Dear Pen-Lers:

I'm in the midst of a project to look at interdiction policies herein South
Am.  A real eye-opener.  I knew there was a war on; I didn't know quite how
bad it was.

As might be expected, the net is chock full of drug war realted sites.  A
sample of one decent bit follows from DRCNet .. a bit hand-wringy, but
basically right on.

Indidentally, I had a very good exchange recently with Bolivians about the
role of the military in the war on drugs.  This is a country that has had
over 190 governments since independence from Spain in 1825; most
"transitions" were military coups. Understandably, there is an aversion here
to the military playing domestic law enforcer.

I related the story of Ezequiel Hernandez, the 18 year old killed by a US
Marine while tending his goats on his farm in Texas.  The marines were there
providing logistical support for drug warriors.  As noted below, the marine
was essentially granted impunity from prosecution Feb. 26.

My Bolivian friends pointed out to me that both the killer and killed were

In the US, the Hernandez murder produced a reconsideration of the role of
the Marines in the war on drugs, and a withdrawl of units in the area.  Yet,
in the "certifcation" decision on Bolivia for this year, the State
Department promotes and applauds the recent decision to involve the Bolivian
military in the war on drugs as law enforcers, while calling for more,
faster, meaner.

Fro some years now the Pentagon has been the "lead agency" in interdiction
in the war on drugs.  At the center of this business is US Southern Command
(USSOUTHCOM) and the School of the Americas (check out the anti-narcotics
curricula on their website -- as respectful multicultralists, instruction is
in Spanish...).  As one former commander of USSOUTHCOM put it, in reference
to drug enforcement actions in Latin America, "it's the only war we've got."



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Last Week, a federal grand jury elected not to indict Marine 
Cpl. Clemente Banuelos in the 5/20/97 shooting death of 18 
year-old high school student Esequiel Hernandez near 
Redford, Texas along the Mexican Border.  This week, a 
Queens, NY grand jury elected not to indict U.S. Marshal 
William Cannon in the non-fatal shooting of 17 year-old high 
school student Andre Burgess in Laurelton, Queens.  On 
Friday (2/27) on Sheridan Avenue in The Bronx, New York, 
police kicked in the door of the wrong apartment at 8:15 am, 
eliciting a single gunshot from the frightened resident. 
That shot was immediately answered by up to 30 rounds of 
fire by the officers.  And in Brooklyn last week, a cop was 
shot in the lower back by another officer during a struggle 
with a suspect after a buy and bust operation -- which 
netted a single $20 bag of cocaine -- went bad.

In case you hadn't noticed -- and if you are white and 
middle class perhaps you haven't -- the Drug War is an 
actual, honest-to-God shooting war, being prosecuted by all 
levels of the government against the people of the United 
States.  This is a war on poor folks, on black folks, on 
Latino folks, and on kids.  This is a war which has turned 
the U.S. into the world's pre-eminent incarcerator, claimed 
thousands of innocent lives, turned law enforcement agencies 
into occupying armies, and opened up domestic fronts for our 
military forces, all while failing spectacularly to reduce 
the availability of drugs, any drugs, on our streets, any 
streets, from coast to coast, or anywhere in-between.

The act of war, the actual prosecution of a real live war, 
which is what's happening in poor communities across this 
country, alters the mindset of those whose job it once was 
to serve and protect.  A door, the wrong door, is kicked in 
at 8:15 am by a trained narcotics squad.  No thought is 
given to the fact that in apartments all over the country, 
at 8:15 in the morning, school-aged children are up and 
about, at kitchen tables and in hallways, in bathrooms and 
bedrooms.  Did it occur to anyone that kicking in a door at 
8:15 am might pose an unnecessary risk to innocent children 
in the apartment?  In the apartment next door?  Or directly 
upstairs or below?  Of course not.  This is war.  And these 
communities are war zones.  And the people who live in them 
are all suspect.  Just like in Vietnam.  Just ask any cop 
assigned to a "high intensity drug trafficking area".

The folly or believing that we will somehow create a drug-
free society if we just arrest enough people, if we just 
arrest the right people, leads to the shooting of an officer 
in Brooklyn for a $20 crack bust.  Is it the cop's fault 
that he has been deemed fodder in the war?  Obviously not.  
But although a mayor will show up at the hospital, the cop 
is fodder, and nothing more.  And for what?  With cocaine 
and heroin at all-time high purity levels and all-time low 
prices, it is certainly not for "drug control".  The only 
gain shown for all of the cops shot is political.  Because 
even arresting the dealer who sold that cop $20 worth of 
blow, and even arresting his dealer, and his dealer's 
dealer, and the guy who brings the stuff into the country, 
and the guy who sells it to him, isn't going to reduce the 
availability of drugs on our streets.  Never has.  Never 

One might take issue with the decisions of two separate 
grand juries in refusing to indict either Cpl. Banuelos or 
Agent Cannon.  Perhaps one or both of these individuals are 
blameworthy.  Or perhaps not.  And one might question the 
training or the tactics of the narcotics squad that kicked 
in the wrong door, or the squad that got themselves into a 
struggle with a suspect in a narrow stairwell.  But in each 
case, one would be missing the larger, and far more 
important  question.  That is: 'When?'  When, after how many 
shootings, after how many busts gone bad, after how many 
wrong apartments, after how many dead cops, after how many 
shot kids, after how many prison cells, after how many 
communities destroyed, after how many years?  When will we 
seek a truce?  Quiet the rhetoric?   Calm the hysteria?  
When will we end the madness that is a war, a real live 
shooting war, on our own citizens?  In looking over the 
landscape and the carnage of this ruinous battlefield that 
was once our great nation, one has to ask: When will we ever 

Tom Kruse / Casilla 5812 / Cochabamba, Bolivia
Tel/Fax: (591-42) 48242

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