The Mexican government has been using footage of the streets of Philadelphia in an anti-drug advertising campaign. The footage, which showed homeless people and open-air drug users in the neighborhood of Kensington, sparked concern over whether the video was filmed with consent and whether or not the campaign is truly aimed at drug abuse prevention.
Kensington is a small, low-income neighborhood that has struggled with drug abuse for a considerable period of time. Its population has made up a non-negligible portion of the city’s drug overdose deaths, which in total stood at 1,214 people in 2020 according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
While Kensington does suffer from an opioid and overdose crisis, the question remains as to why the Mexican government used footage from the neighborhood in their domestic operation. Spokesman for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, refused to comment on the matter, according to ABC News.
“Now the narcos are adding fentanyl to hook you from the first time you use. Fentanyl kills,” the narrator says in Spanish. “It is 50 times more potent than heroin. Two hundred people die every day from using it. Don’t risk it!”
Fentanyl use in Mexico, however, remains relatively low, while Mexico is reportedly the source of the fentanyl coming in to the U.S.
Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope said that the ads reinforced aggressive drug policies without offering any treatment options or resources for those struggling with addiction.
“These are terrible ads; they’re truly terrible,” Hope said.” I don’t think these ads are aimed at users, at youths at risk, I think these are aimed at a wider and much more conservative audience that viscerally rejects any kind of drug use and whose moral buttons you want to push, to generate a moral terror.”
The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office offered some comment on the situation, simply saying that “all people are capable of hope, healing, and resilience.”
The content of these advertisements is clean-cut. The above ad contains footage of homeless people with a voice-over discouraging the watcher from abuse of illicit substances.
In scenes depicting the streets of Kensington, the narrator states that “Taking crack cocaine damages your brain and heart and causes anxiety and paranoia.”
While Hope claims that the advertisement campaign doesn’t provide any true help or solutions, a copy of the advertisement posted to Twitter by Cuevas shows text at the end that roughly translates to “Lifeline” with a phone number.