130 Drug War Opponents Gather in São Paulo
Toward a "Tupiniquim" Path that Leads to Reality
By Karine Muller
Part III in a Series, reported from São Paulo
March 30, 2003
“The valorization of consensus masks the conflict” – Dr. Davi Capistrano
MARCH 26, 2003; LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, SÃO PAULO, BRASIL: As the National Anti-Drug Secretary (SENAD, in its Portuguese initials), led by Colonel Paulo Roberto Ulchôa, in the national capital of Brasilia, presented a document last Wednesday in favor of maintaining the current drug policy, 130 health specialists, members of Congress, journalists and others interested in the issue met simultaneously in São Paulo, in a shadow meeting, to discuss the same issue from a distinct point of view.
Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who assumed the presidency last January, is maintaining the structure and program of the anti-drug office, which the proponents of a new drug policy consider to be a grave error. “I am in favor of Lula’s government but against his current drug policy,” said Dr. Hevaldo Oliveira of the Northeastern state of Recife. “In a country where 80 percent of the population uses licit and illicit drugs, you can’t have an ‘anti’ drug policy without a policy ‘about’ drugs,” he said. According to the Congressman, the money is always spent on ‘repression’ of users and never on treatment.
The SENAD was created by the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1998 and was placed in the presidential cabinet. Its first secretary, a civilian and a judge from São Paulo, Walter Maierovitch, present at today’s meeting, says the initial model for the national program completely mirrored that of the International Drug Convention of the United Nations in New York, of 1989. This document, at present, has not been repealed and has been imposed by the USA on many countries as a form of reducing the production and consumption of drugs. “In Colombia, the use of herbicides to reduce the planting of coca, for example, ends of killing other crops and harming the riverside dwelling populations of Ecuador,” said Judge Maierovitch. He called it “chemical warfare,” noting that, “The USA says it is proud of having reduced the cultivation of the plant by 30 percent.”
The judge revealed that not long ago, a United Nations meeting to audit drug enforcement was held in Brazil, according to him, so that the finger could be pointed at Brazil, in case the country was not complying with the UN Convention that guides the current anti-drug policy. Citing as an example of the wrongness of the 1989 convention, he said that it classifies marijuana at the same level as heroin.
He added that in spite of the alliance with the failed North American “war on drugs,” Brazil should take a different route, opposing the US impositions through the Organization of American States (OAS) and to treat drug policy as a multilateral question.
The city of São Paulo formed the Municipal Council on Public Drug Policies, a name much more adequate than the “anti-drug” agency of the Cardoso government or that dealing with “stupefacient” of the previous Governor Geraldo Alckmin’s state administration in São Paulo. And the states of São Paulo and Porto Alegre are incorporating harm reduction into their policies, which is gaining increased international support, according to Fábio Mesquita, a doctor in Public Health and vice president of the International Harm Reduction Association. The specialist said that the meeting in the Legislative Assembly is historic and runs against the national discussion in counterpoint to the policy promoted by Colonel Paulo Roberto Ulchôa a few days ago in Brasilia to Readpreserve the current drug policy.
“We should amplify this movement with a petition to promote a permanent debate. That is how we will gain more force,” said Sandra Batista, the coordinator of Relat (the Latin American Harm Reduction Network).
The current coordination by the SENAD has demonstrated a total subordination to the North American policy of a “War on Drugs.” It follows the orders of John Walters, the current North American drug czar, who increases penalties against drug users in the USA. And that is exactly why many of those who were present in São Paulo had been invited to the government’s meeting in Brasilia, but preferred to offer their position in resistance, and call the press to shine the light on their position, as more worthwhile than going to the halls of government power.
The psychotherapist Célia Szterenfeld, coordinator of this week’s meeting in Rio de Janeiro, proposed a change in the current drug policy, authored by 35 representatives from 17 states formulated by their experience in each one. This document was very well received by all the representatives here in São Paulo, which demonstrates that there is a legitimate group in resistance, working together for the good of the public interest and not just their private interests.
The principle goal of this meeting in the Legislative Assembly was to create a resistance movement to the North American imposition and to demand that the Lula government create a new agency, under civilian control, under a different name than that of National Anti-Drug Secretary (SENAD). The next step, now, is to spark a discussion in Brazil so that it is not confined to the intellectual, political, or professional, circles, and the question is addressed by the entire population. It is time to popularize these ideas to foment a public consciousness that speaks for itself.
The terminology of “war” must definitively be extinguished. It is certain that the North Americans push this idea in their schools, using cops and soldiers who act like they protect the “children” from drugs, inciting them to fight against them. And from this comes the propaganda of drug war, of chemical warfare, of a war on terrorism, a war on Iraq… What this group wants is a drug policy that does not follow this path and instead follows our reality, that of the tupiniquim, the Brazilian, transparent, barefoot, and free of the conservative apparatus that sustains and creates more narco-trafficking mafias, that justifies repression against the user in order to perpetuate its own existence.
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