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Addicts Latest Victims of Drug War

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico -- When you visit the drug rehab centers in Ciudad Juarez, what you notice are the arms. The addicts have arms that are purple with scars. The new guys have arms still raw from the needles. The counselors, former addicts themselves, have scars that are fading away, faint but still there.

They have been killing addicts in Ciudad Juarez. It is the latest outrage, in the most violent city in Mexico. A few weeks ago, gunmen burst commando-style into a gray cinderblock building where 60 patients were bunking down for the night. The assassins killed five. Motive unknown.

We visited the center and a young man reluctantly let us in. There was a cracked imitation leather sofa and image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The young man pointed to a spot on the floor, where we could still see the blood. That’s where his uncle died.

We later meet Guadalupe Martinez, a heroin addict all his life. He was in another rehab center three months ago that closed after drug gangs threatened an attack, and now he says there are more junkies on the streets than ever.

In the video above, Martinez fights for his fix by begging for money below the international bridge that connects Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, where each day thousands of people stand in line for hours waiting to walk into the United States. As they wait, Martinez stands down in the riverbed and shouts for dollars and pesos, and the crowds, bored, throw the money down. They laugh as Martinez and other homeless alcoholics and addicts run after the fluttering bills.

By William Booth and Travis Fox  |  June 15, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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Next: A Rare Night Out in Juarez


In that final shot, his face says it all - the helpless look of an addict.

Mexico - the new Columbia. And we ignore it at our own peril. The US needs to engage much more forcefully here than practically anywhere else. May be this can be contained now - but if this goes unchecked, like the violence against treatment centers, it is akin to ignoring the rats/mice/termites scurrying around at our doorstep.

Soon, you will find them inside.

Btw, fantastic video. Thanks.

Posted by: Pillai | June 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The war on drugs is an utter failure and the cost in lives, misery and money is astounding. Reason and commonsense are abscent from any discusion on this drug war fiasco. The law of unintended consequences is so prevalent and makes one wonders about what other actions were taken that are yet to manifest their misery on us all. Sanctimony and human nature are 2 of the most self destructive weapons and are usually used by the haves against the have-nots. I wonder what Nancy Reagan thinks about it after 30 futile years?

Posted by: sunman88 | June 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Just MORE reason for the USA to "cede" Mexico to the U.N. for them to use as a Palestinian Homeland to create Middle East Peace, eh?!?! I'm pretty sure that Israel would sign off on that, right?!?!
All Prez Obama has to do is have Ms. Hillary invoke the special NAFTA amendment, eh?!?!

Posted by: Bigrcube | June 15, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

It takes MANY years for the scars to go away. Those shooting heroin, do not inject as frequently as with cocaine, which is about every 15 minutes or so.

If there is an advantage to 'crack' at all, it is the absence of the need to inject for a similar high, though lemon juice allows for crack to be injectable instead of water.

Either way, injecting anything bypasses the bodies natural immune system, something that smoking does not do.

Posted by: | June 15, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

So... the drug cartels are waging war on their consumer base? Sounds like a self-healing problem if you ask me.

Posted by: mattsoundworld | June 15, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The killings in Juarez continue unabated, of those who have nothing left, not even the hope of a better tomorrow. Their suffering and agony is bringing joy and pleasure to a very cruel and despicable group of inhuman slaves--slaves more likely than not to even the Devil himself. They no doubt laugh and giggle and slap themselves with hysterics as their victims suffer and cry their last agonies--and then the gore! Their delight is the suffering of humanity and they feed on their fear, no doubt a much larger gang suffering from the most horrific malignant narcissism.

I will follow this story with keen interest. Not because I enjoy hearing about the suffering of those marginalized by Satanic cruelty and diabolical psychopathy. I will follow it because I know that Justice is coming and much, much sooner than most think possible or likely! Those who are responsible for these outrages against humanity shall come to know the true author of all Justice!

Please tell us about the police who cowar in fear and terror at the narcos! Tell us about the political characters who promise a better tomorrow with fistfuls of narco dollars! Please tell us about the many, many hard working and imaginative people who sleep in what is truly a small wooden box, as they are victimized by the maquiladoras througout Juarez! Tell us about those who benefit from their labors and their suffering and please do, if you can, distinguish between those who delight in cruelty and murder of such little ones and those who benefit from the labors of the poor throughout Mexico and elsewhere.

Tell it well but be careful. Be careful of both the police and the military and the narcos as well. There is truly nowhere to turn any more throughout Mexico. It is the first failed state with many many more to soon follow. This is the Devil's playground, Juarez. It is to see into the abyss of sheer evil and is it any wonder that those poor people who have no way out despair.

I grieve for the poor people throughout Juarez. I grieve for them. I pray for them! And I am very, very interested in what is happening down there.

Thank you for bringing this badly needed story. I hope you tell it well!

Posted by: fujita61 | June 15, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"So... the drug cartels are waging war on their consumer base? Sounds like a self-healing problem if you ask me."

Actually, quite the opposite. The purpose attacks on the treatment centers is an obvious attempt to preserve their market. Eliminate the treatment centers and the junkies stay hooked.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 15, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The path to a solution is so obvious, it's ridiculous, which means there are entrenched interests in the United States with a stake in keeping the addiction/ trafficking/profit cycle going.

The War on Drugs in Mexico and Central America should be The War on Addiction here in North America, in the United States and Canada.

Addiction is a physical illness. Because the target organ is the brain, that simple fact gets lost.

The myriad mental and sociological problems associated with drug abuse are the behavioral manifestations of addicted brains. The drug cartel problem is first and foremost a public health issue. We need to attack addiction on multiple fronts: effective prevention, research, and finding a cure.

In my opinion, it is a waste of time for reporters to concentrate on reporting "ain't it awful" stories about addicts and drug cartels in Mexico which only sensationalizes the criminal activity over exploring public policy in support of a solution.

Such reporting also lends credence to the argument for legalizing drugs in order to take the power out of criminal hands. But to do so would only perpetuate an endless cycle of demand, supply, and enormous profit for a few, while the costs, risks and detrimental effects are borne by the many.

Cui bono?

Posted by: constitutionalcitizen | June 15, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Thank for you doing this series. I am a native El Pasoan now living in the DC area. My family still lives in El Paso and my mother and brother-in-law work for immigration and customs. I think that the way of life on the Texas-Mexico border is very hard for outsiders to understand. The border is not as rigid as many think. People go back and forth and families and the economy are dependent on this fluidity. My 84-year old grandmother still drives herself to Juarez once a week to see her sister. She also goes to see her dentist and get her hair done. Even though we have asked her not to because it has gotten so dangerous, this is what she has always done and she can't imagine life another way. The drug war has definitely changed the way of life in El Paso and all along the border. I hope that you will get to see the beauty and the spirit of border life and not just the effects of the drug war. These terrible times are relatively recent and I hope that someday, whether through legalization or better enforcement, the border will return to the culturally rich and beautiful place that I knew.

Posted by: JBC1 | June 15, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

President Calderon is the first President to seriously tackle the growing drug problem in Mexico. The corruption had reached all levels of government and law enforcement. The devils in the bribes they pay out. In Mexico, as in all places, there are more good people than bad people. The United States has to do all it can to support Calderon's courageous effort. This is a window of opportunity that we might not see again. Respectfully, Tony in Chicago.

Posted by: polk1 | June 16, 2009 5:53 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Columbus is worse (more dangerous) than Juarez because there is so much less security. Be careful.

Posted by: JBC1 | June 16, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

$8 for herion! What a disgrace to a beautiful country...a country that could have been just as powerful as the US.

Posted by: AppleaDay | June 16, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

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