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  1. ZenobiaSky
    17393.jpg Recreational users and hard-core addicts in the U.S. give little thought to the violence by Mexican cartels that is consuming our southern neighbor.

    Illegal drugs by the tons are smuggled into California each year by sea, by land and by air. Cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin are either produced in or pass through Mexico, where 50,000 people have been killed in the last six years in an escalating war among cartels.

    Some of the victims have been beheaded, mutilated or left hanging from bridges, not necessarily because of their involvement in the trade, but as a diabolical demonstration that the drug lords will stop at nothing to dominate the market.

    Those drugs end up in every neighborhood in Southern California and every city in the United States, feeding a never-ending hunger. But few people north of the border seem to make the connection. The Mexican carnage is conveniently distant. It's Mexico's problem, not ours.

    When a 24-year-old Echo Park illustrator and recreational drug user goes to a warehouse party or a dance club, she told me, cocaine, Ecstasy and other drugs are always available and often used openly. Given the horrific stories from Mexico, I wondered if the price of those drugs is ever a consideration.

    "I do definitely realize that I have a connection to it, and it's sad," said the illustrator. "It's one of those things I'll try not to think about. It'll cross my mind and I'll push it out."

    In 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department seized 11,378 kilos of cocaine, 3,426 kilos of marijuana, nine kilos of heroin and 304 kilos of methamphetamine, along with $16.3 million in suspected drug money, according to the department.

    When you walk through the terminals at LAX, not everyone is carrying toiletries, socks and underwear in their suitcases. Several million dollars in cash was seized last year, officials said, much of it stuffed into luggage carried by couriers who were transporting drug payments.

    In April, yet another panga boat was spotted off the coast of Malibu, and the Coast Guard took custody of three men and 80 bales of marijuana, which were valued at $1.6 million. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that bumped the stats, since last October, to 51 arrests, with 14 panga boats and 11,000 pounds of marijuana seized.

    But those busts and others never seem to nick the operations of the staggeringly rich and powerful cartels, nor do they do much to stem the availability of drugs or the insatiable demand by everyone from occasional recreational users to hard-core, seriously diseased addicts.

    The drugs pouring into California don't all stay here, of course. Greater Los Angeles serves as a distribution point for drugs that get shipped through the nation. But we get our hands on a piece of the goods too.

    "On the Southside, you'll see them slinging it in the streets. In Hollywood, it's in clubs or behind closed doors and you and I will never see it," a ranking officer in the LAPD's Gangs and Narcotics Division told me. "On the Westside it's the same thing, and we can't do any enforcement unless someone picks up the phone."

    In some places, like skid row, there are no mysteries as to where the drugs are. On countless occasions, I've seen people selling, buying and using, and once watched a woman die of a heroin overdose on her way to the hospital. In other neighborhoods, the action is only slightly less concealed.

    "It's ridiculously easy" to find drugs in the San Fernando Valley, a 48-year-old recovering cocaine addict named Josh told me. Find a motel or liquor store near a row of apartment buildings in a so-so neighborhood, he said, go into the nearest alley, and someone will appear, asking if you want anything.

    Josh got clean 15 years ago, works in construction and now tries to help other addicts keep from losing jobs and driving away loved ones, as he once did. When I called the Cocaine Anonymous help line in the Valley, it was Josh who answered, and he offered suggestions on the many meetings I might attend to learn more.

    "Every single walk of life you can imagine is covered in the meetings," said Josh. "As a matter of fact, at one meeting I go to there's a lawyer, a podiatrist, there's another lady who's a nurse.... All races, male, female, it doesn't matter." He sees lots of musicians, he said, as well as people in the entertainment businesse who work both behind and in front of the camera.

    The cartels "wouldn't be in business without us," Josh said of drug addicts. But as for there being blood on the hands of those whose business is fought over by gangs that torture, kill and terrorize, he said he wouldn't go that far.

    "Indirectly, yeah," there's a connection. "But directly, you're talking about Mexican Mafia-type people. They're going to do what they're going to do, regardless."

    Maybe so, but I don't think it's that easy to wash our hands of any responsibility.

    I recognize that any serious addict has a disease, and a chemical craving that can't be cured by an appeal to conscience. But I'm appealing to the greater, collective conscience.

    It's time to examine why we've built such a culture of addiction — whether the devil is alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs or illegal drugs.

    It's time again to question every aspect of U.S. drug policy, and to consider a heavier reliance on prevention and treatment, with fewer resources thrown at the impossible task of cutting off the flow of drugs by land, sea and air.

    Fifty thousand neighbors have been killed, many of them savagely. That's almost equal to the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. In Mexico, many of the dead were innocent victims of our cravings, and they are not done digging graves.

    Los Angeles Time By Steve Lopez June 2, 2012, 6:12 p.m.



  1. inazone
    People could choose to stop using drugs, and pointing out the criminal activity and South of the Boarder Violence could change a few minds. However the Mexican Drug War has been financed by the U.S. Government which started several years ago when the Mexican Government proposed legalizing small amounts of personal use narcotics, that is when high level meetings via Colin Powell, the State Department and Mexican Government worked out a U.S. plan to eradicate the flow of narcotics and shut down the Zetas and other "Narco - Terrorist groups.
    Cocaine, Heroin, and other Narcotics have been in the U.S. since they were discovered. We have had an ongoing "Drug War" since the Nixon era. It could be just my opinion but when impoverished Mexican and Americans can find a way out of the poverty by selling drugs some will do just that. This combined with long term drug sentences and the confiscation of personal assets have in part inspired a lot of the murders we here about these days. Still other murders are committed in an attempt to control territories and some are committed because anger and some out of plain ol stupidity.
    If all Americans would stop using "ILLEGAL DRUGS" then I believe the problem would fade away. However by incarcerating drug users in our Prison Systems that lock up more people per capita than any 1st and I believe 2nd World Nations, we are just creating a more extreme and violent society.
    BTW I do have compassion for people who can not break free from the bonds of addiction but there are other ways of dealing with that problem, I love sex but remained faithful to my wife for our entire Marriage, however if another man can not should we mandate the use of Burhkas or veils to eradicate this temptation also ? I just believe violence begats more violence, especially when attempting to control human behavior on a Free society.
  2. alienesseINspace
    People have been using drugs for almost as long as they have existed. Drug laws in America are the problem, not the innate nature of man. Humans cannot be told that their desire to experience alternate states of being is wrong. What is wrong can be identified as the oppressive and often racist ways some societies are organized. Many American drug laws were developed to fill prisons with ethnic minorities. Now that the prison system is largely privatized, the system is racing to keep cells occupied no matter if the offender is a danger to society or not. The violent Mexican cartel problem is only a bi-product of the unjust and dysfunctional North American social structure.
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