Saturday, June 29, 2013

Drug Trafficking As Well As Drug Abuse Pose Health Threat To Many, UN Report States

U.S. asked Ecuador not to give Snowden asylum: Correa

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By Brian Ellsworth
QUITO | Sat Jun 29, 2013 4:14pm EDT
QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said on Saturday the United States had asked him not to grant asylum for former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden in a "cordial" telephone conversation he held with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Correa said he vowed to respect Washington's opinion in evaluating the request. The Andean nation says it cannot begin processing Snowden's request unless he reaches Ecuador or one of its embassies.
Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details about U.S. communications surveillance programs, is believed to still be at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after leaving Hong Kong.
Praising Biden's good manners in contrast to "brats" in the U.S. Congress who had threatened to cut Ecuador's trade benefits over the Snowden issue, Correa said during his weekly television broadcast: "He communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject the (asylum) request."
Biden initiated the phone call, Correa said.
"When he (Snowden) arrives on Ecuadorean soil, if he arrives ... of course, the first opinions we will seek are those of the United States," Correa said.
A senior White House official traveling with President Barack Obama in Africa on Saturday confirmed the conversation had taken place.
The case has been a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, which is now facing withering criticism around the world for the espionage program known as Prism that Snowden revealed.
A German magazine on Saturday, citing secret documents, reported that the United States bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, which will likely add to the furor over U.S. spying efforts.
Correa has for years been at loggerheads with Washington on issues ranging from the war on drugs to a long-running environmental dispute with U.S. oil giant Chevron.
A leftist economist who received a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Correa denied he was seeking to perturb relations and said he had "lived the happiest days of my life" in the United States.
But he said the United States has not heeded Ecuador's request to extradite citizens sought by the law, including bankers he said have already been sentenced.
"There's a clear double standard here. If the United States is pursuing someone, other countries have to hand them over," Correa said. "But there are so many fugitives from our justice system (in the United States) ... and they don't return them."
Correa said Ecuador's London consulate issued Snowden an unauthorized safe-passage document, potentially as a result of communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is living in the London embassy after receiving asylum last year.
Assange said on Monday that Snowden had received refugee papers from the Ecuador government to secure him safe passage as he fled Hong Kong for Russia. Correa's government had originally denied this.
A "safe-pass" document published by U.S. Spanish-language media network Univision which circulated widely online purported to offer Snowden safe passage for the purpose of political asylum. The United States has revoked his passport.
"The truth is that the consul (overstepped) his role and will face sanction," Correa said during the broadcast.
The decision was "probably in communication with Julian Assange and out of desperation that Mr. Snowden was going to be captured, but this was without the authorization of the Ecuadorean government."
Correa's critics have in recent days accused him of letting Assange take charge of crucial foreign policy matters.
Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning over sexual assault allegations, has not been able to leave the London embassy because Britain will not give him safe passage.
Snowden's lack of a valid travel document appears to be one of the primary obstacles to his leaving the transit area of the Moscow international airport. Without a passport, he cannot board a commercial flight or move through airport immigration, according to diplomacy experts.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino declined on Thursday to comment on whether Ecuador would send a government plane to pick Snowden up. But Correa has indicated he does not have plans to provide Snowden with transport to an embassy.
Correa scoffed at reports that he himself had been aware that the document was issued or was involved in the decision.
"They think I'm so dumb that I ordered our consul in London to write a safe passage document for a U.S. citizen traveling from Hong Kong to Russia. That's simply absurd," he said.
(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal in Johannesburg; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Vicki Allen and Sandra Maler)
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stability in use of traditional drugs, alarming rise in new psychoactive substances

