In 1834, the British Government could not have sent a worse person with the worst set of instructions to China. The British Parliament chose William Napier, a Scottish lord, to be the Chief Superintendent of Trade in East Asia. Lord Napier had no experience with Chinese culture or traditions, but was nonetheless sent to Canton to take-up residence as the King’s representative and to ensure unfettered access to the Chinese market. However, setting up residence on Chinese soil without first visiting the Chinese Imperial court and kowtowing to the emperor was a violation of the Middle Kingdom’s laws. The importation of opium, something the British had been smuggling into China well before the arrival of Napier, was also illegal, and he ensured that it continued.
After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies.
Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment.
At the height of his power, Sinaloa cartel kingpin, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was on Forbes’ most powerful list just below Robin Li, the CEO of China’s number one search company, Baidu. Unlike Apple and Baidu, which have to report their annual earnings, acknowledge the members of their companies, and open their finances to government scrutiny, Mexican drug cartels have no such requirements.
The home of cocaine production has a new address. Stepping out from behind the shadows of its more notorious peers in the region, Peru is taking the helm from its South American neighbors as the leading producer of cocaine in the world. While Colombia’s production declines due to concerted efforts by both its government and U.S. foreign agencies (along with FARC being open to negotiations), a once dormant industry from Peru’s troubled past has resurfaced to meet market demand.
In the early 1990s, Peru was a major producer of cocaine but was eventually surpassed by Colombia following aggressive government policies in Peru to combat the black market trade. These policies have faded over time, and thus the expansion of cocaine growing has boomed once again.
Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto is in the most difficult period of his presidency, with vociferous protests over the disappearance of 43 teachers-in-training in the state of Guerrero fueling angry calls for his resignation. At the same time, his government is facing accusations of corruption. Taken together, the two problems seriously undermine the image of Mexico that the president and his team have worked to promote around the globe.