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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 #8
Chavez flexes and the US blinks, with a short history lesson in US politics. Meanwhile, the US once again hits record highs for marijuana arrests and incarceration rates. Let’s see you beat that, Canada! Hooray! We’re number one! We’re number one! We’re number one!

by Peter Gorman

Last September, in a move seen coming from a country mile, the US decertified Venezuela—that pesky oil producing South American country with the beautiful dark-skinned women and that leftist bastard Hugo Chavez at the helm—as an ally in the war against drugs. Venezuela was one of two countries so-honored by the US this year, the other being Myanmar—formerly Burma and the home of the opium producing warlord Khun Sa who came in so handy during the Vietnam war working in concert with Air America. Well, Khun Sa retired in 1996 or so, leaving his business to his son and Richard Armitage, former Asst Secretary of Defense under Reagan (remember the cocaine-contra’s thing?) and the current Assistant Secretary of State. Armitage has also long been a pointman in covert-ops and an assassination specialist--always a man to count on when you need to eliminate someone and have to produce some instant monies with which to do it. Not that anyone would believe me, of course.

Well, Chavez, frequently at odds with the US, told reporters in early August that he was going to boot the US Drug Enforcement Administration from Venezuela because
“The DEA was using the fight against drug trafficking as a mask, to support drug trafficking and to carry out intelligence in Venezuela against the government. We have detected intelligence infiltration that threatened national security and defense.”
Many dismissed Chavez’ claims as those of a raving lunatic, but anyone with
experience in the Third World knows that DEA in foreign countries are frequently undercover CIA or National Securrity operatives. And that some DEA might be involved in the movement of drugs…well, let’s just say that in my experience in owning a bar on the Amazon river in Peru, I came to discover that nearly every DEA boy down there was down there because they’d fucked up in the US. Not enough to go to jail, but enough to warrant sending them to a third world location for a little reorienting. Some of those fuckups involved the overuse of force; others were tampering with evidence or maybe undercover buying and selling a few more kilos of drugs than they could account for. When I was serving them beer they were a pretty good crowd, but even they’d admit you shouldn’t turn your back when they were around. So the notion that guys who’d already fucked up with drugs or power might do it again, particularly in a third world country where they have very little oversite, isn’t a stretch.
Nonetheless, the US took umbrage at Chavez’ disparaging our undercover dopers and threatened decertification, and the US Embassy in Caracas made a statement that said, in part: “As we have repeatedly stated in the past, the only people who win from a lack of cooperation between our governments on this issue are the drug traffickers and their allies.”
Now relations between the two countries are already strained: Bush despises Chavez’ left-wing, anti-imperialist politics. He hates that Chavez has been promoting Marcorsur, the South American continents’ free trade zone over his own Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. He also hates that there are already several socialist governments in South America—including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and that two more, Bolivia and Mexico will probably be elected soon, and sees Chavez as the head of a huge anti-US, socialist leaning hemispheric bloc.
Chavez doesn’t like Bush’s version of the US any better. He sees the FTAA being pushed down South American throats for the purpose of US exploitation of the southern hemisphere’s natural wealth and cheap labor force. He doesn’t go for globalization, doesn’t like being told what to do in his own country. He certainly didn’t like the Bush administration’s involvement in the 2002 failed coup attempt against him. He doesn’t like much of anything about the US. In a recent speech he put it this way: “Socialism is the only path to save a world threatened by the voracity of US imperialism.”
It’s the sort of stuff that drives Bush insane.
Well, Chavez didn’t like the implications of the US Embassy’s note suggesting that he was an ally of drug traffickers, and turned up the heat on talks with China about selling the Asian giant some of its fine light crude. The US then retaliated by revoking the US visas of six Venezuelan military officers it claims are involved in drug trafficking, including the visa of General Frank Morado, Venezuela’s top anti-drug cop. “We only do this [revoke visas] when there is solid evidence that somebody has been involved in these activities,” said a US State Department official anonymously, adding salt to Chavez’ wound.
And then the US decertified, claiming—without hard evidence—that about 300 tons of cocaine pass through Venezuela from Colombia enroute to Mexico annually, and that arms and cash flow back the other way to Colombia. At the same time, however, the State Department’s International Narcotics and Control Strategy Report for 2005 says of Venezuela: “Cocaine seizures during the first six months of 2004 equaled the amount seized in Venezuela during all of 2003, thanks in large part to two multi-ton seizures made by the Venezuelan task forces that worked closely with the US government and UK law enforcement…These unites continue to be very successful, not only in seizing multi-ton loads of cocaine but also in breaking apart the organizations that traffic drugs in and through Venezuela.”
Thus far this year Venezuela’s seizures have improved even over that glowing report.
Bush wasn’t dumb enough to impose all the normal business sanctions that generally go with decertification, however, given that we depend on Venezuela’s sweet crude to keep our Hummers humming. He also declared that anyone contributing monies to agencies that further democracy in Venezuela can continue to send funds. Those, however, are primarily agencies looking to oust Chavez, some legally, some via coup.
Chavez sees all of this as possibly leading to a US invasion of Venezuela. He even recently said “If someday they [the US] get the crazy idea of coming to invade us, we’ll make them bite the dust defending the freedom of our land.”
Poncho Villa couldn’t have said it better, even while toking a little mota.
So keep your eyes and ears open for sudden reports of Venezuela having Weapons of Mass Destruction. Or better yet, keep track of Richard Armitage to see if he decides to vacation in Chavezland.
Wouldn’t be the first time.

