Narco News '02
Humane Drug Policies
By Luis A. Gómez
News Andean Bureau Chief
January 11th, Brazilian president Fernando
Cardoso signed the new anti-drug law that, one step from being
approved in the coming days in the nation's Congress, will become
the most advanced law of its kind in Latin America, because,
among other things, it makes a clear distinction between a drug
trafficker and an addict.
Previously, due to a law passed in 1976
and enforced in the entire Federated Republic of Brazil, anyone
found in possession of drugs (even for personal consumption)
could be accused of being a narco-trafficker and faced a sentence
of Three-to-15-years in prison. Now, thanks to the modifications
approved by the President, the judge will be able to sentence
the accused to medical or psychiatric treatment, or to community
service, instead of going to jail.
However, President Fernando Cardoso did
not approve the bill, sponsored by federal Congressman José
Elias Murad, a professional chemist and pharmacist, in its entirety.
In some cases, as with the First Article of the bill, the president
used his veto power and rejected a large part of the first version
of the bill. Beyond that, on the theme of making a distinction
between narcos and people will illnesses, Article 42 of the new
anti-drug law was amended by the president because, in his opinion,
it was problematic: Judges would have been able to suspend cases
(and consequent penalties) if they considered that the convict
was an addict that could be rehabilitated medically. That seemed,
to Cardoso, to be excessive.
And it's not all smiles, kind readers,
because in Brazil there are also dark forces that don't want
a new and more humane and flexible law. The judges and the prosecutors
have begun a crusade against the new anti-drug law and are asking
President Cardoso and the Congress to veto it completely. Why?
It's simple: If the penalties are made flexible and the alternative
measures become as important as prison sentences, the judges
and prosecutors believe that this will affect the police role
against drug trafficking. IN addition, one judge told the daily
Folha de Sao Paulo (January 10, 2002) that, if the law is approved,
with so many "benefits" for the accused, then the government
of Brazil has demonstrated its lack of confidence in the judicial
and penal systems to punish.
In one simple and lucid article published
in the daily O Povo de Ceará ("The People of Ceará)
on January 15th, Congressman José Elías Murad defended
his bill. One of the concepts that stood out in his text was
the modern legal definition he called "therapeutic justice."
That is to say, the possibility of rerouting an accused person
toward the medical path, leaving prison behind: "An addict
is ILL, he is not a narco-trafficker, and that is how he should
be treated." Another important issue is that in the bill's
original version, Murad put the matter of determining if a person
captured with drugs is an addict or a narco into the hands of
toxicology experts; it will no longer be a question of what quantity
of drug a person has on him, but rather, the relationship of
that drug with the health of the accused. A grand advance, no?
But it remains to be seen if the Brazilian
Congress will take the great leap and approve a dignified and
just law. If not, as José Elías Murad says, a "repressive
and retrograde mentality" will prevail among the authorities
of his country. For now, we await the chain of events. No doubt,
in the very near future, we will keep you informed of how this
more Narco News, click
the new guy translates Portuguese, too?