of smart questions, so I had an excellent time. A fair number of the people I met have backgrounds in international affairs (in business, academia, government, intelligence, etc.), and all are obviously engaged by the subject. I didn't hand out a questionnaire so I don't know what everyone in attendance thought, but I was struck by two themes in both the Q & A at my talk and in my private conversations with various members.
First, I detected no support for any sort of war with Iran. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not by us, not by Israel, and not by anybody else. It's possible that some people in the audience would use force as a last resort, but no one in the audience or in private spoke in favor of that option or even asked a question that leaned in that direction. (One retired government official said he believed there would eventually be a war, but he made it clear that he thought that it was a terrible idea). Instead, they were mostly interested in what could be done to prevent a war, and several questions centered on what could be done to improve U.S.-Iranian relations over the longer term. That view, by the way, is more-or-less consistent with recent surveys showing relatively little support for the "military option." This result is especially telling given that Americans also seem to hold quite alarmist views about Iran's nuclear intentions, and given that the war party has been working overtime to hype the threat for years.
Second, I was also struck by the intelligent skepticism that several attendees expressed regarding America's global role. This was a sophisticated group, and most of the people with whom I spoke would be considered "internationalist" in orientation. Yet several also spoke against what they perceived as excessive U.S. interventionism, and one openly complained about the U.S. serving as the "world's policeman." Statements such as these reinforce my sense that a lot of well-informed Americans recognize that trying to run most of the world isn't in America's interest or the world's interest, and that a smarter and more selective approach to global engagement would be easy to sell.
As I said, these impressions aren't based on a scientific survey, and the views expressed above are my own. But the whole trip made me wish that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could spend less time with their advisors and less time cuddling up to fat cat donors with bellicose agendas, and more time talking about foreign policy with well-informed regular citizens. I'll bet they'd discover that what passes for unquestioned truth inside-the-Beltway is much less widely accepted in a lot of other places.
6) Hush Now, Mitt: A Nuclear Iran Is Not the World's Greatest Threat
Three-quarters of national security experts polled disagreed with the candidate.
Sara Sorcher, The Atlantic, Aug 7 2012, 4:59 PM ET
Three-quarters of National Journal's National Security Insiders disagreed with a recent statement by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said a nuclear Iran represents the greatest threat to the world.
If Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon, Romney told Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, it would pose the most serious threat to the world, to the United States and to Israel's existence.
Not so, said 73 percent of NJ's pool of national-security experts, even as they acknowledged that a nuclear Iran could have a destabilizing effect on the Middle East and erode international nonproliferation efforts. "It would be an unmitigated negative for U.S. interests," one Insider said. "But it is not the greatest security threat facing the U.S. or the world at large."
If Iran -- or any other country with money -- truly wants to go nuclear, another Insider said, there is not a whole lot the world can do to stop it. "Making such comments reduces your maneuver room when Iran actually gets close to going hot, makes you look impotent when they do, and blinds us to other challenges (e.g., a rising or failing China, Pakistan imploding, etc)," one Insider said.
Individual nukes rank behind several other threats, including cyberthreats, another Insider said. "Coupled with its aggressive ideology, Iran armed with nuclear weapons would pose a greatly heightened danger to others. But so would other potential scenarios: the collapse of authority in Pakistan that undermined the security of its nuclear weapons, Pakistani aggression against India that risked escalate to nuclear war (feared in their 2001-2002 crisis), or unstable disintegration of authority in North Korea or spasmodic acts by its leaders in a crisis," another Insider said. Others said that climate change, or the "invasive species known as Man," rank as bigger threats.
7) Sanctions on Iran: 'ordinary people are the target'
Iranian civilians bear the brunt of western-imposed sanctions in terms of medicine and food shortages, and money problems
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 August 2012 04.06 EDT
For Fatemeh, the pill she takes twice a day in her home in Iran means the difference between life and death. Earlier this summer when she contacted her friend Mohammad in the US to say she was running out of the medicine due to a shortage, the obvious thing for her fellow Iranian to do was to order it from the chemist next door and have it shipped directly to Iran. To the dismay of Fatemeh and Mohammad, the order was rejected because of US sanctions on trade with Iran.
