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Argentine Congress overwhelmingly approves cannabis oil for medical use

The Argentine Senate unanimously approved the legalization of cannabis oil for medicinal use this evening, making the bill ready to be sent to President Mauricio Macri's desk for his signature.

Its passage in the Senate, with all 58 senators (out of 72) present voting in the affirmative, comes a full four months after the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, did so on November 23 with 221 voting aye and just one abstention (out of 257).

President Macri, who as mayor of Buenos Aires staunchly opposed legalization of cannabis or any narcotic and who was narrowly elected in 2015 on a law-and-order platform, has not indicated whether he intends to sign the bill; but all members of his right-wing "Let's Change" caucus present in today's session voted for the popular measure.

The bill allows the Argentine Government to import and eventually cultivate marijuana for the distribution of cannabis oil to anyone in Argentina with a prescription. It falls short, however, of demands made by medical cannabis use advocates, which included the establishment of permits for those willing to cultivate their own.

The original version proposed by the center-left Front for Victory (FpV) caucus included these permits; but the provision was struck from the final version due to opposition from Macri's "Let's Change" caucus.

Mariana Quiroga of the advocacy group Mamá Cultiva, which represents those who already grow marijuana for the treatment of loved ones with painful chronic conditions, applauded the bill but noted that it "still leaves us unprotected from a State which persecutes us for growing marijuana, which for years has been the best medicine we've ever found for our loved ones in pain."

Alejandro Cibotti of the Network of Medicinal Cannabis Users (RUCAM) agreed, noting that besides allowing those with chronic pain to live normal lives it allows them to discontinue the use of Methadone and other highly addictive opiates.

Flexible and creative

Congresswoman Nilda Garré of the FpV, who supported the bill, called on Macri to be "flexible and creative in helping people deal with their health problems." Garré pointed to the fact that 20 European countries, 23 U.S. states, Canada, Chile, and Uruguay - as well as two Argentine provinces - already have such legislation on the books.

The Argentine Supreme Court in 2009 ruled it unconstitutional to prosecute citizens for possessing narcotics solely for personal use. The number of prison sentences issued under the country's Narcotics Law - many of which involved marijuana - nevertheless rose from 2,000 annually in 2009 to 3,000 currently.

The bill passed today does not address decriminalization in general, or the legal situation of those currently in prison for cultivation - even for medicinal use. One such case, Adriana Funaro, was sentenced to house arrest in February for growing marijuana to treat a hereditary osteoarthritis condition.

"We're persecuted no matter what the proof," she lamented. Her sentence was affirmed on appeal the day before passage of this bill.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F28606-legalizaron-el-cannabis-medicinal&edit-text=

Blaming the victims: dictatorship denialism is on the rise in Argentina

Almost uniquely among nations that have suffered mass killings under brutal dictatorships, Argentina was able not only to put a large number of its former torturers behind bars; but to establish a consensus that its 1976-83 military regime had executed a lower-intensity Nazi-style genocide that lacked any moral justification.

General Jorge Videla, who presided over most of the Dirty War, and four others were convicted in 1985 for their role in the atrocities (just two years after the return of democracy), and since former President Néstor Kirchner repealed amnesty laws in 2003, over 1,000 other former officers have been sentenced.

But Argentina’s consensus on the gravity of dictatorship-era crimes has been shattered since President Mauricio Macri's right-wing administration took office 15 months ago.

Macri and a number of his officials and close allies have since then made numerous public statements minimizing the extent and seriousness of the 1970s Dirty War, which, human rights organizations agree, killed around 30,000 dissidents - most of them known to be non-violent.

These include National Customs Director Juan José Gómez Centurión, former Buenos Aires Culture Minister Darío Lopérfido (both fired last year due to financial improprieties - though Gómez was later reappointed), and Macri himself, who in an August interview with Buzzfeed said, when asked how many people had been murdered, that “I have no idea. That’s a debate I’m not going to enter, whether they were 9,000 or 30,000.”

'They should have killed them all'

Some sympathisers of the military regime have long raised doubts over the number of desaparecidos; but Macri’s words marked the first time that such denialist rhetoric entered mainstream political discourse.

Mario Ranaletti, professor of history at Tres de Febrero University, has specialized in the mindset of Argentine denialist groups. “They consider it a good and morally unquestionable act,” he says. “To them the Cold War was a religious war.” Even today, Ranaletti notes, some Argentines argue that “they should have killed them all.”

This posture was dramatized during a recent human rights march by a sign held by Ignacio Montagut, a staffer in Macri's Security Ministry, that read "30,000 were not enough."

