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Canadian journalist Dawn Paley’s first book is an extraordinary look at the on-the-ground reality of the US-backed war on drugs. Paley persuasively argues that the drug war has very little to do with stopping the flow of illicit substances across Latin America. Instead, she posits an alternative motivation: the militarisation of resource-rich areas and greater social control helps advance corporate interests in the region.
Paley takes us on a chilling journey through the aftermath of decades of US drug policy in Latin America, starting with the disastrous impacts of Plan Colombia, which, apart from instilling terror in local populations, also displaced narco‑trafficking beyond Colombian borders. A similar model of militarised control has since been adopted in Mexico and Central America.
The book looks at the increasingly blurry line between state forces and narco-traffickers, an unholy union that has tragically led to widespread violence and a staggering number of civilian deaths in many parts of Latin America. A climate of fear has taken root as a direct result of the war on drugs, which Paley argues could more accurately be called ‘a war against people’.
Paley deftly weaves together personal experience and investigative reportage, anecdotes and government data. While at times there is some conflation of top-level statistics, on the whole the book is meticulously researched and creates a compelling narrative in support Paley’s main thesis: ‘This war is about control over territory and society, much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.’
A weakness of the book is that it doesn’t do more to highlight the fierce resistance that has sprung up among communities. Although this could easily form another chapter in its own right, accounts of some of the campaigns could help counteract the gloomy statistics and emphasise the agency of local communities to effect change.
More than just useful reference material, Paley’s writing style and use of first-person narrative help bring the book to life. This is compulsory reading for anyone interested in this challenging yet critically important area.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Dr Laura Basu explains that the media allowed politicians to re-write history, erasing the true causes of the economic crisis.
Outsourced cleaners are on the front lines of the battle for workers' rights. By Emiliano Mellino
Power to our beloved comrade and friend, Mehmet Aksoy, a hero of Kurdistan and the internationalist struggles against capitalism, colonialism and fascism. This tribute was authored by Mehmet’s family and friends.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes