01/12/14 Pepe Rivera

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Pepe Rivera, photographer/reporter from Los Cabos Mexico re townspeople uprising against cartels and cops, Mike Allen re End Mass Incarceration participation in MLK march, Joy Strickland of Mothers Against Teen Violence re Jan 17 & 18 drug war conf in Dallas & Doug McVay report on racial disparity in drug war

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / January 12, 2014


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: OK my friends I think we got a great show lined up for you here. In just a moment we’re going to bring in my friend, my compadre, my caravanero from last year’s tour of America on the Caravan for Peace and Justice. He’s a photographer. He’s a reporter and, as I said, he’s my friend. With that I want to welcome Mr. Pepe Rivera.

Hi are you with us?


Well, we’re going to play a little track here and see if we can get back with him.


MICHAEL ALLEN: My name is Michael Allen. I represent End Mass Incarceration Houston. We are part of a nationwide coalition to end mass incarceration in our country. We want to address several issues across the board such as the death penalty, prohibition laws. We want to reform marijuana laws. We want to have an effect on the laws. The juvenile justice system - we want to address that.

There are many, many issues surrounding the paradigm of thinking in this country about ending mass incarceration. We want to lend our voices. There are many voices that are being raised now. People like Michelle Alexander who has written a book called “The New Jim Crow” calling attention to this problem. People like Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, who, in his own word, has said that this system as it is run is unsustainable.

We are simply lending our voices. We’re adding the element of the common people.

DEAN BECKER: In regards to what you’re saying – the little people. We’re talking about families of prisoners. We’re talking about people who see this injustice and want to do something to lead it in another direction. One of those efforts is going to happen on Martin Luther King Day.

MICHAEL ALLEN: We organized a march in the Martin Luther King Day parade in Houston on the 20th of January. We have formed a coalition of diverse organizations such as the Houston Peace and Justice Center, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, The New Black Panther Party, Alliance of Mexicano which is an immigration reform group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

We’re being joined as well by the Greenhouse International Church. Pastor E. A. Deckard is bringing out a lot of people because, as he told me the other day, “I asked my congregation how many families out there, how many people out there have somebody in your family that is incarcerated or in jail right now?”

He said nearly every hand in his congregation went up. We’re blessed to finally get some support from the church communities. This is a tremendous problem in poor, underrepresented communities throughout the state and throughout the country.

The only color that is protected in the judicial system is the color green. It’s not about race warfare it is about class welfare. If you are poor in this country you are in trouble if you get in trouble.

We have a Facebook page http://facebook.com/endmassincarcerationhouston


DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, we’re still trying to get Pepe Rivera. I thought we had this all worked out but we’re going to play you another track that was going to be at the end of the show.


JOY STRICKLAND: My name is Joy Strickland. I am the founder and CEO of Mothers Against Teen Violence. Our organization is dedicated to public information, education and efficacy for drug policy reform. It’s been around now for 20 years since 2008 our mission has been related to drug policy reform.

We have a unique history. I am the mother of a murdered son who was an innocent victim killed with a friend by 2 teenagers who were engaged in drug use and engaged in gang activity. Whenever we hear “gang activity” what we want to think is prohibition because drug trafficking is a direct byproduct that is supported by drug prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: As I understand it you are going to have a conference in Texas here in just a few days. Why don’t you tell us about that?

JOY STRICKLAND: Yes. The second bi-annual Texas Drug Policy Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, January 17 and 18 in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel. Anyone who is interested in attending that can go to our website and click on the conference to get registration information and all the details about the conference.

That website is http://matvinc.org

Headlining the conference will be Dr. Carl Hart. Dr. Hart is a neuro-scientist. He’s a tenured professor at Columbia University. He’s written an amazing book entitled, “High Price.” Amazing story, amazing research that will debunk and cause you to rethink of what you think you know about drugs and their use.

He’s going to be headlining. He will be keynoting at the luncheon on Friday. Then we will hear from him again in depth Saturday morning with a Q and A after his presentation.

This conference for Texans and it’s by Texans discussing this issue – drug policy, prohibition and all the things related to that – in a context that makes sense to Texans.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Joy Strickland, president of Mothers Against Teen Violence. If you would like to learn more or perhaps attend that conference in Texas please go to http://matvinc.org


DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, I’m thinking we do have Pepe Rivera online. Are you there, sir?

