NEWS STAND: Mexico Reconsiders Drug War; Dennis Brutus, 85; Percy Sutton, 89.
Our take on today's headlines
Mexico reconsiders its war on drugs, Poet and activist Dennis Brutus dies, and Percy Sutton, New York politician and businessman, 89, gone.
SAY NO TO NO ON DRUGS?
Will common sense about the war on drugs emerge from Mexico? For several years, the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón has battled the illegal traffic in drugs with a strategy defined and supported by the United States. He has deployed large numbers of troops in Ciudad Juarez, a dangerous border town across from El Paso,Texas, largely replaced a corrupt police force and cooperated closely with U.S. agencies. Yet, Mexican officials say a two-year military occupation of the city of 1.2 million has just not worked in reducing violence or diminishing the drug traffic.
Now, Calderón’s administration is said to be reviewing the strategy which placed 10,000 troops in Ciudad Juarez, reports the Washington Post. “There is an almost unanimous consensus in the city that the strategy hasn't worked,” says Hugo Almada, a sociology professor at the Autonomous University of Juarez who earlier this month organized a peace march of more than 3,000 people.
Even heavily armed police and army troops have not been able to tamp down a battle between criminal gangs for control of the billion-dollar drug business. The city has endured more than 2,500 drug-related deaths in 2009, with some of the killings spilling over into the suburbs of El Paso. Well-known academics, officials, business leaders have been assassinated, many killings timed to make the evening news.
According to the paper, the range of options includes adding more troops, a complete withdrawal or a new “soft” focus on the underlying social ills that draw young men to join the drug gangs. A shift in Calderón’s policy would be yet another setback for a prohibitionist U.S. anti-drug strategy that has worked as poorly as the ban on alcohol in the early years of the 20th century.
Dennis Brutus, the South African poet and activist, who became a leading voice against apartheid, has died at the age of 85. Brutus has been battling prostate cancer, according to news reports. Brutus was jailed on Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela in the mid-1960s. He was able to convince Olympic officials to bar South Africa from participation until the end of apartheid.
Brutus was the son of South African teachers, born in what is now Zimbabwe. In his early 20s he helped organize the South African Sports Association, which opposed the official all-white sports establishment in the country. He was arrested and fled while on bail and was shot trying to leave the country. He almost died while waiting for an ambulance that would carry blacks to take him for medical treatment.
Brutus spent years teaching at Northwestern University and the University of Pittsburgh. Over the years, he completed more than a dozen collections of poetry, including "A Simple Lust," "Stubborn Hope" and "Salutes and Censures." In 2006, Haymarket Books published a compilation of his work, "Poetry and Protest." His work was banned for years in South Africa, but one book, "Thoughts Abroad," slipped through; it was published in 1970 under the pseudonym John Bruin. He rejected induction into the South Africa Sports Hall of Fame, stating, "It is incompatible to have those who championed racist sport alongside its genuine victims. It's time - indeed long past time - for sports truth, apologies and reconciliation."
Percy Sutton, the attorney who represented Malcolm X, went on to a political career, and founded a media company, has died at the age of 89. Sutton, the son of a slave, was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, and a Harlem lawyer. The suave, smooth-talking Sutton represented Malcolm X and, after his death, his widow, Betty Shabazz. Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before becoming Manhattan Borough President in 1966, making him the highest-ranked black elected official in New York. He lost bids for the U.S. Senate and governor of New York.
He and his brother, Oliver, a judge, bought WLIB-AM in 1971, making it the first black-owned radio station in the state. Later they acquired WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as the No.1 station in the city. Their company, Inner City Broadcasting, eventually owned stations in Detroit, San Francisco, San Antonio and Los Angeles. Sutton and his family acquired Harlem’s Apollo Theater when it was threatened with destruction and turned into a national showcase for talent.