08/19/12 Gretchen Burns Bergman

Century of Lies

Caravan for Peace II, Gretchen Burns Bergman, Sen Juan Vargas, Brother David, Billy Garrett, Jay Fisher, Ray Gardono, John Lindsey Poland

Audio file


Century of Lies / August 19, 2012


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Hello. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We’ve got a lot of great stuff for you from the Caravan for Peace and Justice and Dignity as they travel across these United States – 6,000+ miles, 25 cities in about 31 days. We are going to go from San Diego to Washington, D.C. on September 11th.

I would have more content from you from the caravan but one of my recorders melted in the 111 degree heat in Phoenix. We’ll have much more for you next week including an extended interview with the leader of the caravan, Mr. Javier Sicilia.

This first segment was recorded in San Diego just a foot away from Tijuana, Mexico. As we listen to the pleas from those on the other side of the border asking us to end this drug war. To all you politicians – listen up.


DEAN BECKER: We’re here on the first day of the Caravan for Peace. I’m here with state senator Juan Vargas from California.

Sir, we’re right here on the border with Mexico. You gave a speech earlier. I wasn’t able to capture much of it but would you briefly share what you spoke to this audience.

JUAN VARGAS: Sure. First of all I thanked them for doing this. I think it’s very necessary that people do this. In other words, put themselves out to try to change the situation. The situation right now isn’t working. The War on Drugs hasn’t worked. Unfortunately it’s been more of a war on the people on both sides of this country - a war on the men, women and children on the Mexican side and the men, women and children on the American side.

This war hasn’t worked and we’re trying different things and that’s why I thank people who are willing to come out here and say, “Wait a minute. What we’ve done hasn’t worked. The drugs have continued to flow. The arms have continued to flow. The blood has continued to flow so we have to change.”

So that’s why it’s important.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, fist day Caravan for Peace. We’ve got the sound of the Pacific Ocean in the background and I’ve got one of the participants here with me. Introduce yourself and tell us about your organization.

JOHN LINDSEY POLAND: My name is John Lindsey Poland. I work for the Fellowship of Reconciliation which is a national, interfaith peace organization founded almost a century ago. We’re participating in the caravan because we want a different foreign policy in Mexico. We want to stop the trafficking of guns and the prohibition of drugs that’s causing so much suffering in Mexico as well as here.

DEAN BECKER: It seems that people from various fields are beginning to hone in on the fact that the drug war is central to many of the problems which they are trying to deal with. Am I right?

JOHN LINDSEY POLAND: Well it’s definitely central and it’s also part of a mix that here at the border I think is a recipe for extreme violence. On the one hand you have prohibition which is not only feeding the violence because in the industry people can’t resolved their conflicts through the legal system and also there’s money coming in that’s feeding organized crime. And then you have a foreign policy that is arming the state that is supposedly fighting the traffickers. And then you have a gun policy that is an open market for military-style weapons that is exactly the kind of weaponry that organized crime wants in order to control territory. Then you have an immigration policy that is totally inhumane and prevents people from…

It’s something that highlights goods over people and the trafficking of goods over people so that’s just against our values. We think it’s against the values of most people in the United States. We want to appeal to people in our communities to say, “Look, we’re part of this. We can’t just say ‘Oh, those Mexicans. They are killing each other.’ We are a part of it and we have to step up.”

DEAN BECKER: You know, on the drive down here…we’re on the border just a hundred yards from Mexico. The fact of the matter is I saw a sign, “Warning! Guns and ammo not allowed in Mexico.” As we were a mile away. It kind of underscores…I did an interview this past week with Charles Bowden and Molly Molloy (two authors that write about the horrors in Mexico) and they talked about the fact that of all these thousands of people that they find dead lying in the street they very seldom find a gun on those innocents. That they were not armed and they were not part of the cartels.

I’m rambling here but your thought, your response.

JOHN LINDSEY POLAND: So many people are stigmatized when they are killed, “They must have been up to something.” And, yet, there’s many, many, many people who have killed and victimized and kidnapped who had nothing to do with organized crime or kidnapping or the state. But they have been victimized by the extreme, overwhelming presence of these guns that are…you know, you can walk into any store here along the border and buy 20 AKs and walk out and it’s so easy to get them over the border because all the controls are focused in the south/north direction because, of course…and I think of it as a kind of structural racism because we, the people in the United States, think what we have that’s going over the border to Mexico must be good.

You know all those trucks that are bringing goods into Mexico (and there’s tens of thousands of them every single day, 365 days a year) so it’s very easy to put guns into them. But what’s coming from Mexico into the United States we have to somehow protect ourselves from that. And, yet, a lot of the traffic is guns going from the north into the south and that’s what’s killing people.

