Link of the Week: Esequiel Hernandez 8/8/97

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On May 20, 1997, Esequiel Hernandez, an 18 year-old American high-school student was tending his goats near his family's home in the border town of Marfa, Texas when he was shot and killed by a camouflaged American marine out on a "drug patrol." The shooting, details of which are in dispute, has outraged Americans along the border and elsewhere, and has called into question the expanding role of American military forces in domestic counter-drug operations. The Texas Rangers have launched an independent investigation of the incident and the local prosecutor has convened a grand jury to explore homicide charges.

In response to the outcry over the shooting, the US Military has temporarily suspended domestic operations along the border. While this response has been applauded by experts who question the legitimacy of such a domestic role for the armed forces, it appears that the military's objective is not to examine the wisdom of its mission but rather to insulate itself from accountability for such incidents in future operations.

"Such counter-drug operations expose soldiers and Marines to legal liability, which is unacceptable to the Department of Defense, and definitely not fair to the members of our armed forces," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Campbell, Pentagon spokesman.

While the military is concerned about "fairness," others are concerned about a policy that has obliterated over 200 years of separation between the military and domestic law enforcement. According to long-time activist Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy, "It is amazing to see how fast the slippery slope of military involvement in civilian enforcement has moved. From a criminal prohibition against the military being involved domestically (under the Posse Comitatus Act), which lasted for most of US history, to a limited exception in 1981, followed by a series of broader exceptions in the late 1980s, and now, potentially, to the military operating domestically and being exempt from civilian laws for reckless or criminal activity of their troops."

The Drug Policy Forum of Texas has been monitoring the case and has lots of information, including recent news articles, on its site. Check them out DPFT's Esequiel Hernandez focus section at http://www.mapinc.org/DPFT/hernandez/. And tell them DRCNet sent you.

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Issue #6, 8/8/97 National household Survey Results: Teen Marijuana use levels off. Heroin use up among 18-25 year-olds | Needle Exchange: Two Representatives have introduced a bill to lift the ban on federal funding | International: Foreign press gets real about the War on Drugs | Medical Marijuana: Breaking News: NIH Medical Marijuana Panel Releases Report | 60th Anniversary of Marijuana Prohibition | Quote of the Week: It's time... | Link of the Week: Esequiel Hernandez | Editorial: If the US government could make the illegal drug trade disappear, would it?
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