Monday 21 January 2008

Drugs: Chavez is NOT the problem

The un-likeable Chavez

The desperate attempt to besmirch and denigrate President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela by the Unites States knows no bounds.

Now, I am no Chavez apologist, whilst in some cases he at least exemplifies a different kind of leader ploughing oil revenues into raising the standards of living of his people – which cannot be said of Nigeria – his populist rhetoric does not really augur well for democracy and democratic institutions in Venezuela.

The feisty mediator

Recently, Mr. Chavez cast himself as mediator between the militant FARC group in Colombia and the government of Colombia – some of his negotiations were thwarted by the government when it appeared he would succeed.

At one time Mr. Chavez threw the baby out with the bath water in anger, breaking ties with Colombia for being asked to stop mediating.

The FARC however established a rapport with Hugo Chavez and after several attempts; two important hostages out hundreds held were released.

This definitely did not please many detractors that included President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and the United States – it would appear in some instances political grandstanding was preferred to the humanity of negotiating the release of hostages that have been in captivity for years.

Rather major indifference

Now, the director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mr. John Walters has accused Hugo Chavez of being a major facilitator of the trade in cocaine.

This stems from the fact that the US has relationships in the region, especially Colombia, Peru and Bolivia where they controversially spray down drug crops – in what is known as coca eradication – in order to prevent the drugs entering the market which is largely the US.

Venezuela has however refused to allow this operation on their territory and they have concentrated on other social welfare programmes that affect Venezuelans rather than problems that affect the more affluent American citizens.

A wrong-headed war

The fact is the drug war that the US is waging is wrong-headed – there is a great demand problem in the US to feed lifestyles and addiction, market forces are working to fulfil that demand which is why the drugs find their way to the US.

I do not think enough is done to reduce the demand for the drugs in the US and to try and stifle supply by spraying fields of crops in some far away South-American country without a commensurate reduction in demand would just make the marketplace more desperate, dangerous and violent.

Unfortunately, rather than Americans owning up to the fact that they do have a serious hard drugs problem and enable the necessary social engineering and welfare support systems to get help to people who are hooked, they are busy polluting far away lands and doubtless providing no alternative income stream for farmers of those crops.

The market demand is so high that there is so much money to be made from the trade in the illegal drugs that the cartels formed constitute the dark parallel universe of globalisation. That is exactly where the problem is.

The demand issue

If Americans stopped taking these drugs, the market would most definitely collapse for the excess meeting a diminished demand, leading to some businesses moving out of the trade. This law of economics is universal for drugs, coffee or gold.

Mr. Chavez like I said earlier is a busy man with serious work to do concerning the citizens of his country and I do not think the consumption of cocaine by Venezuelans is of any import or the use of Venezuela as a conduit to the US features in his priority list.

Relations between the US government and Mr. Chavez have never been friendly for a while so there is no reason for him to want to help or allocate resources to a war that is not of his own making.

If you want Mr. Chavez to help, this kind of talk would do nothing to facilitate what is really a phoney drug war – I am not impressed with this new US tactic – if you have enemies and need their help, berate them – unlikely to work at all.

Additional reading

Arguments for and against drug prohibition – Wikipedia

The United States Drug Problem

Drug War Facts – in 2007 only 0.5% of deaths in the US were caused by illicit drugs.

Common Sense for Drug Policy

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