Caravan Brings Drug
Debate To The U.S.
The Trans-Border Caravan For Peace And Justice Begins Trek Across The U.S., Brings A Diverse Collection Of Voices Against War On Drugs
Many of those who met the Caravan For Peace in Phoenix expressed solidarity with both the U.S. and Mexico.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
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“Mexico is a corrupt country, a country whose political system continues to move further and further away from the life of its citizens. The president Felipe Calderon has waged a war against narco-trafficking. It has cost us many, many people,” Sicilia said.
The U.S. Congress passed the Merida Initiative — sometimes called Plan Mexico — in 2008 in order to fund the ‘war on drugs’ south of the U.S. border. Under the plan, approximately $1 billion has been provided to buy Black Hawk helicopters, surveillance equipment and training for the Mexican government. The Merida Initiative was initially created in response to surging drug trafficking violence. In 2006, there were 2,000 drug-violence related deaths, but under the Merida Initiative, deaths rose to 11,000 in 2011. Protests in Mexico have highlighted public disapproval over the growing violence, including rape, torture and killings of civilians by the armed forces who receive U.S. aid.
While the Mexican perspective was well represented, several speakers also addressed the negative ramifications of prohibitionist drug policy in the U.S.
Perhaps no one else could have made a clearer statement on the negative impacts of the war on drugs in the United States than Judge Jim Gray, who is currently running as the Libertarian vice presidential candidate on former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s ticket. Gray, who was a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and later served more than 20 years as a Superior Court judge in Orange County, California, has been lambasting current drug laws as a monumental failure that destroys lives and communities instead of protecting them, since 1992.
“I have seen in my own courtroom that we are churning low-level drug offenders through the system for no reason at all. Using drugs is medical issue. Not a criminal justice issue. Why are we doing this? Why do we continue with such a failed policy? The answer is money. Today, the federal government is bribing the police here in Phoenix to continue to fight the war on drugs with money. I say this must stop for the people,” Gray said. “I am a member of a really good group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Police officers, judges, prosecutors all opposed to prohibition. We are with you in this caravan.”
Gray said he understands that most support drug laws because they want to protect their children from drugs and crime, but that the byproduct of prohibition actually makes them less safe.
“Why do most people support this failed policy? The answer is children. We want to keep our children in the United States away from a lifestyle of using and selling drugs. So we continue with the failed policy for all of its “defects” to save our children. That’s what we think,” he said.
He said that prohibition is flawed mainly because it drives an unending stream of users into the hands of people who operate outside of the law, thereby creating thousands of erstwhile innocent victims.
“Ask the first 10 teenagers you find, ‘what is easier to find — marijuana or alcohol?’ They will all tell you that if they want to, it is easier to find marijuana or any other drug. Why? Because the federal government controls and regulates the alcohol. And the illegal drug dealers control the illegal drugs and they don’t ask for identification do they?” Gray said. “If I am a drug dealer, how much money does it take to recruit a young person to help in the drug business? Not very much. Soon, I have a cheap source of labor: children. Then, when their reliability is established, I trust them to go out and sell small amounts of drugs in their communities. Why do I do that? More money for me and for the children. If you have a 15-year-old selling drugs in a community, who are they going to sell to? Me? Or their peers?”
And, as one member of the caravan reminded, when people get hurt or killed because of drug violence — as opposed to regulated trade — it eventually impacts everyone.
“I come here full of hope that you are in solidarity with us and that you can help us,” said Leticia Mora. “Accompany us all in our pain. Because we are all human beings, and what is done to one human being is done to all humanity.”
Visit the Caravan for Peace And Justice website
For an increasingly large percentage of the world’s population, the answer to stopping such pain is to end prohibition and to hope that more of their fellow human beings begin to see the drug war as failed policy.
“We stand for peace, we stand for justice, we stand for dignity,” said Phoenix resident RJ Shannon. “This is a discussion that has to happen and hopefully, someone out there is listening.”
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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