Wednesday Morning Open Thread

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larger version here.

It sure is cold outside, but the view from my living room was very pretty yesterday.

I’ve been mostly reading news from Mexico today. The papers there have been filled the past few days with revelations that the DEA made deals with top Sinaloa cartel members to provide information about rival cartels in exchange for immunity and the freedom to continue their illegal activities. This is about the case of Jesus Vincent Zambada-Niebla, awaiting trial in Chicago. I’m not sure why the Mexican papers are just picking it up now — it was news in the U.S. in 2011. The reporter does a good job though, and includes references to some of the pleadings. Here’s a long post I wrote about the case and the DEA’s “snitch and carry on” policy. It’s an interesting question whether Humberto Loya-Castro, the Sinaloa lawyer who became a DEA informant and provided information about rival cartels for years to the DEA, and who set up a meeting in Mexico City between the DEA and Zambada-Niebla, at which Zambada-Niebla claimed the DEA offered him the same deal as Loya — become a snitch against rivals and continue on without fear of busts — was not so much an informant as an agent of the Cartel doing business with the U.S. Government.

Snitch and receive a get out of jail free card pales in comparison to snitch, stay in business and be free from arrest. The  DEA used the same strategy in Colombia when targeting Pablo Escobar. It’s called “Divide and Conquer.” [More…]

More news from Mexico: There are new details about Mexican officials allegedly present during the torture and killing of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. Via Proceso, as translated by Borderland Beat:

Three former Mexican police officers, placed in the witness protection program since the 1990’s, gave Proceso details of the kidnapping and torture of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. But there’s more: these witnesses assert that Manuel Bartlett Diaz, then the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, and Juan Arevalo Gardoqui, Secretary of Defense, witnessed the torture of the DEA agent.

There’s also reporting about the DEA and two  U.S. prosecutors going to a  prison in Mexico, along with an official from Mexico’s SIEDO, to try and convince a Mexican official arrested for providing information to the  Beltran-Leyva cartel to agree to come to the U.S. to back up the testimony of its informants in an  FBI-initiated investigation called Operation Limpieza (Clean Sweep.) The visits by the U.S. agents and prosecutors were not legal in Mexico.

In Mexico, only the prosecutor and, where appropriate, the judge may validly question a detainee, even for extradition proceedings to answer if it is his will and always in the presence of counsel,” explains Juan Velasquez, renowned criminal lawyer in the country.

The official also says he was kept in inhumane conditions and psychologically tortured. Five Mexican generals were charged in Mexico as a result of the investigation. Ultimately, four were acquitted and freed.

In local news, Andrew Cohen has a good article at the Daily Beast on Colorado and legal pot , the faux morality of those on the East Coast criticizing it, and the continued disparate treatment of those who use marijuana vs. alcohol — such as, you can be fired for smoking pot.

[A] Colorado employee can get drunk as a skunk on a Saturday night and have no fear on Monday of losing her job to a drug test so long as she shows up sober and ready to work. And it means that the employee’s coworker cannot have even a puff of pot on that same Saturday night without fearing that a subsequent drug test will cost her a job, even if she also shows up sober and ready to work on the following Monday.

Andrew writes that drug testing at work will prevent Colorado’s “experiment” with legal pot from being successful, and we need a federal law to fix it.

And it’s also why the experiment cannot fully succeed until federal law is updated to reflect accurately what we’ve learned about marijuana in the past few decades. Companies such as DISH aren’t going to alter their drug-testing policies voluntarily to account for legal marijuana use. They are going to have to be forced by federal law to do so.

In Colorado, the ACLU has argued that employees should not be fired for evidence of past pot use, which is what the drug tests now show, but for evidence of current cannabis use or impairment, which the drug tests now do not necessarily show. Colorado lawmakers, and ultimately officials in the Obama administration, are going to have to address that dichotomy.

The unfair stigma associated with marijuana use goes beyond employment. Landlords can dictate renters not use drugs. It comes up in child custody proceedings. Government benefits can be denied because of it.

That’s it for me. This is an open thread, all topics welcome.