Alrighty then, enough fuggin history for one day. Let’s turn to politics. This is tasty:
A report released by the FBI on October 17, 2005 revealed that marijuana arrests in the US had reached a single-year all-time high in 2004. A total of 771,605 smokers, tokers and midnite jokers felt the cuffs last year, and 700,000 of them were for possession alone, not manufacture or distribution.
At the same time, at the end of 2004 more than 500,000 people were wasting away in US state and federal prisons—with an estimated 200,000 more in local jails—behind drug charges. Drug war prisoners, the vast majority of whom are non-violent, actually make up about 25% of an all-time US prison population high of 2,268,000. That comes to 724 out of every 100,000 in the population, making us the number one incarcerator in the world again. Our closest competitor is Russia, with 638 per 100,000. Put in perspective, of the 9 million people in prison worldwide, the US has nearly one-fourth of them. Doesn’t it make you US Skunk readers feel safer at night knowing that all those dope smokers, caine snorters and speedfreaks are locked up? And doesn’t it make you Canadian Skunk readers glad you live in Canada?
. So here we are. 771,605 pot smokers arrested last year. Nearly the same the year before that. And the year before that. That number has been creeping up every year for more than 15 years! What are we gonna do about that? See the problem is that smoking dope makes you a little more compassionate, a little more forgiving. Makes you appreciate nature a bit more. So what we have are more than 100,000,000 people who have smoked dope in the US and Canada combined who are compassionate, forgiving tree-huggers. But do we have 10,000,000 who also have balls? Cause here in Texas, and probably in Montreal, animals that allow people to round them up and put them in cages are called sheep. Sheep who forgive their masters and allow themselves to be penned in and locked up and still keep making them fucking wool!
Well I would like to see a few million of you sheep show your horns. Start butting heads. Not one by one, but a million at a time. If the National Rifle Assoiciation with its lousy 2 million members can call the shots all the way up the chain of command, so can you. Fellas and gals and the rest of you sheep it’s time to say we don’t want to be put in prison any more by beer drinking slobs and their church lady, holier-than-thou wives. Time to be a movement of compassionate forgiving nature loving dope smoking activists and kick some ass. Time for someone other than Marc Emery or Dennis Peron or Jack Herer or the other regulars to start organizing things. We’ve done the education. We’ve got the cops on our side. We’ve got the doctors on our side. We’ve even got half the goddam federal judges in the US on our side. And we’ve got half the adult population of both the US and Canada as dope smokers and maybe a quarter of those as regular dope smokers. So why are we still letting someone else call the shots? Why are we still letting them put our brothers and sisters in prisons? Why don’t we just call a halt to it so that next year there won’t be a new highest number of pot smokers arrested.
Unless y’all like being sheep.
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.