August 12, 2005

Drug Warfare Hits Acapulco

(originally posted August 12, our blog is experiencing some technical problems due to excessive comment and trackback spam)

DRCNet's "Prohibition in the Media" blog resumes publishing today after a hiatus. We comment on reporting by Reuters AlertNet, Reuters Foundation publication for international humanitarian nonprofits, on an outbreak of drug trade violence in the Mexican Pacific resort town of Acapulco.

According to Reuters, "A fierce fight between Mexican drug cartels that has killed more than 600 people this year has now hit the Pacific beach resort of Acapulco with gangland executions and grenade attacks on sun-kissed streets." Police say that it is a fight between the Gulf Cartel and traffickers from the state of Sinaloa for control of border routes into the United States and over production of marijuana and heroin in the western states of Michoacan, Jalisco and Guerrero, a poor mountainous area where Acapulco is located. Acapulco's mayor, Alberto Lopez Rosas, told Reuters, "This is completely new for us" and "It is an upsetting situation which has surprised all of us in Acapulco." Political leaders at all levels of government have called for "staying the course" in the fight against drug traffickers.

In February 2003, a Mexican congressman from Sinaloa, Gregorio Urias German, attended the DRCNet-organized Latin America conference, "Out from the Shadows, Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century" ("Saliendo de las Sombras: Terminando de le Prohibición de las Drogas en el Sigle XXI" en Español). Urias argued 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." The alternatives Urias were referring to included drug legalization. He is one of many leaders in Mexico who believe that drug prohibition is the root cause of drug trade violence as is now being experienced in Acapulco.

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.

Read the Reuters article at:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N11593386.htm

View footage of Congressman Urias and other Latin American leaders speaking at our conference at:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/

Send feedback to Reuters AlertNet via the web at http://www.alertnet.org/userfeedback.htm or by e-mail to [email protected]. Keep it polite and positive, at least for now -- there's no reason to assume at this point that they will not be receptive to hearing our ideas.

- David Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 08:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Mexico a Victim of Drug War's Success?

A growing chorus of truth-speakers are questioning the validity of the Fox administration's "war on drugs" in Mexico. According to an article today in Reuters by Brian Winter:

Fox was widely praised as the first Mexican leader ever to seriously tackle the country's powerful cartels, but security experts worry his success in jailing drug kingpins is only producing more violence, and no slowdown in the flow of drugs.

Some fear Mexico's "narcos" may become desperate enough to execute politicians or promote their own candidates for office, a chaotic scenario that echoes Colombia's losing struggle against cartels in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Among the experts quoted was Jorge Chabat, an analyst at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico City. Chabat pointed out:

For years, the U.S. told Mexico's government, "The problem is that the narcos are still powerful because you don't dismantle the gangs." Now they're doing just that... and the narcos are more powerful than ever.

The article conveyed the ominous sense of some observers that Mexican drug traffickers if pushed into a corner could resort to political assassinations or promoting their own candidates for public office, raising the spectre of chaos and violence such as Colombia experienced at the hands of Pablo Escobar.

This is a good article, but it would have been even better if it had mentioned that Jorge Chabat has called for legalization. Having drawn the Colombia comparison, a call in to Gustavo de Greiff, the Colombian attorney general who defeated Escobar -- who now lives in Mexico City -- would also have added to the level of insight offered to the reader. (Click here to read DRCNet's interview with de Greiff before our Mérida, Mexico conference, Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century. Click here for video and audio of de Greiff and others at Mérida.

And of course, post back here if you spot this article in any news outlets (Reuters is a wire service), and let us know how to send letters to the editor to them.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

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January 31, 2005

Mobile, Alamaba Police Chief Blames Drugs, Guns, Domestic Violence for Homicide Rate

The Mobile Register in Alabama reported today that homicides in 2004 were on the upturn -- 28 within the Mobile Police Jurisdiction, which extends three miles beyond the city, up from 24 homicides during 2003.

The article discussed the much higher homicide rate during the mid 1990s -- 1995 had the peak with 56 -- implicitly raising the question of whether 2004's increase means that violence is again going back up. Police Chief Sam Cochran isn't worried about that, according to the article, for among other reasons arguing that three of the 28 are likely to be cut from the statistics -- they were killed by police and ruled "justifiable."

