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EL ESPECTADOR

And If The Pope Called For Drug Legalization?

Pope Francis has been surprisingly progressive on such issues as gay rights. But so far he's taken the hard line on denouncing drugs. That could change if he sees that legalization is the best chance for reducing violence.

Holy dude
Holy dude
Rodrigo Uprimny

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — I was convinced — twice over — that the charismatic Pope Francis might genuinely be infallible. First for being pope, because the First Vatican Council declared in 1870 that the Supreme Pontiff could not err, at least not in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And secondly, for being Argentinian. I guess I've come to believe Argentines' famously high opinion of themselves.

Many of the pope's early positions appeared to confirm this "infallibility," showing us as they did a simple man who was open to adopting more humane and understanding positions on issues such as homosexuality. He seemed to have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

But Pope Francis has taken two unfortunate positions on the issue of drugs, which demonstrate how fallible he remains.

He recently expressed concern about growing drug trafficking in Argentina, saying he hoped that his native country would not go the "Mexican" way with drugs. The comments prompted verbal protests from Mexico. The pope apologized and clarified that he had not mean to offend Mexicans, and that is almost certainly true.

But he did make a mistake in substance, not only style — for the misperception that drug trafficking making a massive entry into Argentina would somehow represent a "Mexicanization" of the phenomenon in that country. Or as they used to call it in the 1970s and 1980s, "Colombianization."

Gangs love laws

The mistake is in thinking that drug-related violence and corruption elsewhere in Latin America would be due to acquiring — as if by contagion — certain traits of Mexico or Colombia. In fact, the reason for any exponential rise in violence would be that powerful drug-trafficking gangs had developed in Argentina, with enormous capacity for violence. And if that happened, it would not be because of Colombia or Mexico, but instead because of the presence of worldwide laws against certain drugs like marijuana and cocaine.

Such criminalization of drugs have not at all reduced the problems associated with their abuse. Instead, they have very effectively fomented an illicit drug economy with its tremendous potential for related crimes.

This is then related to the pope's second misstep, namely comments he made a few months ago against legalizing drugs. "Drugs are an evil, and in the face of evil, you can neither give way nor make commitments," he said then.

That's a mistaken notion, because drugs are not intrinsically bad. The problem is abuse. Decriminalization, which doesn't mean a free-for-all but a strictly controlled and regulated market, is one way of confronting the abuses without giving way to a prohibition's vicious effects, like trafficking.

If Pope Francis wants to avoid Argentina "going the Mexican way," there is an obvious solution: Legalize drugs. If only the Holy Spirit could inspire this promising leader to reconsider his position on these global drug bans that have created so much unnecessary harm and evil.

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Economy

In Uganda, Having A "Rolex" Is About Not Going Hungry

Experts fear the higher food prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine could jeopardize the health of many Ugandans. Take a look at this ritzy-named simple dish.

Zziwa Fred, a street vendor who runs two fast-food businesses in central Uganda, rolls a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex.

Nakisanze Segawa

WAKISO — Godfrey Kizito takes a break from his busy shoe repair shop every day so he can enjoy his favorite snack, a vegetable and egg omelet rolled in a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex. But for the past few weeks, this daily ritual has given him neither the satisfaction nor the sustenance he is used to consuming. Kizito says this much-needed staple has shrunk in size.

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Most streets and markets in Uganda have at least one vendor firing up a hot plate ready to cook the Rolex, short for rolled eggs — which usually comes with tomatoes, cabbage and onion and is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (28 to 57 cents). Street vendor Farouk Kiyaga says many of his customers share Kizito’s disappointment over the dwindling size of Uganda’s most popular street food, but Kiyaga is struggling with the rising cost of wheat and cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted exports out of the two countries, which account for about 26% of wheat exports globally and about 80% of the world’s exports of sunflower oil, pushing prices to an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency. Not only oil and wheat are affected. Prices of the most consumed foods worldwide, such as meat, grains and dairy products, hit their highest levels ever in March, making a nutritious meal even harder to buy for those who already struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.N. organization warns the conflict could lead to as many as 13.1 million more people going hungry between 2022 and 2026.

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