Keeping Youth Away from Drugs
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“Keeping Youth Away from Drugs,” Liahona, Feb. 2008, N4–N5

Keeping Youth Away from Drugs

As a parent, what can you do to keep your children away from drugs?

Julio Guarteche has answers, and he is in a position to know—he is the head of drug enforcement for the country of Uruguay. He has seven children of his own, and he is also first counselor in the bishopric of the Montevideo 18th Ward, Montevideo Uruguay West Stake, so he has ample opportunity to work with young people. He has had plenty of time to think about drug problems. His list of helpful ideas for parents comes quickly and easily:

  • • Set a good example.

  • • Spend time with your children.

  • • Have a real dialogue—not a monologue, a dialogue—with your children.

  • • Give children many genuine expressions of love.

  • • Offer children frequent expressions of appreciation for the good things they do.

  • • When it is necessary to correct children, do it with love.

His advice to youth, as one who deals with the issue at close range, is this: “Don’t ever try drugs. They may have pleasurable effects at first, but they hide terrible consequences.”

Brother Guarteche’s official title is Director General of the Suppression of Illicit Drug Trafficking [Director General de Represión del Tráfico Ilicito de Drogas]. He holds the rank of chief inspector in the national police. He has been a police officer for more than 30 years. It seems to be a family tradition; his father and brothers have been police officers too.

In pursuing his duties day to day, Brother Guarteche uses a tool not often associated with police work: prayer. When there is an operation planned, he prays that none of his officers will be hurt. He even prays that the person or persons they plan to arrest will be safe. So far, things have gone as he has asked.

Sometimes inspiration can come in police work. Once, for example, he had spent many difficult hours questioning a man who was a suspect in several murder cases. Finally, Brother Guarteche went home to rest, but at home he received the strong impression that if he would return to the jail immediately, the man would be ready to confess. He returned, and the confession came.

There is a passage of scripture, Brother Guarteche says, that embodies “all the best forms of police investigation”—Helaman 9:26–36. It is the passage in which the prophet Nephi tells a skeptical group how to identify the murderer of the chief judge. The passage teaches that investigators must ask the right kinds of questions, observe the reactions of the suspect, and examine the evidence at the scene. Finally, Brother Guarteche indicates, it does not hurt to be worthy of inspiration, as Nephi was.

His work is with him almost 24 hours a day, it seems. He oversees the pursuit of drug-trafficking operations that reach into faraway areas, including the United States and Europe, and involve hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and property. So in the face of pressures from his job, how does Brother Guarteche keep balance in his life? “My first priority is always my family,” he says, and smiles as he explains, “I tell people I’m the father of seven and in my spare time I fight international drug traffickers.”

The pressure of his work, among other things, has forced him to try to organize his time better. “I can only say that God blesses me. There are certain things in life I have only gotten through because the Lord has helped me,” he says. He gives the credit for success in his work to an excellent staff.

He would urge any parent to consider priorities. “Many times we occupy ourselves with giving our children material things, but those are not the most important things we can give.” Every day when he goes home, he says, his seven-year-old son is waiting to play chess with him or to have an impromptu game of soccer in the hallway of their apartment. His children range in age from early 20s down to 2.

Dealing with evil at close range every day, is it difficult to keep his testimony strong? “No, I think it’s much easier,” he answers. Day after day, he sees plainly the need for living the basic principles of the gospel. He cites honesty as an example. “We are not made to lie,” he says, then explains that when we lie, we start a chain of emotional reactions we cannot control. Criminals always give themselves away one way or another. When we do not lie, we do not get into trouble. Brother Guarteche advises, “Always tell the truth.”

Those who don’t live by truths of the gospel always pay a price, Brother Guarteche says. He sees this clearly in his work. “To use biblical terms, drugs curse everyone who touches them.” As with other addictive substances or material, no one can produce, transport, sell, or use drugs without personally suffering some physical or spiritual loss. Even the most successful drug traffickers, he points out, “live inside cages of gold.” They must live with constant fear and suspicion and the knowledge that everything they value can be taken away from them in an instant.

The only reliable way to have peace in this life and the next is to live obediently. “Humanity would be completely different if everyone lived the principles of the gospel,” he says.

Julio Guarteche, head of drug enforcement for Uruguay and a member of the Church, offers ideas to parents on helping their children avoid drug problems.

Photograph by Don L. Searle