A candidate for Connecticut's U.S. Senate seat drives to Mexico for a campaign stunt

Ya gotta give Sylvester Salcedo credit: it’s not every Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate who’d drive 2,000 miles to stage a campaign stunt in a Mexican border town where litter problems can include severed heads.

Salcedo made the trip last week precisely because of the body parts that can turn up around Laredo Nuevo. Or more specifically, he went because our 40-year-old War on Drugs has turned Mexico and Latin America into combat zones where dismembered corpses have become sickeningly commonplace.

“Everybody [here] realizes the War on Drugs needs a different approach,” Salcedo said in a telephone interview Friday as he crossed back into the U.S.

Salcedo said he drove for 40 hours to get to the border in south Texas, and then about four hours in Mexico talking to local civic and religious officials. “Everybody was very receptive,” he said.

He’s completely honest about the fact that this journey of his is all about getting some publicity for what his long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate is all about.

“The way I look at it, in conventional political campaigns, the key is money, organization and message,” Salcedo said. “I definitely don’t have the organization; I definitely don’t have the money; but I think I can overcome that just with my message.”

This former Navy-officer-turned-lawyer argues Connecticut voters should care about the failed War on Drugs because, “It is our insatiable demand for drugs and the money we pay for drugs” that’s fueling the insane violence. In Mexico alone, more than 47,000 people have been killed since 2006 when that nation’s leaders began their effort to stop the drug cartels.

Federal statistics show drug use in the United States is about at the same level it was when the War on Drugs was declared in 1971.

Salcedo insists that stopping futile federal and state efforts to halt drug sales and use will free up billions of dollars we now spend on law enforcement and prisons. It’s money that can be better used for education, housing, and health care, in Salcedo’s view.

“We have political candidates in Connecticut … who want to ignore the whole issue of the war on drugs,” Salcedo said.

Salcedo argues that Connecticut voters who complain about paying too many taxes should be very concerned about the huge sums of taxpayer money being spent to try and stop the flow of drugs across the border and to arrest, prosecute and imprison American drug offenders.

He insists that legalization of drugs in the U.S. would “starve the beast” of the criminal cartels that are making billions off the illegal trade. “If we legalize it, we can manage it, control it,” Salcedo said. Right now, he added, “you’re giving control to the underworld.”

The seat Salcedo’s running for is now held by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a long-time Democrat who alienated so many in his own party that he ended up running and winning as an independent six years ago.

Salcedo is waging his outsider’s campaign against some tough opposition. The top contenders for the Democratic nomination are U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, both of whom are running well-financed, well-organized, traditional operations that Salcedo can’t hope to match.

As a former naval intelligence officer, Salcedo says he was well aware of the potential dangers for a U.S. Senate candidate (even a long-shot like him) traveling unaccompanied in Mexico these days. Salcedo spent some of his military career in Colombia at a time when that nation was inundated with drug cartel violence.

“Obviously I’m concerned,” he said before he crossed the border. “But I’m not going on a suicide drive in Mexico.”

And, as it turned out, he says he had no problems at all in Laredo Nuevo.

“It was great,” a very satisfied Salcedo said upon his return to the U.S.

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