08/15/10 - Maria Lucia Karam

Century of Lies

Judge Maria Lucia Karam (ret) of Rio De Janero regarding impact of drug war in the Americas' + Slice from John Stossel with Neil Franklin of LEAP and drug czar wannabe Paul Chabot

Audio file


Century of Lies / August 15, 2010

The failure of Drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


This is the Century of Lies. I’m Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring on our guest, Maria Lucia Karam. She’s a retired Brazilian judge and she argues that drugs should be legalized but regulated. So it says in the subheading of an op-ed she had in The Observer in the UK, just last week.

It was titled, Drugs: The problem is more than just the substances, it’s the prohibition itself and with that I want to bring in our guest, Judge – former Judge Maria Lucia Karam. Hello, Judge are you with us?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Hello. I thank you for the opportunity to be on you show.

Dean Becker: It’s wonderful to have you join us, all the way from Brazil. You are based in Rio de Janeiro?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes, yes.

Dean Becker: Now over the past ten, twenty, thirty years the Drug War seems to have it’s focal point, it’s point of violence seems to move from Colombia to Mexico to Afghanistan to the United States and just a month or so ago, in Jamaica there was more than a hundred dead there in a shoot out but Rio has it’s problems as well. Do you want to tell us about the situation in Rio De Janeiro?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Over here, it is not as different as Mexico.

Dean Becker: Ok.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Even if Mexico now is growing violent especially because of the last four years of intensification of the war on drugs there. In Brazil, you also have the serious consequences of this violence produced by prohibition. In Rio de Janeiro, for instance, we have an average of 3,500, 2,500, 3,000 deaths caused by murders through the years. In 2008, for instance, there were 2,757 murders, all in the city of Besame. One in every five of these murders were summary executions during police operations against drug dealers in the slums.

Dean Becker: Yes. Now, can I ask you about that? The police would just kind of go out and kind of just find these drug dealers and take them out? Is that what you’re saying?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes. Definitely, in Rio De Janeiro the drug dealers have their marginal lives and their territories. There’s the slums and the police go there in operations to combat them, to battle them.

Dean Becker: Yes.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Many times they just kill them. There are summary executions.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am. Now –

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: This is a war. It’s not surprising.

Dean Becker: Right.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: In a war, you have the drug prohibition brought to the criminal justice system, the idea of a war. Then the criminal became the enemy. The enemy is supposed to be eliminated.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: So, that’s why the police in Rio is stimulated to kill.

Dean Becker: Now, here in the US, we don’t have that many murders but we have do have situations where the police kick in the door. They throw in a flash grenade. They point guns at the children. They shoot the dogs. They terrorize the home and on occasion, they do kill one of the children or the mother and father because of the heightened atmosphere.

That they go in all excited thinking they are doing something important, when usually it’s not that much drugs and it’s not as dangerous a situation. The police have the upper hand and sometimes it’s out of control. Your response?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes, the kings are out of control and it became a stimulation to act illegally. People, most people are proud of this violence and excess that our, that the police make.

Dean Becker: As worthwhile.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes and this is also very bad for the police officers themselves. In Brazil and I have also heard about that in Mexico, that also happens in Mexico, many people are more afraid of the police than of the drug dealers. The police should be respected, but people don’t respect the police because the police don’t respect people, especially in poor neighborhoods.

Dean Becker: Well, it is usually the poor neighborhoods that are usually singled out, that have the police focus, that have the patrols, the searches, the frisking, that sort of thing. Right? That’s true in Rio as well?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes, yes. They just invade houses without a warrant.

Dean Becker: Little that-

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: They don't do that in rich houses.

Dean Becker: No, they do not. Do they? Well, Ok. Once again we're speaking with, now retired Judge Maria Lucia Karam. She's based in Rio de Janero, Brazil.

Judge Karam, let's talk about that piece you had in the Obsever just last week. It was a very profound summary of this situation, I thought. I wanted to read just a little bit here:

"This failure, [of stopping the drugs] is not even the main concern. More relevant are the immense risks, harm and pain caused by prohibition. Especially the violence.”

“A recent multi-decade review by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy found that, when police crack down on drug users and dealers, the result is almost always an increase in violence." Please expound on that, Judge Karam.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: I think that this was a recent study by this international centre. We can see that very clear, especially from the current situation in Mexico that because at the end of 2006, President Calderón finally, that now, finally recognizes the failure of his strategies.

But in the late 2006, he lauded the special war against drugs there in Mexico. He sent the army, not only the police but the army. He sent more then forty thousand soldiers to battle with the cartels and after that, after forty years offenses, more than 28,000 people were killed in Mexico.

Dean Becker: Yes ma'am, I think the total is --

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: -- and it's for nothing. Because the drugs produced and the drug supply, the drug business goes on in Mexico.

