Because of the US drug war, South America is fraught with human rights abuses, malnutrition, poverty and disease. Peasant farmers are casually slaughtered in drug-war aggressions. Last December, twenty-seven civilians were killed in a Columbian village when the local military used US-donated “warplanes and rockets” that were given to Columbia on the pretence of being strictly for use in anti-drug operations.1
Hundreds of thousands more have been killed in politically similar conflicts ? with varying degrees of US involvement ? over the last few decades. According to the New York Times, over 35,000 people have been killed in drug-war atrocities in Columbia since 1990.2 Many of those that have been killed live in low-income farming communities and/or are indigenous peoples.
The war on marijuana and coca farmers in South America is sponsored by the US government, the UN, international banks and multinational corporations. With interests in maintaining the status quo, these international organizations suppress the truth about natural herbs (especially popular ones like cannabis, coca and poppies), while supporting military aggressions that turn third-world villages into slaughter houses.
International agreements like the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances (COPS) exist because prohibition is in the best interests of multinational corporations.
Key to an examination of corporate interests in prohibition is the concept of the natural economy versus the assembly line, chemically contrived, genetically altered “synthetic economy.” Generally speaking, a natural economy is based on products that individuals can get from the earth themselves, products that the earth provides free of charge. Goods produced by a natural economy are unpatented, available from a number of sources, and usually suppressed by corporate-interest groups.
Products produced by the synthetic economy are characteristically patented, tightly controlled, and distributed from a central, corporate source. It is in the nature of large multinational corporations to centralize the source of goods into fewer hands. Centralized economies mean centralized wealth.
The supplanting of the blossoming cannabis economy by the synthetic and patented petroleum economy during the 1930s is a perfect example of this dichotomy in action.
For multinational corporations, the US war on drugs in South America is a subterfuge designed to destroy natural economies, based on marijuana and coca production. When natural economies are destroyed, economically-shattered third-world countries are helpless against the demands of foreign bodies, which act on behalf of multinational corporations, to implement what is euphemistically called “free trade.”
Free trade then opens markets to corporations to sell their patented, synthetically-produced or altered foods and medicines, despite public concern for the widespread health problems associated with such products. Free trade also opens the door to numerous human-rights abuses, as third-world citizens then have no choice but to work for pennies per hour in heavily-polluting factories with substandard conditions (known in Mexico as “maquiladoras”). These factories are built by other branches of the same multinational corporations.3
Life expectancy drops dramatically for people in regions that have been invaded by the multinationals, and birth defects proliferate. According to official reports, the heavily-polluted Mexican “maquiladoras zone” is breeding a generation of mentally-disabled infants, addled by malnutrition and disease, subject to highly increased rates of mental defects4 ? perfect drone workers, destined to fill the assembly lines.
For people working in such factories, and for North Americans who might someday work by their sides, the term “Free Trade” is government doublespeak for corporate enslavement. While “freeing” markets for corporate domination, so-called free trade suppresses what is left of battered natural economies. Suppressing health food and herbs is a part of the corporate assault on natural economies, and is an integral element of free-trade talks worldwide.
In such a context, the incestuous US military/industrial complex should perhaps be called the drug war/free trade complex. Or, to put it more succinctly, the drug war in South America is really a trade war.
Centralization of power
The present-day relationship between free trade and the drug war took much of its shape in the period following the two world wars. The world wars were followed by periods of political interest in global governance and centralization of power.
The first secretive governmental organizations with strong links to industry and agendas to organize foreign policy with little to no public input were created after WWI. The Royal Institute of International Affairs was created in Britain in 1920, by Cecil Rhodes. The American counterpart, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), was formed in 1921. After WWII, the centralization of power intensified and shifted partly to the public arena.
A host of undemocratic world-governance organizations sprang up during the decade following the second world war. They included the UN with its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)6 in Paris, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank, to name but a few. From the beginning, free trade was an important item on the agendas of these organizations.
Pharmaceutical industries were the first corporations to get a piece of the world-governance/free trade pie. In 1959, they formed the “Pharmaceutical Industries’ Association in the European Free Trade Area”, which in 1968 joined with similar groups in North America to become the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations (IFPMA).
The UN quickly welcomed IFPMA into both ECOSOC and the World Health Organization, despite protest from the WHO Standing Committee on non-governmental organizations.5
Since the admittance of IFPMA, the directions of WHO and ECOSOC have largely reflected the interests of multinational pharmaceutical corporations, manifesting itself as enthusiastic participation in the drug war and unqualified support of free trade.
An examination of the UN, the OAS, the World Bank, and the IMF, reveals an institutionalized relationship between the drug war and free trade, which manifests itself as poverty, starvation and degradation of peoples in South America. As the only legal drug dealers, pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in suppressing natural, alternative medicines like marijuana.