PEPE RIVERA: Yes, can you hear me?

DEAN BECKER: I hear you. We got it worked out. Good deal. Good deal.

I was telling the folks that you and I had traveled across America last year as part of the Caravan for Peace or one of the Caravans for Peace, correct?

PEPE RIVERA: Exactly, we traveled from San Diego all the way to D.C. It was great having all the support from you and the rest of our allies out there. I’m happy to be back online talking to you and your audience. Thank you for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Pepe, I often think back to that interview we did in New York City sitting in the park at the harbor there and how progress has been made but not enough yet.

PEPE RIVERA: No, not at all. The big difference is probably that the government right now isn’t making that much of a fuss. The difference between the new president and Calderon is Calderon having pretty accepted campaign trying to present criminal as a zoo almost on TV and not making much mention about the violence and has been focusing a lot more on political restructuring and reforms but the violence keeps growing. The evidence of that is basically self-defense groups that are happening in Mexico right now.

DEAN BECKER: I wish my Spanish was better. I keep seeing notices on Facebook and elsewhere talking about the violence. Would you call it an uprising by the local farmers and shop keepers?

PEPE RIVERA: Yes, there are self-defense groups that started back in February and starting growing in June. The strongest thing that is happening right now is Michoacán. Michoacán is a very important space and it is significant in the War on Drugs here in Mexico because that’s where it all started.

That’s where President Calderon is from originally. 11 days after he took office he took out the army and they headed toward Michoacán. The biggest failure in terms of the drug war is that up until now things haven’t been able to control the situation. People are fed up and basically taking arms.

Right now it’s interesting at what is happening. This morning one of the counties in Michoacán called New Italy was taken by the self-defense forces. Right now one of the main towns in Michoacán called Apatzingan is being surrounded by the self-defense forces. That is the headquarters of the Knights Templar cartel.

Right now people are fleeing the city because they are afraid there is going to be very hard attacks and confrontations between the cartels and the self-defense forces.

They have several leaders. One of the most outspoken is Meridez and he basically is a doctor who also taught in school. He is the son of the founding father of his county. He stated that have been fighting this for about 3 years. They didn’t know what to do. They were getting no response from the authorities and what’s worse is they were accusing the authorities of being part of the cartels.

When they would show up they would tell him and point out where these members of the cartels were hiding out. They never went out for them and they would say, “No, we don’t know where they are.” But the same population – a few generals, a few police – had lunch with the criminals so, basically, they got fed up.

He mentioned, for example, that last December 14 girls from his school were raped and there was nothing that could be done about it. They were getting charged with security. Cattleman, which are the leaders of the groups, are being charged with 1000 pesos or about 100 dollars for each cow they would sell. They were being charged 4 pesos for each kilo of meat, 4 pesos for each kilo of tortillas. If you had a car you had to pay the cartels about 500 pesos for each car. To make things even worse kids had to pay about 20 pesos every Monday to go to school.

DEAN BECKER: Man. This is another example of the power that is derived, that is built up through this prohibition situation where these criminals can afford guns, can spend their time threatening and extorting other people, right?

PEPE RIVERA: Definitely. It’s gotten really out of hand. Just to give you some numbers. Mexico has about 2,347 counties. About 207 of these are considered in a failed state. That’s basically about 8% of all the counties of Mexico which represent about 50% of the population of Mexico. They have a large reach.

The DEA even said that they operate in Nevada, California, Arizona, Illinois, North and South Dakota and the Carolinas which is significant in a sense that it’s one of those states with the highest rate of migration. They admitted that they are getting a lot of help from people outside and a lot of the shows like radio shows in Philadelphia and California are letting people know what is going on.

DEAN BECKER: I look at it like this. I’ve heard it said from many sources that the Sinaloa cartel is firmly ensconced in the city of Chicago, Illinois. This is where billionaire Shorty Guzman is making a large chunk of his change. It’s outrageous isn’t it?

PEPE RIVERA: Of course. It’s just another effect of prohibition. The problem with this is the murders. A lot of that is just to get rid of competition, control their routes and stuff – just get rid of the people. When we talk about a failed state what we are talking about is that there is no security, there is no services. Even the government has to pay to build a bridge, to build anything they have to pay the cartels.

