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JFP 10/27: Kirchner remembered; US officials admit surge is failing
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 October 2010 - 5:41pm
Just Foreign Policy News
October 27, 2010
Remembering Nestor Kirchner, South American Hero Who Defied the IMF
The past president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, has died unexpectedly of a heart attack. U.S. media aren't likely to give us much coverage that indicates what Kirchner meant to many people in South America. This is a pretty safe bet, in part because to understand what Kirchner meant, you have to understand Kirchner's role in a story that the U.S. media have never told properly: how, in the last 15 years, South America has been breaking free of Washington-prescribed economic and security policies. Since the US media never told this story, they'd be hard put to explain Kirchner's role in it.
South of the Border released on DVD
Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border was released on DVD this week. If you want to see former President Kirchner as many South Americans saw him, and as you are unlikely to see him in the U.S. media, you can get the DVD here.
IVAW Statement on the Iraq War Logs - A Call for Accountability
Iraq Veterans Against the War demands the end of attacks on whistleblowers; calls for the occupations to end and for the troops to come home.
The Taliban Might Negotiate, Even if They Think They're Winning
The oft-repeated claim that "The Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they're winning," has been used to justify military escalation. But the reason we should believe this claim has never been explained. As a claim about human nature, it defies the last 5000 years of human diplomatic history. As a claim about the Taliban, it suggests without evidence that the Taliban won't negotiate, even if the U.S. would agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces - a demand that the majority of Americans and 60% of House Democrats think the U.S. should implement unilaterally.
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1) Some senior Taliban leaders are supporting talks not because they fear defeat, but because they worry that their new generation of midlevel commanders is getting out of control, argues anthropologist Scott Atran in the New York Times. The US claims to have killed thousands of Taliban in recent months, mostly foot soldiers and midlevel commanders. But those 25-year-old foot soldiers are being replaced by teenage fighters, and the 35-year-old midlevel commanders by 20-something students straight out of madrasas. These younger commanders and their fighters are increasingly removed from the networks of tribal kinship and friendship that bind together the top figures in the established insurgent groups. These new Taliban warriors are increasingly independent, ruthless and unwilling to compromise. The smart move would be to turn the current shadow-play about talks into serious negotiations right now. The older Taliban leaders might well drop their support for Osama bin Laden if Western troops would agree to leave. The problem now, for the Taliban leaders, the Afghan government, its Western backers and Pakistan, is that the main "success" of the recent surge - killing thousands of Taliban foot soldiers and midlevel commanders - may create a whirlwind that no one will be able to control.
2) US officials say the current NATO military campaign against the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency, the Washington Post reports. Officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast a US troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.
3) Lawyers and human rights groups hope the Wikileaks Iraq war logs will be a treasure trove of evidence that could prove U.S. and other coalition forces broke a cardinal rule of international law - handing over terror suspects when they had good reason to believe the detainees would be tortured, AP reports. "It's not as if, if we didn't have these documents, we wouldn't know that torture was widespread," said Matthew Pollard, who works as a legal adviser for Amnesty International, which repeatedly warned that abuse was widespread in Iraq. "What's new is confirmation - in their own documents - that they didn't dispute that." Lawsuits are more likely in Europe, which is bound by the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. But the Alien Tort Claims Act allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct by U.S. agents committed outside the US.
4) The US lost ground in the annual UN General Assembly resolution against the US embargo on Cuba, as Palau defected from the yes camp to abstention, AP reports. The vote was 187-2, with only Israel joining the US. Last year it was 187-3.
5) Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner died Wednesday, AP reports. The leader of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, said Kirchner "gave his life for his country."
6) US government auditors say that U.S. development programs in Nangahar province in Afghanistan lack local government input and are therefore unsustainable, the Washington Post reports.
7) US officials say they are pushing to revive a failed deal for Iran to send some of its nuclear stockpile overseas in exchange for assistance with peaceful nuclear technology, the Wall Street Journal reports. One idea the U.S. raised would send some of the Iranian nuclear fuel stockpile overseas for eventual use in the Bushehr plant. But France rejected that idea because it risked "legitimizing Iran's right to produce nuclear fuel," the WSJ says.
