The murder of a young family in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico on the night of January 29 has shocked the world and many are taking to social media to denounce the extreme violence.
Juan Alberto Pano Ramos, 24, his 7-month-old son Marcos Miguel Pano Colón and 17-year-old Alba Isabel Colón were gunned down while stepping out of a store in Pinopeta Nacional, Oaxaca. It’s not yet known why they were killed or if it was drug or gang related.
A picture of the family has gone viral and shows the mom hunched over surrounded by blood splatters, the dad on the ground with a bloody, white t-shirt, while his son is cradled between his torso and his left arm, almost in the same position as the 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, who washed up on Turkish shores after drowning; his death highlights the plight of Syrian refugees.
Cartoonist Rafael Pineda Rapé created the following image to bring light to the violence:
In a historic step toward ending the country’s deadly “war on drugs”, a judge in Mexico has approved the request of two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. Víctor Octavio Luna Escobedo, an administrative court judge in Mexico City, made the historic decisions saying “the consumption of cocaine doesn’t put one’s health in great risk, except in the case that it’s used chronically and excessively.”
Mexico United Against Crime (MUCD), a nongovernmental organization filed injunction requests on behalf of the two individuals. It pursued the case with goals to trying to change Mexico’s drug policy. At the core of the organization’s argument is that criminalizing consumers causes even more violence. If the ruling is ratified by a higher court, it would be the first time any cocaine use has been legal in Mexico.
According to Mexico Daily News, the Mexico City judge set a string of stipulations for the unidentified couple in order for them to use the cocaine. This includes regulating the amount they intake to 500 milligrams per day and not working, driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of the substance. This also includes not being able to consume cocaine in public, in the presence of children, or even encourage others to consume it.
So is cocaine really legal in Mexico? Here’s what you need to know.
The order by the judge to the country’s health authority has many wondering if one day Mexico could, at some point, legalize cocaine use, but only on a case-by-case basis. As of now, the judge’s ruling must be reviewed by a higher court panel of judges for the case to move forward.
“We have been working for a safer, more just and peaceful Mexico for years, and with this case we insist on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs other than marijuana and design better public policies that explore all available options, including the regulation,” Lisa Sanchez, director of MUAC, said in a statement.
The judge wrote in his ruling that the use of cocaine has certain benefits if consumed responsibly. “Ingestion can have various results, including alleviating tension, intensification of perceptions and the desire for new personal and spiritual experiences,” the judge said.
While two people have been allowed to take the drug, there is a bevy of injunctions and court orders that have followed. Which means the judge’s decisions could still be overturned.
Cofepris, Mexico’s national health regulator, is being ordered to authorize the two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. But Cofepris says that such authorization is outside its power and has now blocked the court order as a result. The rulings are set to be reviewed by three collegiate court judges that will then set forth the legal standing of judges ruling.
The next step in the decision will be an appeal to the circuit court. This essentially means that the case could land all the way up to Mexico’s Supreme Court. Even if the decision is then upheld, cocaine wouldn’t suddenly become legal in Mexico. While in the U.S., a Supreme Court ruling makes it the law of the land, In Mexico the Supreme Court must hand down similar rulings in at least four other cases.
“This case is about insisting on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs… and design better public policies that explore all the available options, including regulation,” Sanchez said.
The ruling could be a landmark moment and opportunity for debate in Mexico, where a 15 year-long drug war has taken the lives of many.
Mexico has become a central battleground and transit point for cocaine being transported to the United States. Trafficking gangs have also grown immensely since 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón sent in the country’s army to fight drug traffickers. More than 20,000 people have been killed and 40,000 disappeared since then. This year has already been a stark reminder of the deadly drug war as Mexico is on pace to have the most murders on record.
“This case represents another step in the fight to construct alternative drug policies that allow [Mexico] to redirect its security efforts and better address public health,” Sanchez said. “We have spent years working for a more secure, just and peaceful Mexico.”
Sirenas Especiales (Special Mermaids) is giving girls with Down Syndrome in Mexico a chance to show off their athletic abilities in synchronized swimming. The team and program were organized by Paloma Torres, a former synchronized swimmer from Peru, after she studied educational psychology. Her thesis was on the cognitive benefits of synchronized swimming. With that and a little patience, Sirenas Especiales was born.
Sirenas Especiales is tearing down the stigma and misinformation about people with Down Syndrome.
Coach Paloma Torres knew that people with Down Syndrome are often very creative and flexible. Those two characteristics are perfect for synchronized swimming so she knew that it would be a great idea to get a group of girls together.
However, Torres and Sirenas Especiales immediately faced pushback from local pools in Mexico City because of the girls’ Down Syndrome.
“I had to find a swimming pool where we could organize regular practices. At first, I couldn’t find anywhere. One pool even refused entry to my swimmers, saying that they might contaminate other swimmers! It was really disheartening at first — both for me and for the girls’ parents,” Torres told France24. “Finally, I found the Alberca Olímpica Francisco Márquez pool, which is located in southern Mexico City. I’ve been training the group there since 2011.”
The team overcame the initial mistreatment from local pools and have been competing in national and international competitions.
Their Instagram is filled with photos of the team holding medal from the various competitions they have participated in. They’ve competed all over Mexico and were recently at the PanAm games to cheer on Mexico’s national synchronizing team.
The team continues to grow with more girls and boys wanting to participate in synchronized swimming.
Torres currently trains about 20 swimmers between 14 and 30. There are three boys who are part of the team and 17 girls, according to France24. It seems clear that the swimmers enjoy their chance to show off their own athletic abilities.
The sport is doing more than just giving them something to do.
This sport helps participants improve their concentration and memory,” Torres told France24. “However, most importantly, this activity helps them integrate socially. They participate regularly in competitions both nationally and internationally, which sometimes include swimmers without disabilities. Our team has won about 50 medals. They become more social and their work is applauded. It’s also important for their families because some of them don’t think that these girls will make something of their lives.”
One thing Sirenas Especiales is doing to changing the narrative around disabilities one synchronized swim at a time.
The swimmers are showing everyone that you can do anything you set your mind to. There is nothing that can keep them from participating in the sport that they love and enjoy.