DEAN BECKER: I saw something (I don’t know if it was AP, Washington Post) – a very recent story that talked about the fact that authorities ( I don’t know…Homeland Security, perhaps) are worried about the fact that there are parts of South and Central America where it’s so easy to get on to the western hemisphere land mass and therefor very easy to sneak into Mexico and sabatoge us with some un-Godly bombs or other. To me it strikes of ultimately paranoia that those in power seek to maintain that power through fear and control and weaponry within government. Your response, sir.

JOHN LINDSEY POLAND: It’s paranoia but it’s also denial that somehow we could be a part of the problem – that something is coming from us. Surely there is evidence that from Central America there are grenades and other things that are left over from a war that the United States promoted in Central America.

The ironic thing is that people who are promoting gun rights in saying that, “Oh, all these guns are not coming from private dealers in the United States. They are coming from the markets in Central America.” It’s actually a condemnation of U.S. policy in the 1980s which also fueled that market.

The fact is that more than 2 out of every 3 guns that are found on crime scenes in Mexico are traced to private sales in the United States so that’s a big part of what we have to control.

Like I said, it’s a bunch of different factors – it’s not any one thing that is going to end the violence in Mexico because it’s been produced by a lot of different things.

DEAN BECKER: Well you’re going all the way to New Orleans. I’m going all the way to D.C. if I can survive that long. Our hope is that other reporters, other media will gather around the caravan when it comes to their town because if ever there was a time to pull the plug on this drug war I think it’s now. Your response and close out with your website too, please.

JOHN LINDSEY POLAND: I think that a lot of people’s eyes have been opened because of the connections between the way in which millions of people in this country are being incarcerated for nonviolent offences, bankrupting the system and ruining a whole generation of particularly young, black men and at the same time that Mexico and Central America are being destroyed as well by a war that is not doing anybody any good.

We encourage people to learn more. Our website is http:.//forusa.org has lots of information about U.S. policy in Central America as well as social movements that are challenging the U.S. militarization of the region.


DEAN BECKER: As the Caravan for Peace travels across America we’re finding more and more politicians coming to these events willing to speak of this need for change.


RAY GARDONO: I’m Ray Gardono. I’m the city councilor for District 6 which is probably the most diverse part of Alburqurque in New Mexico. It’s in the Southeast Heights. It also is the host, if you will, for many immigrants from many parts of the world.

My interest, if you will, is to represent all those folks not only from their own perspective but also for the good of the entire city so they understand that these folks, although sometimes disenfranchised, are a very important part of our social infrastructure.

DEAN BECKER: The thing that strikes me is that I’ve traveled through the desert and seen the conditions that many of the migrants from Mexico are even Guatemala, Hondurus, coming north have to endure to “sneak” into the United States. That’s often a tragedy. Is it not?

RAY GARDONO: It’s not only a tragedy but I think it’s a forced condition that we have as an imperialist country have forced people to feel like they’re not welcome because they’re told they’re illegal. No human being is illegal to begin with.

Secondly if people knew anything about the history of this part of the world, this hemisphere, there was never any barrier set up by anyone whether it was Tierra La Fuego to Alaska people had the freedom to go anywhere they wanted to for any length of time that they wanted.

One of the things we’ve forced on people is they are now having to (as you mentioned) “sneak” into a country that has in many ways exploited the ability of people to protect themselves. Let me just quickly say that because of that I think it’s created a situation where the illegality gives in to the fact that people are forced to form some way of making a living. And if that’s transporting illegal substances because we have considered it illegal that’s what people might be forced to do through no fault of their own.

I resent the fact that we have illegalized human beings so whatever they do we consider illegal.


DEAN BECKER: The noise you hear in the background was a major event put together by the good people of Albuqurque to welcome the Caravan for Peace. There’s music and dancing and prays and hope abounding. Of course much of that hope centers around you getting involved. You recognizing the futility of this eternal war, showing up to these events when they come to your city and contacting your elected officials to tell them, “No more!”


SPEAKER: This is Las Crucas County Commissioner David Garrett.

DAVID GARRETT: Javier, Christina and everyone riding in the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity welcome to Las Crucas County.

To the people of Las Curcas and the surrounding region welcome to this gathering.

By our words and presence we are here to show our support of policies and actions that will stop the drug war in Mexico with all its corruption and violence. We are all in this together.

We share a common border. People on both sides of this border have friends and relatives on the other side. We have mutual interest in terms of trade and culture and environment and we cannot ignore the fact that the drug war in Mexico is driven by demand by the United States.

To those of you in the caravan I want to thank you for your courage and your inspiration. You are living out the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was endorsed by the United Nations more than 60 years ago. The 30 articles of the declaration are important as a basic reference of right and wrong in the big issues of our day and in everyday life.

I’d like to share 4 of these articles with you today.

Article 3 of the declaration states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5 states no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel and degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 19 says everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 28 says everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration can be fully realized.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights is a blue print for peace with justice and dignity. This caravan and our gathering today is proof that these words are more than words. They can be a guideline for action.

