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Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.

Drug War Follies - Skunk Magazine Issue #12

Mexico’s President Vincente Fox had George Bush in a hammerlock and was moving in for the kill. Bush was pleading for mercy. And then, inexplicably, Fox let him go and got pinned like a bitch in heat. Ain’t love, power and the hope of a good job after your term as president is over grand?

by Peter Gorman

This one is for all the leaders of all the countries that have been bullied by US administrations into adopting policies they knew were bad for their people just to stay on our good side. Chickenshits, all. Take a lesson from Chavez and Morales and remember where your balls are and what they’re supposed to stand for.

In the period of one week that spanned the end of April and the beginning of May, Mexico’s Vincente Fox waffled no less than four times on an issue that was minor in and of itself but which would have had major repercussions for the Drug War in both Mexico and the US—and possibly moved Canada to inch along the fence toward reasonableness as well.
At Fox’s urging, the Mexican Congress developed a bill that would have decriminalized small amounts of drugs—from heroin to cocaine, ecstasy, pot, meth, shrooms and even LSD. It would have also changed the way drug law is enforced in Mexico, in that while currently only the Federal police make drug arrests, local police would have been given a similar authority. (Both groups are generally the source of drugs as well, but that’s for another column.)
In theory, Mexico’s jails, as cluttered as those in the US are with small time drug users, would have been relieved of that burden and users would have been allowed to get on with their lives as productive citizens without jail-interruptus as a constant threat.
The bill passed easily and with little fanfare in late April and Fox was set to sign it in the opening days of May. But the Bush administration, operating at Drug War fanatacism speed, had meetings with high level Fox administration officials within hours of its passage. One can only imagine what went on in them, from gnashing of teeth over undermining the US’s Drug War position to threats of never permitting another Mexican worker to cross the border in search of a $4-buck-an-hour seasonal gig. And just maybe there was a reminder to Fox that his term is up in September and as he can’t run again—a Mexican Constitutional thing—he will essentially be out of work. And being an out-of-work, ex-Third World president who left as an ally of the US is a whole lot better position to be in than being an out-of-work, ex-Third World president who stabbed George Bush in the heart on the Drug War issue just months before his term expired.
Initially it looked as though Fox was going to go with his guts on this one despite the desperate efforts of Bush’s lackeys. As late as Tuesday, May 2, Fox’s spokesman Ruben Aguilar said the legislation would be signed by Fox immediately. But then on Wednesday, May 3, Fox decided he’d need to send the bill back for revisons, and on Thursday, May 4 he’d decided it was something he needed to consider further altogether.
Bush administration officials lauded Fox and claimed his change of heart had nothing to do with US pressure. According to Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, “This was Fox’s decision, 100%. He showed strong leadership.”
In fact, he bent over for the soap. Too bad. I would have liked being able to drive over the Eagle’s Pass border crossing to cop a little dope every once in a while. So would a lot of us down here in Texas. Would have been good for border tourism. Might have even given the Canadian leadership the nudge it needs to begin shaking off the shackles of the US drug war so that it can develop its own policies. Might have gotten some reasonable dialogue going.
Of course it occurs to this writer that the whole thing might have been staged. Fox is crafty, after all. Always has been. The law wouldn’t have changed much in actuality, as the Mexican courts already have the leeway to forgive personal amounts of drugs to those who admit they’re dependent on them. So Maybe Fox pushed for this change—which specified amounts of different drugs people could have—knowing that the US would go into a hissy fit about potential drug tourism. And they did: Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotic Officers' Associations' Coalition, was quoted in USA Today as saying the bill “makes drugs more available to any vacationer to Mexico. Your kid goes down to party for a few days over spring break and comes back strung out.”
Ridiculous rhetoric, but what if Fox knew that was coming, and knew the threats would be coming as well. He couldn’t really care, as he’s out of office soon. So maybe he was just looking for a promise that he’ll be taken care of for the rest of his life in splendor—a member of major international corporation boards, an elder statesman, an old soldier well taken care of.
If that’s what this is about, then Fox played the game perfectly. But I suspect he just squealed when he heard the US roar.
During the same week that Fox was waffling before collapsing, Bolivia’s new pres, Evo Morales—whom Bush officials simply have to be referring to as Evil Morales—showed that he knows what his people need and isn’t afraid to go get it. His two primary campaign promises included legalizing coca for industrial uses—and the US be damned, and nationalizing the country’s energy resources. The coca legalization promise was kept almost immediately on his assuming office earlier this year. If you can show that the coca you’re growing is going to be used for religious, personal or industrial uses—in other words if you’re not caught selling it to the Colombian paramilitaries—you can grow as much as you want.
But no one really expected Morales to go through with nationalizing the country’s energy reserves. The man surprised a lot of people when on May 1, his 100th day in office, he didn’t just announce the nationalization of the country’s oil, natural gas and coal reserves, he did it with a flair that would make a drag-queen proud. He delivered the nationalization decree from the San Alberto gas field backed by military bands while military units, accompanied by teams of engineers occupied a total of 56 natural gas fields across the country.
Morales’ plan calls for substantial hikes in the royalties received from the companies (Spain’s Repsol-YPF, British Gas, British Petroleum, France’s Total and Exxon-Mobil among others) currently controlling the industry and gives those companies six months to sign new agreements in accordance with the decree or be kicked out of the country.
Whether you like him or not, you’ve got to admit that man knows where to find the jewels and he carries around a brass pair of them.
And while we’re on the subject of Central/South America, a new study by the US government on the success of the Plan Colombia coca-eradication program indicates that coca production has continued to rise despite millions of gallons of glyphosate having been sprayed all over Colombia’s southern jungles in the past several years. According to the study, there is more acreage under coca cultivation now than there was before spraying started in earnest in 2000. The US Drug Czar’s office, in reporting on the increase, suggested that “The higher cultivation figure in this year’s estimate does not necessarily mean that coca cultivation increased…but rather reflects an improved understanding of where coca is now growing in Colombia.” And then the office pronounced Plan Colombia a success.
Yeah. Uh, right.
Anybody got a joint? My stomach’s not feeling so good.

It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.