It seems awfully cavalier for Chief Cochran not to be worried about a possible rise in violence, if that characterization by the reporter is accurate. To be fair, four homicides or one out of 28 is not very conclusive statistical evidence; maybe it's not going up. But there have been ominous signs in other parts of the country in recent years, such as Baltimore, which in 2002 saw a wave of juvenile murders putting the city on track to exceed the mayor's hoped for reduced homicide target by more than 25%. And two weeks ago the Baltimore Sun reported on a wave of drug trade killings and the stunning admission by police that their drug crackdown was the cause.

More unfortunate was Chief Cochran's predictably unimaginative response -- he wants more cops, 600 instead of the current 475 -- and he credits the work of the Street Level Interdiction Drug Enforcement (SLIDE) team for reducing violence in the city. Cochran should look to the Baltimore events for an example of why his analysis may be off base.

Regardless of that, the national homicide rate, and the individual rates in our big cities, are unacceptably high and only go to show just how bad the situation was a decade ago when they were even higher. As Chief Cochran points out, one of the cause is drugs. By and large that means the drug trade, which means that the way to stop them is clear -- end prohibition, legalize drugs. Then Cochran and the taxpayers wouldn't need 125 more cops on the payroll. And they might be able to do something about those five remaining unsolved homicides from last year -- at least they could try harder if they weren't spending so much on the futile drug fight. But Cochran loves his SLIDE team too much for that.

Letters to the editor can be submitted here.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 09:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

State Dept. Issues Mexico Border Travel Advisory Over Drug Fighting

Fighting among rival drug gangs near the US-Mexico border has prompted the US State Dept. to issue a travel advisory, and Mexican officials are not happy, according to an article by Ginger Thomas in the New York Times. The US ambassador to Mexico, Antonio O. Garza, Jr., predicted a "chilling effect on the cross-border exchange, tourism and commerce" if Mexico could not rein in the violence.

Mexican president Vicente Fox shot back at Garza and the State Dept., saying "Mexico's fight against drug trafficking is firm," and "The Mexican government does not admit judgment from any foreign government about political actions taken to confront its problems."

If Fox really meant that, he would push harder for legalization, which once a few years back he said was the right way for the world to go. Mexico suffers terribly from the drug trade violence that prohibition has created, and they have the right to an effective solution. Only replacing the illicit drug traffic with a legal trade that is governed by laws has a chance of providing that.

E-mail [email protected] to send a letter to the editor. And send good thoughts for peace southward to our peoples on both sides of the border.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 06:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2005

Harlem "Drug Apartment" Slaying Ilustrates Prohibition's Deleterious Impact on the Inner City

An article in last Friday's New York Post illustrates the corrosive impact of prohibition on the quality of life in our nation's poor inner-city neighborhoods. The article Slaying at Harlem "Drug" Apartment described the killing of a marijuana dealer by robbers targeting his presumed cash and stash, and the critical and possibly fatal wounding of his girlfriend and her 17-year old son.

Whether or not one regrets the loss of a marijuana dealer's life in a robbery targeting his cash or supply, Henry King did not deserve to be killed and his girlfriend and her son did not deserve to suffer life-threatening wounds. But most clearly, their neighbors don't deserve to have to live in an environment characterized by violence. Nor should they have had to deal with the constant stream of visitors his business brought in and out of the building every day -- that also affects the quality of life.

Decades of the "war on drugs" have shown that the drug trade cannot be extinguished in that way. This means that blaming the dealers, deservedly or otherwise, accomplishes nothing. Only some form of drug legalization can put those kinds of dealers out of business, stop the violence and disorder, and give inner city neighborhoods a chance to finally heal and prosper.

I've submitted a letter to the editor -- and you can too. Click here to do so online.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 04:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 19, 2005

Yet Another Drug Trade Related Slaying

An article in the Ann Arbor News today reports that federal indictments have been handed down against seven people for the killing in 2001 of a rival participant in the illegal drug trade, and for running a drug operation that brought marijuana and cocaine from Detroit over to Ypsilanti. According to the article by News report Tom Gantert, one of them, Terrance Smith, age 22, is already serving a life sentence for what it call "another drug related slaying" in 2002.

The article could have described the killings more precisely as "drug trade related" rather than "drug related." Smith and his cohorts didn't kill people because they were high on drugs at the time -- at least that's not what usually happens -- Smith and company were fighting a "war over money," as Baltimore's former mayor Kurt Schmoke has described it, using violence to control drug turf and secure for themselves rather than their competitors.

