Tag Archives: drugs

5 signs that Mexico is losing its drug war

5 signs that Mexico is losing its drug war – The Week.

In Mexico, drug violence has become a routine part of the news. But some moments stand out as particularly frightening

Marisol Valles Garcia is Mexico's youngest police chief and works in a town just 60 miles from Ciudad Juarez, the country's most violent city.

Marisol Valles Garcia is Mexico’s youngest police chief and works in a town just 60 miles from Ciudad Juarez, the country’s most violent city. Photo: Corbis SEE ALL 14 PHOTOS

In the four years since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on drug cartels, clashes between powerful drugrunners and Mexico’s police have skyrocketed in frequency and intensity. Since 2006, over 28,000 people have been killed, including 2,000 police officers — and the carnage shows no sign of slowing down. Calderon remains optimistic, at least publicly, but faces mounting criticism over the violence. Here are five especially troubling signs for what many consider a failed war:

1. A town’s entire police force quits
No officers were injured when gunmen fired more than 1,000 shots at police headquarters in Ramons, a small town in an area “torn by fighting between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs.”  But the attackers (who tossed six grenades for good measure) made their point — all 14 of the town’s police officers promptly quit. Their new headquarters had opened just three days before the attack. (Watch an AP report about the police force)

2. The college student who became chief of police
In the small, crime-ridden town of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, nobody was eager to serve as police chief for understandable reasons — the last person who took the job was killed in June. So when 20-year-old criminology student Marisol Valles Garcia volunteered, she made international news. “I took the risk because I want my son to live in a different community to the one we have today,” Guerrero said at a press conference.

3. Cops accused of killing their mayor
It has become an all-too-common story in Mexico: A public official is murdered, and a security guard or police officer turns out to be involved. When Santiago mayor Edelmiro Cavazos was killed in August, six city police officers, including one posted at Cavazos’ home to protect him, were quickly arrested and accused of helping a drug cartel pull off the crime. It was hardly an isolated incident, since most of Mexico’s 430,000 officers “find themselves outgunned, overwhelmed and often purchased outright by gangsters.”

4. A police chief is decapitated
In early October, Rolando Flores, the lead investigator on a high-profile case involving two Americans, was murdered, and his severed head was left in a suitcase in front of a military compound. In a sign of how routine such incidents have become, officials weren’t sure if the decapitation was related to the Falcon Lake case or to other cases Flores was investigating.

5. Killers target rehab centers
Not content to kill judges and mayors, gunmen appear to be going after former colleagues who may be trying to reform themselves. Last Sunday, gunmen lined up 13 recuperating addicts and executed them; two days earlier, another 14 people undergoing rehab had been gunned down. Such attacks have occurred before, but their rising intensity “could signal the lengths to which Mexico’s drug lords will go to prevent reformed addicts from giving information to authorities.”

America's flesh-eating cocaine problem

America’s flesh-eating cocaine problem – The Week.

Parents have long warned that drugs will fry your brain. Now doctors say cocaine might also rot your skin — literally

Cocaine users may be snorting a flesh-eating drug; 82 percent of street cocaine is laced with a veterinary drug used to deworm animals, according to a new study.

Cocaine users may be snorting a flesh-eating drug; 82 percent of street cocaine is laced with a veterinary drug used to deworm animals, according to a new study. Photo: Scott Gibson/Corbis SEE ALL 14 PHOTOS

It’s no secret that cocaine can be dangerous, but drug dealers might be making it more harmful than ever. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently reported that 82 percent of the cocaine it seizes has been cut with a veterinary drug that can rot away the skin on users’ noses, cheeks, and ears. “It’s probably quite a big problem,” says dermatologist Dr. Noah Craft with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Insitute. “We just don’t know how big.” Here, a brief guide:

How does levamisole end up in cocaine?
Drug dealers typically add fillers to cocaine to boost their profits. Cheaper cocaine may be upwards of 90 percent filler. Sometimes, the added powder is just baking soda or some other innocuous substance. But drug cartels in South America increasingly prefer to use levamisole, a veterinary antibiotic normally used to deworm cattle, sheep, and pigs. It’s not clear why dealers don’t just use baking soda all the time, although studies in rats suggest that levamisole might tingle brain receptors in the same way cocaine does. If that’s the case, adding it to the supply might be a way to enhance the effects of cocaine on the cheap.

And the user ends up paying the price?
Yes, in some cases, says Craft, who has published a case study in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Craft linked six patients with patches of dying flesh to tainted cocaine. The wounds typically surface a day after exposure due to an immune reaction that damages blood vessels supplying the skin. Without any blood supply, the skin is starved of oxygen, turns a dark purple, and dies off. While the contamination of the cocaine supply is widespread, not all of those using cocaine experience this adverse reaction. But, anyone who uses cocaine is at risk, Craft says. “Rich or poor, black or white.”

Are doctors just discovering this problem?
No, levamisole has been on the radar screen of drug-prevention officials and doctors for a while. In 2009, there were reports of a handful of cocaine users in Canada developing hepatitis C and anemia after using cocaine mixed with levamisole. The killer agent hinders a person’s ability to produce white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off sometimes deadly infections. But the DEA’s report on the extent of the contamination, explains why some doctors are now seeing gruesome wounds linked to recent cocaine use. “It’s important for people to know it’s not just in New York and L.A.,” says Craft. “It’s in the cocaine supply of the entire U.S.”