for taking payoffs from drug smugglers, and a West Texas sheriff accused of skimming funds seized from alleged drug dealers. The gargantuan profits generated by the illegality shooting hasn’t put a dent in cocaine production in Bolivia and Colombia, while Peru’s has jumped substantially. This explains Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s maverick line throughout the proceedings. He dared to resist the U.S. demonizing of coca growers. “They are only peasants,” he told the press. Fujimori, whose country produces 60 percent of the world coca crop, rebuffed calls for unrealistic timetables for eliminating the drug trade, while holding out for more U.S. help in “alternative cropping.” Fujimori’s consistently humanistic tone, addressing the source of the drug trade, contrasted sharply with Bush’s and Martinez’s bellicose rhetoric. But as drug-war aid has soared since Cartagena, Bush has proposed cutting shipments of surplus food to the other summit nations by 600 percent next year. And U.S. drug-fighting efforts devote more than twice as much money to law enforcement as to the more -humane and effective strategies of treatment, rehabilitation and prevention. If the WOD isn’t reducing drug consumption or production, it’s certainly taking a toll on American citizens’ civil rights. Mr. Bush’s drug war is the greatest threat to American civil liberties since the McCarthy Era. Last year, the Pittsburgh Press ran an impressive 10-part series on abuses of so-called “civil forfeiture” laws that encourage lawenforcement agencies to impound property of drug suspects and keep it, even if the suspects are never charged with a crime, as is the case with 80 percent of the American families so victimized. Police agencies, which receive a cut of any profits generated from sale of impounded houses, cars, airplanes, etc., reaped a $2 billion windfall from these seizures \(which year. Police often extort “settlement” payments from innocent people who can’t afford to be without their homes or businesses for.the years it can take to retrieve their property through the courts. Rampant abuse of drug-dealer “profiles” that are so unspecific as to be worthless results in harassment of thousands of innocent people every year, as police appear especially to target minorities. Here in Austin, the Texas Civil Rights Project has filed suit on behalf of a man who was searched in the Austin airport, allegedly because he was black, carrying a briefcase and wearing an athletic sweatshirt. \(See “Presumed Guilty,” TO At the press conference, I asked Martinez whether he was concerned about all this. “[Forfeiture laws] are a very powerful tool against drug dealers,” he said, “and we fully support their use.” Another reporter noted that the American Friends Service Committee had just published a report documenting a burgeoning pattern of serious abuses of human rights along the southern U.S. border, stemming from the growing militarization of the area as part of the WOD. Beatings, shootings, sexual assaults, and at least seven questionable deaths have been attributed to the fu -epower and authority granted to Border Patrol officers and local authorities. Martinez dodged this question as well, insisting that U.S. policy intended to avoid violence. Yet drug dealers have responded in kind to the war metaphor, arming themselves \(thanks Since 1989, hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been quietly working in Central and South American countries to teach police how to bust drug suppliers. Even. more ominously, President Reagan’s 1986 drug-war legislation gave the Defense Department responsibility for Bath ‘ ering and sharing intelligence about drug trafficking on U.S. soil; unlike the FBI and CIA, its domestic policy is not subject to oversight by Congress. At the entrance to La Villita assembly hall, two uniformed San ‘Antonio police officers stood in front of the six-foot tall-sign emblazoned with the five-leafed cannabis plant and the words “Drug Peace Summit.” The alternative summit was held across the street from the “real” thing and sponsored by the National Organization for Reform ed by representatives of a dozen or more prolegalization groups from around the nation. The cops were relaxed and smiling; there would be no trouble here. \(I only saw one person actuInside, the multicolored light bulbs in the ceiling, the long hair and beards on many of the the abundance of tie-dyed clothing, and tables offering prolegalization information, copies of High Times magazine, and clothing made ed to the ’60s-flashback atmosphere of the alternative summit. A couple of giant U.S. flags, posters \(“Hemp for fiber”; “Release POWs of Nelson hemp video decorated the walls. The scent of incense wafted from one side of the room. “As I speak to you here today, your mind is being altered,” declared Eric Sterling from the rostrum, noting that the brain’ is chemically changed when new information is absorbed and processed. Sterling, who wrote many of the WOD laws during his 1979-89 tenure as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, compared use of perception-altering substances to reading of poetry or journalism, or listening to music or viewing art, and said that the First Amendment should protect Americans’ right to receive and interpret information change their brain chemistry as long as it didn’t hurt anyone else. He noted the irony that a summit dedicated to terrorizing and punishing those who would expand their consciousnesses was being held in San Antonio, just yards from one of the most famous memorials to liberty in the Western Hemisphere. “The men at the Alamo fought for the freedom to make up your own mind,” he said. Sterling, now president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C., pointed out a number of facts that reveal the futility of the WOD strategy: cocaine production up 77 percent since 1988, according to DEA figures; reports of increased human rights abuses by the Peruvian and Colombian armies \(and transferred from American citizens to South American drug lords, and so on. “We don’t have a drug problem,” Sterling said, “We have a pain problem.” He urged governments to abandon the expensive, wasteful war on drugs and to devote those resources to addressing the causes of the pain hunger, poverty, alienation. “Let’s take this billion-dollar business out of the hands of the racketeers and bring it into the hands of honest and peaceful citizens like us,” he said, urging the government to legalize and tax the bountiful crop of imported and home-grown plants and use the money to pay for treatment programs. Unfortunately, for all Sterling’s cogent arguments, too few heard him. Because the Drug Peace Summit, as well as the Hemp Summit held the next day in Brackenridge Park by the same groups, turned out to be the other major drug busts in San Antonio last month. The paucity of reporting opportunities at the official sumMit supplied a splendid opportunity for the anti-drug-war forces to present their message to the public. But though a couple of TV and print reporters produced a few “Gee, aren’t they quaint?” stories, the main message that legalization and treatment are the only rational, solutions to drug problems never really escaped the confines of La Villita. Only about 150 curious locals \(less than a tenth of the number were no public events at the main summit to draw onlookers to the area, the small numbers weren’t surprising. Too bad, because the proportion of useful the unofficial summits was exactly the inverse of those at the real shindig. Though nothing seemed to occur as scheduled, and the image of many of those attending probably would instantly put off most straight people, much of their message was compelling. The Drug Peace Summit was dedicated to the memory of Annie Ray Dixon, a 94-year old woman shot by police during a drug raid in Kilgore in January, a mistaken bust in which no drugs were seized. According to the Longview News, the cops called Dixon’s death a “tragic accident” in which the dead woman wasn’t even a subject of investigation. Loey Glover of the militant Green Panthers \(“We’re sort of the Earth First of the hemp ominous portents for civil liberties in the militarization and politicization of the WOD, and described some civil disobedience strategies for opposing it. Sterling gave a disturbing, firsthand account of the creation of current drug policy in Congress, recalling how, in their avidity to proclaim themselves tougher on crime, Democrats and Republicans engaged in a bidding war to boost sentences and limit the rights of the accused. 14 MARCH 27, 1992
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.