Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

City Council Upholds Mayor’s Veto After Hint of Losing Funds


El Paso, TX — On Tuesday the El Paso City Council voted, 4-4, to sustain the mayor’s veto of a resolution calling for a national debate on drug legalization as a solution to the cartel violence problem plaguing sister city Cuidad Juarez, just across the Mexico border.

Three of the four council members voting to uphold the mayor’s silencing of the discussion said on the record during council deliberations that they did so only because Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and the city’s state legislative delegation sent letters raising the possibility that El Paso would lose federal and state money should it continue insisting that legalization is a debatable solution to illegal drug trade violence.

Councilman Beto O’Rourke, who championed the legalization debate resolution, said it is “a sad day in America when you’re threatened if you want to have an open and honest debate about an issue that affects your community.”

Rep. Reyes, who sent his deputy chief of staff to testify at Tuesday’s council meeting, also canceled a scheduled breakfast with O’Rourke on Monday, instead meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who successfully requested $1.4 billion in U.S. anti-drug aid in 2008, and who also met with President-elect Barack Obama on Monday.

“This level intervention in quashing a spirited debate about a serious policy conundrum is chilling,” said Terry Nelson, a 30-year veteran federal anti-drug agent and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a 10,000-member organization representing police, prosecutors, judges and others who fought on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and now support legalization and regulation. “With so many killings and kidnappings by the illegal drug cartels, we just can’t afford to keep avoiding an important discussion about the failures of our decades-long ‘war on drugs.’ We’re looking forward to seeing U.S. Sen. Jim Webb’s recently announced blue ribbon commission on high incarceration rates taking a good, hard look at why so many nonviolent drug offenders fill our prisons.”

Rep. Reyes and state legislators haven’t yet detailed the specifics of any funding threats against El Paso they’ve been warned about or from where they came. The states legislators’ and congressman’s letter are online at [url=][/url] and [url=][/url] respectively.

Six votes were needed to override the mayor’s veto of the resolution calling for the national debate to continue.

For more information, please visit [url=][/url] or contact Tom Angell at (202) 557-4979 or

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