[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/02/27/juarez.mexico.violence/art.police.jpg caption="In Juarez, Mexico, 1,600 people were killed in 2008, three times more than the most murderous city in the U.S."]
Documentary Filmmaker and Author
It was a little after midnight when I crossed over the bridge from Laredo, Texas into the sister city of Nuevo Laredo Mexico. After having my car searched I was cleared through the Mexican Customs check point where the military was staged and drove towards my destination.
I had a source of mine, a local reporter, call me four hours earlier to tell me to meet him at a specific restaurant at 1am because he had some photographs and information for me. I was investigating a specific series of brutal murders that had taken place in the Laredo corridor. This meeting with a contact wasn’t all that unusual—most of the investigative journalists in Mexico work under intense circumstances as they often fall upon information relating to the drug cartels that they either can not, or will not, report on because it would be a death sentence for them.Therefore, they give the information to someone like me who will get it aired or published in a way that does not connect them.
I arrived early to the restaurant and since the weather was pleasant, I decided to take a seat on the patio and have a glass of tea. I sat for a few minutes when my source arrived and sat down, ordered a drink and handed me a large white envelope. He told me this was everything I had been asking his editor about the day before and that I should be careful how I use it. I thanked him, (by paying him), and we talked for about 20 minutes after which he asked if I could give him a ride home.
He got into my rental car and told me to drive towards his house on the outskirts of town. We drove past the airport and headed towards Monterrey, and just as I was about to make the turn off the highway to drop him near his home, we saw three sets of headlights about two hundred yards off the main road in a desolate section of land.
I stopped the car and told him I wanted to see what was going on. Without objection from my friend, I drove within a few yards of what appeared to be about a half dozen local cops attempting to seal off a crime scene. We exited our vehicle and walked towards the area where the police cars were shining their lights. As I looked down, I found myself standing over three bodies that appeared to be young boys who were obviously dead. I stepped over to the side a few steps and there were three more lying in the bushes. As the police started talking to my reporter friend, I leaned over the first three bodies and even though I’m no forensic expert, I could clearly see they had all been shot execution-style in the back of the head. My friend confirmed the other three had the same type wounds.
Within a few hours we were able to piece together some of the basic common threads between these young corpses. They were all teenage boys—the oldest was 17, the youngest 13. They had all been working for one of the cartels as couriers and crossing about a hundred pounds of marijuana (worth about $2000) into the United States and had pocketed the money. They had been caught by their handlers (the men in charge of supervising the young gang members) and since the cartel uses hundreds of kids like these all over Mexico and the U.S, someone made the decision to make examples of these kids. A message needed to be sent out so the rest of the young recruits would realize the severity of not following orders.
Six .40 caliber bullets to the heads of these boys was a very powerful message.
It was a gruesome sight and it made me realize for the first time that these kids probably never fully understood the “consequences” of getting involved with the cartel and dealing a little harmless weed.
For years, I’ve heard people from all over the country, including celebrities, politicians and business men, make the argument that pot is harmless and doesn’t carry the same “consequences” as cocaine and heroin.
Let me respond: To the men that manufacture, transport and sell these narcotics, these drugs are equal the same thing—Money. No matter what the substance, it is intended to be converted into money and that is entirely what this is all about for cartels. A 13-year-old can be killed over a load of pot just as fast as someone can be killed over a load of cocaine, heroin, or meth.
The discussion about the legalization or decriminalization of certain narcotics is starting to pick up traction in our country today. I embrace that discussion. That doesn’t mean I embrace the legalization, but I definitely think it’s time to have a detailed, mature discussion on the matter. But the discussion is meaningless unless we deal with the truth, and the truth is the illicit narcotics trade is not only more profitable than ever before in the history of smuggling but more deadly than before too.
The drug policy in America has become almost schizophrenic, especially as it relates to marijuana. No doubt we have to have some type of comprehensive reform as it relates to the way we are prosecuting the “war on drugs” (dare I even say war on drugs) because what we have been doing has not worked very well by any standard. Maybe legalization is part of that solution, but this problem is far more complex than any ONE solution. Just like the fence that was built to secure our border, and hasn’t. What the fence did succeed in doing is curbing one problem in a certain area, but creating more problems in other areas.
Neither will the legalization of narcotics fix everything wrong with the drug war. It will curb some things, but it will also create new problems in areas we are not prepared for today, causing a whole new set of consequences. Unlike those teenage boys lying in the desert—we should take the time to understand and fully comprehend those consequences before we endeavor to take that next step.
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