#397 The Drug War South Of The Border

Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2009
Subject: #397 The Drug War South Of The Border

THE DRUG WAR SOUTH OF THE BORDER

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #397 – Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Headlines from Tuesday and Wednesday morning newspapers alert
us.

Wave of Drug Violence Is Creeping into Arizona From Mexico, Officials
Say http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n223.a04.html

El Paso Police Investigate Threats Against Juarez Mayor
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n223.a06.html

A Treaty That Can Help Stem Drug Violence in Mexico
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n223.a07.html

Colombia’s Worry: Looser US Ties
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n224.a02.html

Mexico Attorney General: We Don’t Need U.S. Troops to Intervene in
Drug War http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n224.a03.html

Gov. Perry Wants U.S. Troops Guarding Border http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n224.a04.html

Mexico Drug War Prompts Federal Contingency Plan http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09.n224.a05.html

Today the Los Angeles Times website states that there has been 7,337
drug war related deaths in Mexico since January, 1997 as the newspaper
continues it’s Mexico Under Siege series http://mapinc.org/find?255

You know the solution as do the former Presidents as reflected in
their OPED below. Please write those LTEs as they help shape public
opinion. Please also contact the folks who represent you in Congress
and President Obama. What you do does make a difference.

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Pubdate: Mon, 23 Feb 2009

Source: Wall Street Journal

Copyright: 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Contact: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com

Authors: Fernando Henrique Cardoso, CeSar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo

Note: Mr. Cardoso is the former president of Brazil. Mr. Gaviria is a
former president of Colombia. Mr. Zedillo is a former president of Mexico.

Cited: The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy
http://drugsanddemocracy.org/

THE WAR ON DRUGS IS A FAILURE

We Should Focus Instead on Reducing Harm to Users and on Tackling
Organized Crime.

The war on drugs has failed. And it’s high time to replace an
ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies.
This is the central message of the report by the Latin American
Commission on Drugs and Democracy we presented to the public recently
in Rio de Janeiro.

Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and
criminalization of consumption simply haven’t worked. Violence and the
organized crime associated with the narcotics trade remain critical
problems in our countries. Latin America remains the world’s largest
exporter of cocaine and cannabis, and is fast becoming a major
supplier of opium and heroin. Today, we are further than ever from the
goal of eradicating drugs.

Over the last 30 years, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures
to fight the drug trade in a massive effort where the benefits were
not proportional to the resources invested. Despite the country’s
achievements in lowering levels of violence and crime, the areas of
illegal cultivation are again expanding. In Mexico — another
epicenter of drug trafficking — narcotics-related violence has
claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past year alone.

The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the
rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics.
The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization
of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the
judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of
democracy in several Latin American countries.

The first step in the search for alternative solutions is to
acknowledge the disastrous consequences of current policies. Next, we
must shatter the taboos that inhibit public debate about drugs in our
societies. Antinarcotic policies are firmly rooted in prejudices and
fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality. The association
of drugs with crime segregates addicts in closed circles where they
become even more exposed to organized crime.

In order to drastically reduce the harm caused by narcotics, the
long-term solution is to reduce demand for drugs in the main consumer
countries. To move in this direction, it is essential to differentiate
among illicit substances according to the harm they inflict on
people’s health, and the harm drugs cause to the social fabric

In this spirit, we propose a paradigm shift in drug policies based on
three guiding principles: Reduce the harm caused by drugs, decrease
drug consumption through education, and aggressively combat organized
crime. To translate this new paradigm into action we must start by
changing the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market
to patients cared for by the public-health system.

We also propose the careful evaluation, from a public-health
standpoint, of the possibility of decriminalizing the possession of
cannabis for personal use. Cannabis is by far the most widely used
drug in Latin America, and we acknowledge that its consumption has an
adverse impact on health. But the available empirical evidence shows
that the hazards caused by cannabis are similar to the harm caused by
alcohol or tobacco.

If we want to effectively curb drug use, we should look to the
campaign against tobacco consumption. The success of this campaign
illustrates the effectiveness of prevention campaigns based on clear
language and arguments consistent with individual experience.
Likewise, statements by former addicts about the dangers of drugs will
be far more compelling to current users than threats of repression or
virtuous exhortations against drug use.

Such educational campaigns must be targeted at youth, by far the
largest contingent of users and of those killed in the drug wars. The
campaigns should also stress each person’s responsibility toward the
rising violence and corruption associated with the narcotics trade. By
treating consumption as a matter of public health, we will enable
police to focus their efforts on the critical issue: the fight against
organized crime.

A growing number of political, civic and cultural leaders, mindful of
the failure of our current drug policy, have publicly called for a
major policy shift. Creating alternative policies is the task of many:
educators, health professionals, spiritual leaders and policy makers.
Each country’s search for new policies must be consistent with its
history and culture. But to be effective, the new paradigm must focus
on health and education — not repression.

Drugs are a threat that cuts across borders, which is why Latin
America must establish dialogue with the United States and the
European Union to develop workable alternatives to the war on drugs.
Both the U.S. and the EU share responsibility for the problems faced
by our countries, since their domestic markets are the main consumers
of the drugs produced in Latin America.

The inauguration of President Barack Obama presents a unique
opportunity for Latin America and the U.S. to engage in a substantive
dialogue on issues of common concern, such as the reduction of
domestic consumption and the control of arms sales, especially across
the U.S.-Mexico border. Latin America should also pursue dialogue with
the EU, asking European countries to renew their commitment to the
reduction of domestic consumption and learning from their experiences
with reducing the health hazards caused by drugs.

The time to act is now, and the way forward lies in strengthening
partnerships to deal with a global problem that affects us all.

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor http://www.mapinc.org

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