August 27, 2009
Posted: 210 GMT
In the hidden streets of Ciudad Juarez, it's a sure bet that you'll find a junky injecting himself with heroine, or smoking marijuana, or snorting a line of cocaine. Just a few meters away in El Paso, you can probably see the same thing. The similarities between both places don't stop there.
They are sister cities, that share a river and a culture, among many other things. But, they lie in two different countries, with two different sets of laws. And now, one of those laws has added a wrinkle to an on-going battle against drugs, drug cartels, and deadly violence, which has claimed the lives of thousands.
Just last week, Mexico followed in the footsteps of countries around the world - most recently, its Latin American brethren, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina - by eliminating jail-time for small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD and Meth. The reason seems very logical. Mexico's government says its prisons are packed with drug users. And, with the escalating violence in that country, they'd rather make room in prison cells for violent offenders and dealers.
Across the border, in the United States, police are concerned. In fact, they claim this goes against Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war against drugs and drug cartels, which is blamed for the deaths of 11,000 people since Calderon took office in 2006. U.S. authorities say the new law in Mexico gives a green light for people to use and abuse some of the world's most dangerous drugs. But, from Mexico's perspective, the government is trying to draw a line between the users, who need help not punishment; and the dealers, who deserve to be incarcerated.
This is the latest chapter in Mexico's Drug War that stretches far beyond the river, which divides Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. It's a war, which doesn't get as much attention as Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a war fought mostly in Mexico, with U.S. weapons, and claiming innocent Mexican lives - young, old, women, men, anyone.
On Monday at the I-Desk, we're going to delve deep into this war, the new law, and what's being done to fight drug runners. Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz of Ciudad Juarez is joining Hala live on set. His fair city is caught up in the middle of the violence. And, his perspective of this drug war is unlike any other.
See you then. And, as they say in Mexico, cuidense.
(Photo of soldier standing guard as seized drugs are incinerated in Mexico – Getty Images)
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