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Uruguay President Jorge Batlle

First Américan Chief of State to Say...


A Breaking Story from Narco News

The Narco News Bulletin

"The Name of Our Country is América"

-- Simón Bolívar


Uruguay President says "Legalize Drugs"

Jorge Batlle, First Américan Chief of State to Openly Oppose US Drug War

In the past month, Batlle said it twice in front of international correspondents and no English-language media reported the news

The Narco News Bulletin names President Jorge Batlle "Hero of the Year" for 2000

December 22, 2000

By Al Giordano

Note: CORRECTION OFFERED BELOW: Spanish-language EFE news agency covered the story on November 30th

What if an elected president of an Américan nation called for the legalization of drugs and nobody outside of his country reported it?

That's what happened twice in the past month when Uruguay President Jorge Batlle called for other Latin American leaders to join him in opposing US-imposed drug policy.

"If this powder was worth only ten cents, there would not be organizations dedicated to make a billion dollars to fund armies in Colombia," said Batlle, speaking about cocaine policy on November 20th at the 10th Latin American Summit of Heads of State in Panama City.

Batlle (pronounced baht-yuh) said other countries must confront the question of legalization. "How do you create the money that sustains all of this? Do you believe that while this substance has this fantastic market value that there is any mechanism that can impede its trafficking? How do you make this product lose value so that nobody is interested anymore in this business?"

The 72-year-old Uruguay leader, elected in November of 1999 in his fifth run for the presidency, said that the countries of América "must stop playing games and treat the theme of drugs seriously at its root. And if I am wrong, then why are we afraid to ask ourselves the question?"

Source: News, Montevideo Uruguay, November 20, 2000

In fact, the legalization proposal of Batlle has been percolating in Uruguay since June of this year.

According to the daily newspaper El Observador in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, the president's chief of staff, Leonarda Costa, floated the trial balloon on June 16th. He said, "a line of discussion will be opened among the Mercosur countries (Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay)" in relation to "the idea of legalizing the consumption of drugs."

"Obviously, Uruguay cannot take unilateral measures on this theme," said the presidential secretary to Latitud magazine, adding that "the coordination between nations" is necessary.

President Batlle told the weekly Brecha magazine that he is in favor of legalizing drug consumption. "When the president said what he said, he was expressing his personal philosophy," said Costa. "But it is viable to the extent that other countries also do it."

The chief of staff affirmed that there would have to be a "generalized agreement between nations," and that, "the countries have to come to an agreement about this problem…. The first thing to do is to make an educational effort."

Source: El Observador, Montevideo, June 16, 2000

At the Brasilia Summit on August 31 and September 1 of South American Presidents, Batlle worked with other Mercosur heads of state - Ricardo Lagos of Chile, Fernando de la Rúa of Argentina and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil - to deliver the united opposition to the military aspects of Plan Colombia, just two days after US President Bill Clinton's Colombia visit.

Then, on October 17th, in Santiago de Chile, at of the 56th annual assembly of the Inter-American Press Association, IAPA, Batlle raised another question that CNN broadcast without mentioning the context of his pro-legalization stance: "Let's look also at where money is laundered," said President Jorge Batlle of Uruguay, in a clear reference to the banking system in the United States and developed countries.

His November 20th statement at the Panama presidential summit went unreported, although many of the US correspondents for major media outlets were present.

Then, on December 1st, Batlle traveled to Mexico City to attend the inauguration of President Vicente Fox.

There, according to El Observador in his home country, Batlle made his strongest challenge to US-imposed drug policy yet. "The day that it is legalized in the United States, it will lose value," said the president of Uruguay. "And if it loses value, there will be no profit. But as long as the US citizenry doesn't rise up to do something, they will pass this life fighting and fighting."

Batlle, in Mexico City early this month, compared the drug problem to that caused by alcohol prohibition in the United States (1918-1933), saying that the drug trafficking problem "will be resolved on the day that the consumers announce that this cannot be fixed by any other manner than changing this situation in the same way that was done with the 'Dry Laws'."

Of Plan Colombia, he said, "You have to think about the origin of the thing. Basically, where is this consumed? A minimum of 50 percent is consumed in the United States. It seems fine with me that my friend Pastrana (the Colombian president) tries to improve education, health and roads… but this doesn't resolve the problem."

And Batlle added that he has personally proposed the legalization solution to US President Bill Clinton.

Source: El Observador, Montevideo, December 1, 2000

The Narco News Bulletin apologizes to our readers, and to President Jorge Batlle, for our lateness in reporting this major news story.

It came to our attention only last night through a story out of Amsterdam, Holland, published in the NRC newspaper on December 19, by reporter Marjon Van Royen, its Rio de Janeiro correspondent. One of our correspondents in Amsterdam translated a story for us that included one line about Batlle's statement in a larger story about Plan Colombia. The Dutch correspondent Van Royen wrote:

"The right-wing president of Uruguay went even further in early December: 'Why don't we just legalize the drugs?', Batlle was the first president in the world to suggest."

We immediately reviewed all the English and Spanish language press in the American hemisphere for a mention -- any mention -- of this major story. Only in the cited Uruguayan newspaper and Internet publication did we find the facts. (At Narco News, whether Batlle is classified as right-wing, left-wing, centrist or no-wing, our view is that this is major news. Batlle's call for legalization is a commendable act, the first by any head of state, and his courage to say it makes history.)

Where were the US correspondents for the major dailies and wire services when Batlle said this to them and the presidents in Panamá last month? Did they not consider this news? Or did they pre-censor the news knowing that the home offices of the mass media would not report it? The US Mexican correspondents were all at Fox's inauguration this month, when Batlle said it again, and even more forcefully. They were there. But they declined to publish this major story.

América now has its first elected president on record as calling for the legalization of drugs.

Today, once again, we break the information blockade from Latin America to the English-speaking world. That we do this so often at Narco News is precisely why powerful forces of the narco-system seek to eliminate us. And it is also precisely why we will not go away. The US-imposed war on drugs can only continue if the people of América are withheld the facts about the present-day atrocity caused by drug prohibition.

In a few days, on Christmas morning, we will announce which American person wins the dishonor of Narco of the Year. That individual is the most revealing face of the drug war in Our América, an atrocity that years from now will be recognized as one of history's worst tragedies.

Today, on December 22, 2000, we make a more positive announcement.

The Narco News Bulletin proclaims Jorge Batlle, President of Uruguay, as Drug War Hero of the Year for 2000.

Batlle, by having the courage to say what other heads of state know to be true but have been afraid to say publicly, has made history this year. As we enter 2001, others are now called upon to follow his shining example.

And we say to the US government - which has sought to discredit and attack other Latin American leaders who were not heads of state but who called for legalization the only solution to the drug war atrocity - that we will be watching and acting to protect the statesman Batlle's right to say legalize drugs.

The Narco-System knows that the drug war can only survive through censorship.

It's latest crisis is presented by the fact that we know it too.

From somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano
The Narco News Bulletin

Note: CORRECTION: Spanish-language EFE news agency covered the story on November 30th

The Narco News Bulletin regrets our error in reporting that "no English or Spanish-language" press covered this story

We have learned, since publication, that the EFE agency published this important story in Spanish. Saludos to the good people at EFE who did their job.

May A Thousand Heroes Bloom