Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Martine Moise lay in blood, pretending to be dead. Next to her lay her husband, the most senior official in Haiti. Deep in the night, mercenaries had gained access to the president's residence. They faced little resistance from the presidential guard. The only shots fired, had been the ones that had killed the president and injured the first lady. As Martine lay still, trying not to breathe, she heard the attackers rummaging through their files. "That's it," they finally declared before fleeing.
In the coming days, the poor nation of Haiti plunged into chaos. It emerged that the gunmen were mercenaries commissioned by the country's drug lords. Before his death, Jovenel Moise had begun a campaign to rid the country of the drug syndicate. He had cleaned up the customs department, nationalized a seaport and destroyed an airstrip used for smuggling. He had also launched investigations into Haiti's eel trade, suspected to be a front for money laundering.
President Moise had launched a war on drugs in his country, but ended up signing his own death certificate. When the attackers proclaimed, "That's it," they were referring to a list of names of suspected drug traffickers. Among them was Charles Saint-Rémy, also known as Kiko, a Haitian businessman long suspected of involvement in the drug trade.
More importantly, Kiko, is brother-in-law to Michael Martelly, the former president who is now gunning for a fresh term in office. Mr. Martelly, has publicly admitted to dealing drugs in his past but claims all his current businesses are now legit. But he had also been the one who selected Dimitri Hérard as head of security at the presidential palace. Dimitri's team never defended the palace on the night mercenaries attacked the first family.
50 years earlier, another first lady, Pat Nixon, had stood beside her husband as the United States launched what they termed, "The War on Drugs." But after spending $1 trillion on this war, the drugs industry has only grown in leaps and bounds. All indications are that the war is lost.
In 1986, a US study found that the use of the armed forces to interdict drugs coming into the United States would have little or no effect on drug the trade. In fact, it raises the profits of cocaine cartels and manufacturers. 500 economists, among them three Nobel Laureates, wrote to president Bush urging: "... the country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition... to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost... and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition."
As of 2022, reason is beginning to prevail. Only four out of 52 US states, still consider marijuana fully illegal. Globally, Netherlands and Portugal have long been the poster boys for progressive drug laws. Many nations, including but not limited to Uruguay, Canada, Georgia, South Africa and surprise, Mexico, have since joined the club.
Ethan Nadelmann, who ran the Drug Policy Alliance, believes that the world is losing the war on drugs. The implications for marginalized communities, exploding prison populations, and law enforcement are disastrous. His arguments have converted politicians and policy-makers on both sides of the aisle.
We have many examples of failure in the war on drugs on one hand and impact of decriminalization on the other. The war has led to more murders, incarcerations and addictions. 20 years ago, Portugal had the highest rate of HV among drug users in Europe. The estimated heroin users were estimated at 100,000. Since the decriminalization policy, HIV infection DROPPED 17%. Drug related HIV infection dropped 90%. The increase in drug use in Portugal has not been greater than that seen in other nearby countries that did not change their laws. As of 2012, Portugal's drug death toll sat at 3 per million, in comparison to the EU average of 17.3 per million.
It appears the evidence for whether to use the carrot of the stick in the war on drugs has a clear winner. But the subject remains emotional and political. As public sentiment changes, so will the political positions that determine legislation. The battle on drugs has been lost, but not the war. If we change the strategy, we may yet win the war.
A train track cuts through the small town of Gilgil, tucked away in the Kenyan savanna. At the railway crossing, military vehicles jostle with donkeys. Army officers on their routine jogs are heading back to the barracks nearby. Sprawled around the barracks are tin roofed houses and shops that make up Gilgil. In one compound is a set of ten, one-bedroom houses, where the neighbors know each other well. Wives are hanging their clothes to dry having taken the children to school. The morning sun is starting to get harsh, but cheerful banter is keeping the spirits of the women up.
But it is the unusual quiet from house number seven that has some of the women talking in hushed tones. Mollen, their neighbor, has not been seen in the past two days. Neither had any of her three children. Her six and 10 year-olds had not gone to school that morning. Her curtains remained drawn, and there was the murmur of her TV inside. It was strange that if she was home, she would not have joined the rest of the neighbors as they carried on their day.
One of the ladies noticed some flies around her windows and moved closer to investigate. As she neared the window panes, a strong odor started to rise up her nose and she called on her friends to come over. They confirmed the unusual odor and concern turned to panic. One of the women call the local police. When they arrive hours later, they move the gathering crowd away and break the door.
The pungent smell of rotting flesh pours out into the compound. Everyone covers their noses amid gasps. When the police enter the Mollen's home, they find her dangling in the corridor, a rope around her neck. The TV is on and it appears that they had had a meal as a family. But the children cannot are not in sight. Officers move to the bedroom and find the gruesome scene of three lifeless bodies. The children, aged one, six and 10, looked peaceful, their mouths foaming. They would later find a note by Mollen, that blamed her husband for abandoning her. He was a military officer on mission in neighboring Somalia.
Amid the horror and shock of Mollen's actions, the question that hung in the air was why? Why would a mother kill her own children then take her own life? In a town where a majority of the husbands were all in the military or in service to the barracks, what had pushed Mollen to this extreme? What evil possession would compel a human to such actions?
Philip Resnick, in 2016, identified five reasons that would motivate a parent to commit filicide. Trying to understand the reasons, is not condoning nor rationalizing. In altruistic filicide, which appears to be what happened in Mollen's case, is where the act is committed out of love. Mollen may have been convinced that she was saving her children from suffering.
Child maltreatment filicide is the case where injuries from physical abuse lead to the death of a child. This happened with Sinclair Timberlake. He was born of Kenyan parents in Queensland, Quincy Timberlake and Esther Arunga. A court later hear that Sinclair had sustained injuries from his father, who was trying to beat the demons out of him. In 2014, in Cairns, Queensland, Mersane Warria, suffered a pscyhotic episode triggered by undiagnosed schizophrenia. Mersane stabbed her eight children to death, but faced no criminal trial. Resnick identified this as acutely psychotic filicide, where there is no comprehensible motive.
The two other types of filicide are unwanted child, where a parent kills a child they do not want. This is often newborns. Spousal revenge filicide is where one parent kills their child in an attempt to punish their spouse or make them suffer.
A study of filicides in England and Wales published in 2013, found that 40% of filicide perpetrators had a recorded mental illness. Another interesting finding from the study was that 23% of female perpetrators were teenagers at the time of the child victim’s birth. Overall, fathers were significantly more likely to kill their children than mothers, and were more likely to use violent methods of killing.
Can anything be done to prevent filicide? Can we anticipate these acts and remedy them? To quote professor Kathryn Abe, who led the England and Wales study: "Identifying associations between mental illness and filicide has clear implications for service providers. It shows there needs to be greater awareness for patients who are parents and especially those with severe mood disorders. This is an increasingly important issue because better mental health care means that more people with mental illness are able to become parents.
"Generating effective child violence/homicide prevention strategies requires broad public health approaches. Targeting sub-populations by providing high quality evidence about risk factors such as mental illness and the need for contact with mental health services may prove more constructive for health service development. Violence prevention may also offer possibilities to recognize and intervene with specific risk factors."