Substitute "alcohol" for the words "drugs" or "marijuana" or "cocaine," and change one of the seven's names to "Capone" and "Ypsilanti" to "Chicago," and the article could have run 80 years ago during Alcohol Prohibition. In the years following repeal of Prohibition, the national homicide rate decreased by 50%. Similarly, only some form of drug legalization can ultimately bring this kind of violence to a stop. Let anyone doubt how important it is to end violence, even violence against supposed "bad guys," consider how it would feel to live on a street where such a murder takes place, or how unlikely an investor is to open a business there. The violence affects us all.

Visit mlive.com's News Talk section to start a thread on this issue, or click here for letter to the editor information.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

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December 20, 2004

Violence in Colombia, Edmonton (Canada), Philadelphia, Utah

From the large and terrible to the small and sad, drug prohibition is costing lives through violence around the globe.

First, a piece by Steven Dudley in today's Miami Herald, distributed by Knight Ridder and hence appearing in other papers as well, reports on a war within the feared "Norte del Valle Cartel," touched off by US extraditions of cartel leaders, which has left over a thousand dead. These thousand are not all big time drug lords -- a cartel has one or a few of those, not a thousand -- and many were doubtless innocent bystanders. Taxi drivers, for example, are among the dead left piled up by the side of the road, according to Dudley's article.

Dudley also does a good job of pointing out how the carnage is all ultimately in vain: "Yet the price of cocaine on U.S. streets continues to drop -- a sign of increasing availability," he writes, and "The only question is: How long will it take for a new [cartel] to emerge?" he quotes Wilson Reyes, a consultant for a Valle del Cauca provincial peace initiative.

In Edmonton, Canada, the Edmonton Sun in an article titled It's All About Drugs reports on the city's 27th and 28th murders this year, a record in the city. Police and criminologists attribute the spike in violence to fierce competition amonst gangs for control of lucrative drug selling turf.

Here in the US, the Philadelphia Daily News reported on the tragic murder of Milton "Shreets" Brown, a 16-year old who decided to leave drug selling behind. But his former associates wouldn't let him, and others were caught in the crossfire too.

And in Utah, KSL-TV, the NBC affiliate based in Salt Lake City, reported on a fight over drugs in the suburb of Lehi had led to a homicide. The victim was the 43-year-old Kenneth Ward.

These kinds of stories frustrate me, because all of these murders occurred only because drugs are illegal. The Norte del Valle Cartel would not exist if drugs were produced and distributed by legitimate business. Drug gangs in Edmonton would not fight over turf if they were replaced by pharmacies or what kinds of stores were licensed to sell the drugs instead. Milton Brown would never have gotten mixed up in drug selling on the criminal market if the drugs were being sold in some legal frameword -- and to those who say that Brown and the people who killed him would have just been doing some other kind of crime, I ask you, where would the money have come from to finance the lifestyle? And while we don't have enough details about the killing of Kenneth Ward to draw conclusions firmly, obviously it is the high cost of drugs, and the time people need to spend in dangerous circumstances to buy them, that makes them something people would be likely to fight over. How many people have been affected, how has the quality of life and the functioning of the economy been damaged, by all of the needless violence? The answer is so obvious -- legalization -- and therefore all the more frustrating.

The Miami Herald accepts letters to the editor via its contact form -- choose "letter to the editor" in the drop down menu. The Edmonton Sun accepts letters via e-mail to [email protected]. I was not able to find letter to the editor information on the Philadelphia Daily News web site, but if any of you can find it please post. The KSL News Room accepts feedback via the web.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 03:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Back Home in Indiana

Police officers in Frankfort, Indiana, got into a firefight with a drug suspect early Thursday (12/16/04) after arriving at his home with a search warrant. They found 30 grams of marijuana. Shannon Hollars, aged 42, was shot and hospitalized for surgery. The police officers were shot at by Hollars but not hit.

Fortunately, no one else was hit either. But someone could have been killed -- police, suspect, bystander -- and that person would have been a victim of drug prohibition. Prohibition creates violence; shootouts between suspects and police are just one of the many ways. Hollars might be a bad guy; he certainly was quick to fire a gun at people. But that doesn't help anyone who has gotten shot as a result of the conflict between police and dealers of a substance that is banned but popular. Another reason to legalize drugs.

Suggest to the Indianapolis Star
that they talk about this -- perhaps by quoting representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in their next drug article.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)