Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mexican Mayor Asks For US Policy Change in War on Drugs

UTEP drug conference

Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz: U.S. drug policies need to change

By Ramon Bracamontes / El Paso Times
Posted: 09/22/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- Now it is the United States' turn to battle the drug cartels
that have paralyzed Mexico for 20 months, Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes
Ferriz said Monday at a War on Drugs conference.

He said U.S. policies of the past 40 years had done nothing to lessen
the demand for marijuana, cocaine and heroin in America.

"The policy in Mexico is to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the
United States, and that has caused a lot of people to be killed," Reyes
said of the 3,200 homicides in Juárez since January 2008. "From
politicians to innocent people to police officers, they have all died
trying to stop the flow of drugs into the United States."

Others, though, say most of the deaths in Juárez involved warring
drug dealers and their couriers.

Reyes, who appeared at UTEP for the Global Public Policy Forum on the
U.S. War on Drugs, said U.S. authorities and citizens had sent
inconsistent messages about illegal drug use.

For example, he said, on the day a policeman in Mexico died in the line
of fire, U.S. law officers declined to prosecute champion swimmer
Michael Phelps for marijuana use.

Phelps, winner of 14 Olympic gold medals since 2004, was photographed
inhaling from a bong, which is typically used to smoke marijuana. A
South Carolina sheriff said he lacked sufficient evidence to recommend a
criminal case against Phelps.

"What is the message being sent?" Reyes asked. "That drug flow is not
OK, but drug use is OK?"

Several others at the conference echoed Reyes' sentiments. Many
suggested that the United States needed to consider legalization of some

"We've had 40 years of failure with our policies," said Terry Nelson, a
retired federal agent, now of a group called Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition. "Drug use does not cause crime. It is the prohibition of
drugs that causes the crimes."

He estimated that U.S. law officers stop only 16 percent of the 2.1
million pounds of drugs that are shipped into the country each year.

"When the killings stop in Juárez , it will not be because the police
or the government did a great job all of sudden," he said. "When the
killing stops, it just means there is a new cartel in charge."

Juárez, population 1.7 million, now is patrolled by more than 8,000
soldiers, who are helping police officers. Reyes said Juárez was
doing what it could to fight drug dealers, including a cleansing of its
police force that entailed firing half the officers.

Juárez has 3,000 police officers on the streets, almost twice as many
as a year ago.

Reyes said Juárez is about to open its first city-operated drug
treatment center in hopes of lowering the demand for drugs. In the past
several weeks, mass murders have occurred at two other rehab centers
that may have been drug fronts.

Reyes said his city is also instituting an anti-drug campaign that will
be implemented in schools and through parent education.

The first day of the Global Public Policy Forum on the U.S. War on Drugs
ended at the Cibeles Convention Center in Juárez with a keynote
address by Sergio Fajardo, a presidential candidate in Colombia and a
former mayor of Medellín.

Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at rbracamontes@ elpasotimes. com;


The international War on Drugs conference continues at 8:30 a.m. today
at the Plaza Theatre in Downtown El"Paso.

http://www.elpasoti mes.com/educatio n/ci_13390915

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