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Drug War Without Borders
Soldiers patrol as federal police vehicles are inspected at a military check point on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009. Mexico's drug war has brought a surge in violence, with more than 5,300 gang killings reported in 2008. (AP)

Soldiers patrol as federal police vehicles are inspected at a military check point on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 22, 2009. Mexico's drug war has brought a surge in violence, with more than 5,300 gang killings reported in 2008. (AP)

Police officers beheaded, civilians bombed. No, not in Afghanistan, but Mexico — where last year more than 5,000 people were killed in drug cartel violence.

Now that violence is spilling over the border like never before — to Tuscon and Atlanta. Phoenix is the new capital of kidnappings for ransom.

Mexican President Calderon’s U.S.-backed crackdown has created a brutal backlash from warring cartel factions. And the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff worry that a “failed state” is in the making.

This hour, On Point: Mexico’s drug war, and its consequences, on both sides of the border.

You can join the conversation. Can you imagine drug cartel kidnappings in major U.S. cities? How should President Obama respond to Mexico’s drug war? Is it time for a new approach?


Joining is from Phoenix, Arizona, is J.J. Hensley, staff reporter at The Arizona Republic. He’s been covering the spike in drug-related kidnappings for ransom hitting Phoenix.

With us in our studio is Alfredo Corchado, Mexico bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News and currently a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

From Washington, we’re joined by Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

And from Tuscon, Arizona, we’re joined by Anthony Coulson, assistant special agent in charge at the Drug Enforcement Administration in Tucson.

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  • Barbara Hakim

    Hi Tom, I am a regular listener from Boston. I may or may not be able to call in on this show as I am in Brookfield MA for the day and don’t know if I’ll be able to find On Point on air.

    I wanted to say, this issue regarding the drug traffic and related kidnappings hits home for me. My close friend’s husband (Felix Batista) is a negotiator for Columbian and Mexican kidnapping victims and most recently, he himself was abducted and is still missing(2 months ago). He is an American citizen(Cuban born) from Miami, with 5 children. He disappeared in broad daylight in Saltillo, Mexico…and there hasn’t been much coverage at all about the alleged kidnapping in the media.

    Here is a link of an article about him; http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5044CU20090105

    Why doesn’t the US media and government cover these kidnappings and emphasize the dangers associated with these cartels? We worry about terrorists on the other side of the world when dangerous and insidious activities are just south of the border.

    Thanks for doing a story on this.

    Perhaps you will follow up with a story about Felix. Best, Barbara

  • Ann-Marie

    Thanks for taking on this subject Tom. Many of us on the West Coast have been very worried. Lots of trips to Mexico have been canceled.
    Posted by Barbara Hakim
    My close friend’s husband (Felix Batista) is a negotiator for Columbian and Mexican kidnapping victims..He disappeared in broad daylight in Saltillo, Mexico…and there hasn’t been much coverage at all about the alleged kidnapping in the media.

    Sorry about your lost Barbara-I hope Mr. Batista is found soon and un-harmed.
    Since I live on the West coast, our local news media (t.v. and radio) have continued to cover each out-break of violence and kidnapping. NPR has actually been good about covering Mr. Batista’s story. A week after his kidnapping, one of the quizzes on “Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me!” was about him. NPR’s “On the Media” has featured reports of journalists being killed for reporting these stories. Last week’s “Talk of the Nation” had a segment on all the recent kidnapping/violence: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100635123.

    You need a “missing beautiful blonde Caucasian girl” level of pop-culture media coverage. That type of “attractive” victim usually gets minute by minute CONSTANT coverage ranging from People magazine to CNN to Fox news. If there are any really photogenic women in his family, they should get on national T.V. Second best is to get Lou Dobbs to feature Mr. Batista as part of his campaign against illegal immigration. Crass? Yes, but necessary to get attention in today’s corporate media.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    “The war on drugs” was a bad idea because it combined serious issues like cartels and kidnapping with putting kids in jail for smoking a joint. Now many who would be concerned have mixed emotions about this issue.

    Treating situations like the Felix Batista kidnapping as terrorism might reframe them in a way that would get more media and government attention.

  • Barbara Hakim

    Thanks for your comments, Ann-Marie. Will check out the link.

  • CJ McAuley

    If the spin doctors had been in vogue way back when, Prohibition would have been called something like the “War on Booze”. Only the end of Prohibition stopped the gang violence. Is not time to legalize all drugs, tax them and control them(both the quality and rehabilitation of addicts)? Seems to me that the last “war” that was “won” definitively was WWII.

  • Peter

    Your respondents comparing the drug cartels is, perhaps, the best way to analyzse this issue. Suppose we see the
    Big Pharmaceutical Industry as cartels and their sustaining a market for Ritalin and Adderal, or cocaine, basixcally “speed”, as the “issue”. If we accept the larger “medication” model”, prevailing in psychopharmacology, as encompassing BOTH legal and illegal “drug trafficcing”, we might be able to get beyond the blinders that the “War on Drugs”, ie: criminalizing such a need, has caused. People “self medicate”, that’s the problem , or the “issue”. How supply meets this demand is the question.

  • Eric Herot

    Given the amount of money and the number of resources we’ve spent fighting this war, I have to ask your guests: What is the expected result here? Since the number of resources we place on the border does not seem to have any direct impact on the amount of drug trafficking, what are the goals of the DEA in this fight, do they ever see themselves attaining these goals, and if not, why are we still spending so much money on it?

    Eric Herot

    (My last name is pronounced “hair-it”)

  • Wavre

    Most politicians(specially today’s righteous baby-boomers!!) have done or are still doing illegal substances. They were just not cought and most of them grew out of it!Now they’re “role models”,Presidents,community leaders, people to look up to!!??Prisons are full of poor kids, mostly minorities, jailed for years for some minors drug offenses.
    Let’s give those kids a chance, let’s stop the hypocrisy and the injustice. Let’s control and legalize those substances. Most developped countries have done it successfully long ago with no particular increase in drug use,drug related crimes have decreased enormously.
    But we know the special interests hidden behind the “War on drug”policies.

  • Peter Pjecha Jr.

    “As regards the dynamic paradigm of the insanely merciless and savage illegal global drug war and trade, with America as the all time major consumer of—el producto; coddling those that are the manifest demand, while attempting to stanch the supply—will never cause the lusted after, murderous and copious flow to cease.”

  • Jon Randall

    Finnaly some coverage on the problems at our southern border! The people that put this together deserve a huge pat on the back! thank you

  • Tommy Douglas

    Your President on marijuana:
    Stop chasing after and imprisoning little and big tokers and concentrate your efforts and money on hard drugs, violent crime, and educating Loud Obbs. Stop telling people of other countries what they can grow in the privacy of their homes (Google Paul Cellucci and marijuana). Refuse to be ruled by the pharmaceuticals.

    What? Look at what is done in other countries? Hell no! Commies all who take care of the health of their citizens! What would Jack Bauer’s grandfather think.

  • http://poezia-bessmertna.ru/ poeziabessmertna

    Keep up the good work!

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