Central America: UNASUR secretary general deems war on drugs a ‘failure’
UNASUR secretary general deems war on drugs a ‘failure’, as Nicaraguan Contras leader Adolfo Calero dies age 80.
UNASUR secretary general deems war on drugs a ‘failure’
‘The war on drugs has failed,’ the secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) María Emma Mejía put it bluntly in an interview to Efe this past Friday. ‘Drug trafficking is something which requires more than a war to be solved,’ the secretary general added.
The former Colombian Foreign Minister, who will leave her post as secretary general on 11 June, called for ‘new ideas’ in the global policy arena which she claims are pivotal to furthering a new approach to the issue.
‘It’s a problem which is not solely Colombia’s anymore, or Colombia’s, Peru’s and Bolivia’s, all of which are producing and consuming, or Ecuador’s, where there is now poppy and marijuana production,’ said Mejía.
With clear calls for Western co-responsibility, Mejía echoed a discourse pursued by several Latin American leaders during the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York last September.
‘It’s like a plague, it’s something which corrupts, which damages our democratic institutions, wiping out generations, and we have to address it internationally because there are consumer countries that must share the responsibility,’ she added.
However, Mejía fell short of following the Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina’s calls for drug legalization at this year’s sixth Summit of the Americas, saying that she remained skeptical ‘that simply legalizing [illicit drugs] will eliminate the smuggling and crime factors linked to that problem’.
The U.S. remains the world’s largest consumer of illicit drugs, a fact acknowledged by U.S. President Barack Obama during a White House Summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April.
In the Illicit Drugs section of the CIA’s World Factbook, the U.S. is described as being the world’s top consumer of Colombian cocaine and heroin, as well as Mexican heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine.
Nicaraguan Contras leader Adolfo Calero dies age 80
In other news, following the death of Sandinista founder Tomás Borge, 81, in early May, this week was the turn of Sandinista archrival Adolfo Calero, former leader of the Nicaraguan Contras, who died Saturday age 80 from pneumonia in the capital city of Managua.
Calero led the largest force of U.S.-backed rebels (22,000 men at its height) against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the bloody armed conflict which ravaged the country in the 1980s.
As the leader of the largest Contra group, the Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force – FDN), he was a key figure in pressuring the Marxist Sandinistas to accept the democratic elections which pushed them from power in 1990.
After being educated at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, U.S. during the 1950’s, an experience which he described as having awakened the value of ‘freedom’ in him, Calero said he returned to his country as a ‘knight in democratic armour’.
‘When Somoza was driven from our country , we had a right to expect that our dreams of democracy would be fulfilled. Instead, we got the Soviet totalitarian regime, an oppressive dictatorship operated by the Soviet Union and its proxy, Cuba,’ he famously said.
The statement above bears striking similarities with a famous speech by U.S. President Ronald Reagan a few years after the fall of the Somoza dictatorship, in which he said that the Nicaraguan Contras saw their ‘dream of freedom trampled’ by a ‘totalitarian, Marxist-Leninist dictatorship’.
Concurrently, it comes as no surprise that Calero was the U.S.’ key contact during the Iran-Contras fiasco, when the Reagan administration attempted to continue funding the rebels by selling weapons to Iran as a means to bypass the U.S. Congress’ prohibition.
Calero denied knowing that any funds donated to the rebels had come from the Iranian weapons sales.
However, at a U.S. Congressional hearing in 1987 he acknowledged that three former U.S. military officers had helped the Contras buy more than US$18m in military equipment at a time when direct U.S. arms aid was suspended. Another US$14m in donations were used to buy food, clothing and other supplies, he said.
In 1987, a 170-page human rights report from Americas Watch focused on violations and crimes perpetrated both by the Nicaraguan government and the rebels, but implied that the Contras – which Reagan once compared to the Founding Fathers of his homeland – were the bloodiest.
‘The conduct of the military conflict, particularly by the insurgent forces, continued to have a severe impact on rural civilians,’ the report said. ‘They still engage in selective but systematic killings of persons they perceive as representing the Government, in indiscriminate attacks against civilians or in disregard for their safety, and in outrages against the personal dignity of prisoners.’
In 1986 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the U.S. were guilty of violating international law when supporting the Contras and determined that Nicaragua be compensated (see Summary of Judgement).
However, the U.S. blocked the enforcement of the court’s decision by the United Nations Security Council.