Mucas gracious.


DEAN BECKER: The families of those who lost loved ones to the carnage in Mexico go to church every day and they spend the night usually because of the hospitality of the local community and the churches.


BROTHER DAVID: My name is Brother David. I’m a Franciscan brother.

DEAN BECKER: Sir, we’re here in Tucson. The Caravan for Peace has stopped at your church here for sustenance and…

BROTHER DAVID: This is Southside Presbyterian church which has very much historic value. It was the founding church of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s.

DEAN BECKER: We talked briefly…you said one of your missions is to go out into the desert and find those who may be lost or thirsty trying to find a job here in the U.S.

BROTHER DAVID: There are many humanitarian groups who work out of Tucson and one that works out of this church is called Samaritans. Almost every day they have groups of dedicated volunteers, often times faith-based, who are trying to do humanitarian work by offering food, water and medical assistance to the migrants in the desert.

DEAN BECKER: So this work or this helping the Caravan for Peace is kind of what you do anyhow, right?

BROTHER DAVID: What the caravan is doing is helping in a national way by traveling across the country to put a focus on the human suffering that’s taking place in our country right now by the many people who are losing relatives because of economic situation and desperation on trying to support their families and they’re willing to risk their lives. They walk through the desert to come here to try to find work. So it’s a very strong humanitarian crisis we have right now.


GRETCHEN BURNS BERGMAN: I’m Gretchen Burns Bergman and I’m the co-founder and Executive Director of A New PATH and that stands for Parents for Addiction, Treatment and Healing.

I’m a lead organizer of our national campaign called Moms United to End the War on Drugs. We’re collaborating with partners from across the United States – mothers and family members speaking out against this disastrous War on Drugs that has really become a war waged against our own families. It’s time, as mothers, to stand together and speak out.

That’s why it’s so particularly poignant that we’re joining forces with the caravan right now because of the destruction happening to families in Mexico. But it’s happening in the United States too. We’re losing our children to mass incarceration. We’re losing our kids to overdose deaths because they’re afraid to call when there is an overdose for fear that they’ll get caught up in the system.

We’re sharing those issues with people in Mexico. There’s so much pain on both sides of the border and I think we’re all saying, “Enough is enough.” As Javier would say, “Enough words.”

It’s time for action. It’s time to end these punitive, prohibitionist policies that criminalized people who use drugs, criminalize people like my son who have a problem with drugs. My son spent ten years of his life cycling through the prison system because he was arrested for possession of marijuana. It’s real easy to go back because by then he’s starting to get a full-blown addiction and never having the problem addressed and, even worse, having it addressed in the wrong way so that he learned to survive in the prison system but he wasn’t getting to his core issues.

He’s just one of so many. 1 in 4 families are dealing with this in the United States and certainly you see this destruction in Mexico as well.

DEAN BECKER: Talking about the caravan…there’s 80-90 people friends, relatives of those killed, disappeared, kidnapped in Mexico and that’s a life lost, if you will, for these parents and friends. But the fact of the matter is here in the U.S. we’ve had 40 million arrests for drug charges. That doesn’t necessarily kill the person. What it does is fracture their future, their life’s potential, right?

GRETCHEN BURNS BERGMAN: Tremendously so. Just having a drug arrest on your record can exclude you from so many things like housing, employment and in some states even voting. The list goes on. The roadblocks to actual recovery and re-integration with society are tremendous because of the punitive policies.

We need to develop compassionate, restorative policies in the United States because the problem is getting worse and the drug war has made it worse. It’s really insane that it’s gone on this long. But mostly because people like you and me have not spoken up enough to say, “This is enough. This is happening to my family. It’s my job to protect the future of my family.”

DEAN BECKER: You know I’m a member of LEAP. We’re current and former law enforcement types. If you don’t feel the energy to join up with LEAP you’ve probably got kids out there, listeners, you’ve probably want to protect their future.

Gretchen, share your website. Tell them how they can get involved with your efforts.

GRETCHEN BURNS BERGMAN: Thank you. The easiest way is to go to the campaign website, http://www.momsunited.net That will connect you to the PATH website and is easier to remember.

Please get involved - speaking out as much as you can even if it’s just to your neighbor, even if it’s just to bring up a conversation in a quiet room when you know the “elephant” is in the room. Certainly, if you’re willing, talk to the press, talk to your legislators. Write OPEDS. Do anything. Any level of commitment that you can give is welcome and necessary.


DEAN BECKER: We’ve heard from Jack Cole, the past director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and his concerns, his involvement in this Caravan for Peace. As we roll this LEAP vehicle across the country…I’m the only LEAP speaker going from Tijuana to Washington, D.C. Sam, the videographer, is traveling with me as well. We have kind of a rolling contingent of LEAP speakers that join us along the way. We have an assistant prosecutor from I’ll just say down south who joins us here in Albuquerque. His going to go with us for a few days.

