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Drug Czar: U.S. Drug Demand Feeding Mexican Violence

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The United States drug czar says the surge in violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is a sign that Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war on drug cartels is working. Drug czar John Walters says the U.S. should address drug demand here and give Mexico more money to crack down. KPBS reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

When Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, he made fighting drug cartels his top priority. He's sent more than 20,000  soldiers to hot spots around Mexico, including hundreds to Tijuana. Murders and kidnappings have surged in the border city.

John Walters directs the U.S. Office of National Drug Policy. He says Mexico's drug cartels are fighting back. And the violence is a cancer U.S. drug users have helped grow.
Walters: Those dollars are paying the assassins. Our goal is to make the period of violence as short as possible by helping on our side, cut off the resources, the money, the guns, obviously reducing the drug use that is the funder of these assassins.
Critics have assailed Walters for failing to focus on U.S. drug demand during the last eight years.

Since 2002, the federal budget to reduce demand has grown by just three percent. Money towards prevention has dipped 25 percent. The number of drug users and addicts has remained the same.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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