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U.N. to consider significant reforms to international drug policy

(LOS ANGELES TIMES) — At what is being billed as the most significant high-level gathering on global drug policy in two decades, the stage will be set for world leaders to discuss what would have once been unthinkable — reversing course in the war on drugs.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, which begins Tuesday in New York, will bring together government, human rights and health leaders to discuss whether the hard-line tactics of combating drug trafficking and money laundering have failed.

It will also provide a forum for reformists and government leaders who are pushing for turning the current drug policy on its head by halting drug-related incarcerations, treating drug abuse as a health issue rather than a crime and even legalizing drugs.

“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights,” reads a statement to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that was signed last week by more than 1,000 world leaders, activists and celebrities. The letter urges a complete rethinking of the conventional war on drugs.

As the summit opened Tuesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced new international recommendations, including the decriminalization of marijuana, universal access to controlled medicines, criminal justice system reforms including elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentences and abolition of the death penalty and acknowledging marijuana’s medical use.

“The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches,” UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s time to reverse the cycles of violence that occur wherever ‘drug wars’ are undertaken, and to abandon policies that exacerbate suffering.”

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Why the military will never beat Mexico’s cartels

(THE DAILY BEAST) — “Any war that requires the suspension of reason as a necessity for support is a bad war,” wrote Norman Mailer in Armies of the Night. That phrase, applied to Vietnam almost 50 years ago, has come back into my head any number of times during the eight months of the last year I’ve spent covering the Mexican drug war.

For most of that time I’ve been on the front lines of the conflict—often in and around the sun-scorched and cartel-dominated valley called Tierra Caliente—where the daily suspension of one’s reasoning faculties can be a useful coping mechanism.

Even so, at times I’ve found it very hard to support the Mexican government’s increasingly surreal approach to drug war tactics and strategy.

For example, on a recent trip to the village of Dos Aguas, high in the Sierra Madre mountains of Michoacán state, I was told by locals that there were no police or military forces present in the vicinity at all. Not even a sheriff. The town had formerly been protected by a group of vigilantes known as autodefensas, but the state government ordered the group to disband last February under penalty of arrest.

Now that the vigilantes are gone, Dos Aguas is run by a chieftain from the Knights Templar cartel, who calls himself “El Tena.” He travels the mountains in a caravan of more than a dozen trucks, led by a pick-up with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted in the bed. El Tena goes where he likes and does what he pleases—including running meth labs and illegal logging operations in the sierra.

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Here are 3 failures in Mexico’s drug war

(DALLAS MORNING NEWS) — By RICARDO AINSLIE

By most accounts, the so-called kingpin strategy — the oft-decried tactic of taking down top cartel leaders — in Mexico’s drug war has generated significant violence, as would-be successors vie to fill the leadership vacuum. In fact, in a recent Dallas Morning News article a U.S. agent says, “We all thought we were doing the right thing, but truth is we didn’t fully anticipate the violence, and that’s on us.”

But this strategy isn’t the problem. If you have the head of the Zetas in your sights, it’s a no-brainer that he has to be taken down.

What is “on us,” as co-sponsors of law enforcement actions against organized crime in Mexico, are three failures of the imagination that continue to haunt both countries.

First is the failure to understand the depth and complexity of Mexico’s criminal networks. Had they done their homework, law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border would have discovered that each of the big cartels included many smaller groups, each linked by a vague common cause of making illicit money by whatever means. There is a complex and ambitious hierarchy at work, extending from neighborhood gangs that steal cars and sell drugs on the streets to the drug trafficking organizations that we call cartels. They are highly sophisticated transnational businesses whose profitability must be the envy of every major American corporation.

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Texas murder trial to shed light on Mexican drug cartels

(WALL STREET JOURNAL) — By Dan Frosch

SOUTHLAKE, Texas—The gunman walked toward Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, who sat in his Range Rover parked at a tony suburban Dallas shopping center.

Mr. Guerrero Chapa had just finished shopping for shoes with his wife, but moments later the 43-year-old Mexican lawyer was dead, struck by multiple shots from a 9-millimeter pistol. The gunman and an accomplice drove away, the brief early evening encounter caught on a surveillance camera.

The 2013 slaying stunned this upscale North Texas city of 29,000, which hadn’t seen a murder since 1999. But that wasn’t all: The man killed was allegedly a prominent member of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization, according to U.S. federal officials. His assassination brought that country’s drug war to the doorstep of the serene American neighborhood where the Guerrero Chapas lived.

This week, two of three men prosecutors say are responsible for Mr. Guerrero Chapa’s death will stand trial in Fort Worth, in a case expected to offer a rare glimpse into the nexus of Mexican cartels operating in the U.S.

Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and his cousin, José Luis Cepeda-Cortés, 60, face charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire and interstate stalking—which carry up to life in prison. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Ledezma-Cepeda’s son, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, 32, who faces the same charges in the killing, recently pleaded guilty and is expected to testify for the prosecution, according to a person familiar with the case.

All three men are Mexican citizens; Mr. Cepeda-Cortés was legally in the U.S. on a green card.

According to federal officials, Mr. Guerrero Chapa was the lawyer for Gulf Cartel chief Osiel Cárdenas-Guillén—now imprisoned at the U.S.’s so-called Supermax facility in Florence, Colo.,—and played an important role in the organization.

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