Friday, July 30, 2010

Facts getting in the way of rhetoric (again)

The papers have been busy this last week with various reports of the violence in Mexico and the "successes" of the army in killing and/or capturing high-level cartel members. One report that struck me as noteworthy was a headline in El Universal (one of Mexico’s national newspapers) a couple of days ago. Translated, the headline stated that now only Russian and Chinese mafias are more powerful than the Mexican cartels ("Sólo mafias china y rusa superan al narco: Se expande más allá de sus mercados naturales: Buscaglia. Aumentan operaciones de cárteles aztecas en EU, Canadá, la UE y Asia" 

According to a study by United Nations drug policy expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, the power and influence of the Mexican cartels has increased 735% in the last 4 years, putting them in 3rd place in the world for organized crime. Oddly enough, it was 4 years ago that President Calderón launched his invasion of Iraq...oops, I mean his war on drugs. Coincidence? Not if you read the study, "Effect of Drug Law Enforcement on Drug-Related Violence: Evidence from a Scientific Review," released a couple months ago by the International Center for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), a group of experts based in Britain and Canada. After a comprehensive meta-analysis of studies and papers examining law enforcement efforts against drugs, the authors concluded that the harder the governments "fight" drugs and drug related activities (tougher laws, more police, more enforcement, less tolerance etc), the more violence that results.

Maybe if the various leaders of the free world, commanders-in-chief, and other decision-makers spent a little more time reading such studies and less time posturing we truly would have better security and safer communities (they need only glance quickly at Mexico to see the study in action).

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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I always thought I had a right to voice my opinion

I always thought I had a right to voice my opinion to elected officials without being called names, guess I was wrong...

It seems Arizona State Senator John Huppenthal thinks people who speak out in opposition to the $20 Luxury Tax on medical marijuana are all "dope peddlers". At least that's what he called me when responded to an email I sent him recently.

In a recent Arizona Republic article Senator John Huppenthal told a reporter that he supported both the medical marijuana tax and the $20 per ounce luxury tax. For some reason he said he hoped the luxury tax would be a "deterrent".

I couldn't imagine how our elected official's could not only add the state sales tax to medicine, but a $20 Luxury Tax too. Why would they think sick people should be deterred from getting the medicine they need?

Why would Senator John Huppenthal want to deter someone in constant pain, or who can't keep food down because of the nausea from getting the medicine they need.

So I sent Senator Huppenthal an email asking him why, and telling him that he must have a lot of hate in him to want Arizona citizens to live in constant pain.

The next day he fired back an email telling me to "quit trying to fool people" that I was a "dope peddler", and that "People should be very cautious about any pain medicince and potential addiction". He misspelled medicine, not my typo.

I was confused; did he really think that Arizona citizens who speak in support of medical marijuana are all dope peddlers? When it comes to addiction, I agree people should be cautious with pain medication, but actually if he checked the number of pain patients who become addicted to opioids is very low, but we were talking about marijuana. Does this senator really still believe marijuana is addictive?

The next day he sent another email with an apology. He said, "I owe you an apology and I do apologize. I interpreted your note as you to be solely a spokesperson for medical marijuana. I see that you are a sufferer of pain".

So if I suffer pain, and not solely a spokesperson for a patient's right to medical marijuana, I'm not a dope peddler? But if I'm solely a spokesperson for a patient's right to medical marijuana, I'm a dope peddler ....... I just don't understand.

I ask for a meeting with Senator Huppenthal, but haven't received a reply as of today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Press Release: New Head of Pro-Legalization Police Group Praises Congressional Actions Against "War on Drugs"


CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

New Head of Pro-Legalization Police Group Praises Congressional Actions Against "War on Drugs"

Former Baltimore Cop Saw Colleagues Killed in "Drug War"

WASHINGTON, DC -- As the U.S. House passed separate bills this week to scale back penalties for crack cocaine and to create a commission to reconsider the entire "war on drugs," a group of pro-legalization police officers, judges and prosecutors announced that it has hired a former Baltimore narcotics cop as its new executive director.

Neill Franklin, a 33-year police veteran who led multi-jurisdictional anti-narcotics task forces for the Maryland State Police and training for the Baltimore Police Department, officially took the helm of the legalization group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), on July 1.

