Poet Profiled in Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” Javier Sicilia and Other Drug War Violence Survivors from Mexico & U.S. Will Conclude Cross-Country Journey in Washington
Washington, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—September 10, 2012. On September 10th, the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity will arrive in Washington, D.C. on the last stop of its 25-city journey across the United States to call for an end to the failed drug war that has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The drug war has led to more than 60,000 murders in Mexico in the last five years and incarcerated millions in the United States at a cost of over $1 trillion in the past 40 years. The Caravan’s ultimate goal is to help bring an end to that war by urging alternatives to drug policies and sensible regulations of the U.S. gun market, among other critical changes.
Led by poet and movement leader Javier Sicilia, profiled in Time Magazine’s 2011 “Person of the Year” issue, and others from Mexico and the United States that have lost loved ones in the drug war violence, the Caravan for Peace is a bi-national effort of more than 100 U.S. organizations and more than 50 Mexican organizations. The Caravan has traveled more than 6,000 miles through dozens of cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York. (See this Reuters video about the Caravan’s New York visit.)
“We have traveled across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war—and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both our countries,” said Javier Sicilia, the poet-turned-activist and Caravan leader who galvanized the movement to end the drug war violence in Mexico after his son, Juan Francisco, was killed last year. “Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible.”
Over the course of the past year, Sicilia’s movement—the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad, MPJD)—has traveled across Mexico to some of the most dangerous areas of the country, including Ciudad Juarez and the Mexico-Guatemala border. Throughout Mexico, courageous families who have suffered drug war violence have come forward to tell their stories, often at great personal risk.
The MPJD launched the current Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity because few people in the U.S. understand the role their government plays in fueling violence in Mexico. U.S. consumption of illicit drugs stimulates drug production and trafficking in Mexico, while current drug policies, rather than reducing drug use or supply, have created a vast and destructive illicit market that finances organized crime. The Mexican government’s strategies to combat drug trafficking, funded by the United States, have only intensified the violence while causing or contributing to gross violations of human rights. Weak regulation and lax enforcement also make the United States’ gun market a paradise for Mexican drug traffickers. Thousands of guns trafficked illegally from the United States end up arming violent drug cartels in Mexico.
Javier Sicilia, prominent Mexican poet who started the Movement for Peace; other family members and victims of drug war violence in Mexico; and national and local organizations that are supporting and accompanying the caravan, including the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Latin America Working Group, the Drug Policy Alliance, Global Exchange, the NAACP, Presente.org, and Law Enforcement against Prohibition.
The Caravan will be in Washington, D.C. from September 10-12. During their visit, they will participate in a number of activities and meetings with government officials and community leaders.
Please click here to view the full schedule of events.
Tuesday, September 11
Press conference (following major Fast and Furious Congressional hearing)
Javier Sicilia, WOLA, and other Caravan participants
Lutheran Church of the Reformation
212 East Capitol Street
Wednesday, September 12
Vigil and closing comments by Caravan and DC area allies
Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park (16thand Euclid Streets NW)
For more information, please consult the websites of the Caravan for Peace and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity
The Caravan for Peace is on Facebook, Twitter (@CaravanaUSA), and Flickr and can be reached at [email protected].
CNN.com, A father’s plea: End the war on drugs, By Javier Sicilia, Special to CNN, September 10, 2012 – http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/opinion/sicilia-cartel-killed-son/index.html?hpt=hp_c1
- Mexican poet Javier Sicilia’s son and six friends were killed by drug cartel hit men
- Sicilia gave up writing and started a movement for peace and an end to war on drugs
- Sicilia: 60,000 slain since war on drugs began in 2006, with no end to drugs
- Sicilia leading a peace caravan in the U.S. to end the drug war ravaging both nations
Editor’s note: Javier Sicilia is one of Mexico’s most highly regarded poets and the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. His son, Juan Francisco, was murdered last year near his hometown of Cuernavaca. The Movement’s Caravan for Peace crossed the border at San Diego on August 12 and will arrive in Washington on September 10. Follow on Twitter @caravanaUSA
(CNN) — Why was my son murdered? He was 24, and he had never tried drugs. He didn’t even smoke. He had paid half his university costs with a sports scholarship and was working as administrative staff at a cardiac clinic in Morelos, Mexico. Why then was my son suffocated by hit men from the Gulf Cartel? Why did his six friends, just like him, die at his side?
