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Argentina Demands Marijuana Legalization, with Little Optimism

By: Adam Dubove - @dubdam - May 4, 2015, 11:36 am
Thousands marched across Argentina on Saturday to demand an end to marijuana prohibition.
Thousands marched across Argentina on Saturday to demand an end to marijuana prohibition. (Ian Bulgach)

EspañolA passion for marijuana gripped the heart of the Argentinean capital on Saturday, May 2, as over 100,000 people marched through the streets of Buenos Aires to demand legalization and the right to personal cultivation of the drug.

The demonstration marshaled around 150,000 people, the same number as in 2014, and was part of the Global Marijuana March (GMM) simultaneously celebrated in over 849 cities and 76 countries since 1999.

“We’re asking for the legalization and regularization of all cannabis, for all its uses: medical, industrial, and recreational,” Nicolás Breg, representative of the Association of Argentinean Cannabis Agriculturalists (AACA), told the PanAm Post.

The capital’s Plaza de Mayo — the location of some of the most iconic moments in Argentinean history — rapidly became a fair of all things cannabis, where entrepreneurs walked the crowds and set up stands to sell shirts, books, smoking paraphernalia, handicrafts, and food: with and without cannabis. A brisk trade in “magic” brownies that supposedly contained cannabis competed with organic food products, sandwiches, hamburgers, and the Argentinean hot dog choripán.

Police limited themselves to redirecting traffic around the march.
Police limited themselves to redirecting traffic around the march. (Ian Bulgach)

But the festive climate was tempered with a dose of activism, as the protesters installed in tents at one end of the plaza shared varied messages and information according to their group affiliation.

“No more prisoners for cultivating cannabis. Self-cultivation now!” read one AACA pamphlet, emphasizing the pain-killing and bronchodilator properties of the psychoactive.

“There’s no genuine fight against narco-trafficking or insecurity if it doesn’t begin by recognizing the complicity of security forces,” said another leaflet handed out by members of the Socialist Left party.

Despite the marijuana smoke that filled the porteño air, the federal police limited themselves to diverting traffic away from the streets. The crowds began to mobilize along the picturesque Avenida de Mayo with the national Congress as the initial destination.

Here, organizers erected a stage and several individuals spoke, including Gonzalo: an activist who told the crowd about how his medical use of marijuana helped to mitigate his illness.

Police looked the other way as protesters lit up, as if the consumption of marijuana had been legalized in the country. Argentina’s drugs law, in force since 1989, punishes “basic possession” of marijuana with a penalty of one to six years in prison, or one to two years if a judge determines that the herb is for personal consumption.

One protester holding a placard calling for “Freedom for Mary Jane” told the PanAm Post that she’d attended the march “since forever” because she believed the current law is “unjust” and Argentina “has to legalize marijuana in some form.”

“Sadly society isn’t going to permit it, if it’s not regularized by the government,” she predicted, referring to the process of legalization in Uruguay, where the state is set to assume a central role in the production and distribution of the drug.

The experience of Uruguay seems to have changed the opposition of many pro-legalization activists towards commercialization of the drug. “Permitting sale means entering the capitalist system,” one activist said in 2011.

“The change propelled by Uruguay has brought this issue to the forefront in Latin America, the same as Chile which is doing it from the medicinal point of view,” said Breg, explaining that medical needs were driving a change, and that responsible adults were capable of deciding what is and isn’t beneficial for their health.

Organizers nevertheless weren’t optimistic about a possible legalization in the short term. “We expect to continue with this fight; for now, no political party in this election year has taken a clear position about cannabis legalization,” he added.

The three principal candidates in October’s presidential elections haven’t suggested any drug reforms, and all have come out in favor of escalating the fight against narco-trafficking. “They assume a lot, but they barely discuss the issue, and do even less,” Breg concluded, while the final speakers finished addressing the crowd outside Congress.

Global Concern

The Legalize Paraguay group organized a day of concerts and the sale of cannabis products outside the capital's Congress building.
The Legalize Paraguay group organized a day of concerts and the sale of cannabis products outside the capital’s Congress building. (EsLibertad Paraguay)

The mobilization in Buenos Aires was replicated in other cities in Argentina, as well as in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and in multiple cities in Canada and the United States, as well as in Europe. The GMM was also celebrated in India, Israel, and Japan, while South Africans also came out in force in favor of cannabis legalization.

