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Venezuelan government proposes changes to drug laws

November 11, 2010

Venezuela’s El Universal newspaper carried a brief report on a proposed update to the country’s Fundamental Drug Law (Ley Orgánica de Drogas). The proposals include sanctions for media outlets “that with their messages incite the consumption of licit or illicit drugs” (“que con sus mensajes inciten al consumo de drogas lícitas o ilícitas“). Does that mean that Viagra and other pharmaceutical commercials would become illegal in Venezuela? Does it mean that a movie like Pineapple Express can’t be screened?

Obviously, we need lots more details, but this strikes me as a problematic approach (no matter how little I would miss pharmaceutical commercials). For one thing, a ban on any media that might be interpreted as “inciting” consumption seems contrary to another of the proposals, which “contemplates the humanization of the treatment of those processed for consuming drugs, with an integral approach that permits their reinsertion into society”. How can a society hope to humanize its approach to drug users if it does not have a media system open to multiple points of view regarding the issue?

Also of note is the proposal for a “general increase in sentences, which will be between 25 and 30 years of prison for the crime of illicit drug trafficking, with aggravating circumstances when these crimes are committed by police officers or officials from other State security agencies” (“aumento general de las penas, las cuales estarán entre 25 y 30 años de prisión por el delito de tráfico ilícito de drogas o delitos conexos, con agravantes cuando estos delitos sean cometidos por policías o funcionarios de otros cuerpos de seguridad del Estado“). This goes against the narrative disseminated by conservative outlets like the National Review, which claims that “massive drug trafficking that transits Venezuela bound for West Africa, Europe and the U.S.” is “either condoned or supported by Chávez”. Sure, it may be a question of constructing a facade to hide the truth, but I’ll bet we won’t even see this proposal mentioned in the mainstream english language press.

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