The United States government is "committed" to "dismantle" Colombia's remaining significant guerrilla group, the Popular Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said Aug. 8. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation "to fight narco-terrorism," as Terwilliger put it in a tweet. Terwilliger said the Colombian government "counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN." The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque's predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago.
Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia's capital between rival factions of one of the country's coca-grower unions, which oversee sales to the legal market. Clashes broke out in early August between two factions of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA)—one loyal to President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the other to imprisoned union leader Franklin Gutiérrez. The former group staged "parallel" elections for new union leaders in late July, but the latter refuses to recognize the poll, and continues to demand the release of Gutiérrez and other imprisoned unionists. The first clashes on Aug. 2 came as MAS supporters besieged the ADEPCOCA headquarters in the Villa Fátima district of La Paz, demanding that the Gutiérrez supporters surrender the offices.
The Supreme Court on July 26 reversed a lower court decision that blocked President Trump from using $2.5 billion from military accounts to build a portion of his pledged border wall. The order lifts an injunction from a federal judge in a case brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition challenging Trump's February declaration of a national emergency to access more than $8 billion to build the wall. US District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Northern California issued the permanent injunction blocking the administration from accessing $2.5 billion in diverted military funds, finding that construction would cause "irreparable harm" to the challengers' interests at the border. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month declined to lift that injunction. The Supreme Court's conservative majority found that the administration had "made a sufficient showing at this stage" that the challengers do not have standing to block the diversion of the funds.
Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International are accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of "crimes against humanity" in his "war on drugs," and calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate. The statement from the rights experts, issued by the UN Office on Human Rights last month, noted the "staggering number" of unlawful killings in the context of the "drug war." Then, on July 8, Amnesty issued its report, "'They Just Kill': Ongoing Extrajudicial Executions and Other Violations in the Philippines' 'war on drugs'." The report charges that rights violations in the Philippines have "reached the threshold of crimes against humanity." It called the supposed anti-drug campaign a "government-orchestrated attack against poor people." On July 11, the UN Human Rights Council approved an Iceland-drafted resolution calling on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to launch a "comprehensive" investigation into the situation in the Philippines. Duterte responded by threatening to break diploamtic relations with Iceland.
In Episode 35 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Emily Ramos, Pilar DeJesus and Kara Bhatti, members of the worker-owned marijuana consumer cooperative High Mi Madre, on their lobbying and activist efforts in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, still pending in the final countdown to the close of the current New York State legislative session. They especially emphasize the demand for "Day One Equity" with cannabis legalization in the Empire State—measures for reparative justice and reinvestment in the communities that had for generations been criminalized and oppressed by cannabis prohibition. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Mexico's new populist president announced that he is dropping out of the regional US-led drug enforcement pact, and will be turning down the aid package offered through the program. Instead, he is proposing a dialogue with Washington on across-the-board drug decriminalization in both nations. And Mexican lawmakers say they will pass a cannabis legalization bill by the end of the year.
A federal judge on May 24 blocked construction of Donald Trump's border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a "national emergency" to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money, largely from the US military, likely oversteps a president's statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. Gilliam quoted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who said in a TV interview the wall "is going to get built, with or without Congress." The judge said presidential action "without Congress," when legislators refuse a funding request from the White House, "does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic."
Despite his boast to have "ended" the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug "National Guard" drawing from the military and police forces. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.