Healthy world multinationals
On February 9, 1998, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was forced to discontinue negotiations of the world-wide free-trade agreement known as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), in the face of immense public pressure. The press reported a victory for the public, but behind closed doors, the plans to implement global free trade continued. Meanwhile, plans to press forward with the international drug war were never interrupted.
The OECD has the continued support of the UN. The UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has become the primary UN agency for the promotion and coordination of free-trade and drug-war activity.7 Together with WHO, ECOSOC is responsible for electing the 13 members of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
According to the UN, “the INCB is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions.”8 These include the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (COPS) of 1971, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988).
The UN’s World Health Organization’s policy experts sell the drug war by claiming that drug production cripples the third world, creating “false economies.” The implication of the term “false economy,” as used by the WHO, is that such economies are temporary, hinder the development of “real economies” (by which they mean synthetic economies based on free trade), and lead to poverty and disease.
Despite the World Health Organization’s deceitful labeling of natural economies as “temporary,” and synthetic economies as “real”, the organization makes some good points. Indeed, the natural economies of coca and marijuana are temporary in that they are subject to massive military suppression, and replacement by the synthetic economies of patentable goods promoted by multinational corporations.
And who can argue that the marijuana and coca economies are not a threat to the agendas of multinational corporations? Why would people work in a heavily polluting factory for pennies an hour while their family starves when they could grow a little marijuana or coca and live prosperously? Why would anyone buy a pharmaceutical glaucoma medicine with long-term side-effects like blindness when he could smoke marijuana and see the light?
Other claims made by the World Health Organization are pure fiction, particularly their claim that marijuana and coca production lead to poverty and disease. In 1995, the WHO was caught suppressing information that marijuana was less harmful than coffee or cigarettes, perhaps the least harmful herbal medicine known to humankind. Ethan Nadelmann of the Lindesmith Centre, a harm-reduction organization, recently revealed that the UN has been suppressing information about coca and cocaine, as well.
“In early 1995 the State Department successfully pressured the World Health Organization to scuttle the release of a report it had commissioned from a panel that included many of the world’s leading experts on cocaine,” writes Nadelmann. “The report included the scientifically incontrovertible observations that traditional coca leaf in the Andes causes little harm to users and that most consumers of cocaine use the drug in moderation with few detrimental effects.”
The suppression of such information about marijuana and coca relates directly to the US drug war in the region of South America, as South America is both the world’s supplier of coca, and the largest supplier of outdoor marijuana to the US. Continued demonization of these euphorics is required for continued legitimization of the drug war, specifically in that region.
The UN has also been clumsy with the lie that marijuana and coca production leads to poverty. The World Health Organization’s ally in drug-war tongue wagging is the newly created UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP), allied to the World Health
Organization through a joint program called the “Global Initiatives on the Primary Prevention of Substance Abuse.”
In 1997, Pino Arlacchi, the new head of the UNDCP, commented on the “economic cost of drug abuse in OECD countries,” which includes Canada, the US, Japan, and most of Europe. Among the evils Arlacchi listed were “increased investment in real estate, construction and the entertainment industry.” According to Arlacchi, signs that a country’s economy may be damaged by drug production include a proliferation of luxury items such as “yachts, villas and flashy cars?.” The fact that flashy cars are hardly a sign of poverty seems lost on UN mouthpieces like Arlacchi.
Shirley Hall, US representative to the newly created UNDCP, illustrated the US’s interests in the South American drug war and its relationship to free trade, with a statement she made at a 1997 UNDCP general meeting.
“International drug cartels have become an international security threat,” she bawled. “A new security strategy is needed to move against the threats of the new global era. The gains of democracy and free markets have to be secured and strengthened.”
Free trade of the Americas
When the MAI failed to hatch an era of world-wide free trade, the rotten egg was quietly rolled to other organizations, including the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is the oldest multinational organization in the world, and dates back to the First International Conference of American States, which took place in Washington, DC, between 1889 and 1890. Representing all North and South American countries (35 in total), including Canada, the US, Mexico and Columbia, its continued success is evidence of historical US dominance of the continent.
The OAS coordinates its free-trade and drug-war activities at the Summit of the Americas: meetings where the leaders of all North and South American countries gather to share information and receive orders. In 1998, shortly after the failure of MAI, the media briefly announced that negotiations had begun at the Summit of the Americas to create a $10-trillion free-trade zone,
stretching from Canada to Argentina. This free-trade zone is to be known as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, made a telling remark after the meeting, stating that the FTAA would “curb the scourge of illegal drugs.”
“We want to work in very close collaboration to make sure that the production and the consumption of drugs will go down in all parts of the Americas because it is a disease that is hurting a lot of people,” said Chretien after the Summit.
