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Symposium Discusses A New Approach To War On Drugs

By Mose Buchele, KUT News

Dallas, TX –

Last month a Mexican news program in the state of Michoac n received a call from a man identifying himself as Servando Gomez Martinez. Martinez is the leader of the Familia Michoacana drug cartel, and he called about his business.

Servando Gomez Martinez: Understand this please, he says, there is no way to end it. The day that I fail. That I fail! There will be another in my place. And that's how it is going to go, this is never going to end.

Guillermo Valenzuela: That is absolutely fascinating.

Guillermo Valenzuela brought a tape of the call to the Austin symposium. Guillermo Valenzuela: Because he speaks from historical data, from the truth. As long as there is a demand, there is always someone who will be willing to fulfill that.

Valenzuela works on border issues for U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes in El Paso. He, like others at the symposium, think that the war against the traffickers can't be won without more focus on ending the demand for drugs. Dr. Jane Maxwell is with U-T's addiction research institute.

Dr. Jane Maxwell: What is happening on our side is as we demand drugs on our side and want to consume them. Their stockpiled or warehoused on our side and they just kind of magically spill into the community.

So that now drug addiction on the border goes hand in hand with trafficking, and to reduce one, Maxwell says, you have to reduce the other.

Chilo Madrid: That's what we are, we are drug demand reduction soldiers.

Chilo Madrid runs drug treatment programs in El Paso, where he's seen drug use increase in the last five year. He says his job is a risky one, but that things are even more dangerous for treatment providers on the Mexican side of the border, where drug use has quadrupled. Sergio Nogeira ran a rehabilitation center in Juarez for nine years until traffickers shut it down.

Sergio Nogeira: Basically the situation of violence in which we live in Cuidad Juarez, touched me too. He says, I received threats by the phone, I received personal threats, so I had to close. And they didn't end there. They still set fire to it.

And treatment is only part of reducing demand. Dissuading a new generation from experimenting with drugs in the first place, was also brought up at the meeting. Again Jane Maxwell.

Jane Maxwell: I think we'd see a real decrease in use of drugs if people could get to that stage where it's not acceptable.

It was the hope of many at the symposium that a new focus on treatment and prevention be embraced by federal and state governments and, in the words of one speaker, that it materializes into something specific.

Mose Buchele, KUT News.