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Taking shots in the war on drugs

August 13, 2007

Re "U.S., Mexico in talks to bolster drug fight," Aug. 9

Mexico President Felipe Calderon must realize that the responsibility for combating Mexico's drug issues primarily lies with his government, not with the United States.

The U.S. government has an obligation to keep drugs out, but stopping the flow lies with Mexico. Mexican drug lords are seeking to promulgate new markets in the U.S. while nurturing old ones. In addition, the illegal trafficking of guns across the U.S. border is because of Mexico's extreme gun laws. The lack of supply in Mexico is met from the United States.

A new surveillance system is exactly what the United States and Mexico need. In the drug war in Colombia, the use of street cameras in Bogota dramatically reduced the crime rate. The new system could also serve to relieve police, making them available for more direct action against drugs.

Calderon should stop blaming the United States and make a concerted effort to fight the drug war. Democracy and drugs are incompatible -- it is his responsibility to invigorate the Mexican people to be a nation without drugs or suffer the fate of the narco-state.

Devika Parashar

Research Assistant

National Defense

Council Foundation

Alexandria, Va.

Drug demand-reduction programs have historically wasted effort on feel-good campaigns that did nothing to correct the systems and norms that permit and encourage drug abuse.

Until a few years ago, demand reduction -- or drug prevention -- was far from reaching its true potential. That's changed.

The last 20 years of community-driven advocacy -- and a lot of excellent research -- have helped to develop a framework that actually works: a public health model called "Environmental Prevention." Through it, all segments of the community work to make it easier to do what's right and healthy.

A variety of communities, including San Diego County, have been using this approach for nearly 10 years.

Sadly, drug prevention will never be as sexy as boarding freighters at sea or burning coca crops in remote jungles. But those efforts, while admirable, have proved ineffective on their own.

Now that we know the strategy that works, it's time to dedicate matching resources to demand reduction here at home. And to assume more responsibility to ensure our effort remains focused on proven, productive work in the public health arena.

James Baker

President, Institute

for Public Strategies

San Diego

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