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26 June 2013 -The 2013 World Drug Report released today in Vienna shows that, while the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine seems to be declining in some parts of the world, prescription drug abuse and new psychoactive substance abuse is growing. In a special high-level event of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov urged concerted action to prevent the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these substances.
Marketed as 'legal highs' and 'designer drugs', NPS are proliferating at an unprecedented rate and posing unforeseen public health challenges. The report shows that the number of NPS reported to UNODC rose from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 by mid-2012, an increase of more than 50 per cent. For the first time, the number of NPS exceeded the total number of substances under international control (234). Since new harmful substances have been emerging with unfailing regularity on the drug scene, the international drug control system is now challenged by the speed and creativity of the NPS phenomenon.
This is an alarming drug problem - but the drugs are legal. Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS, which have not been tested for safety, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs. Street names, such as "spice", "meow-meow" and "bath salts" mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of NPS, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control. While law enforcement lags behind, criminals have been quick to tap into this lucrative market. The adverse effects and addictive potential of most of these uncontrolled substances are at best poorly understood.
The global picture for the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine shows some stability. In Europe, heroin use seems to be declining. Meanwhile, the cocaine market seems to be expanding in South America and in the emerging economies in Asia. Use of opiates (heroin and opium), on the other hand, remains stable (around 16 million people, or 0.4 per cent of the population aged 15-64), although a high prevalence of opiate use has been reported from South-West and Central Asia,  Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and North America. 
Africa is emerging as a target for the trafficking as well as production of illicit substances, although data are scarce. Mr. Fedotov called for international support to monitor the situation and to prevent the continent from becoming increasingly vulnerable to the drugs trade and organized crime. There is also a need to help the large number of drug users who are the victims of the spill-over effect of drug trafficking through the continent. 
New data reveal that the prevalence of people who inject drugs and are also living with HIV in 2011 was lower than previously estimated: 14.0 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to be injecting drugs, while 1.6 million people who inject drugs are also living with HIV. The revised estimates are 12 per cent lower for the number of people who inject drugs and 46 per cent lower for the number of people who inject drugs and are living with HIV.   These changes are the result of revised estimates in countries that acquired new behavioural surveillance data since the previous estimates, which were made in 2008. 
In terms of production, Afghanistan retained its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally (75 per cent of global illicit opium production in 2012). The global area under opium poppy cultivation amounted to 236,320 ha and was thus 14 per cent higher than in 2011. Nonetheless, given a poor yield, owing to a plant disease affecting the opium poppy, in Afghanistan, global opium production fell to 4,905 tons in 2012, 30 per cent less than a year earlier and 40 per cent less than in the peak year of 2007. 
Estimates of the amounts of cocaine manufactured ranged from 776 to 1,051 tons in 2011, largely unchanged from a year earlier. The world's largest cocaine seizures - unadjusted for purity - continue to be reported from Colombia (200 tons) and the US (94 tons). Cocaine use continues falling in the US, the world's largest cocaine market.  In contrast, significant increases in seizures have been noted in Asia, Oceania and Central and South America, and the Caribbean in 2011.
The use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), excluding ecstasy, remains widespread globally and appears to be increasing in most regions. In 2011, an estimated 0.7 per cent of the global population aged 15-64, or 33.8 million people, had used ATS in the preceding year.
The prevalence of ecstasy in 2011 (19 million, or 0.4 per cent of the population) was lower than in 2009.  However, at the global level, ATS seizures have risen to a new high of 123 tons in 2011, which is 66 per cent more than in 2010 (74 tons) and double the 2005 figure (60 tons). 
Methamphetamine continues to dominate the ATS business, accounting for 71 per cent of global ATS seizures in 2011. Methamphetamine pills remain the predominant ATS in East and South-East Asia: 122.8 million pills were seized in 2011, although this was a 9 per cent decline compared with 2010 (134.4 million pills).  Seizures of crystal methamphetamine, however, increased to 8.8 tons, the highest level during the past five years, indicating that the substance is an imminent threat.  Mexico recorded its largest seizures of   methamphetamine, more than doubling within a year from 13 tons to 31 tons, thus representing the largest reported seizures globally. 
Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance. While cannabis use has clearly declined among young people in Europe over the past decade, there was a minor increase in the prevalence of cannabis users (180 million or 3.9 per cent of the population age 15-64) as compared with previous estimates in 2009.
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United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

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Drug Trafficking As Well As Drug Abuse Pose Health Threat To Many, UN Report States : US/World : Medical Daily

