Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mozambique: Attorney-General Rejects Call to Burn Cannabis Fields

Maputo - Mozambique's Attorney-General, Joaquim Madeira, on Wednesday rejected suggestion from parliamentary deputies that peasant fields planted with cannabis should be destroyed.

He was speaking on the second day of a debate on his annual report to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

Deputies expressed concern at drug trafficking, and wanted to know why sterner measures were not taken. But Madeira resisted a call to burn down fields of "soruma" (the Mozambican name for cannabis). The true solution, he said, was to offer the peasants concerned "replacement crops" - though he did not suggest what crops would earn farmers more money than cannabis.

Deputies were also indignant about the release of four policemen caught in possession of the illegal drug mandrax. In his report Madeira noted that these four policemen were caught red-handed helping themselves to 10 sacks, each containing 50 kilos of the raw material for mandrax, part of a drugs haul that had been seized and was being kept in the Maputo police command.

Later the four, much to prosecutors' annoyance, were released on bail by a Maputo judge, who argued that there were no crimes so serious as not to allow bail. Madeira assured the deputies that the fact that the policemen were out on bail did not mean that the case had died.

Preparation to bring the men to trial would continue.

As for the judge, Madeira made it clear that his office appealed against any court rulings it regarded as illegal or incorrect. But it would be up to the judicial inspectorate to monitor this judge "and see whether he really has the vocation to be a judge".

In his report, Madeira also noted the cases of women caught at the country's main airports with drugs (usually cocaine) hidden inside their bodies. "The drugs business is dehumanising our society", he remarked.

The drugs come from Brazil, where the police occasionally arrest Mozambicans before they catch the return flight to Africa.

On a visit to Brazil, a delegation from Madeira's office visited a Sao Paulo prison and interviewed 14 Mozambican women, aged between 19 and 49. The same prison held women of 34 other nationalities, all arrested for drugs offences.

"They were surprised, because this was the first visit they had received from any official Mozambican body", said Madeira.

Later, the Mozambican embassy woke up to the fact that Mozambican citizens were in Brazilian jails, and began consular visits.

Just one of the Mozambicans had been tried, and was serving a six year jail sentence. All said they wanted to return to Mozambique, and would prefer to serve their sentences in Mozambican jails. Asked for details of their involvement in drug trafficking the women clammed up, and showed they were "very fearful". This was "organised and transnational crime", said Madeira, and the women "feared reprisals". Indeed the night before the visit a woman of another nationality was found dead in the jail under unexplained circumstances.

What some of the women did say was that initially they believed they were being sent to Brazil to pick up shipments of cheap clothing. "But they were caught in traps, set by people who live in Mozambique", Madeira declared.

"Concerted action is need to neutralise the drug barons who are destabilising and endangering our society", he concluded.


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