Tell us about your experience, your involvement in the criminal justice system, please.

JAY FISHER: My name is Jay Fisher and, as you mentioned, I’m a prosecutor from the southeastern United States. I’m probably not at liberty to reveal my agency since I don’t really know if I have their blessing. I’d rather just keep it anonymous.

At work I specialize in an area called post conviction. I deal with appeals in murder cases. I also handle a little thing called habeas corpus and I’m sure you’ve heard many times in the news I do that at the state and federal level. At least in habeas corpus I handle all felonies. You name it from theft all the way up to murder with life without parole as a sentence. So a fair number of my cases, to say the least, are either directly involved with drugs or the criminal charges the person picked up were a consequence of their either habits or involvement in the illegal drug trade.

So, that’s where I’m coming from.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jay, the fact of the matter is we’re not encountering any obstacles. We’re driving this black and white LEAP vehicle, lights flashing on the top. We’ve had a few cops wave positively to us. We’ve not had one occurrence – no need for worry about driving this because I think even cops are beginning to realize the futility of this drug war. Your thoughts on that regard.

JAY FISHER: They have to. There’s just absolutely no way that anyone who looks at this problem honestly can conclude that we can arrest and incarcerate ourselves out of this problem. It isn’t going to happen so it’s time for better alternatives.

I think police recognize that their resources could be better spent in other areas of law enforcement. People who work in prisons (who I also work with closely) realize that if they cannot keep drugs out of an intensely secure facility as a maximum security state prison that there’s absolutely no way that we’re going to be able to keep them out of society in general. So it’s just time for a better alternative.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it is. You’re joining us here in Albuquerque. We just paid a visit to where the participants from Mexico were having a strategy session. My Spanish wasn’t good enough to figure out what they were saying. These people are dedicated. They have lost loved ones. They recognize the futility.

I guess what I’m hoping what you and I and all the other LEAP speakers can bring to this is a bit of legitimacy here in these United States in support of these brave individuals. What’s your thought there?

JAY FISHER: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Basically it’s the kind of situation when you talk about the drug war where anyone can get involved with the problem. Anyone can take a side, anyone can get involved with the problem but there’s really only a very finite and specific segments of the population that have special exposure to the problem.

What I mean by special exposure is working with it on a daily basis, dealing with these people in a one-on-one situation. They have knowledge of where the drugs are coming in, how they’re being sold and their impact on the communities in a first-hand basis.

I think LEAP brings a very special approach to that problem in so far as we’ve all worked with the issue from a law enforcement perspective and consequently we’ve seen it first-hand. We’ve also seen it beyond the point of arrest. The “average joe” walking down the street may see a person stuffed into a cop car but has no idea what happens to that person afterwards. We do.

We’ve seen the people go through the jail process, the court process, the prison process and the aftermath of having a conviction and the stigma attached to that person’s life. Consequently we have special experience and an unique duty to explain to society the impacts of this rotten policy and to say, “Look, if you want to change all this there is a better way.”

If anyone had a dog in this fight it’s people who are fighting this thing on the front lines. Since I was one of those people I’m here to say there is a better way. I think that’s a valuable message and something LEAP should be commended for going forth and spreading the word.


DEAN BECKER: Thus far Los Angeles has been, of course, our biggest reception – 17 different video cameras and radio reporters (on my count) were there in attendance and here’s a little bit of the protest that wound up at City Hall in Los Angeles.


SPEAKER: What do we want?


SPEAKER: When do we want it?


SPEAKER: What do we want?




SPEAKER: What do we want?




SPEAKER: What do we want?




SPEAKER: What do we want?




[similar chant in spanish]


DEAN BECKER: In closing out today’s show I want to share with you an angry, emotional letter to criminals and politicians. Published in the national news magazine, Proceso, Javier Sicilia who had just lost his son makes the point explicitly. His call to the gangs is the first time a direct public dialog has been open between citizens and organized crime.

“We are fed up of you politicians because you only have the imagination to use violence, weapons, insults and with that a profound disrespect for education, culture, opportunities and missed work.

And of you criminals we are sick of your violence, your loss of honor, your cruelty. Long ago you had codes of honor. You have become less than human. Not animal. Animals don’t even do what you do but subhuman, demonic.”


DEAN BECKER: OK. We’re out of time for this week. I’ve got to ask you, dear friends, if you’ve been listening for the first time or for weeks or for the ten years we’ve been doing this, whether you’ve written your congressman before, whether you’ve attended an event before, whether you’ve done anything to help end this drug war – now is the time. Now is when we will make a difference. We need you.

Please visit http://caravanforpeace.org

This is Dean Becker for Century of Lies, the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio saying No mas.


Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org