8) Colombian Congress president Armando Benedetti says he is in favor of legalizing drugs, according to Colombia reports. "The fumigations didn't produce results and neither did Plan Colombia," Armando Benedetti has said. CR notes that in 1998, President Santos, who has called for a discussion on a "redesign" of the war on drugs if California decides to legalize marijuana, signed an open letter to Kofi Annan calling for "a frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts," as "we believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."
1) Turning The Taliban Against Al Qaeda
Scott Atran, New York Times, October 26, 2010
[Atran, an anthropologist at France's National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of "Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists."]
For the last week there have been widespread news reports that NATO is facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders, even as it routs Taliban forces from their main stronghold in Kandahar. The United States plan seems clear: allow for "preliminary" talks to end the war through a broad-based "reconciliation" process, but don't get serious about a deal until beefed-up coalition forces have gained the initiative on the battlefield.
Yet, despite assertions by senior NATO officials that they can defeat the Taliban militarily if given enough money and men, and that military pressure will start the Taliban thinking about alternatives to fighting, the surge in southern Afghanistan appears only to have expanded the scope of the Taliban's activity and entrenched their resolve to fight on until America tires and leaves.
In truth, the real pressure to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel is not on the Taliban, but the United States, so it can start drawing down troops next year as President Obama has pledged. This is why NATO and Washington are only now openly discussing the talks, although they have been going on in fits and starts for years. True, some senior Taliban leaders are playing along - but this is not so much because they fear defeat at the hands of the Americans, but because they worry that their new generation of midlevel commanders is getting out of control.
Washington's goals officially remain those stated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: to strengthen Afghan Army forces and to "reintegrate" the supposedly "moderate" Taliban, that is, fighters who will consent to lay down arms and respect the Afghan Constitution, including its Western-inspired provisions to respect human rights and equality of women in the public sphere. Yet in nine years of war, no significant group of Taliban has opted for reintegration (a few individuals have come in, only to return to the Taliban when it again was in their interest). Moreover, coalition military personnel know that there isn't a single Afghan Army brigade that can hold its own against Taliban troops.
Ten months into the new NATO push in Afghanistan, 2010 is the bloodiest year yet of the war. Insurgent attacks are up more than 60 percent compared with last year, according to the United Nations. The estimated number of Taliban has increased some tenfold since the aftermath of their defeat by coalition forces in 2001. Taliban troops now roam large areas in northern and eastern Afghanistan, far beyond the traditional Pashtun provinces of the south.
The United States claims to have killed thousands of Taliban in recent months, mostly foot soldiers and midlevel commanders. But those 25-year-old foot soldiers are being replaced by teenage fighters, and the 35-year-old midlevel commanders by 20-something students straight out of the religious schools called madrasas, which are the only form of education available in many rural areas.
These younger commanders and their fiercely loyal fighters are increasingly removed from the dense networks of tribal kinship and patronage, or qawm, and especially of friendship born of common experiences, or andiwali, that bind together the top figures in the established insurgent groups like the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network. Indeed, it is primarily through andiwali - overlapping bonds of family, schooling, years together in camps, combat service, business partnership - that talks between the adversaries, including representatives of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, and Mullah Omar, the Taliban's ultimate leader, have continued over the years.
These new Taliban warriors, however, are increasingly independent, ruthless and unwilling to compromise with foreign infidels and their associates. They yearn to fight, and describe battle as going on vacation from the long, boring interludes of training and waiting between engagements. They claim they will fight to the death as long as any foreign soldiers remain, even if only in military bases.
As with the older Taliban, their ideology - a peculiar blend of pan-Islamic Shariah law and Pashtun customs - is "not for sale," as one leader told a Times reporter. But the new cohort increasingly decides how these beliefs are imposed on the ground: recently the Quetta Shura sent a Muslim scholar to chastise a group of youthful commanders in Paktia Province who were not following Mullah Omar's directives; they promptly killed him.