The answer, you may tell me, is obvious. “Because drug traffickers are bad, and must be stopped.” The answer, however, is not that simple. If it were I would not be leading a caravan for peace across the United States. Let’s pose the question differently. If Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon had treated drug abuse as a question of public health rather than a matter of national security, might my son and his friends still be alive today? If instead of declaring war on drug trafficking, Calderón had pursued a bilateral agenda with the United States to decriminalize drugs and regulate their use, is it possible that they and tens of thousands of other young people killed in the last six years would be still be with us?
Declaring a war obliges one’s enemy to build up defensive armies. And if the principal tactic of that war is identifying and taking out crime syndicate leaders, it leaves their decapitated, but ever profitable, organizations adrift. President Calderon went on the offensive against cartel “capos.” The result was a proliferation of criminal gangs.
My son, Juan Francisco, and his friends were kidnapped, tortured and killed by one of those new splinter gangs, who did the hit for just $25,000 and two pickup trucks.
Why? One of the young men killed with my son had complained about a theft in the valet parking of a bar that turned out to be managed by one of the criminal gangs untethered after drug lord Beltrán Leyva was killed and his lieutenants scattered. “Comandante H,” a former Beltrán Leyva confidante, was recently apprehended by authorities, telling his captors, “I was quite outraged when they murdered Sicilia’s son and his friends. Murdering innocent people is not our business. Our business is drugs. But I was fleeing, and I could not do anything.”
The horrific story of my son and his friends is one of thousands like it in our country. More than 60,000 people have been killed and 20,000 have disappeared because of the myopic war strategy Felipe Calderon and the Mexican security forces have pursued since 2006. Some murder estimates are even higher.
That is why I stopped writing poetry and took to the streets with thousands of other grieving Mexicans to make my son, and other victims like him, visible. Now, I’m traveling across the United States with members of dozens of families broken by violence to seek common cause with Americans whose communities, especially the African American and Latino communities who have so warmly hosted us, that have been battered by the violence and the criminalization that this same counterproductive war inflicts on the U.S. side of the border.
The path of peace must be taken by both our nations in concert. We know that President Calderón would not have declared his war without U.S. sponsorship, money and military advice.
Drug traffickers would not be able to fight this war without the high-powered assault weapons which, legalized in the United States, now flood over the Mexican border. Drug lords could not afford their wars without massive illegal drug profits and collusion by international banks to launder their money.
Forty-plus years after U.S. President Nixon declared the drug war, it is time to concede it hasn’t worked any more than alcohol Prohibition worked back in the 1920s.
This is why, after traveling in two caravans across Mexico and, talking twice with President Calderon on live television, our movement of war victims called for a caravan across the United States. We started in San Diego on August 12th and we will end in Washington, D.C., on September 12th. With each mile traveled, we seek to raise awareness and spur the good conscience of the people of the United States, while reframing the issues of war and peace on the bilateral agenda of Mexico and the United States. We implore the governments of Mexico and of the United States to accept co-responsibility for ending the disastrous drug war.
We’ve been encouraged by the warmth and breadth of support we’ve experienced on our journey, from thousands of Americans, including grieving moms who’ve lost their children to drug addiction and top cops who have decided to speak out against the destruction wrought by prohibition. Yet even as we are carried forward by the momentum of this fresh dialogue, another voice echoes.
Every time I close my eyes I see my son’s gaze moments before his death. He is afraid, very afraid, and behind his fear I hear a horrible question. “If drugs were legalized, and there were no weapons, would I be here, just about to die? Go, dad, leave all your things behind and tell everyone that this war is destroying more people than the drugs themselves. Tell them that no prohibition is worth the death of any person. Go tell them that we need to find peace, so that no other father will have to see his son die like this, and no son will again suffer what I am suffering.”
This is why we have come to the United States. If we do not make peace together, we will never find it.
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