Mexico Announces Plan to Test Special Drug Courts

Mexico announced a pilot program Monday to have special courts handle cases involving addicted offenders who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs.

The idea was praised by visiting U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske,
who noted "drug courts" can sentence people to rehabilitation
programs instead of prison.

"Successful programs like drug courts, which will break the
cycle of addiction and crime by mandating treatment for certain
offenders, are going to receive strong support," said Kerlikowske,
who heads the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Kerlikowske is in Mexico for meetings with Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora and other officials.

Medina-Mora announced the plan to set up Mexico's first drug
courts in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Similar courts function
in the United States, and he said he will eventually propose them
nationwide in Mexico.

The attorney general also said Mexico will ask the United States
to increase its actions against marijuana trafficking, noting the
trade remains a main source of income for Mexico's violent drug

"We frequently find insufficient resources and infrastructure
on the U.S. side to prosecute those who carry out low level
marijuana trafficking," he said.

Violence involving drug gangs has killed more than 11,000 people
in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006
and ordered a crackdown on the cartels.

Medina-Mora said the number of deaths from drug violence
decreased in the first seven months of 2009, compared to the last
seven months of 2008, although he did not offer specific figures.

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