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Mexican troops take drug fight to Tijuana streets

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
CNN
URL: 
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/01/04/tijuana.drugs.ap/

Mexican Federal Police Take Tijuana By Storm -- Too Bad It Won't Work

A Reuters article this afternoon reported that Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, is sending over 3,000 troops to Tijuana in a crackdown aimed at stemming the ongoing violence that has wracked the border city in recent years. The first 500 arrived today and are investigating charges of corruption in the local police force:
As two helicopters circled overhead, dozens of troops with assault rifles and riot shields converged on a police headquarters to inspect weapons, a first step in probing alleged drug gang links and corruption inside the local force.
The move comes only three weeks since Calderon sent 7,000 troops to his own home state of Michoacan. 2,000 people were killed in drug trade violence in Mexico last year. One of the guests at DRCNet's 2003 conference in Mexico, "Out from the Shadows, Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century" ("Saliendo de las Sombras: Terminando de le Prohibición de las Drogas en el Siglo XXI" en Español) was Gregorio Urias German, a Mexican congressman from Sinaloa, another part of the country that has suffered in the drug wars. Urias blames drug prohibition for this violence, but he fears that "If we can't even discuss the alternatives, if we can't even admit the drug war is a failure, then we will never solve the problem." He said that existing forums, such as the UN and the Organization of American States, are not fruitful places for discussion, "because only the repressive policies of the United States are discussed at these forums." While it is not the job of media outlets like Reuters to take a position favoring legalization in their news reporting, they will be doing a better job when they start to include leaders like Urias in their articles who hold that point of view. This Google News link will pull up a list of hundreds of appearances of this news story that are currently active in the mainstream media (many though not all the Reuters story or another by the AP). We encourage you to follow the links and submit some letters to the editor. Post them back here along with the letter-writing info for others.
Location: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico

Latin America: Mexican Soldiers Occupy Tijuana in Fight Against Drug Trade

More than 3,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police were dispatched to the border city of Tijuana this week to fight the drug trade, Mexican officials announced Tuesday. That same day, convoys containing several hundred police clad in body armor rolled into the city, the headquarters of one of Mexico's most powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations, the Arrellano Felix cartel.

The move into Tijuana, where more than 300 people were killed in drug prohibition-related violence last year, is the second tough strike against the cartels by new Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Last month, he sent more than 7,000 troops into the state of Michoacan to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy crops and move against traffickers located there.

"The operations will allow us to reestablish the minimal security conditions in different points of Mexico so we can recover little by little our streets, our parks and our schools," President Calderon told the country in a New Year's message on Tuesday.

"We will carry out all the necessary actions to retake every region of national territory," Mexican Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna said in a news conference the same day. "We will not allow any state to be a hostage of drug traffickers or organized crime."

Ramirez Acuna added that the Tijuana force would include 2,620 soldiers, 162 marines, and 510 federal police. They will be equipped with 28 boats, 21 planes, and nine helicopters to attempt to squelch the booming cross-border trade in cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The soldiers and police will patrol the coast, man checkpoints, and hunt down wanted traffickers in teeming Tijuana, just across the US-Mexico border from San Diego.

The federal intervention was welcomed by Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon, who, under attack from city business interests, late last year announced that he was placing the entire municipal police force under investigation for drug-related corruption. Rhon told reporters in Tijuana this week he hoped the soldiers and federal police would work with city police -- presumably ones who have already been vetted -- who are establishing random checkpoints.

"I hope this will make Tijuana a safer place," he said, while denying that the deployment means the city is being militarized.

Like his predecessor, Vicente Fox, President Calderon is making a big show of going after the so-called cartels, whose internecine battles left around 2,000 people dead last year. But Fox's blows against the cartels, which eliminated part of their previous leadership, are what led to the bloody violence as the cartels jostled with each to readjust. Given the lucrative nature of the business and the insatiable appetite for illicit drugs north of the border, there is little evidence to suggest the outcome will be any different this time.

Latin America: Colombian Senator Calls for Drug Legalization Debate

A Colombian senator is calling for an urgent debate on alternatives to drug prohibition, and he isn't just any senator. Sen. Juan Manuel Galán, of the opposition Liberal Party, is the son of Luis Carlos Galán, who was weeks away from winning the Colombian presidency when he was gunned down by assassins from Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel in 1990.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/juanmanuelgalan.jpg
Juan Manuel Galán
It is time for a congressional debate on drug legalization, Galán told the Associated Press in an interview December 28. "The current repressive approach against drug trafficking hasn't worked despite the huge amounts of blood we Colombians have shed," said Galán. "It's time to look at different options, together with other drug-production nations, as a way to break the back of the drug traffickers."

