Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’

This Week in Drugs (Feb. 19, 2011)

On Tuesday, gunmen opened fire on two U.S. special agents near Mexico city, killing one and wounding the other, PBS NewsHour reports. Special agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed driving a black SUV on a central Mexico highway. Agent Victor Avila was wounded and discharged from a hospital on Wednesday. It was unclear whether the agents were targeted specifically or not, although according to Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, new information suggests it was a sanctioned hit by the Zetas drug cartel and not a rogue incident, CNN reported. Reuters says Tuesday’s attack puts fresh pressure on Washington to take action in the rapidly advancing drug war. Read more on these increasingly limited options here.

The Director of Central Intelligence in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon was kidnapped and executed in the back of his government-issued armored SUV on Sunday night, Borderland Beat reported. Witnesses say they saw Homero Salcido Treviño kidnapped by alleged drug gang members who drove him to a central area of Monterrey and shot him five times before throwing a grenade into the director’s SUV.

Gunmen in Guadalajara opened fire and hurled a grenade into a crowded night club early Saturday, killing six people and injuring 37, the Associated Press reports. The attack came mere hours after a shootout between police and suspected gang members that left eight dead, including an innocent driver.

Early Saturday morning, the body of seven-year-old Antonio Rodrigo Jiménez Cortes was found in the Acapulco neighborhood where he lived, Borderland Beat reported. On his body was a handwritten note apparently directed at the boy’s mother that said, “This happened to me for stealing husbands and being a snitch.”

Increasing violence in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Acapulco continues to pale in comparison to Ciudad Juarez, “the most lethal place on earth,” according to PBS NewsHour. Read more here.

Despite copious negative PR regarding cartel violence in Mexico, spring break reservations from U.S. college students remain steady, the AP reports. Although violence in the most popular tourist areas is rare, Mexico’s tourism was dealt a heavy blow with the September attack on David Hartley and his wife on the Texas-Mexico border.

A Deputy U.S.  Marshal and a fugitive alleged crack dealer were killed in a shoot-out in Elkins, West Virginia, on Wednesday, reported. Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller was shot and killed when U.S. Marshals and state police announced themselves and entered the house of Charles Edward Smith to serve a federal warrant. Smith opened fire with a shotgun, fatally wounding Hotsinpiller before a marshal and trooper returned fire, killing Smith. Hotsinpiller is the first marshal killed by gunfire since 1992, and his and Smith’s deaths are the eighth and ninth in U.S. drug law enforcement this year.

Mexican drug gangs are using U.S. public land to cultivate millions of marijuana plants in California’s Redwood forests, the AP reports. Employing armed guards, trip wires, and smuggled immigrants on grow operations of up to tens of thousands of plants is not out of the ordinary for Mexican drug gangs hoping to yield more than 30 tons of pot a year.

Federal authorities seized nearly 300 guns bound for Mexico and a federal grand jury has indicted 17 defendants in five cases of illegally trafficking firearms, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke announced Thursday. Watch CNN‘s report here and read more about the iron river to Mexico here.

An Associated Press review found that more than half the states are not complying with a “post-Virginia Tech” law that requires them to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns.

An Oregon driver was arrested after his pit-bull mix threw a sock stuffed with marijuana and hashish out the window as the driver was being pulled over. The driver said he was trying to hide the marijuana when his dog began playing tug-of-war with the sock, causing it to fly out of the window. Those pricey training lessons aren’t looking so bad now, are they?


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Border security & budget cuts: two “drug” stories today show what we do right, wrong in Drug War

A delegation of Obama administration officials met with Arizona state leaders today to discuss border security, pledging hundreds of millions of dollars more in financial resources and increased manpower to fight crime at the Arizona-Mexico border (including 524 National Guard troops). The lengthy report from the White House on the tactics discussed in the meetings (link to PDF below) includes some smart efforts to fight cartel crime, such as a focus on southbound guns and money. But as I read the report, I found myself thinking about another unrelated “drug” story in Arizona, about thousands of mentally ill people who will lose access to treatment and medications because of state budget cuts.

At first blush, these two stories don’t seem connected at all. But for years, we have waged a war on drugs that has all but ignored the root causes of the problem. Year after year, politicians have increased minimum sentences for drug crimes and built more prisons while slashing drug treatment services and social programs that address poverty, mental illness and other societal problems linked to drug abuse. As I read this morning’s Arizona Republic story about the mental health program cuts, I thought about Paula, a woman with bipolar disorder I wrote about for  Phoenix Magazine this spring, who would lapse back into self-medicating by smoking crack whenever she didn’t have access to treatment or the right prescription meds. Arizona leaders who are so concerned about Mexicans bringing us drug cartel violence should consider what role they play in fighting drug use — not just punishing drug users — here at home. Treating and caring for those with mental illness is an important part of the social safety net that helps prevent crime, homelessness and drug abuse.

The Obama administration’s Southwest Border Strategy includes a tacit acknowledgment of the role the U.S. plays in the Mexican drug violence. The bloody battle with and between drug cartels that has left 23,000 Mexicans dead since 2006 is funded by money from U.S. drug sales and waged with U.S.-purchased guns. As I wrote yesterday, we can’t expect to get at the problem by targeting immigrants. But targeting southbound weapons and money is smart.

More information:

-Read the full White House report on today’s meetings here. Highlights: The White House has pledged $600 million to secure the Southwest border and enhance law enforcement efforts; additional ATF “Gunrunner Teams” and prosecutors; and 1,200 additional National Guard troops on the border (524 in Arizona).

-Read about efforts by the office of Arizona’s U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to target firearms trafficking in a new border security fact sheet posted last week here.

-Watch the press conference by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords today on the increase in National Guard troops here.

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