Denialism by the numbers

Macri’s '9,000' number refers to a list of 8,961 names compiled in 1984 by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP). Long touted by denialists as the only valid accounting, the list was never meant to be final. The military themselves reported 22,000 killings to Chilean intelligence in July 1978. Five months later, the dictatorship informed the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires, Pío Laghi, that it had killed 15,000 people, declassified US documents show.

At Buenos Aires' Chacarita Cemetery, where many of the disappeared are known to have been disposed of, the number of recorded cremations rose from 13,000 in 1974 to 30,000 in 1978, before falling back to 21,000 in 1980. Thousands more were buried in unmarked graves, where work still continues on the identification of human remains. And the CONADEP list did not include victims whose bodies were returned to their families – or the undoubtedly vast number of unreported victims.

As Argentina marked the 41st anniversary of the 1976 coup on Friday, investigative writer Martín Kohan acknowledged that the exact number will never be known because the last dictator, General Reynaldo Bignone, ordered all incriminating documents systematically destroyed shortly before stepping down in 1983.

Kohan noted that many of the deaths were never reported due to fear of reprisals, and that due to the clandestine nature of the offensive many of the relatives of those killed believed (or were led to believe) they died in accidents or were killed by subversives - and still do.

Taken together, such factors make the 30,000 estimate by human rights groups a reasonable assumption; perfectible by academic research perhaps - but never questioned before by a sitting president.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/29/argentina-denial-dirty-war-genocide-mauricio-macri

Argentina's Macri purchasing over $2 billion in U.S. military equipment.

An investigation by the top-rated Argentine news program El Destape revealed that on the administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri made a formal request to the United States Government to approve a purchase of well over $2 billion in military equipment.

The procurement, which included fighter jets, war tanks, medium and long range missiles, missile launchers, attack helicopters, and a wide variety of munitions and other equipment typically used in a war theater, was reportedly made on June 16, 2016, through the offices of Argentine Ambassador Martín Lousteau with the stated purpose of "combating terrorism."

El Destape obtained the complete list of weaponry requested by the Macri administration by way of an official Argentine Embassy letter to Congressman Pete Visclosky, a senior Indiana Democrat and the Ranking Member on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Some of the material, El Destape found, has in fact already been purchased.

The request, the largest single Argentine military order since shortly before the ill-fated Falklands/Malvinas War waged by the last dictatorship in 1982, was far in excess of the request presented to the Argentine Congress during the FY2017 budgetary process last year.

The Lousteau letter revealed, moreover, that while the list was not revealed to Congress as a whole, it was known to at least two congressmen belonging to Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" caucus: Eduardo Amadeo and Luciano Laspina, who according to the letter personally lobbied Congressman Visclosky in April 2016 for approval.

Amadeo, in particular, is known for his far-right views and for his links to ultra-nationalist elements in the local media and Argentine Armed Forces.

Congressional subpoenas

The leader of the opposition, center-left FpV caucus, Héctor Recalde, announced he will seek to subpoena Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and Defense Minister Julio César Martínez.

"This was done behind everyone's backs. It's imperative we know if the administration is seeking conflict with one of our neighbors," Recalde said. "Or if, as the administration claimed, this is about terrorism, to what 'terrorism' are they referring to."

"This administration insists on persecuting opponents and criminalizing the right to protest, and our fear is that they are transitioning to outright repression."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fexclusivo-la-escalofriante-lista-armamento-que-argentina-le-pidio-estados-unidos-n27058&edit-text=

Democratic write-in candidate Emilio Vazquez wins special election

Democratic write-in candidate Emilio Vázquez has won Tuesday’s special election to fill a seat in the state House of Representatives, according to unofficial numbers released today.

The election, held in North Philly’s 197th District, garnered widespread controversy earlier this week following complaints — including from Green Party write-in candidate Cheri Honkala and Republican Lucinda Little, the sole candidate on the ballot — of illegal voter assistance and other questionable poll activities.

Commissioner Al Schmidt said the unofficial write-in count, tallied this morning, put Vázquez at 1,970 votes and Honkala at 282 votes. According to unofficial numbers released earlier this week, Little received less than 8 percent of votes. Voter turnout was about 5%.

“The voters of the 197th have spoken and they have decisively chosen hope over the politics of division and fear,” Vázquez said in a statement. “In these troubling times for our country and our Commonwealth, it is important that people see they can still stand up and be counted. It is now time that we turn the page and come together. I look forward to being sworn in and representing the people of the 197th in Harrisburg, where I will join the fight to fully fund our schools, create good jobs, and raise the minimum wage.”