"The 'war on drugs' has done nothing to reduce drug use," said Franklin. "But this failed prohibition policy has achieved some results: far too many cops killed in action, billions of tax dollars wasted, powerful and well-funded drug cartels and out-of-control violence in our cities. It's great to see our elected representatives finally beginning to address these problems, but there's still a lot more work to be done."

The pro-legalization criminal justice professionals of LEAP are working to change the current debate about the "war on drugs" to help more people understand that current drug policies harm public safety and that only by legalizing and regulating drugs can we actually control them and thereby reduce death, disease, crime and addiction.

To that end, LEAP is actively organizing cops, judges and prosecutors who are campaigning for Proposition 19, the statewide marijuana legalization initiative on California's ballot this November. Representatives of the organization's 100-member speakers bureau have also testified for drug policy reform measures in recent months in places like the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.

"When my good friend Ed Toatley was killed in the line of fire during an undercover drug purchase, Maryland lost one of the best narcotics cops in our state's history," said Franklin.  "It is in his honor, and in the names of all the good cops whose lives have needlessly been lost in this failed 'drug war,' that I will work with LEAP to change these deadly drug laws."

On Tuesday the House passed H.R. 5143, which would create a blue ribbon commission to study the criminal justice system from top to bottom and recommend reforms.  Sen. Jim Webb, sponsor of the Senate companion bill, said that the commission should study drug legalization. On Wednesday, the House passed S. 1789, which would lower the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine from it's current 100-to-1 ratio down to 18-to-1. That bill unanimously passed the Senate in March.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents, US marshals and others from around the world who want to legalize and regulate all drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence.  More info at

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Birthday alert: LEAP blog turning one

The one year anniversary of the new LEAP blog is coming up soon (August 17th). Lots of blogs don't even last a month so I'm glad we've managed to stick around. It's hard to believe how fast the time has passed! LEAP speakers have published over 310 posts resulting in over 60,675 unique visitors. There have been over 100,000 page views.

The blog has developed a group of regular visitors who frequently leave comments. I am very grateful to you - the readers - who have helped to develop a sense of community around the LEAP organization and everything that it stands for.

I am looking for some ideas about how we can celebrate. I would like to do another book giveaway contest but I am open to other ideas as well. If anyone has any suggestions please post them in the comment section. Thanks!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico?

A friend of mine has just written a very insightful article about Calderón's War on Drugs. You can read it here.

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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Mac vs. PC: the final installment

Here is the final video in LEAP's three part parody of the Mac vs. PC ads:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Busy Week

Since the last time that I posted (a week ago), about the car bombing in Juárez and the issue of terrorism, a lot has happened.

In Juárez, another family gathering was interrupted by assassins  who gunned down 13 people on July 18 while the next day saw 17 more people killed at a gathering in Torreón, Coahuila. There was a narco-grave found with at least 50 bodies in Monterrey (one of Mexico's richest cities) yesterday, as well as 3 bombs detonated outside  the municipal president's office of Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

During the last week 23 police officers were assassinated, as well as an additional 237 people, bringing the total to 6520 for the year.

The news and opinion pieces in Mexico have been debating over the use of the word “terrorism” and whether or not it applies to this carnage that occurs daily here (while not offering anything constructive to actually address what is happening).

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Press Release: Federal Drug Agency Bans Pro-Legalization Police Group From Conference

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Federal Drug Agency Bans Pro-Legalization Police Group From Conference

SAMHSA Doesn't Want Views Expressed at Treatment Event in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL -- A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs is crying foul after a federal agency reneged on a contract that gave the law enforcers a booth to share their anti-prohibition views at a government-sponsored treatment conference in Chicago next week.

After accepting registration payment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration initially told the police group that it was canceling its booth at the National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery because of overbooking and space concerns.  However, Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment later informed LEAP that, in a decision rising all the way to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde's office, the group was actually being disinvited for its viewpoint.

"It's alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers who just want to network and collaborate with treatment professionals to achieve our shared goal of preventing substance abuse through effective public policy," said Neill Franklin, a former narcotics cop with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department who is now executive director of LEAP. "Perhaps the administration was most concerned that LEAP's law enforcers planned to shine a spotlight on the fact that under President Obama, the White House's drug control budget maintains the same two-to-one funding ratio in favor of harsh enforcement tactics over effective public health approaches."