Dean Becker: And I can tell you that the drugs still make it to the United States as well and probably to Europe and everywhere else they want it to go because they have tens their of billions in profits every year to corrupt, bribe and threaten to make sure that it continues.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: And, when there is an advance or a reduction in someplace, they just move to other places. This is also happening in Latin America where Colombia results, you know after this planned Colombia and all of these things where they reduce their production but Peru increases their production.

Dean Becker: Right.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: It’s a business.

Dean Becker: It is.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: It’s life. They will be a demand and a supply

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am. I often say that these drug warriors, the people who think this war should last forever, think that they can overcome the law of supply and demand. It’s just impossible.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: I always say that the economic laws are more strong than the political law.

Dean Becker: This is true.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: You can’t avoid the economic laws.

Dean Becker: No. They are dead certain. Alright friends, we’re speaking with now retired, Judge Maria Lucia Karam. She’s based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She had a great piece and you can still find it, I’m sure, in the Guardian Newspaper in the UK, Drugs: the problem is more than just the substances; it's the prohibition itself.

You can check it out. She has also joined with my band of brothers and sisters now, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Judge Karam, please tell us about how you found LEAP.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: I heard about LEAP some years ago, when I started to be more aware of the international movement for the end of prohibition. I was very impressed and I couldn’t believe that there was an organization in the United States formed by police officers, judges, prosecutors, people who work in the criminal justice system.

This happened, well maybe four years ago and then in 2007, I went to the DPA conference in New Orleans and then I could attend a panel by LEAP there. There was a LEAP booth there. Then I knew that it was not only an American organization. I learned that it was an international organization and I immediately joined LEAP there. It is a very good organization of my dreams.

Dean Becker: Yes ma’am and my–

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: I think that they are strong to have people who work or or have worked in the criminal justice system speaking out.

Dean Becker: Thank you. It is very important. We're speaking with former Judge Maria Lucia Karam, a former judge in Rio de Janeiro. Judge, I want to kind of talk about the progress, I guess, in the Latin Countries. Several past presidents, now even current presidents are starting to speak of – if not saying legalize, they’re saying let’s talk about legalizing. Right?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes and that’s a large step. At least they are recognizing that the drug prohibition has failed.

Dean Becker: Right and even, I heard last week that the Catholic Cardinals in Mexico – again, not calling for legalization – just talking about a debate on legalization. So, it’s spreading rather wide now, isn’t it?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes, I think so. We are – not only is this the beginning of peacemakers starting to be aware of the failure and the harm of prohibition, I think it’s the – there’s a real advance now, including in the United States, that the vote that will happen in California in November with Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana is a great advance. I think, all over the world people are starting to speak more, discuss more.

I think that the facts that you mentioned on my op-ed in The Guardian, but it was not last week, in The Observer last week. It was not only my op-ed. There was also in an editorial of The Observer. This is very important. It is one of the most important newspapers in the world and they also released an editorial saying that prohibition has failed and we need to – we must discuss legalization.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: I think that this will happen. It’s a – the insanity can’t go on. It’s time to be rational and to discuss and do – to put an end to prohibition by legalizing and regulating the production, the supply and the consumption of it. More and more people are getting away with it and this will happen in the next few years. I am sure. I not only hope but I am sure.

Dean Becker: And I would agree with you, Judge Karam, that I think more and more people, certainly more in the United States, are becoming aware of this failure, absolute failure of this Drug War. They may not be on board yet for legalization but they know we have to do something. Right?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Um, hum.

Dean Becker: Yes ma’am. Alright. Judge we’ve got a minute here and I kind of wanted to talk about what is the situation like in Brazil? I mean, Mexico has said they will legalize a few days worth of drugs, Portugal has done the same. Many other nations around the country are lightening they’re – lightening up on their law enforcement efforts towards individuals with small amounts. What’s it like in Brazil?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: About personal use?

Dean Becker: Yes.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Our law will punish even a mere possession for personal use. But there is discussion here, including – including by some policy makers that are in the government. They are discussing something similar to Portugal’s law. Where they would not criminalize drug possession for personal use.

Dean Becker: Which is a good thing because it at least takes the load off the individual but it still leaves the criminals in charge of the production and the distribution, right?

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: Yes, yes. It’s not enough.

Dean Becker: No, it isn’t. Alright, well, Judge –

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: It doesn’t change this horrible situation of violence – this situation, especially against drug dealers.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am. Alright, Judge Karam, we’re going to have to let it go there. I will be in touch with you. I want to hear more of what’s going on in Brazil. We’ve been speaking to Judge Maria Lucia Karam and now a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Thank you very much, Judge.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: You are very welcome and I thank you again for the opportunity to attend and I am sorry for my English. I hope people understood.

Dean Becker: I’m sure they did. Thank you ma’am.