At: http://www.phillymag.com/news/2017/03/24/democrat-emilio-vazquez-special-election/

Despite massive teachers' union march in Argentina, Macri rejects collective bargaining talks

Hundreds of thousands of teachers from all over the country took to the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday, demanding that the government hold wage negotiations at a national level.

The nation's six teachers' unions, which together represent over 500,000 teachers at the primary and secondary levels, are demanding wage increases of close to 30% following a 45% jump in prices within a year after President Mauricio Macri's narrow runoff win in November 2015.

The Macri administration, which held successful collective bargaining talks last year, has refused to hold them this year. They argue that because teachers’ minimum wages were raised last year by 35% and because extra funds were earmarked to the nation's 23 provinces to pay for wage hikes, each province has to deal with its own teachers.

Most provinces, however, are currently strapped for cash amid the most serious recession since 2009, and have offered wage hikes averaging 15%. The six provinces that have reached an agreement with the unions are raising wages by an average of 25%.

The federal education budget for FY2017 was raised by 17%; inflation so far this year in Argentina, however, has been running at an annualized rate of 30%.

President Macri himself, who attended elite private schools and as Buenos Aires mayor had a record of underspending his own public education budgets by 30% or more while doting subsidies on private and parochial schools, inadvertently exacerbated tensions with teachers by describing education in Argentina as having “a terrible inequity between those who can go to private school and those who have to ‘fall’ into public education.”

The city's leading news daily Clarín, which supports the conservative Macri, went further, publishing an article on March 18 making an apocryphal comparison between a second-grader in a private school (a blonde boy) and a public school student (a darker-skinned boy) who was “falling behind.” The article was widely condemned by both teachers' unions and children's rights activists.

“These people behind us - the President, the Education Minister - have insulted us all,” said CTERA union leader Sonia Alesso. “They've insulted both teachers and students, because none of us ‘fell’ into a public school.”

At: http://www.thebubble.com/despite-massive-teachers-unions-march-national-government-wont-hold-national-wage-negotiations/


Falling in against Macri's public education budget cuts, Argentina's teachers' unions rally in Buenos Aires.

Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto is Leaving State GOP

Source: Honolulu Magazine

Hawai‘i Rep. Beth Fukumoto, the millennial woman lawmaker who once led Republicans in the state House, today (Wednesday, March 22) announced that she is leaving the state GOP to pursue membership in the Democratic Party.

This comes after a tumultuous year that included her being ousted from leadership, sworn at by a colleague on the House floor and blasted for speaking critically about President Trump at the Women’s March on the state Capitol.

“I am going to leave the Republican party and pursue membership as a Democrat,” Fukumoto says. First elected in 2012, she says the party no longer aligns with her views or those of most of the state, who continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Having just been re-elected in this past year’s election, Fukumoto, 33, says she sent a letter to her district because she wanted to hear from people she represents before making the final decision. “Most people responding said either they’re independent or they’re Democrat or they’re Republican but, at the end of the day, my party affiliation doesn’t matter to them as long as they feel I’m looking out for their best interests when I vote.”

Read more: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/March-2017/Breaking-News-Hawaii-State-Rep-Beth-Fukumoto-is-Leaving-State-GOP/

Four dead in London vehicle and knife attack; 20 hurt.

A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage at the heart of Britain's seat of power Wednesday, mowing down pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing an armed police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament.

Four people were killed, including the attacker, and about 20 others were injured.

Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down as the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament and just yards from entrances to the building itself. He died, as did two pedestrians on the bridge, and the police officer.

Police said they were treating the attacks as a terrorist incident and had launched a full counterterrorism investigation. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"We are satisfied at this stage that it looks like there was only one attacker," said Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley. "But it would be foolish to be overconfident early on."

The threat level for international terrorism in the United Kingdom was already listed at severe, meaning an attack is "highly likely."

Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.

At: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-british-parliament-attack-20170322-story.html

Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, and 88 others sign open letter against Argentina's Macri

U.S. writer Noam Chomsky and actor Danny Glover joined 88 other academics, artists, and activists from 22 countries to protest against “the neoliberal policies” of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the corruption scandals that have emerged from him and his administration.

The letter, titled “Against Macri's Abuses: The World Stands with Argentina,” was sponsored by Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity.

“He triggered thousands of layoffs in the public and the private sectors, devalued the currency, stripped workers of labor rights as well as benefits for retirees and their free prescription drugs,” stated the document among other issues.

“The steep decline of economic activity, particularly in industry, is evident as poverty continues to grow with two million new poor since the beginning of Macri’s presidency.”