On a phone call with LEAP, Pamela Rodriguez of conference co-host TASC, Inc. of Illinois said that the police group wasn't welcome at the event because "our policy perspective and our policy objectives are different from you guys."  She added, "It is the emphasis on prohibition vs. legalization that, for me at least, is the glaring dissonance with regard to our agenda."

SAMHSA has since refunded LEAP's money.  The conference takes place July 26-28 at Chicago's Downtown Magnificent Mile Marriott Hotel.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. Info at

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Interview with CTV News regarding the Vienna Declaration

A couple of days ago I did a brief three minute interview with Marcia MacMillan from CTV News. We talked about the Vienna Declaration and the fact that drug prohibition is fuelling the AIDS epidemic. This was my first live news interview so I tried to give my best talking head impression. :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Press Release: Police Group Endorses AIDS Conference’s Call to End Drug War

CONTACT: Tom Angell – (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Police Group Endorses AIDS Conference’s Call to End Drug War

 Violence, Gang Activity, Corruption and Spread of Disease
Show Current Policies Are a Complete Failure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of current and former police, judges, prosecutors and prison wardens is endorsing the official declaration of this week’s XVII International AIDS Conference and its call for an end to the failed and harmful war on drugs. Known as the “Vienna Declaration,” the resolution calls for the implementation of new evidenced-based drug policies that actually control drugs and reduce addiction instead of focusing on criminalizing drug users.

The International AIDS Conference, a biennial meeting of more than 20,000 HIV professionals, is taking place this week (July 18-23) in Vienna, Austria.

“I spent 34 years on the streets of a big American city fighting the war on drugs,” said former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a member of the group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “But after more than three decades of seeing the real and detrimental effects of drug prohibition, I can say with certainty that the war on drugs has failed. I support the Vienna Declaration to end the staggering rates of death, disease, crime and corruption that have resulted from global drug prohibition.”

So far, the Vienna Declaration has been signed and endorsed by many leading doctors, health organizations, politicians and law enforcement, including the International AIDS Society; the former presidents of Mexico, Columbia and Brazil and 2008 Nobel Laureate Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of HIV.

“We must stop this unwinnable and ideological war,” added Stamper. “Instead, we should adopt strategies that are supported by scientific evidence and embrace a public health rather than a criminal justice approach.”

Thousands of people have signed the declaration at Info on this week’s International AIDS Conference is at

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. Info at

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't worry, be happy

Chávez Chávez, the head of the PGR (the Attorney General’s office for Mexico) has publicly stated that Mexicans should not worry, there is no narco-terrorism, despite the use of a cell-phone operated car bomb used to ambush police and emergency workers in Juárez.
In one aspect, Chávez Chávez is correct, the use of the car bomb in this instance was not strictly a terrorist act, if we refer to the definition provided by Princeton University: "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear" (

But, according to this definition, the cartels are engaged in terrorist acts throughout all of the country, which is evident to anyone who has been following the escalating violence, the bodies hanging from bridges, hand grenades thrown into crowds of party-goers, faces stitched to soccer balls and left in public parks, and the kidnappings, killings and torture of any and all who get in the way (whether in their own homes or at private functions). Terrorism is a loaded term, especially with all that has happened all over the world in the last decade, but refusing to acknowledge what is, in fact, happening will not make it go away and only further diminishes what little credibility the Mexican government has.

On another note, under the freedom of information act, the national newspaper "El Universal" has revealed that, since the beginning of Calderón's War, 208 Federal Police officers have been killed in the line of duty. The following break down parallels the escalating violence in Mexico from the war on drugs:
2006 - 1   death
2007 - 11 deaths
2008 - 63 deaths
2009 - 75 deaths
2010 - 53 deaths (from January to June)

These statistics cover only the Federal Police and does not include State Police or Municipal Police officers (who make up nearly 95% of the police force in Mexico and have less training, inferior equipment and more contact with the narcos and thus a higher body count, although statistics have not been released).

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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Friday, July 16, 2010

The next level for violence

The car bomb that exploded in Ciudad Juárez yesterday, killing 3 and injuring many more, has raised the stakes even higher in Calderón's War. In addition to the army patrolling the streets of many Mexican cities, the kidnappings and executions of high level officials (senior police officers, politicians, prominent businessmen) all over the country and the indiscriminate killings that average nearly 33 people a day, we now have the introduction of car bombs. The carnage is now higher, and the tension more taut, than many failed states and the use of car bombs by the cartels can only herald an era of terrorism. The war in Iraq is, more and more, appearing to be a picnic compared to what is now occurring here in Mexico (and it keeps getting worse every day)....To think that a simple policy on the part of the US, the prohibition of drugs, has engendered this macabre scenario.