This week, Standard Chartered bank was accused by US regulators of scheming with Iran to hide transactions, an accusation it denies. While the sanctions focus may currently be on big institutions, in the eyes of ordinary Iranians, it is they who bear the brunt.
"My friend suffers from Brugada syndrome [a heart condition] and has abnormal electrocardiogram and is at risk of sudden death," said Mohammad, who lives in Moorhead, Minnesota. "There is one drug that is very effective in regulating the electrocardiogram, and hence preventing cardiac arrest. It is called quinidine sulfate and is manufactured in the US."
Mohammad ultimately circumvented the problem by having the medicine ordered to his home address and sent to Iran through friends. "By the time she got the pills, her own supply was finishing within four days, what if we couldn't send them in time? Who would be responsible if anything had happened to her?" he asked.
With the latest embargo placed on the importing of Iranian oil, sanctions are now tighter than ever. Western officials argue that sanctions are aimed at punishing the Iranian regime in the hope of forcing it to comply with international rules over its disputed nuclear programme, but many Iranians see things differently.
"Sanctions are affecting the entire country, but it is the people that bear the brunt and have the least ability to protect themselves from this pressure," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and the author of the book A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran. "What is most concerning is that it is now increasingly clear that the people are the target," he said.
As sanctions have started to take their toll, prices of fruit and sugar, among other staples, have soared – in some cases showing three- and four-fold increases. The latest controversy surrounds long queues for discounted poultry, an essential ingredient of Persian food, which has seen its price double since last year, causing what has been dubbed a "chicken crisis" and prompting demonstrations.
Iran's Haemophilia Society recently blamed the sanctions for risking thousands of children's lives due to a lack of proper drugs, the opposition website Rahesabz reported.
The west says sanctions are the only option left, other than war. But Parsi said: "That is patently false. It is the pro-war elements that are propagating the idea that the choice is between war and sanctions. The type of patient and persistent diplomacy that has resolved issues like this in the past is yet to be fully explored."
Measures imposed on Iran's central bank, cutting it off from the world, have caused grave problems for ordinary Iranians as well as opposition activists because it is the only official channel for them to transfer money abroad.
"Those who carry on despite hardships inside the country are also feeling more and more isolated. Activists, like regular Iranians, cannot use banks to transfer funds for conference participation, hotel reservations and to attend training workshops abroad," said Sussan Tahmasebi, a prominent Iranian women's rights activist who worked on a recent report called Killing Them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians.
"As a result of these [western] policies, ordinary Iranians are finding themselves caught up in the sanctions mess," she said. "In effect, the banking sanctions are forcing Iranians to rely on a cash-based economy, making them dependent on black marketeers for the transfer of funds to cover legitimate expenses, such as educational and health costs."
Activists say that, unlike ordinary people, the regime can find a way out of banking difficulties with help from its proxies.
Sanctions are also affecting Iranians outside the country. One Iranian who is a resident of the US said her bank account was closed recently because of a "new policy forbidding the banks to work with countries that expose them to money laundering". Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said: "I am living in this country [US], working and paying tax like others. I believe this is a kind of discrimination."
8) Bahrain must free prisoners of conscience after 'travesty of justice'
Amnesty International, 10 August 2012
The Bahraini authorities must release 13 opposition activists and prisoners of conscience Amnesty International said today, ahead of next week's expected final verdict on their appeals.
The 13, who include prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were originally sentenced by military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison on charges including "setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution".
All of the men maintain their innocence.
Several of the defendants have spoken out in previous court hearings to describe their alleged torture and other ill-treatment in detention, including sexual assault, to coerce "confessions".
"The Bahraini authorities must end this travesty of justice, quash all 13 opposition activists' convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally. They are prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme Deputy Director.