They disarm them, take their guns so they can’t defend themselves and tell the heads of the county, “Stop paying the money.” The Secretary of State of the Interior is calling for an emergency tomorrow in Maredo which is the capital of states trying to solve this. We’re talking about something that has been going on for over the last presidency. This year is over 6 years and even more for some people.

Also what’s very interesting is within Michoacán one of the tribes who live there is Purepecha. The Purepecha is a tribe that has been conquered by Aztecs. They are very fierce warriors. In the movement of the Caravan for Peace we have to give them food and supplies because the cartels had the town surrounded and there was no access.

Right now what they are talking about is a lot of these towns have no food. They will actually send out memos to all the companies like Frito Lay saying “You are not allowed to bring your supplies into these towns. If you do we’re going to burn your cars and your trucks down.”

DEAN BECKER: Man....man. I tell you what this is beyond belief for me. This is another example of the futility, the absolute failure of this drug war to do any kind of protecting anybody anywhere.

I want to ask you this. The economic situation in the U.S. has improved a bit in the last 2 years. A few jobs are starting to trickle in but there is still massive unemployment. We have problems with the gangs recruiting children because there’s no other opportunities available. Is that a similar situation going on in Mexico?

PEPE RIVERA: Definitely because people underage don’t get arrested so the cartels hire them. They give them about 150 dollars a week, a motorcycle and some pot. They are asked to drive around and follow the military around. We call them hawks. They give the cartel the “heads up” for when they are going to arrest, what area they are going. That’s how they keep themselves safe.

A large amount of orphans in Michoacán is asking right now for people to give supplies at a pharmacy which is taking on the role of taking care of these kids. They food, they need supplies and they need somebody to take care of them. They need a way to control the violence. There is no accountability whatsoever.

DEAN BECKER: When last we talked on the caravan last year it was ...I forget...80,000 deaths in Mexico. That number continues to rise. Is there any factual number that you could quote for us?

PEPE RIVERA: Frankly by the time President Calderon’s term ended almost 100,000 people dead. In the first year of Nieto the numbers that came out were about 18,000 people had died.

In the Michoacán portion of the state that I’m talking about right now there’s been...In the first years of Calderon’s office there was about 552 people killed. In his last year in term there was about 756. First year of Nieto there was about 935. That’s just murder. Kidnapping is a big thing now and is up in the last year 498%.


PEPE RIVERA: What you are talking about is kidnapping and most of these people you won’t see ever again. One of the self-defense group member was kidnapped once. His family members were killed. His uncle was kidnapped twice. They paid some like 30 million pesos which is about 3 million dollars to get him back.

There’s horrible stories about people who get picked up and they ask for about 50,000 pesos just to tell them where they can find the body/corpse so that people can have a little bit of peace in mind as they are able to bury something. A lot of people just disappear and you don’t see them ever again.

DEAN BECKER: When we toured America on the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity we were all in support of Mr. Sicilia. I wonder has there been other caravans, other marches in Mexico since our tour?

PEPE RIVERA: Not really. There’s been a couple. That’s one of the things that we were actually warning. We were telling the government that we are the last peaceful movement in Mexico because people are fed up. People went out to the streets when his son was killed. All over it was about 32 cities that were coordinated and thousands and thousands of people came out. There was no solutions, no response.

The solution right now that people are finding is these self-defense groups. It started off with just 80 people by 2 o’clock it was about 1,000 people. People would just come out. You’re talking about single shot shotguns. Some of them just came out with slingshots.

There is at least about 8 states that we consider failed states.

DEAN BECKER: I mentioned earlier my ability to read Spanish is limited. Some of the stories I think indicated that there is a possibility that some of these townspeople uprising against a cartel may, in fact, be working for another cartel. What’s your thought there?

PEPE RIVERA: [chuckles] This is not a black and white situation. We have self-defense groups and then the cartels will dress up and call themselves self-defense groups as well. What they are doing is trying to control the access of them to the towns. They are not letting supplies inside.

It’s not only that. You never know who is on who’s side. The police are actually working with the cartels. You have cartels who are cloning. They call it “clonies” of the police or military vehicles so you never know who you are talking to.

The only way they really know is by the [inaudible] of the towns which is what they are calling them right now. The way they operate is they go into a town, they clear out the members of the cartel. They take their guns. They take their trucks. They arm the local population. The rule is basically don’t chase them. They want to kick them out and basically make sure that they stay out.

