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Looking Back: A review of March news from the last 50 years

In this monthly series, we republish a few of the headlines from our March editions 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.


Hippies hit by marijuana crackdown

A stepped-up national campaign against the use and sale of drugs in Mexico, including marijuana, has resulted in federal authorities detaining some 30 young North Americans in Jalisco since the new year. According to sources, most of the detained are “hippie types.”

Twenty Americans are now in the state penitentiary awaiting trial or sentencing. Mexican law distinguishes between marijuana and other drugs, the use and sale of all of them coming under the federal code covering crimes against health. A sentence of three to 12 years and a fine of between two-to-20 thousand pesos is cited for use or sale.

Indicating the seriousness of the offense is the fact that those convicted are not subject to bail and may be detained in Mexico. In practice, suspicion of the drug law violation has fallen heavily upon North American “hippies.” According to one Mexico City source, 100 “hippies” have been deported since the first of the year, with a large number coming from Puerto Vallarta.  


Mexican pollution not grave yet, say British

A British expert on pollution, Frederick Warner, told a press conference in Mexico City that the degree of pollution in the capital, Guadalajara and Monterrey is still not grave, but that it could become so if preventive steps are not taken. He suggested there be one authority to approve, authorize and inspect anti-pollution systems, which should include raising industrial chimneys to as high as 200 meters.

Mexico City has a higher air pollution level than London, continued Warner, and 24 years ago when 4,000 Londoners died of respiratory illnesses attributed to the smog, London was ten times as polluted as Mexico City today. It will cost two billion dollars to clean up the smog, he added, mainly by switching to greater use of gas and electricity for industrial fuel.

On the other hand, the director for Atmospheric Cleanliness for the Department of Health, Enrique Tolivia Melendez, assured the press that all new industries must install similar systems.


Lakesiders’ waste is part of Chapala woes

Lake Chapala communities should “clean up their act” said Jalisco Governor Guillermo Cosio Vidaurri. Cosio, who took office March 1, emphasized the need to improve wastewater treatment around the lake, as well as to give the community incentives to deal with their “aguas negras.” While polluted water entering the lake from the Rio Lerma has received media attention, the new governor sees the decline of the lake from a broader perspective.

The other key to the Lake cleanup plan is the reduction of contaminants entering the reservoir through other waterways. Cosio Vidaurri recalled that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari has pledged to negotiate with states bordering the Lerma-Chapala system to push antipollution measures. Water use from the Rio Verde basin to reduce Guadalajara’s dependence on lake water is still under consideration, he added.

Another plan involves the promotion of “principal medium cities” like Puerto Vallarta, Ciudad Guzman and Lago de Morenos to become development centers with business growth and infrastructure building.


Teenagers make mass escape from detention center

A juvenile detention center, located off the highway to Chapala at the Periferico, was the scene late Wednesday evening of a massive riot and escape. The 48 youths who broke free were between 16 and 18 years old.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, 60 inmates at the Granja de Readaptacion swarmed out of their dormitories brandishing pipes. They attacked guards, broke windows, knocked over gas tanks and climbed the walls. 48 reached freedoms but four were captured within minutes of the jailbreak. The General Administration of Prevention and Social Rehabilitation reported 11 more arrests at a press conference.


“Most of the juveniles had committed robbery,” said spokesman Jose Luis Aguilar. “Four were in for homicide, one for assault, a couple for drugs but mostly for their own use, not trafficking.”

By the time the Tlaquepaque municipal police and two other state forces gained control of the facility, the majority of the 48 inmates had already fled. Aguilar said the movement was spontaneous, started by a small group before others joined.


Drug lord included on wealth list

You don’t need to open the magazine itself to find out that Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, made number 701 on Forbes magazine’s “World’s Richest People” list this year. Just read mainstream media in Mexico and north of the border for the fallout: a surprisingly powerful dose of offended sensibilities and outrage.

Guzman heads the Sinaloa cartel, one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine in North America. Arrested on homicide and drug charges in 1993, he escaped from a federal prison in Guadalajara in 2001 - apparently via a laundry cart - and still controls his cartel today.

A five-million-dollar reward for information from the U.S. government has so far not proved sufficient motivation for intrepid bounty hunters.

The fact that the head of the Sinaloa cartel made a famous list is less interesting than the statistical and ethical questions it raises - how exactly, for example, Forbes ferreted out the financial worth of an elusive and famous Mexican legend clearly unavailable for interviews.


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