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Because the use of designer drugs and other 'legal highs' proliferates at an unprecedented rate, theUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has made them the focus of their 2013 global awareness campaign. In addition, UNODC seeks to raise awareness of drug trafficking. "All over the world, drugs threaten the health and welfare of youth and children, families and communities," said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. "And the billions of dollars generated by the drugs trade feed corruption, enhance the power of criminal networks and create fear and instability."
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Increasing violence and homocide rates, the trafficking of drugs and precursor agents necessary to the production of methamphetamine and other illicit substances poses a health risk to many. "The drug trade and organized crime continue to fuel economic and political instability around the world," said UNODC's Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
In 1987, the General Assembly of the UN decided to observe June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as a way to express its determination to achieve its goal of an international society free of drug abuse. To implement international drug control conventions, the UN created the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) as an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body. Although newly created in 1968, predecessors to the INCB formed under various drug control treaties go back to the time of the League of Nations. Established in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, the INCB is charged with two main responsibilities. First, it seeks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. Second, INCB combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers.
In fulfillment of its duties, the INCB annually files a report to update the UN as to the international trafficking situation. The following summaries have been taken more or less directly from the 2012 report.
The social and political changes in North Africa that began in 2011 within Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and were ongoing into 2012 have reportedly caused 'deficiencies in the drug law enforcement capabilities of these countries,' according to the INCB. Political upheaval also took place in Guinea-Bissau and Mali in early 2012; although transitional governments have been installed, the situation remains unstable. Because of this, both countries have become a locus for international drug traffickers with Guinea-Bissau serving as a hub for cocaine trafficking in the subregion and Mali, a transit country for cocaine and cannabis resin.
In recent years, West Africa has emerged as a transit area for the trafficking of narcotics, especially cocaine, from South America to the lucrative European market. Cocaine trafficking in the subregion is estimated to generate $900 million in profit annually for criminal networks. There are an estimated 1.5 million cocaine abusers in West and Central Africa. Furthermore, trafficking in heroin and methamphetamine has increased in West Africa. Afghan heroin is trafficked through Pakistan and the Middle East into East and West Africa, and methamphetamine is manufactured in growing quantities across West Africa, mainly in Ghana and Nigeria. While cannabis remains the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused drug in Africa, new threats have emerged, in particular, the illicit manufacture, trafficking and abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants. There is growing evidence to suggest that drug trafficking networks are increasingly exploiting East and West Africa for trafficking amphetamine-type stimulants, particularly methamphetamine, to other parts of the world.
Central America and the Carribbean
The region of Central America and the Caribbean continues to be used as a major transit area for South American cocaine heading to the North American market. The increasing power of drug gangs has helped to raise corruption and homicide rates in the region, especially in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which are particularly affected by significant levels of drug-related violence. Areas exposed to intense drug trafficking in Central America show higher homicide rates.
UNODC estimates that about 280 tons of South American cocaine (purity-adjusted) are destined for North America. Much of it travels by way of Central America and the Caribbean, where cocaine use is also increasing. Recently, cocaine shipments destined for countries in Central America, with further deliveries for Mexico and the U.S. have increased.
In 2011 and 2012, trafficking in precursor chemicals increased in countries in Central America, in particular non-scheduled chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua reported incidents in 2011 and 2012 involving significant seizures of esters of phenylacetic acid and methylamine. Illicit laboratories have also been reported in the region. Seizures of chemical precursors, raw material (coca paste) and laboratories in Guatemala and Honduras indicate the likely existence of both cocaine- and heroin-refining facilities. Furthermore, the abuse of MDMA ('ecstasy'), generally imported from Europe, has been spreading in Central America and the Caribbean since the period 2010-2011.
North America
North America remains the biggest illicit drug market in the world as well as the region reporting the highest drug-related mortality rate. Approximately one in every 20 deaths among persons aged 15-64 in North America is related to drug abuse. That figure takes into account overdose deaths and HIV/AIDS acquired through shared use of contaminated drug paraphernalia, as well as trauma-related deaths, including motor vehicle accidents caused by driving under the influence of drugs.
