Monday, January 12, 2009

Academics and the Chihuahua Government Say Decriminalizing Drugs is a Subject That Can't be Avoided

Mexican lawmakers and legal experts decry El Paso Mayor John Cook's veto of a City Council resolution that proposed a debate over drug decriminalization

by Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, El Diario

Yesterday, the El Paso mayor's rejection of a debate over decriminalizing drug use was considered on the Mexican side of the border to go against the necessity to analyze all of the possibilities to end the violence that results from said illicit business.

Likewise, state officials, lawmakers, and academics said that the El Paso City Council's proposal to initiate a debate in the United States as well as Mexico over the decriminalization of some drugs as a response to the problem of violence in Ciudad Juarez demonstrates a citizen concern that cannot be avoided.

"To me it seems like a weak and insensitive decision on his part when you consider the proposal the full City Council passed. I don't think it hurts anyone to initiate this debate, because the drug war has failed all over the world," commented local lawmaker Victor Quintana, who in 2008 proposed that the Chihuahua State Congress initiate a similar debate.

At the same time, lawyer Jesus Camarillo, professor at the Ciudad Juarez Autonomous University, said that "Mayor John Cook undervalues the possibility of opening the debate from below, from the council members, from the counties."

Because the change, he added, "can be done, above all because apparently new winds are coming into the United Sates government, and the debates will begin because of the President-elect's openness, and those debates won't only be over the drug problem, but also about other issues that will begin to blow up from below until they likely come up in Congress."

Victor Valencia, Chihuahua Governor Jsoe Reyes Baeza's representative in Ciudad Juarez, commented that the state administration respects the El Paso government's decisions, but he added that the City Council's proposal demonstrates a citizen concern that cannot be avoided.

"We respect the position of the mayor as well as the City Council, but it's a subject that cannot be avoided; it's a situation where all of us have the obligation to pay attention to what's happened in the past, and not only in Mexico; therefore, I think that yes, it is important; it's a clear indicator that there is concern," said Valencia.

Lawmaker Quintana said he regrets Cook's position as much as he celebrates and stresses the importance of the El Paso City Council's position that, with its idea to open a debate, he said, showed sensitivity towards the violence caused by the problem.

"The United States doesn't feel the effects, because it has a hypocritical position. It is one of the biggest drug markets and at the same time one of the biggest sources of drug traffickers' weapons, and it doesn't pay the costs of that. It only enjoys the benefits of money laundering and drug trafficking," Quintana said. He insisted that a debate on the subject "wouldn't hurt anybody."

Lawyer Camarillo added that debating the subject and even decriminalizing the production, trafficking, and consumption of certain types of drugs that are currently illegal could allow the government to more efficiently control this business that today has the country subjected to a war.

"The impact is seen in the decreased levels of violence; it's intuitive that if certain drugs are excluded from prohibition, above all those with the most sales, and if clear rules regarding their production, distribution, and consumption were created--which has happened in the past with other drugs that are permitted today, such as alcholol--the problems would be reduced. The State would have control over the trafficking; that is the idea," said the academic.

Translated by Kristin Bricker

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