HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mexico's President Unveils Anti-Drug Plan
Pubdate: Tue, 03 Jul 2007
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2007 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Dudley Althaus, and Marion Lloyd
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Calderon Calls For Tests And New Parks As Part Of His  Initiative

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon  on Monday
launched a new phase of his anti-narcotics  crusade that will include
the drug testing of students  in more than 8,000 schools nationwide.

Calderon's initiative is seen as recognition of a  growing problem
among Mexican adolescents. Many  Mexicans, including police and other
officials, have  long seen drug trafficking as an American problem,
limiting the public's support for combating the  problem.

"Society is demanding a coordinated response from the  authorities to
confront this social cancer," Calderon  said at a junior high school
in Monterrey, the  industrial hub 150 miles south of Laredo, Texas,
that  has been battered by gangland violence this year.

"As a father I understand the worry of Mexicans who  fear that their
children are victims of crime on the  way to school, in the parks, in
the streets," said  Calderon, who has three young children. "I know
the  anguish and pain of mothers who realize, sometimes too  late,
that their children have fallen into the claws of  drugs."

In addition to calling for drug testing, Calderon said  local, state
and federal governments will build more  parks and sports complexes
and push for public  involvement in them, with an initial $7 million
investment in Monterrey. And he said more than 300  clinics would be
opened across Mexico to treat drug and  alcohol addictions.

The abuse of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, heroin  and other
narcotics in Mexico has skyrocketed during  the past decade, by some
estimates increasing as much  as 2,000 percent.

Authorities have become particularly concerned about  crystal meth,
which is cheap enough to be widely used  even among Mexico's poor majority.

Drug use going upThe number of Mexico City middle- and  high-school
students who admitted using crystal meth  doubled between 1997 and
2003, to 3.6 percent,  according to the most recent study by the
National  Psychiatric Institute. Fifteen percent admitted to  using
some kind of narcotic, with cocaine, marijuana  and meth the drugs of

However, experts say actual drug use among Mexican  adolescents is
probably twice that high, particularly  in poor urban

"Everything they can do to keep kids away from drugs is  important,"
said Rodolfo Ramirez, president of the  Mexico City-based policy group
Education and Change.  But, he said, "the problem has deep social
roots that  can't be attacked just through the schools."

He argued that Calderon's proposal would fail unless it  also helped
adolescents find part-time jobs, reducing  the incentive to turn to

Calderon said the student drug testing and other school  enforcement
programs were a pilot program whose  expansion would depend on an
evaluation of its  effectiveness and feedback from parents. He did not
  detail how the initial 8,000 schools would be selected,  but his
speech focused on drug use in poorer  neighborhoods.

'A consumer country'Attorney General Eduardo Medina  Mora told Mexico
City's El Universal newspaper that  drug abuse in Mexico "is a
phenomenon that has gone  unattended in recent decades and now we have
to face  reality: that we're a consumer country."

Medina Mora argued the need for more funding for  prevention in Mexico
and the United States. Currently,  the Mexican government spends 16
times as much on  combating the drug traffickers as it does on
fighting  addictions, he said.

Warfare between the criminal gangs that smuggle cocaine  and other
drugs into the United States has killed more  than 1,300 people this
year and rattled the Mexican  public. Police increasingly blame
rivalries among  retail drug traffickers -- who sell in neighborhoods
and villages -- for a growing percentage of the  bloodshed.

Calderon has sent more than 24,000 army troops into  drug producing
and trafficking regions where the  violence has been worse in recent
years. Last week, his  administration removed nearly 300 commanders
from the  federal police forces, replacing them with officers
supposedly more trustworthy.

The violence has slackened in recent weeks, spurring  speculation that
the major trafficking organizations  have reached a truce that will
help take public  attention off them.
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