Annual prevalence of cocaine use fell in North America from 2.4 per cent of the population aged 15-64 in 2006 to 1.5 per cent in 2011, equivalent to a decrease of some 38 per cent over that five-year period. Prescription drug abuse in North America continues to represent a major threat to public health and remains one of the biggest challenges to the drug control efforts being deployed by governments in the region. Overdose deaths caused by the abuse of prescription opioids are reported to have quadrupled in the U.S. since 1999. According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from opioid drug overdoses in the country since 2003 exceeded those attributable to cocaine and heroin combined.
Drug-related data released in 2012 confirmed significant increases in per capita sales of oxycodone and hydrocodone between 2000 and 2010 in several states. The increases in oxycodone sales were on the order of 565 per cent in Florida, 519 per cent in New York, 515 per cent in Tennessee and 439 per cent in Delaware, while hydrocodone sales increased by 322 per cent in South Dakota and 291 per cent in South Carolina and Tennessee.
South America
The region of South America suffers from the illicit cultivation of coca bush, opium poppy and cannabis plant, as well as the manufacture and production of and trafficking in the drugs stemming from that cultivation. There is significant and growing abuse of these plant-based drugs among the region's population, as well as growing use of synthetic drugs of abuse, both those manufactured illicitly and those diverted from licit channels. In 2010, UNODC estimated that the total global potential manufacture of cocaine ranged from 788 to 1,060 tons, indicating a decline in cocaine manufacture since the period 2005-2007.
In August 2012, the Government of Uruguay presented to its national congress a proposed law to legalize the production and sale of cannabis in the country. According to the proposed law, the Government would assume control and regulation over the activities of importing, producing, acquiring title to, storing, selling and distributing cannabis herb and its derivatives. If adopted, the law could be in contravention of the international drug control conventions to which Uruguay is a party.
The abuse of cocaine in the Americas is no longer confined to North America and a few countries in the Southern Cone, but has spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. According to a CICAD report in the period 2002-2009 about 27 per cent of cocaine abusers in the hemisphere were found in South America.
East and Southeast Asia
In 2011, East and South-East Asia continued to be the region with the second largest total area under illicit opium poppy cultivation, accounting for over 20 per cent of illicit opium poppy cultivation worldwide. Increased illicit opium poppy cultivation was reported by the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar for six consecutive years, beginning in 2007. From 2011 to 2012, the total estimated area under cultivation in the two countries increased by approximately 66 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, indicating potential growth in opium production.
East and South-East Asia continued to be a manufacturing hub and a growing illicit market for amphetamine-type stimulants, in particular methamphetamine. Evidence has shown that the illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants has expanded from traditional manufacturing countries such as China and Myanmar to other countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, substances used in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants, continued to be trafficked in large quantities in the region.
Trafficking in and abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical preparations containing internationally controlled substances are serious problems in East and South-East Asia.
South Asia
South Asia continues to face diversion of and trafficking in pharmaceutical preparations containing internationally controlled substances and a serious problem of abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter pharmaceutical preparations. Pharmacies represent one of the key points at which diversion occurs. Drug abusers are often able, in all countries of the region, to obtain prescription pharmaceutical preparations containing internationally controlled substances without a prescription. In some cases, diversion also occurs from manufacturers. As well as being sold within the region, the diverted pharmaceuticals are also trafficked on to other countries, in significant part through illegal Internet pharmacies.
In response to the threat posed to the region by the abuse of and trafficking in pharmaceutical preparations and other drugs, Governments in South Asia are renewing their efforts and are undertaking major new initiatives to tackle the problem.
Source: Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2012, The International Narcotics Control Board Publications, 2013.
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BBC News - Former Mexican governor Villanueva sentenced in the US

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Former Mexican governor Villanueva sentenced in the US

Mario Villanueva's arrest in 2007 Villanueva, briefly freed in Mexico in 2007, was immediately rearrested for extradition

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A US court has sentenced a former governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo to 11 years in prison for money laundering.
Mario Villanueva pleaded guilty to transferring millions of dollars in bribery money from the Juarez drug cartel to foreign bank accounts.
Villanueva, 64, received large sums of money in exchange for allowing cocaine to be smuggled into the US.
He was arrested in Mexico in 2001 and extradited to the US in 2010.
Villanueva served six years in Mexico for money laundering before his extradition.
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Puerto Rico Awaits Budget to Solve Economic Crisis

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By DANICA COTO Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico June 29, 2013 (AP)
Puerto Rico legislators on Friday rushed to try to approve a budget amid debate on how best to revive the U.S. territory's economy, which the New York Federal Reserve president warns has not yet bottomed out.