Hardly anyone who calls himself "Taliban" (an umbrella term for fractious Pashtun tribesmen who collectively hate the foreign invaders enough to turn even traditional enemies into friends) considers the American conditions for reintegration as anything other than comical. To get the tribesmen to lay down arms that have sustained them for decades against a host of powerful invaders is about as likely as getting the National Rifle Association to support a repeal of the Second Amendment. The separation of men and women in the public sphere is at the foundation of Pashtun tribal life, along with the duty to protect guests.
So why hold talks at all? Because there is a good chance that the Taliban can be persuaded to cut ties with Al Qaeda and offer some sort of guarantee that President Karzai won't be left hanging from a lamppost when the Americans leave (as President Muhammad Najibullah, the puppet Afghan leader of the 1980s, was after the Soviets fled). The veteran correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave recently told me that when he met with Mullah Omar shortly before 9/11, he was "stunned by the hostility" the mullah expressed for Osama bin Laden.
Indeed, there is strong evidence that in the late 1990s Mullah Omar tried to crack down on Mr. bin Laden's activities - confiscating his cellphone, putting him under house arrest and forbidding him to talk to the press or issue fatwas. But then, as the Taliban were deliberating about how to "disinvite" their troublesome guest after 9/11, the United States invaded, bombing them into a closer alliance with Al Qaeda.
Likewise, it should be possible to drive a wedge between Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis. The group's leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was once called "goodness personified" by Representative Charlie Wilson, the great patron of the Afghan mujahedeen. During the Soviet occupation, he was a principal conduit of funds between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the Islamic rebels, and remains a key link between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.
Although some Haqqani leaders now profess loyalty to Mullah Omar and probably continue to harbor members of Al Qaeda, this is most likely a manifestation of the tradition of sanctuary and the Afghan tribal dictum that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." What's more, the Haqqanis have many long-standing andiwali ties with Mr. Karzai's tribe, the Popalzai, which could be exploited in negotiations. Indeed, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar - a Taliban leader with close links to the Haqqanis who is in Pakistani custody, but is thought to be involved with the current talks - is himself a member of the Popalzai and once saved Mr. Karzai's life.
With no real hopes for a breakthrough in negotiations, the Pentagon's current thinking seems to be to keep troop levels up for at least a few months after President Obama's declared June 2011 drawdown date, to show the Taliban that the force and the will to beat them will remain if they don't come to the table. But this isn't likely to impress any Taliban, who can simply wait us out.
The smarter move would be to turn the current shadow-play about talks into serious negotiations right now. The older Taliban leaders might well drop their support for Osama bin Laden if Western troops were no longer there to unite them. The Haqqanis, too, are exclusively interested in their homeland, not global jihad, and will discard anyone who interferes in their lives. No Haqqanis joined Al Qaeda before 9/11, because they couldn't stand Arabs telling them how to pray and fight.
The problem now, for the Taliban leaders, the Afghan government, its Western backers and Pakistan, is that the main "success" of the recent surge - killing thousands of Taliban foot soldiers and midlevel commanders - may create a whirlwind that no one will be able to control.
2) Taliban Unscathed By U.S. Strikes
Insurgents appear confident they can outlast troop buildup
Greg Miller, Washington Post, October 27, 2010
An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.
Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.
"The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience," said a senior Defense Department official involved in assessments of the war. Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to "reestablish and rejuvenate," often within days of routed by U.S. forces, the official said, adding that if there is a sign that momentum has shifted, "I don't see it."
One of the military objectives in targeting mid-level commanders is to compel the Taliban to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government, a nascent effort that NATO officials have helped to facilitate.
The blunt intelligence assessments are consistent across the main spy agencies responsible for analyzing the conflict, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, and come at a critical juncture. Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Obama administration's plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation's role.