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, over 200 people congregated in the port city’s Kennedy Park to join the global initiative for the first time. “The war against drugs is a lost war, and it’s unfair that they imprison people only for consuming, planting, or being in possession of marijuana,” Milica Pandžić, a member of Students For Liberty’s executive council, told the PanAm Post.

In Asunción, Paraguay, some 250 people marched through the capital with their demands focusing on narco-trafficking, invoking cases of politicians allegedly linked to the illicit trade. Demonstrators demanded legalization and self-cultivation as a solution, and demanded “no more prisoners for smoking.”

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Adam Dubove Adam Dubove

Adam Dubove is a journalist, co-host of The Titanic's Violinists radio show, and the secretary of the Amagi Institute. Follow him on Twitter: @dubdam, and read his blog: Diario de un Drapetómano.

No Place for 24 Salvadoran Congressmen until Recount

By: Orlando Avendaño - @OrlvndoA - May 4, 2015, 10:16 am
ft-diputados-el-salvador

EspañolOn Tuesday, April 28, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court (CSJ) issued a resolution preventing 24 deputies elected from the department of San Salvador from taking their seats in the National Assembly. The Court issued the ruling after the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) failed to comply with an order for a recount, following legal claims by a group of candidates that cast doubt on the election results. "The inauguration of the allegedly elected members for the Legislative Assembly by the department of San Salvador for the period 2015-2018 has been suspended," the ruling reads. "The requested vote count should continue under the same conditions set on April 17, 2015, until its completion." However, Sigfrido Reyes, president of the Legislative Assembly and founding member of the political party Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), branded the Court's measure a "technical coup." "These sorts of resolutions have been practically a technical coup, because a coup does not only mean deposing a president," Reyes said on Wednesday. "Trying to thwart or prevent the installation of a fundamental branch of government, such as the Legislative Assembly, which in terms of our political tradition is regarded as the first organ of the state given that it is the direct representation of citizens, may amount to that," the FMLN leader added. Reyes further stated that the Court's decision violates the Constitution and could potentially end in a political crisis for the country. According to the Legislative Assembly president, the leaders of the different political parties will meet in order to find a unified position against the injunction. Congresswoman Jackeline Rivera of the FMLN also voiced her opposition to the Court's decision and invited the newly elected members to disobey the resolution. "The FMLN will not comply with the precautionary measure of the Chamber, and all the elected members will assume office on May 1," she stated. FMLN Elections Secretary Norma Guevara similarly stated that there is no court ruling that could alter what has already been defined in the polls. https://twitter.com/guevara_tuiter/status/593174492941135872 "The TSE is the highest authority in electoral matters, and it resolved according to the citizenry's vote. No judicial process can change that." Technical Difficulties In the days following the March 1 parliamentary and municipal elections, Salvadorans were prevented from knowing the official results due to "technical problems" cited by the TSE. Despite the lack of verified results, both major political parties of El Salvador, the ruling FMLN and the opposition Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), declared themselves the victors based on their own counts. Nevertheless, the TSE reiterated that the election winners would only be confirmed after the completion of the final count. It took 27 days for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to formalize the results of the election. On March 28, the TSE declared ARENA victorious, with 36 deputies in the Assembly, while the FMLN only won 31 seats. Recount Demands On March 30, four candidates to the Legislative Assembly from opposition parties National Coalition (PCN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), and Democratic Change (CD), filed a legal challenge with the TSE, questioning the official results of the election. The TSE dismissed the claims, prompting the candidates to file constitutional complaints with the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Chamber then ordered the TSE to recount the votes in the parliamentary election in the department of San Salvador on the grounds that the rights of these four candidates had been violated. The Court also stated they had detected anomalies in the vote counts that prevented them from being able to "guarantee the purity" of the results. The Court set April 21 as the deadline for the recount, but the TSE failed to comply due to delays in the process. The Court then extended the tribunal's deadline to April 27, but the TSE was once again unable to complete the recount in time and filed for an extension to May 21. As of April 28, the TSE had only complete 17 percent of the recount, leaving more than a thousand polling stations still unchecked. On Friday, May 1, 60 of El Salvador's newly elected deputies from the remaining 13 departments, excluding San Salvador, took their seats in the National Assembly. Rebeca Morla translated and contributed to this article. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

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