After the SSDP UNAM chapter read that the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) wanted to host a big international forum to discuss drug policy in Mexico, we knew we needed to be part of it—and act fast! Andrés wrote a letter to the organizers telling them that we wanted to participate at the forum, and it didn’t matter how. We were open to working as staff, panelists, tabling etc. Three members of SSDP Mexico and our partner organization ReverdeSer Colectivo signed the letter. We wanted to be there but not just by sitting in the audience.
It came as a big surprise when, a few days later, we received an invitation to meet with Dr. Jorge Carpizo, the man in charge of the forum (and the former Attorney General of Mexico, former Minister of the Interior and former Rector of the UNAM). He told us that it was important to have students in the forum as panelists discussing these issues as equals with the experts and that it was our call in how we wanted to participate. Hell yeah, we thought!
The whole group worked together to create the speeches of each one of the panelists, but we had to choose eight members of SSDP Mexico to bring a youth and student vision to the international forum, and we competed within the organization to select our forum speakers. All those interested brought a draft version of the speeches that they hoped to present at the forum, then we all voted and selected our representatives, the best suited for the challenge ahead:
– Ricardo Vinicio García, from the UNAM Literature and Philosophy Department, who was on the first panelIllicit consumption of drugs and dependence: General problematic themes in health and also in the inauguration of the event,
– Miguel Antonio Villegas, from the UNAM Political Science and Social Studies Department, a sociology major, he took part in the second panel General matters about social problems related to the illicit consumption of drugs and addictions,
– Cristian Puga González, student from the CIDE (Economic Research and Teaching Center) and member of ReverdeSer Colectivo, who presented in the fourth panel on General framework of the judicial problems related to drug consumption,
– Diana Tonatzin Nava, a Psychology major from the UAMX (Autonomous University of Mexico, campus Xochimilco) who presented on Cannabis compared with other drugs during the sixth panel of the forum,
– Amaya Ordorika, a Psychology major from the UNAM, was the panelist on the ninth table: Diagnosis and treatment of addictions and also participated in the closing ceremony,
– Norma Angélica Campos, a communications major from the UNAM Political Science and Social Studies Department, who presented an speech to the thirteenth panel Drugs, the social sector and mass media,
– Rodolfo Miguel Hirsch, member of the Ibero-American University SSDP chapter and graduate of the English Literature department of the UNAM, he took part in the Indigenous culture and drug use in Mexico, the fourteenth panel of the forum,
– And finally Andrés Emiliano Hirsch, graduate from the Sociology department of the UNAM, and currently completing a master degree at the UNAM Political Science and Social Studies Department, he was part of the fifteenth panel on Society and organized crime.
The common messages we decided to bring as an organization was 1) to highlight the difference between use, abuse and dependence of any substance; 2) give voice to Mexican students and young people and inform authorities that we are not criminals or sick people, we are citizens who have rights and deserve the same respect others; 3) to focus on changing the perspective that the drug problem is not a security matter but rather a health issue; and 4) to provide a youth perspective regarding the current situation in Mexico in the war on drugs. SSDP was successful in staying on topic and providing a cohesive message to our public. In addition, we were featured in various newspaper articles and on television. If you can read Spanish, you can learn more about our participation via this article and this article.
Speaking at the forum served as SSDP’s debut on the national policy stage, but also demonstrated to panelists, the public and the media that students and youth can serve as equals in the drug policy reform movement. It has shown that SSDP is a national player that should be invited to the table for debate and dialogue. In addition, the various SSDP chapters worked together as a team and grew much stronger as a positive consequence. We are proud of each other and look forward to creating a stronger student movement in Mexico!