Watching and waiting in New Mexico

Thursday, April 07, 2011

By Lisa Russ

There is big news out of Mexico today. According to Reuters:
Thousands of Mexicans protested the country's raging drug war Wednesday as dozens of bodies were found in graves near the country's border with the United States.

Demonstrators marched in cities across Mexico, holding signs condemning the wave of killing that has claimed more than 37,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and launched a military-led crackdown against drug cartels.

"We are fed up with this war that nobody asked for," said protester Leticia Ruiz in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, where some businesses have closed because of gun battles in the streets and rampant extortion by cartel members. 
There were protests all over the country in the last few days with as many as 10,000 people participating.  For many the last straw was last week's assasination of the son of poet Javier Sicilia, along with six other young men. He wrote a moving open letter in which he said, "We're sick of you politicians.  In this badly planned, badly executed and badly led war, you have put the country into a state of emergency."

We in the US face our own end of the awful war on drugs, and our own state of emergency. Our version of the war is fought on the streets, but also through the courts and the jails, where we are locking up people who struggle with addiction, rather than giving them a chance at recovery.

We at ACRJ have had the great fortune of working closely with Young Women United in Albuquerque, a member of the Strong Family Leadership Team. They helped pass a package of 4 bills through the New Mexico legislature that would vastly increase access to substance use treatment.

As this outcry in Mexico reminds us, we are losing countless lives to drug violence. As the work in New Mexico shows us us, a great step forward would be increased access to treatment.

Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance recently wrote about the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs:
Over-incarceration is the problem, not the solution. Ranking first in the world in both absolute and per capita incarceration is a shameful distinction that the United States should hasten to shed. The best way to address the problem of over-incarceration is to reduce the number of people incarcerated for non-violent drug law violations -- by decriminalizing and ultimately legalizing marijuana; by providing alternatives to incarceration for those who pose no threat outside prison walls; by reducing mandatory minimum and other harsh sentences; by addressing addiction and other drug misuse outside the criminal justice system rather than within it; and by insisting that no one be incarcerated simply for possessing a psychoactive substance, absent harm to others....
New Mexico's Governor Susana Martinez has 24 hours left to take action on the bills YWU and their members and allies fought so hard to pass. There is still time to get your voice heard. We urge you to send her a message in support of these bills by clicking here.

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