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has touted the success of recent operations and indicated that the military thinks it will be able to show meaningful progress by the December review. He said last week that progress is occurring "more rapidly than was anticipated" but acknowledged that major obstacles remain.
U.S. intelligence officials present a similar, but inverted, view - noting tactical successes but warning that well into a major escalation of the conflict, there is little indication that the direction of the war has changed.
Among the troubling findings is that Taliban commanders who are captured or killed are often replaced in a matter of days. Insurgent groups that have ceded territory in Kandahar and elsewhere seem content to melt away temporarily, leaving behind operatives to carry out assassinations or to intimidate villagers while waiting for an opportunity to return.
3) Who's to blame for torture? Lawyers probe logs
Paisley Dodds and Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press, October 27, 2010; 12:29 PM
London - It has been one of the most bitter legal debates during the so-called war on terror - who's to blame for torture and how many degrees of separation are needed to dodge a lawsuit?
The answer may lie in recently leaked documents, which lawyers and human rights groups hope will be a treasure trove of evidence that could prove U.S. and other coalition forces broke a cardinal rule of international law - handing over terror suspects when they had good reason to believe the detainees would be tortured.
The classified logs on Iraq describe detainees abused by Iraqi forces, insurgent bombings, executions and civilians shot at checkpoints by U.S. troops. They also show that, in some cases, U.S. interrogators thought detainees were speaking truthfully when they accused Iraqi security forces of abuse.
Lawyers say the once-secret logs stand apart from other reports about the Iraqi security agencies because the accounts of mistreatment are recorded - and sometimes corroborated - by the Americans themselves.
"It's not as if, if we didn't have these documents, we wouldn't know that torture was widespread," said Matthew Pollard, who works as a legal adviser for Amnesty International, a human rights group which repeatedly warned that abuse was widespread in Iraq. "What's new is confirmation - in their own documents - that they didn't dispute that."
Phil Shiner, of U.K.-based Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some 130 Iraqi civilians who allege ill-treatment by Britain's armed forces, said the law is unambiguous. "If a state knows that there's a real risk that a person will be tortured by another state, they simply cannot transfer that person to the other country's custody," he said.
Lawsuits are more likely in Europe, which is bound by the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. The United States is bound by neither. The Alien Tort Claims Act, however, allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct by U.S. agents committed outside the United States.
Government lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic are examining the documents. "Although the WikiLeaks documents are raw material and may not give a full picture, they do raise prima facie evidence that could be the basis of some lawsuits," said Geoffrey Robertson, a London-based human rights lawyer who has worked for the U.N. war crimes court on Sierra Leone.
4) Cuba embargo: UN vote urges US to lift embargo
The UN voted, Tuesday, to condemn the US policy towards Cuba. The Cuba embargo was dismissed by all but the US and Israel in the final vote.
Anita Snow, Associated Press , October 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm EDT
The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelming Tuesday to condemn almost a half-century of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, demanding an end to what member states say is a Cold War anachronism that only hurts ordinary people.
The final vote by U.N. member states was 187 in favor of ending the sanctions, with two countries - the United States and Israel - in favor of keeping them. The Marshall Islands, Palau and Micronesia abstained.
It was the 19th consecutive year that the General Assembly took up the symbolic measure, calling for the "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba."
Global speakers expressed disappointment that the U.S. maintains the embargo almost two years after President Barack Obama's election raised hopes for a thaw between the former Cold War enemies.
"South Africa calls on the U.S. to end its unilateral isolation of Cuba," that country's Ambassador Baso Sangqu said. "We urge the U.S. to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Cuba. We further call for accelerated action to dismantle the unjust sanctions regime against Cuba."
Last year's U.N. vote was 187-3 to end the embargo, with only Israel and the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau supporting the United States.
5) Nestor Kirchner remembered as Latin American statesman
Nestor Kirchner, former president of Argentina, died Wednesday. Kirchner was married to the current Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez.
Michael Warren, Associated Press, October 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm EDT
Buenos Aires - Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner - the country's most powerful politician along with his wife, current leader Cristina Fernandez - died suddenly Wednesday, the presidency said.