Judge Maria Lucia Karam: You’re welcome.


Making progress can seem hopeless, intimidating, but now with all of the information so widely known about the numerous failures of Drug War politicians inform me that they are very, very interested in hearing from you.

Until you give them your support, the Eternal World War will continue to reap its bloody harvest. Join forces with those to end the madness. Visit: endprohibition.org.


(Eastern wailing throughout)

Hello, this is Borat. Please tell your children to buy my Kazakhstan’s opium and heroins. So my children will live long enough to grow pubis for harvest. Thank you. You’re so nice.


The following comes to us courtesy of John Stossel’s new cable television program:

John Stossel: This police officer says drug use wrecks communities. This ex-police officer says it’s the Drug War that wrecks communities.

Neal Franklin was a narcotics agent in Baltimore. Paul Chabot served in the Drug Czar’s office under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Paul’s pro-Drug War, Neal’s against. Paul, let’s go to you first.

Dean Becker: Ok. He mentioned Paul Chabot. I want you to pay attention to this guy. You long term listeners know that he is mimicking, parroting, John Walters, trying to get his job.

John Stossel: Is it causing more problems than the drugs?

Paul Chabot: Let’s take the concept of a war. We definitely have a war on drug cartels, against crime on our streets but not against our own people who are dealing with drug addiction. Our government and our position has been that we look at this through treatment, education, prevention and –

John Stossel: This may be the position but they are banging into people’s houses and doing what we just saw.

Paul Chabot: I would disagree. With 300 million people in this country you’re gonna find incidents like this across the communities. There’s bound to be press. I went to the funeral of a SWAT officer who was killed on a raid. So, we get our own dropped on these kinds of very serious incidents. Cops don’t know what they’re going into.

John Stossel: But none of it would happen if drugs were legal.

Paul Chabot: Well, I disagree with that. I think we have a number of people – today, we look at alcohol. Look at all the young people in our communities because of alcohol and prescription drug abuse. Do you run across that line now and go into other drugs and add that to the problems and benchmarks that we already have? My answer as a dad, not a cop but as a dad would be a resounding, “No”.

John Stossel: Neil, what’s your answer? Just to be clear, both of you have locked up hundreds of people for drugs. Right?

Neal Franklin: Absolutely. We are responsible task forces that have locked up thousands. You know, the war on drugs has caused Drug Wars in our neighborhoods. We are losing police officers unnecessarily every year and I think we owe it to them. Not just police officers but innocent people dying in our communities are dying now because of the wars in our streets.

John Stossel: Alright, most of your fellow officers, though, side with him.

Neal Franklin: Oh, that’s not true. I talk to my fellow officers – I talk to my fellow officers every day and when you get em’ alone, they will tell you straight up, “This is nonsense. This is absolutely nonsense. Now, the overtime’s good but it’s nonsense that we’re out here chasing people off corners for drug use.”

John Stossel: Paul, what about you?

Paul Chabot: Well, I respectfully disagree. I think it is disingenuous to think that law enforcement is, uh – for your position, sir, uh, we just – it’s not the case. Let’s look across our communities. If I may ask your audience one simple question: How many have you know somebody who’s died from a substance abuse related incident? Any kind of incident, raise your hands.

John Stossel: Alright, they died when the drug was already illegal, so what good does the law do?

Paul Chabot: So let me tell you, let me take this to my next point. Just because we may not have an infinite answer on defeating this Drug War, which we don’t like to call it a Drug War; do we simply give up and wave the white flag? We’re never going to eliminate crime off our streets. So, because we don’t eliminate crime do we just turn the tables and go, let’s just let it go? We’re always going to have—

John Stossel: Crime is about people doing things to other people, hurting them directly.

Paul Chabot: Most of them are under the influence of illegal drugs.

Neal Franklin: Let me ask a question. How many of you have used crack cocaine, if it were legal tomorrow?

John Stossel: No one would use, would try crack cocaine? Paul, you talk about the damage done by alcohol.

Paul Chabot: Right.

John Stossel: Do you want to go back to alcohol prohibition? Hey, why not?

Paul Chabot: Let me tell you what, I’ll say this, we’ve crossed that line in our community. I think we are where we are. The things we have to look at as a society is, look at all the problems we already have because of alcohol. Do we want to add now, more problems to that already existing problem? My answer would be a resounding, “No”.

John Stossel: And we tried to get rid of the alcohol problems with prohibition. We created Al Capone, etc., aren’t we doing the same thing with drugs?

Paul Chabot: Well, I think we’re better of fighting the fight, than not fighting the fight. First off, our communities, our societies have become a lot more violent today. We look at the Mexican drug cartels, which have made inroads into all of our communities, the very violent street gangs and thugs that we have. They’re not going to go away if we simply legalize or legitimize drugs. They’re very resilient organizations. They’ll simply move to human smuggling, arms smuggling and we already have cigarette smuggling in this country. So, just because something is legal, doesn’t mean the black market evaporates. They just simply adapt.