One of the things that happens, for example, is the self-defense groups...it took him about three weeks to clear out one of the counties for example where Maderos comes from. In three months there was absolutely no violence.

One of the more significant things is that they captured about 30 criminals. They handed them over to the police and then 12 hours later they were free. They know where they live. Some of these people kill the owner of the house and they go live there. They sell their furniture.

Also there’s...think of it as almost a situation...sometimes I think about an analogy would be Viet Nam. You have these members of the cartel but they’re not there alone. Some of the members live there and are affected. Some of these towns are kicking out the families of the members as well.

To demonstrate a very complicated situation as well because acknowledging the existence of the self-defense groups is acknowledging that the authorities have failed as somebody who controls the a monopoly of force and the use of force within these states.

DEAN BECKER: Pepe, we’ve got about 30 seconds. I want to turn it over to you. Is there a website where you would like to point folks where they can glean some information pertinent to what we’re talking about?

PEPE RIVERA: There’s a couple of websites...on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/ChannelPepeRivera, Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/PepeRivera.

DEAN BECKER: Pepe Rivera, thank you so much. We’ll be talking to you and hope for better things here in the near future.

PEPE RIVERA: Thank you, Dean. Thank you for this time and thank you to the audience for taking time to listen to what’s happening in Mexico.


(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects

Empty pockets, theft, lying, withdrawal, nose bleeds, fits of rage, depression, uncontrollable itching and sniffing, prostitution, jail time, heroin use, loss of friends, loss of life...

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up: The answer...from Purdue Pharma - oxycodone.


[harmonica music]

The DEA’s the joker,
The FDA’s the joke.
The Joke is on the U.S.A.
So why not take a poke.


DOUG McVAY: Newly published research shows that African-American males in the United States have a much higher chance of being arrested by the time they reach the age of 18 than do whites.

According to the news release from the University of South Carolina, quote: “The study is an analysis of national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18-23, and their arrest histories, which run the gamut from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses. The study excludes arrests for minor traffic violations.” End quote.

According to the article, quote: “it appears that non-Hispanic, Black males have the highest risk of arrest by age 18 (29.6%), followed by Hispanic males (26.2%) and non-Hispanic, non-Black (White) males (21.5%). The MAR (or Missing At Random) estimates for the females are much more tightly clustered (all three race groups between 11.8% and 12.0%). Although the MAR arrest rates are higher at age 23 (Panel B), the between-group patterns are the same (e.g., the Black males have an arrest rate of 48.9%, Hispanic males, 43.8%, and White males, 37.9%). The MAR CIs tell us that the males as a whole are significantly different from the females as a whole and that the Black males have a significantly higher arrest rate than the White males. Neither the White nor the Black males differ significantly from the Hispanic males. ” End quote.

For those who aren't sure, think of a confidence interval as like the range of error for a survey, the plus or minus percentage. What they're saying is that the odds for Hispanic males being arrested fall somewhere in the range of error for either black or white non-Hispanic males. So, while there's a big difference between arrest rates for black and white males, there is technically no significant difference in arrest rates for blacks and Hispanics, nor for whites and Hispanics. What's missing from the analysis are subgroups for Hispanic males – that is, the research talks about non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks yet leaves Hispanics lumped into one group. I think there would be some value in examining whether the arrest rates for Hispanic males and females differ based on skin color.

The way we police today leaves more than half of all violent crimes and more than 80 percent of property crimes uncleared, that is, no one even gets indicted. We've made slight improvements over the past 40 years since we've been keeping records – possibly because we've been keeping records. We arrest millions of people each year, and we incarcerate a greater portion of our population than most any other country on earth, so it's not for lack of effort. The problem is with who we're arresting and incarcerating. Prohibition is a failed, counterproductive system, yet more than that it's a breeding ground for racism, sexism, classism, and corruption. Legalization of marijuana or any other controlled substance will not in and of itself end these societal problems, yet it would be a great help.

For specific, uptodate data on arrests and incarceration, go to drug war facts dot org.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

This has been a production of the Drug Truth Network, online at Drug Truth dot net.



DEAN BECKER: Darth Drug Czar…you’re a coward, a liar, demon and thief. Seems you can’t face the truth for just one hour…too busy looking at peeeee…

Dean Becker, DrugTruth.net


DEAN BECKER: Alright, that’s about it.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org