Filming of Philadelphia used in Mexican anti-drug PSAs

The Mexican government is using videos of homeless people and drug addicts outdoors in the besieged neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia in a national advertising campaign to try to keep young people off drugs.

The spots never identify the city or neighborhood shown. But it’s not clear how or why the Mexican government decided to use US street scenes to scare Mexicans, who have their own drug problems. Critics say the ads recycle drug scare tactics rather than offer help or treatment.

Jesús Ramírez, the spokesman for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, proudly presented the series of announcements on Tuesday. But Ramírez did not respond to repeated requests for comment on where the government obtained the Philadelphia videos or why they used them.


The use of the videos, in addition to raising concern about Philadelphia’s image, or whether the people being filmed had given their consent, raised doubts, in part because Mexico is the source of most of the fentanyl sold in the United States.

In a commercial presented Tuesday titled “Crystal” (meth), a Spanish-speaking narrator says, in a voiceover over scenes of addicts squirming or squirming along trash-strewn Kensington Avenue, “Crystal (meth) finishes you off quickly. , takes away hunger and fatigue and causes hallucinations and psychosis.

The Philadelphia mayor’s office acknowledged the drug problem but said it is not limited to one city or neighborhood and noted that all people are capable of “hope, healing and resilience.”

“The opioid and overdose crisis in Philadelphia is part of a national and even international epidemic, and we agree that it is important for everyone to understand, as this video notes, that all street drugs now carry a high risk of overdose. due to the extreme prevalence of fentanyl, “a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“That said, it is always difficult to see the people and neighborhoods of our city portrayed in a limited and negative light. No neighborhood, and no person, should be defined by this tragic and widespread crisis,” they said.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose government released anti-drug PSAs using Philadelphia footage as a scary tactic.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose government released anti-drug PSAs using Philadelphia footage as a scary tactic.
(Photo AP / Fernando Llano, File)

Philadelphia is discussing solutions to the overdose crisis – Kenney supports proposals for supervised injection sites – as the number of overdose deaths continues to rise, reaching 1,276 deaths last year.

Another Mexican commercial depicts scenes of drug addicts or homeless people collapsing or standing unsteadily in Kensington, which can be identified by transit signs in the videos.

“Now the narcos are adding fentanyl to hook you from the first time you use it. Fentanyl kills,” says the narrator in Spanish. “It’s 50 times more potent than heroin. Two hundred people die every day from using it. Don’t risk it!”

However, fentanyl use remains relatively low in Mexico – almost everything is exported to the United States – while there are many methamphetamine and crack users.

Only one of the government’s anti-drug commercials, one focused on smelling glue, used recognizable Mexican street footage. Other scenes show people wearing sweatshirts that say “California” and “Barcelona”.

“These are terrible advertisements; they are really terrible,” Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope said. “They are poorly thought out, poorly produced and are the result of bad public policy. There is no public health message there.”

Instead of offering help, hotlines, advice or treatment options – which are almost non-existent in the public sector in Mexico – Hope said she repeated the most aggressive US drug-fighting tactics of the 1980s.

“I don’t think these ads are aimed at users, at risk young people,” said Hope. “I think these are aimed at a wider and much more conservative audience who viscerally rejects any kind of drug use and whose moral buttons you want to push, to generate moral terror.”


López Obrador, while declaring himself to the left, has actually been “deeply conservative” on issues such as drugs, abortion, family and women’s rights, Hope said.

Quetcy Lozada, elected on Tuesday to represent the Philadelphia City Council district which includes Kensington, said the area includes many hardworking families who want to stay and make things better. But the advertisements and frequent media attention only attract more users and onlookers to the streets – and more trouble, she said.

“Philadelphia has so many great places and so many great people, it embarrasses me that this is the kind of footage that is used,” Lozada said. “(it’s) just not acceptable.”

In a TV commercial called “Crack,” the narrator says, in a voiceover with street scenes in Kensington. “Taking crack damages the brain and heart and causes anxiety and paranoia.” The ad quickly follows homeless scenes, apparently shot in a nearby park.

Kelly Garant, a Philadelphia au pair care coordinator for a nonprofit organization, helps people struggling with addiction, as she once did, get medical and other services.

“They are actually in a state of crisis, and being exploited when they are so vulnerable is simply not acceptable,” Garant said. “You don’t know whose mother, father or brother it is.”

In years, he said, they may have their lives back on track again, but the images may still be out there, for their children, friends and co-workers.


Addiction, he said, “does not discriminate.” It is only less visible in other neighborhoods.

“In other parts of the city, people overdose in their homes,” he noted. “If they talk about drug campaigns, there are people who take drugs inside their homes and we can’t reach them.”