John Stossel: There are no beer cartels or wine smugglers.

Paul Chabot: Well, here’s the reason why. Who’s going to come across Mexico with two or three gallons of wine on their back for a few bucks, when you can come across with a few pounds of pot?

John Stossel: But that’s the point of legalizing.


Paul Chabot: No, there are no laws are –

John Stossel: You can’t get rich. There’s no huge profits. There’s no incentive to arm yourself and form a gang.

Paul Chabot: Thank you, look people, we can’t box marijuana and all these other drugs separately. We look at methamphetamine and the epidemic that we have in this country. Do we simply legalize meth? We know personally, well at least we should, the damage that this has done to our country. Here’s the point that people have to ask themselves.

A: I live in California. Over a thousand pot shops in the streets of LA. More than Starbucks, McDonalds and 7-11s combined. Go to San Francisco today. Go to a park. Parents no longer take their kids to the park in San Francisco.

John Stossel: Parks, no longer pleasant in San Francisco? It’s remarkable. I have to go check that out.


John Stossel: Thank you, Paul and Neil.

Stay with us because our audience wants to grill you. Neil, aren’t there unintended consequences if we end prohibition? These organized crime gangs will find something else to do.

Neal Franklin: Sure, there are unintended consequences, but look at the consequences we have now. 20,000 people in Mexico have died since we’ve been at this for the past few years, since Calderón took over. We have thousands of people in our inner cities who die annually. We’re dealing with a lot of death right now as our consequences.

John Stossel (Selecting an audience member with a question): Yes sir.

Audience Member: If we legalize the drugs, wouldn’t it at least keep the focus on those people who choose to bad things?

John Stossel: Paul?

Paul Chabot: I think it’s one of the biggest misnomers, that cops are simply out there circling the streets, looking for a guy smoking dope on a corner. We have very few resources to begin with and so we’re mostly being active not proactive to crimes. WE responding to 911 calls, babies drowning, shots fired. We’re not out there “hooking and booking” small time guys smoking dope on the street.

These raids that we saw, yeah, they do happen, but they need to happen and for good reason. Why? Because, there’s violent people behind many of those doors.

John Stossel: You want to respond too?

Neal Franklin: I beg to differ on the “hooking and booking”. We are out there in law enforcement doing that because communities have this violence that prohibition has created. Our law enforcement agencies are taxed right now. They can’t focus on the child abuse issues. They can’t focus on domestic violence. They can’t focus on the homicides because we’re too busy chasing people off corners for smoking marijuana.

John Stossel (Selecting an audience member with a question): You, sir in the red shirt.

Audience Member: Neil before had stated that the overtime is pretty sweet. How much of the war on drugs is a jobs program to keep you guys employed?

Neal Franklin: For instance, Baltimore city, right now, the Baltimore police department is in – for year after year, after year – they’re in trouble, budgetary trouble because of overtime. If it weren’t for the war on drugs they would have no overtime-budgetary issues, period.

Paul Chabot: I disagree. I think we do not have that kind of an issue. There are so many other violent incidents that we’re dealing with. We’ve got less cops on our streets today, less resources. Cities and counties are hurting. There are so many other things out there than just drugs that we are dealing with.

Neal Franklin: That’s my point exactly. 70-75% of the time that an officer spends on a street in Baltimore city is dealing with the ILLEGAL drug market.

Paul Chabot: But, if you look at Baltimore and the train wreck of a city that was, through your previous mayor who basically allowed anybody to do anything.

Neal Franklin: Chicago, New York, Detroit, LA; go through the whole country.


Paul Chabot: I would not want to raise my kids on those streets.

Neal Franklin: I agree with you. That’s why we need to end prohibition.

Paul Chabot: It’s not going to make things better.

Dean Becker: Alright. Paul Chabot, doesn’t think that prohibition will make things better. Watch out for that guy. He is trying to get himself nominated as the next drug czar. I’m sure of it.

I appreciate you being with us. I want to thank again, Judge Maria Lucia Karam, the judge out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’m going to have to invite John Stossel back. John Stossel gets it and I think you get it. If you’re a long-term listener of the show, you get it.

Hey, musicians out there! If you’ve written a song about the end of prohibition, send me a link to it! Write to dean@drugtruth.net and in the subject line put: “prohibition song”. We’re going to have a contest. I’m going to give away a little money for the winner. I don’t have much but at least you’ll get some airplay. We hope to do a music show around the anniversary of the Drug Truth Network.

You know, you guys have got to help. That’s really the only answer there is to it. There’s no truth, justice, logic and no reason for this Drug War to exist. Please, visit our website: endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker. Asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs, archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com