In each issue, THE WEEK ON-LINE will present members with a suggested Letter to the Editor opportunity. Such communications are important, whether they get published or not, as they let editors know that people are watching to see that they cover the drug issue intelligently. Those LTE's that do get published are even more valuable as they constitute an opportunity to educate readers on the issue.
Our success in getting three of our letters published in the Friday, June 27 New York Times shows what an impact we can make by working together.
Each week's MEDIA ALERT will provide a sample LTE (but we encourage you to get creative and write your own), along with relevant contact information for your convenience. All members' published LTE's will be highlighted in THE WEEK ON-LINE.
We do ask, whenever possible, that you send us a copy of your letter so that we can better gauge the response that is being generated. This kind of information is invaluable to us in our constant quest for funding. You can e-mail copies to us at [email protected] or fax them to us at (202) 362-0030 or mail them to DRCNet, 4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008.
This week's MEDIA ALERT focuses on a typical problem in Drug War reporting, the failure to ask the relevant question or to address the relevant issue within the story. Making the media aware of this shortcoming will go a long way toward educating the public.
This week, two stories, one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post, focus on a relatively minor disagreement over whether or not the body believed to be Amado Carrillo Fuentes, leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world, has been "positively identified". There seems little doubt, based upon fingerprints taken by the DEA, that it is, in fact, him. The Mexican government is waiting for positive DNA tests before making a formal announcement.
The real story here, however is highlighted by reaction from a DEA official. The Times reports: "The DEA official here... predicted (Mr. Fuentes') demise will unleash a bloody war among lesser drug lords to succeed the man who ran the most powerful and lucrative cocaine cartel in Mexico." The Post reports it this way: "The biggest threat, law enforcement officials believe, is an all-out war involving rival drug gangs..."
Neither article expresses anyone's belief that the flow of drugs from Mexico will be affected in the least. The Post story contains several quotes to this effect, including one from Robert Nieves, former head of DEA international operations: "There are any number of organizations wanting to step up there with the ability to get the product to market. It's pretty much that simple."
So the question, unasked by either of these venerable newspapers, remains: If putting major cartel leaders out of commission will not affect trafficking, and if such "successes" will have the effect of spawning even more violence, in which civilians and public officials will likely be killed, what's the point? Is a bloody war a success that our policy should be striving for?
NY TIMES, 7/9/97, pg. A3: "U.S. in Spat With Mexico Over Identity of Drug Lord" by Julia Preston. Send your letter by e-mail to: [email protected]. (Please also send a copy to [email protected].) Or send your letter by mail to: New York Times Letters, 229 West 43 rd St., New York, NY 10036-3959.
WASHINGTON POST, 7/9/97, pg. A14: "More Evidence Points to Drug Lord's Death, but Caution Persists" by Molly Moore and Douglas Farah The Washington Post does not accept direct email, but you can submit your letter via their web site at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm. Or, send letters to: Washington Post Letters, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071.
Be sure to give them your name, address, daytime and evening phone numbers.
To the Editor,
I read with interest your story about the identification of the body of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the Mexican drug lord (title, page, date). In it, the DEA said it expects that the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico will continue unabated. In Fuentes' absence, however, they see the likelihood of a bloody conflict for control of a newly-available segment of the market. Such conflict, it can be assumed, will involve the loss of innocent lives and an increase in terror for those living and working in Mexico.
If this is indeed the predictable result of putting a major drug lord out of commission, the question must be asked: What is gained by our mindless pursuit of Drug War strategies designed to accomplish this? Photo-ops for the DEA? Bigger Drug War budgets paid for with our tax dollars? When will we admit that Prohibition has spawned the largest and most violent organized crime network in human history? And that the more we pursue this course, the more "drug-related" harms we cause?
When a policy's "success" does nothing to address the problems it is designed to solve, at the cost of creating more destruction and ruined lives, it is time to re-think the policy, rather than advocate for more of the same.