Unfortunately, now that car bombs are part of the picture, maybe it is time for all sane people to think about leaving this country.

The killings in Mexico are now at 6,283 with 35 added yesterday

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Press Release: 2 Cops, Judge Sign Marijuana Ballot Argument

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Two Cops & Judge Sign Pro-Legalization Ballot Argument for Marijuana Measure

Many California Law Enforcers Back Proposition 19

SACRAMENTO, CA -- A retired LAPD deputy chief, a previous San Jose chief of police and a former superior court judge from Orange County have signed the official ballot argument in favor of Proposition 19, the statewide measure to legalize, tax and control marijuana.

"Outlawing marijuana hasn’t stopped 100 million Americans from trying it," reads the pro-legalization ballot argument from the veteran law enforcers.  "But we can control it, make it harder for kids to get, weaken the cartels, focus police resources on violent crime and generate billions in revenue and savings. We need a common sense approach to control marijuana."

The signers, Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing (Ret.), San Jose Chief of Police Joseph McNamara (Ret.) and Judge James Gray (Ret.) are all members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international organization of police, prosecutors and judges who are working to change failed marijuana laws.

The three signatories constitute only a handful of the dozens of California police officers, judges and prosecutors who are actively campaigning to help voters understand that the current prohibition on marijuana represents a grave threat to public safety by empowering the violent cartels and gangs that control the illegal market.

A CBS-5/Survey USA poll out this week shows Prop. 19 leading 50% to 40% among likely voters.

The full ballot argument in favor of Prop. 19 can be read at

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Official Prop. 19 Ballot Argument Signed by LEAP Speakers

Excitingly, the folks running the Yes on 19 campaign in California asked three LEAP speakers to be the signatories of the initiative's official ballot argument.  Check it out:

Yes on Proposition 19 Ballot Argument


Today, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent enforcing the failed prohibition of marijuana (also known as “cannabis”).

Currently marijuana is easier for kids to get than alcohol, because dealers don’t require ID.

Prohibition has created a violent criminal market run by international drug cartels.

Police waste millions of taxpayer dollars targeting non-violent marijuana consumers, while thousands of violent crimes go unsolved.

And there is $14 billion in marijuana sales every year in California, but our debt-ridden state gets nothing from it.

Marijuana prohibition has failed.


Proposition 19 was carefully written to get marijuana under control.

Under Proposition 19, only adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, to be consumed at home or licensed establishments. Medical marijuana patients’ rights are preserved.

If we can control and tax alcohol, we can control and tax marijuana.


Proposition 19 maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence, increases penalties for providing marijuana to minors, and bans smoking it in public, on school grounds, and around minors.

Proposition 19 keeps workplaces safe by preserving the right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace.


According to the FBI, in 2008 over 61,000 Californians were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, while 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved. By ending arrests of non-violent marijuana consumers, police will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars a year, and be able to focus on the real threat: violent crime.

Police, Sheriffs, and Judges support Proposition 19.


Marijuana prohibition has created vicious drug cartels across our border. In 2008 alone, cartels murdered 6,290 civilians in Mexico -- more than all U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

60 percent of drug cartel revenue comes from the illegal U.S. marijuana market.

By controlling marijuana, Proposition 19 will help cut off funding to the cartels.


California faces historic deficits, which, if state government doesn’t balance the budget, could lead to higher taxes and fees for the public, and more cuts to vital services. Meanwhile, there is $14 billion in marijuana transactions every year in California, but we see none of the revenue that would come from taxing it.

Proposition 19 enables state and local governments to tax marijuana, so we can preserve vital services.

The State’s tax collector, the Board of Equalization, says taxing marijuana would generate $1.4 billion in annual revenue, which could fund jobs, healthcare, public safety, parks, roads, transportation, and more.


Outlawing marijuana hasn’t stopped 100 million Americans from trying it. But we can control it, make it harder for kids to get, weaken the cartels, focus police resources on violent crime, and generate billions in revenue and savings.

We need a common sense approach to control marijuana.

YES on 19.