"This trial serves as a test for the Bahraini authorities' to show commitment to reform, which they promised to much fanfare after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report was launched."
Amnesty International also calls on the authorities to order an immediate and independent investigation into some of the defendants' allegations of torture, make public the findings of such investigations and bring anyone found responsible for abuses to justice.
9) GM Walks Out of Talks with Colombian Hunger Strikers
Hispanically Speaking News, August 10, 2012
Four months after President Barack Obama announced "mission accomplished" on the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan that facilitated the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, General Motors' management representatives walked out on negotiations with a group of fired GM employees with work-related injuries. GM's move suggests that the mission is not yet accomplished, and that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of workers in Colombia.
For the past year, members of ASOTRECOL, the Association of Injured and Ex-Workers of GM Colmotores de Colombia, have peacefully protested GM's practice of systematically firing workers without compensation after they have incurred debilitating occupational injuries. These injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive motions and herniated disks from lifting and operating heavy machinery during their time of service at GM. Seven days ago, ASOTRECOL began a hunger strike with several protestors sewing their lips together when their one year peaceful protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia yielded lots of promises from the U.S. and no results.
On August 6, thanks to political pressure from the U.S. Congress and civil society groups and a subsequent intervention by Ambassador McKinley, representatives of the Colombian Ministry of Labor, International Labor Organization (ILO), and GM Colombia met with the workers. As the workers presented their concerns, which were supported by the Inspector General's investigations, GM representatives walked out of the meeting without resolving any of the workers' concerns.
10) Chilean senators propose decriminalizing cultivation of marijuana
Bill would permit cultivation of marijuana for personal consumption
David Pedigo, Santiago Times, Wednesday, 08 August 2012 22:44
Liberal senators Ricardo Lagos Weber and Fulvio Rossi officially proposed a piece of legislation to Chile's National Congress on Wednesday that would decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana for personal and therapeutic use. The bill comes in the middle of a renewed debate in Chile over the legality of marijuana and two weeks after Rossi publicly stated that he personally consumed marijuana.
"It is important to understand that when you permit personal cultivation you are attacking illegal purchase and narcotrafficking," Rossi said.
"Some have said that to approve a bill like this will make narcotraffickers very happy, and I tell them the opposite: 'We are reducing their revenue,'" he added. "Specialists in these issues have said that the only way to hit organized crime and narcoterrorism where it hurts is from an economic standpoint."
11) Uruguay ponders making government legal pot dealer
Pablo Fernandez, Associated Press, Thursday, 08.09.12
Montevideo, Uruguay -- A plan by Uruguay's leaders to turn the government into the nation's marijuana dealer has been presented to Congress, where the idea faces an uncertain fate.
President Jose Mujica's entire Cabinet signed onto the proposed law, which aims to take over an illegal marijuana trafficking business estimated to be worth $30 million to $40 million a year.
The law would have government control marijuana imports, production, sale and distribution, creating a legal market for people to get pot without turning to riskier illegal drugs. The text submitted to Congress on Wednesday declares that the drug war is a failure and that marijuana is only mildly addictive, unlike "cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and psychotropic drugs."
But lawmakers are divided on the idea, even within Mujica's Broad Front coalition of leftist parties and social groups.
Mujica has said he'll push the plan only if it gets at least 60 percent support in polls. An official in the president's press office, speaking on condition of anonymity according to department policy, said the bill isn't expected to advance quickly.
The text says the project's goals include "the normalization and full social acceptance of marijuana use" so that consumers aren't "stigmatized, nor treated as criminals." Instead, it proposes education about the risks of marijuana use. The presidency's website said Thursday that a National Drug Council would organize meetings to "facilitate reflection" on this point.
The text sent to Congress added that "marijuana has been for many years the most-consumed illegal substance" in Uruguay, and "has an important level of legitimacy in Uruguayan society." It also cited precedents for various levels of decriminalization of marijuana possession in the Netherlands, Australia, Spain and several U.S. states.
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