Chretien’s comment not only reveals the intimate relationship between free trade and the drug war in the actions of our world leaders. Chretien’s thoughtless echoing of WHO propaganda, his characterization of euphoric substances as a “disease”, also points to a high-level policy consensus on how the South American drug war should be marketed to the public.
With close ties to the UN, the Organization of American States is extremely active not only in free trade promotion, but also in the drug war. The OAS even has its own drug-war organ known as the “Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission”, which works actively to coordinate drug-war policy in South America, extracting promises of compliance to the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances (COPS) from its various member countries. The OAS also has its own bank, created in 1958, known as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The IDB is instrumental in promoting the free-trade end of the OAS’ drug war policies.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas has three ruling members. The OAS is one; the Inter-American Development Bank is the second; and the third is the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). ECLAC was founded by the UN’s free-trade/drug war arm, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), immediately after WWII, in 1948, and promotes ECOSOC agendas at the South American level.
Banking on oppression
The Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are the “loan-sharks” of what amounts to a well-organized corporate mob: it is their job to leverage compliance through indebtedness. Dressed-up as banks, they carry the firearms of human rights violations and economic disaster tucked away in hidden holsters. Like the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and IMF have close ties to the UN.
Since the 80’s, these organizations, along with various private American banks, have made loans, rescheduled loans, and provided new loans to cover interest on old loans to South American countries ruined by the drug war. The catch? Countries receiving such assistance must promise to implement free-trade style economic reforms. Free-trade reforms ? sometimes called “austerity programs,” sometimes called “structural adjustment programs” ? include reducing wages to already poverty-stricken workers, devaluing local currency against the US dollar, privatizing state enterprises, and removing laws that protect labour, the environment, and natural resources.9
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) also coordinates what they themselves call “involuntary resettlement” programs, for South American small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples who get in the way of corporate projects, funded by IDB “multilateral and global” loans, and designed to exploit drug-war shattered economies in the newly-created environment of free trade.
“Involuntary resettlement” is a term loaded with historical horror, used by Nazis in WWII to describe the wholesale rounding up and execution of Jews under the public pretence that they were being “moved elsewhere.” Indeed, the wholesale slaughter of peasants in South America has become common in the drug war era.
The IDB keeps some startling figures on the outcomes of their resettlement projects in South America:
“Since 1970, at least 120 Bank projects have involved or are expected to involve involuntary resettlement. ? Information on the number of people affected is available for 75 of these projects, involving a total of over 650,000 people, of whom some 480,000 are affected by the projects presently in execution.”10
The IDB also estimates that the number of people involved may actually be much higher. In over half of the completed resettlement projects, the resettled community wasn’t given any notice of the coming corporate storm. They were simply lifted from their homes by corporate thugs and thrown out onto the streets. Their homes were likely bulldozed or burned to the ground to make way for corporate development. Of the 75 projects tracked by the IDB, the impact of resettlement was only documented in 23. Of those 23, only 5 were described by the bank’s own agents as having a “satisfactory” outcome for the peoples involved.9 Such figures lead one to the inescapable conclusion that the western colonization of South America is still underway.
A fresh wind?
According to Tony Clarke, in “Mechanisms of Corporate Rule,” “the officials of these organizations often have the power to ‘rewrite a country’s trade policy, fiscal policies, civil service requirements, labour laws, health care arrangements, environmental regulations, energy policy, resettlement requirements, procurement rules, and budgetary policy.'”
Clarke’s description matches the kinds of changes that have occurred in South America. Countries are being forced to open their economies to multinational corporations, workers have nowhere to go but heavily polluting factories, health care has been devastated, forests that have been described as the “lungs of the world” are being vivisected from the chest of the planet,11 and people are being ripped from their homes. If such changes represent the corporate ideal of “progress,” then the ultimate goal must be the dehumanization and extinction of peoples everywhere.
There is a growing movement, however, to resist the extinction of humanity. Activist groups are spreading awareness about the devastating effects of globalization. On an individual level, people are voting with their dollars, making the choice to purchase from natural economies rather than synthetic ones. They are buying organic foods and goods from local producers instead of genetically-engineered groceries produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, patented by multinational corporations. And they are using vitamins and herbs like marijuana for their illnesses, instead of swallowing health-endangering pharmaceutical drugs.
? Council of Canadians ? most active free-trade opponents in Canada: (604) 688-8846; email [email protected]; web www.canadians.org
? Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch ? Ralph Nader’s organization opposing free trade in the US: 1600 ? 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009; tel (202) 546-4669; fax (202) 547-7392; email [email protected]; web www.publiccitizen.org
? Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative ? for forgiveness of multilateral debt to impoverished countries: (416) 922-1592; email [email protected]; web