San Jose Police Chief (Ret.)

Orange County Superior Court Judge (Ret.)

Deputy Chief, LAPD (Ret.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The weather is too sunny to post on the blog.

Summertime posting has been slow lately, mainly because I've been going to too many BBQ's. :-) That said, I've still been busy working hard for LEAP.

Yesterday I presented at the Idea Wave conference. This was my first time speaking publicly in my home city and I was very pleased to be able to do that. The format was interesting: fifty speakers, ten minutes each, no limits on subject matter. You would think that a ten minute presentation would be easier than an hour long presentation. This is definitely not the case! I did a lot of preparation in order to jam everything I could into ten minutes. The conference organizer will be posting video of one talk each week, so at some point during the next year my presentation will be online.

Today I was on The Bill Good Show on CKNW radio in Vancouver. I was nervous but hopefully the interview sounded OK. I talked about the Vienna Declaration and how prohibition contributes to the HIV epidemic. The interview should be online in the next day or so.

Lots of good things are happening behind the scenes at LEAP, and I'm confident the organization is headed in a positive direction. Stay tuned for some great announcements later this summer and in the fall.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Yesterday was election day for nearly half of the states of Mexico where the citizens voted for over 2000 representatives, including 1533 new mayors and 12 state governors. These elections resonate with US readers because the media has reported the various attacks, kidnappings and killings of public officials in recent months (the latest being Torre Cantú on June 29, who was running for governor of Tamaulipas and was assassinated by a well coordinated ambush on a public highway while the other notable killing was the Assistant Attorney General for Internal Affairs for Chihuahua, Sandra Ivonne Salas Garcia, on July 2, who was assisting in the investigation of crooked cops for the State Internal Affairs Office of Chihuahua).

This was, more or less, a referendum on Calderón's drug war. The people of Mexico have sent a very clear message to Calderón that they are tired of his strategy, that they want change. How loud was this call? Of the 12 states, 9 voted for the PRI, the party that had ruled the country for over 70 years, before Vicente Fox came to be elected as the first PAN president. And, of the 3 states that had voted PAN instead of PRI, the former PRI governors were so corrupt, so reviled that PAN could have fielded a stuffed eagle in each state and still win.

The people want change. Calderón's strategy of using the brute force of the army to solve the innumerable social issues which plague Mexico (drugs is just one) has clearly failed, and worse, has only empowered the criminal organizations that he is battling. The killings continue, at an ever-accelerating pace (it looks like it might surpass 11,000 deaths by year’s end), despite ever-increasing numbers of police and soldiers deployed.

What is missing, in a very complete sense, is the Rule of Law in Mexico... today, it is a rule of the elite, the rich, the powerful and the connected who control the levers of government, but tomorrow it is very possible that it will be the rule of the narcos.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010 - Strapped U.S. Police Turn to Marijuana Busts for Cash - Strapped U.S. Police Turn to Marijuana Busts for Cash: "Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, his budget under pressure in a weak economy, has laid off staff, reduced patrols and even released jail inmates. But there's one mission on which he's spending more than in recent years: pot busts, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The reason is simple: If the California lawman steps up his pursuit of marijuana growers, his department is eligible for roughly half a million dollars a year in federal anti-drug funding, helping save some jobs. The majority of the funding would have to be used to fight pot. Marijuana may not be the county's most pressing crime problem, the sheriff says, but 'it's where the money is.'"

Criminals benefit from prohibition.
Cops benefit from prohibition.
The rest of us suffer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not a failed state?

In the last few months the rate of the "drug-related" killings has averaged more than 50 each day. This is double the amount of last year when the collective politicos of Mexico were outraged at some referring to Mexico as a failed state (which was not the case, the pundits were only observing that the path with which Mexico was taking seemed to be heading that way). Oddly enough, maybe through the pressure exerted by the Calderon government, all talk of a failed state is missing even though the government has lost control of even more territory, the killings have more than doubled their rate of intensity and now there is a regular drum beat of news about top state officials and politicians being attacked, kidnapped and/or killed in their own homes, in public streets and even in well-guarded convoys. At present, the narcos control vast tracts of the country, have out gunned, out-planned, and are dictating the strategy in this war on a hapless and helpless government. Impunity is rampant, corruption unassailed and incompetence and nepotism the order of the day.

And it is only getting worse...seems to be a recipe indeed for a failing state.

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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