Kirchner had been ill in September, but was still a likely candidate in next year's presidential elections. He also served as secretary general of the South American alliance known as Unasur, as a congressman and as leader of the Peronist party.
The news shocked Argentines, who by law were staying at home Wednesday to be counted in the nation's census. Kirchner's supporters planned a mass gathering for Wednesday night outside the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace.
The leader of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, said Kirchner "gave his life for his country."
"Our country needed this man so much. He was indispensable," she told radio Continental.
Kirchner served as president from 2003-2007, bringing Argentina out of severe economic crisis and encouraging judicial changes that set in motion dozens of human rights trials involving hundreds of dictatorship-era figures who had previously benefited from an amnesty.
As secretary general of the Union of South American Republics, or Unasur, Kirchner mediated one of the many recent disputes between Venezuela and Colombia. Both countries' leaders mourned his loss on Wednesday.
"Oh my dear Cristina...how sad! What a huge loss suffered by Argentina and our America! May Kirchner live forever!" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asked for a moment of silence in Bogota in Kirchner's honor. "It's a great loss for Argentina and a great loss for the continent," he said, adding that he would try to reach Fernandez to share his condolences.
6) Afghan Aid Spent With Little Local Input, Audit Finds
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 10:49 PM
U.S. and other international development programs in a key Afghan province are "incoherent" and lack mechanisms to avoid wasteful overlap or to monitor their success, according to a new report by government auditors.
More than $100 million in U.S. aid to Nangahar province, an area in eastern Afghanistan often cited as a model for success elsewhere in the country, was spent in fiscal 2010 with little or no input from local officials, according to the audit by the congressionally mandated Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.
In its July quarterly report to Congress, SIGAR said it was "increasingly concerned" that the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan was impeded by lack of accountability and oversight, inadequate metrics and attention paid to sustainability of projects, and insufficient Afghan institution-building.
All of those concerns arose in the Nangahar audit. Afghanistan's second-largest revenue-producing province and the most densely populated, its capital city of Jalalabad sits astride the main highway between Kabul and Peshawar. Although security is said to have deteriorated over the past year, it is considered a relatively stable part of the country.
The province spends 85 percent of its $60 million operating budget on wages for government employees and about 4 percent on development projects. "The U.S. government and other donors fund most of the development in Nangahar," the SIGAR report said, "but do not track funds or coordinate provincial funding with other donors."
Major donors, including the United States and the United Nations, "do not routinely collect or disseminate detailed data," or separate what they are doing in Nangahar from countrywide expenditures. "As a result," the report said, "U.S. officials . . . do not have the information necessary to effectively monitor and evaluate USAID programs."
Information on projects funded by the Commander's Emergency Response Program, through which the U.S. military dispensed $58 million in development aid to Nangahar this year, and USAID, which spent about $42 million, is not reported to the Afghan government, it said.
The report said that the province lacks an overall development plan and that local officials have virtually no control over decisions on where donor money is spent. It is also critical of the government in Kabul, which it said controls all funding, appointments and contracting in Nangahar without local input. U.S. policy in Afghanistan calls for empowering government levels below Kabul, but "provincial officials are effectively disenfranchised" by the current system.
Despite U.S. rules requiring that projects be sustainable, the report said, "Nangahar's provincial officials cannot manage or maintain what they cannot see, and most of the externally funded U.S. and international development activities we identified . . . are implemented without the input or visibility of provincial officials." Nangahar officials, it said, "are severely limited in their ability to sustain U.S.-funded development projects."
7) U.S. Tries Restart of Talks With Iran
Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2010
Washington - The Obama administration is pushing to revive a failed deal for Iran to send some of its nuclear stockpile overseas in exchange for assistance with peaceful nuclear technology, according to senior U.S. officials. The aim is to try to reduce Tehran's ability to quickly produce an atomic weapon.
