Organization denounces “social cleansing” practices in Tijuana

Organization denounces “social cleansing” practices in Tijuana

▲ Care for people with mental disorders.Photo Marco Peláez

Alonso Urrutia

La Jornada newspaper
Sunday, January 9, 2022, p. 3

His focus of attention is one of the most violent neighborhoods in Tijuana: Zona Norte. There, sex and drug tourism, nightclubs, drug outlets, drug addicts and murders proliferate. In this environment, the Prevencasa organization makes efforts to mitigate the effects of excesses in drug use and reduce, as far as possible, associated diseases, given the almost total absence of public policies to face the devastating effects of drug addiction.

“It is a very complex context. Municipal practices of ‘social cleansing’ are common in Tijuana. They arrest people who live on the streets, whether they use drugs or not. She is forcibly taken to rehabilitation centers where she is detained for three or six months. That is useless, on the contrary: people leave with greater resentments and return to or fall into addiction. It seems that they are more interested in urban aesthetics than people ”.

This is Alfonso Chávez, who is responsible for one of the organization’s most controversial but necessary actions: exchange of syringes. It is a controversial measure because it is judged as the formula that encourages the use of heroin, but vital to avoid associated ills: the proliferation of HIV and hepatitis C. It is inevitable, since the consumption of this substance causes too much dependence.

They are going to do it with a new syringe or one that they find lying on the street. Our idea is to offer supplies so that they do it in the most hygienic way possible. There is a logic, because if not, the health problem would be bigger.

Prevencasa has almost 20 years of working with people on the edge of the personal abyss in Zona Norte, with palliative measures to avoid, as far as possible, lethal outcomes. A day, they serve between 80 and 90 homeless people, deportees, sex workers, addicts, serious cases of people who are bending (overdose).

We have had many deaths of people not only from overdoses, but from lack of health care, such as treatment for tuberculosis. We are very close to the border, it is very complex and due to other actions there is a lot of violence, a lot of homicides, all these elements are mixed. (…) There are more risk factors. (For example) a woman who uses injectable substances and does sex work. This increases your risk..

In Tijuana, public institutions to attend to mental health or addictions are almost non-existent. In contrast, the Police and Good Government Side opens the door to abuse of authority due to its chapter on infractions: Transit by any means on public roads, sidewalks or ambulatory of public squares or parks, incurring inconvenience to citizens.

And in his article 81 he states: Allow the person in charge of the custody or custody of a mentally ill person to roam freely in public or private places or to cause inconvenience to individuals.

The government’s disposition complicates the organization’s possibilities to promote lawsuits and legally follow up on excesses against those who are forcibly detained in rehabilitation centers.

Alfonso himself has faced the illegal raids, due to his physical appearance, although he only stayed for a couple of hours before being released for his membership in the organization.

The social cleaning That complaint has been more drastic with others who ended up in those centers, presumably for the treatment of addictions: They have shared with us many experiences of physical and verbal abuse, others more dense, others less. It is very serious, in addition to the fact that there is no opioid substitution treatment. It is very dangerous, because people, instead of being rehabilitated or helped to reintegrate into society, as these centers propose, leave with many traumas. It is very easy to return to consumption.

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