Drug possession is already legal in Colombia under a Colombian Supreme Court ruling, but the growing of drug crops -- coca, opium poppies, and marijuana -- is illegal, as is the drug trade. The country has received more than $4 billion is US aid -- most of it military -- to defeat the drug trade, without making a significant impact on it. Despite a massive aerial herbicide spraying campaign aimed at eradicating the crop, the US government admits that the amount of land dedicated to the coca crop grew 26% this year.

While other Colombian politicians have broached the topic before, Galán possesses a particular stature on the issue because of the high esteem in which Colombians hold his father. A foe of the cartels, Luis Carlos Galán was killed as part of a campaign by Escobar to terrorize the Colombian political establishment into blocking his extradition to the US. Escobar himself was killed in 1993, but by then, dozens of political figures, judges, police, and journalists had been killed by cartel assassins.

Galán senior would approve of his son's position, Juan Manuel Galán said. "I think after two decades, seeing the violent impact of drug trafficking, he would not be closed to new ideas about how to deliver a final deathblow to the drug traffickers." While the United States is likely to oppose the discussion, Galán said, "Colombia has the moral authority to lead this debate at the international level. Two decades into the drug war we continue having illegal mafias that spread violence across the country, we continue having guerrillas, we continue having paramilitaries," said Galán. "And despite it all there's no real solution in sight to the problem."

But President Alvaro Uribe's Conservative government is unalterably opposed to legalization, and Galán's own Liberal Party has so far failed to back his call for a congressional debate.

Soldiers to fight drugs at border

Location: 
Tijuana
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
The Seattle Times
URL: 
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003507083_wdig03.html

I've Got Those Mean Old Bolivian Visa Blues

With my departure for South America set for 10 days from now, the Bolivian government has put a hitch in my plans. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that as of now, American citizens will need a visa to visit Bolivia. As the Associated Press reported:
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The government of President Evo Morales approved a decree Monday requiring U.S. citizens to obtain visas to enter Bolivia. Morales said the decree "a matter of reciprocity." The U.S. government requires Bolivians to obtain visas to enter the United States. "We are a small country but we have the same dignity as any other," Morales said. The decree, approved during a Cabinet meeting, applies to other countries, including Serbia and Montenegro and Cyprus. In February 2006, Leonilda Zurita, a congresswoman belonging to Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, had her U.S. visa revoked. Zurita said Washington cited an alleged link between her and terrorist activities, which she denied. Morales also cited security concerns for the rule. An American man has been charged with setting off bombs in two La Paz hotels in March. Two Bolivians were killed and seven people were injured, including an American woman. U.S. ties to Bolivia have been tense partly due to Morales' friendship with Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as by Morales' background as the leader of coca growers fighting U.S. attempts to eradicate their crops.
What the AP did not make clear is that the visa requirement for Bolivians to enter the US is a recent, post-911 move by the US reversing years of visa-free travel for South Americans coming north. The Brazilian government has also imposed a visa requirement for Americans now in this game of diplomatic tit-for-tat. Thanks, Mr. Bush. What this means for my trip is unclear at this point. The Bolivian consulate in Washington wasn't answering the phone today. One of colleagues in the Washington office will run over there first thing tomorrow morning to try to find out what the new requirements are and how fast I can actually get a visa. I am going first to Peru, which hasn't imposed a visa requirement, and it may be possible to get a visa there, but I don't know that yet. I'll keep you all updated on the situation. (Read the comment I've posted to learn a little more about Leonilda Zurita. - DB)
Location: 
United States

Colombian Slum Turns Into Cocaine War Zone

Location: 
Buenaventura
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/162641

Ecuador, Colombia Bad Start in 2007

Location: 
Quito
Ecuador
Publication/Source: 
Prensa Latina (Cuba)
URL: 
http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B711550CF-36A6-416B-B437-714E8D535F41%7D)&language=EN

Senator son of slain Colombian cartel fighter proposes drug legalization

Location: 
Bogota
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/28/america/LA_GEN_Colombia_Drug_Legalization.php

Calderon Escalates War on Mexico Drug Cartels, Using Troops

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Bloomberg
URL: 
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=ac_v9Sk54Nn0&refer=latin_america

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