Washington and other Western capitals are hoping Tehran will return to the negotiating table because they believe a fresh round of international economic sanctions against Iran-put in place after the previous fuel-swap deal fell apart last year-has begun to bite hard.
The U.S. is accelerating its efforts to present Iran with a new offer as part of broader talks on Iran's nuclear program planned for Vienna next month, according to three officials briefed on the diplomacy. Such a meeting would mark the first direct negotiation between U.S. and Iranian officials on the nuclear issue in more than a year.
U.S. officials have been talking with allies about ways to expand the original fuel-swap deal to remove more of the stockpile, because Iran has been enriching more uranium since the previous talks broke down. Instead of 1,200 kilograms discussed then, Iran would need to agree to release or secure at least 50% more, or 1,800 kilograms, to stay below bomb-making levels, according to nuclear experts.
One idea the U.S. raised would send some of the stockpile overseas for eventual use in the Bushehr plant. But France rejected that idea because it risked legitimizing Iran's right to produce nuclear fuel, which the United Nations Security Council has opposed, spurring the sanctions. "We have to keep a focus on whether we're going to increase or diminish the pressure on Iran," said a European official briefed on the discussions.
U.S. officials said the current talks are focused on securing a much larger amount of Iran's nuclear-fuel stockpile. The U.S. also is seeking to build on the fuel-swap arrangement that Iran reached with Turkey and Brazil in May. That called for Iran to ship out 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium for conversion into fuel rods for the Tehran reactor, but didn't address U.S. fears about Iran enriching uranium further. "Any revised approach would have to address the deficiencies that the U.S. and other P5+1 countries have pointed out in the proposal made by Iran, Turkey, and Brazil in May," said a senior U.S. official involved in the diplomacy.
Other formulas continue to be discussed to secure a larger amount of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, according to the three officials briefed on the diplomacy. One would see a portion of Iran's low-enriched uranium stock, which is stored as a gas, converted into uranium oxide, a powder. Such a procedure could delay by months any Iranian effort to produce weapons-grade fuel, as the uranium oxide would have to be converted back into a gas.
The U.S. and its negotiating partners have also discussed allowing Iran to store its stockpile of low-enriched uranium in another country, such as Turkey. Tehran signed on to this provision in its May agreement with Turkey and Brazil. But the U.S. objected to Iran's ability to bring the nuclear fuel home without the approval of the IAEA or the international community.
The U.S. and its allies hope to meet with Iranian officials November 15-17 to discuss both the fuel-swap arrangement and broader international concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
8) Colombia Congress president backs drug legalization.
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Monday, 25 October 2010 21:36
Colombian Congress president Armando Benedetti says he is in favor of legalizing drugs, but adds Colombia should not take the lead in this because it would give the country a bad image.
"The problem is not whether or not to legalize the consumption and distribution of drugs, but the way the problem has been handled. The United States, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and Germany have changed the way to counter the consumption and we're still in the age of the caveman while we have suffered and paid for this war more than anyone," Benedetti told newspaper El Espectador.
"The drug problem is global. We have paid the highest costs. The highest investments have been made and they were for nothing. We continue to be an important producing and distributing country in the world, occupy the third place in Latin America with consumption, and it seems we have taken the wrong corrective measures to control consumption," the coalition politician said.
Benedetti has long supported moves to legalize drugs. "The fumigations didn't produce results and neither did Plan Colombia. I would be in favor of legalization. But we cannot say that. We would be the pariahs of the world," the senator told Colombia Reports a year ago.
Instead, Benedetti favors multilateral initiatives to legalize drugs, because "the problem is global and many countries are affected by the scourge of drugs," he told El Espectador.
The Congress president's position conflicts with that of President Juan Manuel Santos, who has called for a discussion on a "redesign" of the war on drugs if California decides to legalize marijuana in a referendum in November.
However in 1998 Santos, in his capacity as head of the Good Government Foundation, co-signed an open letter addressed to Kofi Annan, then-U.N. secretary general, calling for "a frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts," as "we believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."
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