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Red Ribbon Week observance planned

Whether they realize it, each and every resident of Grady County is impacted by drug and alcohol abuse in some form, and during an upcoming week of activities, a local prevention team plans to step up its efforts to show the community what it can do about it.
National Red Ribbon Week, set aside to highlight drug awareness, is Oct. 23-29, and the Grady County Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention Team plans to host numerous local events during the week aimed at sharing resources for prevention, treatment and general awareness of substance abuse in Grady County.
Every member of the community can benefit from these resources, which will include prevention tips, education about signs someone may be using drugs and drug “lingo,” treatment options, and much more, Nola Daughtry, substance abuse team member, says.
Daughtry adds that although efforts to make these resources available will be stepped up during Red Ribbon Week, they are always available by contacting the Grady County Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention Team at 378-2562.
“Almost every family in Grady County and the U.S. has someone in it who has had a problem with substance abuse,” she says. “Even if not in the immediate family, everyone needs to be made aware of the impact of substance abuse.”
Outside the family, all feel the weight of substance abuse from crime and healthcare costs. Americans spend $484 billion a year on health care, lost wages, and other expenditures due to drug abuse and addiction, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
Locally, 90 percent of all crimes in Grady County are believed to be drug-related, according to the local substance abuse prevention team. This includes violent crime, child abuse and neglect.
Likewise, 95 percent of all incarcerations in Grady County are believed to be drug-related.
For these reasons and more, officials say all locals should take part in Red Ribbon Week activities.
Read next week’s edition of The Cairo Messenger for a full listing of local Red Ribbon Week events.
According to the National Red Ribbon Week Coalition, Red Ribbon Week began after the kidnapping, torture and brutal murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.
Camarena had been working undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico for more than four years. His efforts led to a tip that resulted in the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The successful eradication of this and other drug production operations angered leaders of several drug cartels who sought revenge. As a result, they murdered key informants and then, on Feb. 7, 1985, they kidnapped Camarena and his pilot Captain Alfredo Zavala-Avelar (taken separately on the same day).
After Camarena and Zavala-Avelar were kidnapped, the DEA launched a massive investigation. Agents found local law enforcement uncooperative at best. Then DEA Administrator Jack Lawn and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese sought greater support from Mexican officials including the Mexican Attorney General but to no avail. Orders from U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab effectively closed the U.S./Mexico border for days putting pressure on the Mexican government to assist.
Soon, representatives of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP) presented a tip to DEA agents claiming that Camarena had been mistakenly kidnapped by a man and his three sons, and saying that a raid of the man’s ranch in Angostura would take place the following morning and invited them to come.
However, the MFJP raided the ranch before DEA agents arrived. During the raid, they shot and killed five individuals. Not long after, a passerby discovered the bodies of both Camarena and Zavala-Avelar by the side of the road not far from the ranch.
The DEA’s investigation revealed that Camarena had been tortured extensively before he was murdered. Audiotapes of the torture showed that medical doctors actually kept Camarena alive in order to continue the interrogation. Evidence collected revealed that both Camarena and Zavala-Avelar were initially buried in one location and then moved to the ranch where they were found.
The dramatic events that followed Camarena’s disappearance were chronicled by American media. They exposed the dark world of drug trafficking including how far drug traffickers would go to maintain power and control.
In Camarena’s home town, Calexico, Calif., the public outpouring of support turned into an organized community response in which citizens wore red ribbons. They became a voice for prevention in order to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and illegal use of legal drugs in America.
The following year the California State PTA adopted the Red Ribbon Week campaign. Then, in 1988 Red Ribbon Week was recognized nationally with President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as the first Honorary Chairs.
Today, Red Ribbon Week brings millions of people together to raise awareness regarding the need for alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention, early intervention, and treatment services. It is the largest, most visible prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States.
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