Cook's veto not supported by committee that created the drug war, Juarez solidarity resolution
by David Crowder
Posted on January 7, 2009
The city’s Committee on Border Relations refused to give Mayor John Cook the support he requested Tuesday for vetoing a resolution the council had approved with an amendment calling for a debate on drug legalization.
Next week’s City Council agenda will include an item calling for the override of the veto, which would take seven votes by the nine-member council.
City Council approved the resolution unanimously Tuesday after city Rep. Beto O'Rourke added an amendment asking Congress to discuss the nation's drug policy with its emphasis on drug interdiction and the imprisonment of people who sell and use them illegal drugs
"My intention is to ask that this be on the Tuesday agenda, as adopted, for reconsideration, and we'll just see how the votes fall," O'Rourke said today. I'm going to respect whatever the members of .council decide to do.
"After hearing from their constituents, they may have a different take on it."
Asked if the May city elections might be a concern, O'Rourke said. "Unquestionably, it gets tougher for those representatives and they mayor to make this decision knowing they are going to face the voters in less than six months."
Tony Payan, a UTEP political science professor who specializes in Mexican affairs and a member of the committee, confirmed that Cook came to a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the committee to advise the members of the veto he had just issued and to seek their support for his action. [Editor's note: The above reference to the time of the committee's meeting Tuesday was corrected at 10 a.m., Jan. 8]
“We didn’t do that,” Payan said. “There was a debate and the motion was made to take no further action and to make no further statements … except for issuing a letter restating the original purpose of the resolution.”
That letter was sent to news outlets this afternoon by committee Chairman Jose Contreras expressing "concern over the way in which the resolution of solidarity and peace has been presented to the public by the media."
"Focus has been given to the amendment added during the council meeting," the letter states. "The committee is asking the media to report on the intent of the resolution . . ." (Download a copy of the letter below)
The original intent of the resolution, Payan said, was to express a solidarity with Ciudad Juarez and its residents who are caught in a punishing war involving two or more drug cartels for control of the Juarez drug corridor to the United States.
City Rep. Beto O’Rourke had made it known to committee members beforehand that he thought the resolution the committee was proposing for adoption by City Council fell short of making a significant statement about the problem.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, he proposed an amendment that the council accepted without debate “supporting an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”
After hearing supportive comments from Payan and other members of the nine-person, council-appointed committee, none of whom objected to O’Rourke’s amendment, the council approved the resolution unanimously.
“The 12 words inserted by Beto, which are not a call for legalization but a call for a debate on drugs, became the focus of all the attention,” Payan said.
“The media took a hold of that one sentence,” he said. “I think that really distracted from the real purpose of the resolution … and the mayor expressed that, yes, to the committee, and said it was unfortunate. We all agreed it was very unfortunate that one item captured the attention of the media.
“He said, ‘I want you to present the resolution again with its original intent.’ ’’
The resolution, which the committee worked on for weeks, contained language noting that the War on Drugs in the United States was declared 40 years ago and has lasted longer than the country’s last six wars combined without achieving its goals.
That is, the resolution states, because “our two nations have focused on incarceration rather than (drug) prevention and rehabilitation.”
In its original form, the resolution called for support of “legislation that examines the nation’s policies on drugs with a focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.”
That debate has gone on for years, but the language O’Rourke’s amendment added calling for a debate on ending the prohibition on drugs was something few, if any, U.S. cities have openly supported.
To reach David Crowder, write to email@example.com or call (915) 351-0605, ext. 30
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