Macri’s neoliberal economic reforms have also seen the price of goods and services skyrocket in the South American country. Inflation in Argentina rose sharply, from 23% in November 2015 - the last full month before Macri took office - to 45% a year later.

Inflation has since eased to 36%; but the affordability of key staples such as beef and dairy have fallen by one third, while that of vegetable oil and bread has plummeted by half despite record harvests.

The signatories criticized Macri for his involvement in corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, the Odebrecht scandal, as well as for agreements with Avianca airline and the Argentine postal company Correo Argentino that amount to self-dealing.

They also condemned the illegal detention of Indigenous leader Milagro Sala and expressed their solidarity with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who “suffers from an attack from the justice system and the media that gets worse and worse, turning into a serious attack against democracy.”

At: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Noam-Chomsky-Danny-Glover-Sign-Letter-Against-Argentinas-Macri-20170320-0024.html


Former Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez accuses Macri of using courts to eliminate political opponent

The administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and one of its chief backers, the top Buenos Aires news daily Clarín, were forced to retract a claim made that former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González pressed Macri to have his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, "jailed" in order to "encourage foreign investment."

The widely-publicized claim, published in Clarín by their chief business writer Marcelo Bonelli on March 17, was based on a meeting Macri and González held in Madrid just hours before the Argentine president concluded his state visit to Spain on February 24.

González's spokesman, Joaquín Tagar, called on Clarín to "rectify the article, which reflects neither the conversation itself nor Mr. González's thinking." Hours later, the former prime minister appeared via telephone at the Buenos Aires evening news program Minuto Uno to further repudiate the story.

"This is totally false," González told Minuto Uno host Gustavo Sylvestre. "It reflects neither the conversation itself, my own opinions, or my way of thinking. (Bonelli) put words in my mouth, as I never spoke to him or anyone else at Clarín."

Unnamed sources

The article cited only unnamed sources for the quote, which was corroborated by no one present at the meeting. Bonelli promptly issued a retraction, albeit an ambiguous one that seemed to impugn González's word while upholding the "trustworthiness" of his own sources.

Neither Macri nor anyone in his right-wing administration responded publicly to either González or Mrs. Kirchner, or to reports that Macri officials privately admitted to the news journal La Política Online that the exchange never in fact took place.

Macri himself had already created a similar controversy on September 20, when he falsely claimed British Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to discuss the issue of sovereignty over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Eliminating political opponents

Plagued by severe recession, the Panama Papers revelations, and a number of high-dollar conflict-of-interest scandals, Macri and his surrogates have pursued charges against their embattled but still popular predecessor, Cristina Kirchner. Mrs. Kirchner leads polling for the key upcoming Senate race in Buenos Aires Province, the nation's largest, and remains a a top contender for the presidency in 2019 should she choose to run.

Support from the Clarín Group, part of the country's largest media conglomerate, was key to Macri's narrow electoral win in 2015, and both Clarín and its cable news arm, TN, routinely call for Mrs. Kirchner to be jailed while giving the increasingly unpopular Macri positive coverage.

For González, however, the controversy goes beyond merely lying. "Using the courts to eliminate political opponents is undemocratic and goes against my deepest convictions," he said.

"I just turned 75, and have been in politics for 50 years; but I'm still amazed sometimes."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F306549


Former Spanish Premier Felipe González: still amazed sometimes.[/center]

Ecuador's right-wing candidate linked to 49 tax haven companies

Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso is connected to 49 companies in offshore tax havens, Buenos Aires news daily Página/12 reports, presenting challenges to his campaign ahead of the April 2 runoff election.

The companies, based in Panama, the Cayman Islands and Delaware, have diverse names that hide Lasso's role.

Página/12 reports that between 1999 and 2000, around the same time former Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad dollarized the country's economy and Lasso served as Minister of Finance, Lasso's fortune jumped from US$1 million to US$31 million.

The right-wing banker candidate is believed to have boosted his fortune by speculating on government bonds ahead of dollarization, which left millions of Ecuadoreans in poverty.

"The financier tried in recent years to tidy up his businesses in order to enter the political arena," the investigative report says. "However, the magnitude of the offshore companies and their profits could implicate him in tax evasion."

Last month, Ecuador became the first country in the world to pass a plebiscite to ban public officials from having assets or capital in tax havens.

At: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuadors-Right-Wing-Candidate-Linked-to-49-Tax-Haven-Companies-20170316-0001.html

[center]Here's a link to the translated article from Página/12 for more detail into Lasso's offshore maneuvers: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F25889-lasso-el-magnate-de-las-offshore&edit-text=

A tangled web indeed.[/center]
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