Let me start with some verses by Thomas Merton: “[…] The whole world is […] on fire./ The stones/ burn, even the stones they burn me./ How can a man be still/ or listen to all things burning?/ How can he dare to sit with them/ when all their silence is on fire?”
Because the world is on fire on account of this war against drugs, because the silence of the dead of this war is burning and begs us to rise and stop it, and demands us to name them with the love, peace, justice and freedom that we owe them, I ask for a minute of silence.
It was in this city, 49 year ago, that a great American that I have followed as a guiding light throughout my life delivered one of the most beautiful speeches on freedom. This speechnot only meant a light of hope for the millions of African-Americans whom the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had betrayed. It also meant, along with the civil conflicts that preceded it, the fulfillment of what a significant portion of the white people of the United States owed them and still owe them in many places: “their inalienable rights to life, to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Constitution which laid the foundations of democracy, not only was the legacy bequeathed by the Founding Fathers to this nation, but was also passed on to Latin America and the whole world before even France. Unfortunately, as happened to the African-American population in the United States we, as Latin American citizens, have experienced the betrayal to this heritage, which becomes evident in how these flawed American policies have engendered the dictatorships that have taken over our countries. And just as the African-Americans, we have also been forced to set forth and conquer and defend what the Fathers of this nation, when embodying the Enlightenment, had offered of good to the world: democracy and freedom.
Nonetheless, when we had already reached this through suffering and struggle, and we were just starting to embody after much pain the foundations that the Fathers of this nation wrote down in 1787, President Nixon declared a worldwide war against drugs and in this way has betrayed for over 40 years the principles of the architects of the republican democracy.
Today, under this war, all of us, Black, White, Latin, Asian and European alike are being subdued by crime, the corruption of the governments, the abuse of power, racial segregation and the destruction of democracy and civil rights. What should have been addressed as an issue of public health has been equivocally treated as a matter of national security and its consequences, as happened in the United States during the war against alcohol in the 20’s, have torn Colombia apart and are now tearing Mexico and Central America apart, spreading as a gangrene through the rest of the continent and the world.
Forty years after the declaration of this war, the consumption of drugs that you wanted to eradicate has not decreased, but we bring in our hearts and with ourselves the murdered sons that would have never consumed it. We bring our disappeared children that never approached a dealer. We bring defenseless orphans and widows. We bring young people – children of misery, because the Mexican government and that of other places of Latin America allocate more American money to the promotion of war than to social programs – that have found shelter in the crime and have ended up butchered. We bring immigrants that, because of the exacerbation of racism that this war has brought with it, are treated as criminals or disappear in Mexican territory as victims of crime and the corrupted migratory authorities. We bring Black, Latin and White people whose families in the Unites States are now defenseless because their parents are serving a prison term because they were convicted for the possession of a few grams of a drug. We bring thousands of displaced who have lost their homes and even their homelands. We bring thousands of victims whose rights have been violated by the army.
We bring a country filled with fear in which the civil rights are lost day after day.
Behind each one of the American addicts that consumes drugs in an act of freedom; behind the American firearms that legally supply our armies and illegally supply drug traffickers; behind the money laundering of your banks, is a war that President Nixon declared and which the American administrations that followed him have continued. Behind the bovine compliance to this war by our governments, there is not only our dead, our missing ones, our displaced, but also an increase of racial segregation in the United States, an increase of criminality and corruption within the governments worldwide, which is putting culture and democracy in danger.
For this reason, after traveling thousands of miles through Mexico and the United States, we have come here as Dr. King and the African-American communities did 49 years ago, to cash a check.
When the Founding Fathers of this nation wrote the Constitution, they signed in some way a promissory note of which not only Americans but also the whole world would be heirs. But with this war against drugs that you have established you have unfulfilled it once again. Instead of honoring the word of your Fathers, you have betrayed them when telling us through this war that this was nothing but a dishonored check. But we refuse to believe that the Founding Fathers of democracy were mistaken; we refuse to believe that the Constitution that they signed, defended and gave to the world is dishonored. That is why we have come this far with our fatigue, our dead and our suffering to cash that check and ask you that, for the love of your Founding Fathers and the civil freedoms that they bequeathed to the world, you put an end to this war and make this check effective, this check that, as Reverend King once said, “will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice” that this war has taken away from us.
We have also come this far to remind the United States the pressing and impetuous duty it has to put an end to drugs and the need it has to shift its scope on drugs towards a public health, human security and citizenship oriented policies, along with robust social programs that come forth from communities and neighborhoods themselves. You cannot tell us, as I have heard many white Americans say, that the problems and the pain that this war have let loose in Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the neighborhoods of the United States are only a concern to Mexicans, Central Americans, Colombians, Blacks and Latinos. They are mistaken; it is a shared matter that finds its origin here, in this city, in the White House. That is why we have come all the way here to tell you that the moment has come for us together to make the conquests of democracy possible, now is the time for us together to make possible the necessary changes in order to validate the words of the fathers of the democratic republicanism; the time has come for us to set as a priority of the American governments and the governments of all the world the path of peace that will enable us to lift ourselves from the quicksand of crime, of violence, of injustice and the temptation of authoritarianism that this war has engendered as a way of life and we can therefore advance toward the “solid rock of brotherhood.”
Despite the pain that this war has inflicted upon us, we have not turned our suffering into a motive for hate and defeat. We have transformed it into love and an extended search for peace. But if you do not take our path and remain untouched by the urgency of this moment, arguing that this is not a business of yours, you would have then left us alone and one day this suffering will eventually reach you too.
We know, however, that you won’t. We know from all the nobility you hold from your Founding Fathers that you won’t abandon us, that you will choose the path of peace and justice with us, and that you will demand this from your government, just as we have done with ours.
Because of this, just like Martin Luther King and the thousands of African-Americans who 49 years ago gathered here under the shade of Abraham Lincoln, we also have come this far, amidst our fatigue, sufferings and battles with a dream that takes root from the dream that more than 200 years ago was put into words by the architects of democracy.
We dream that we all together, White, African-Americans, Latinos, Europeans and Asians, will stop this war and will save democracy and the civil rights that crime, the corruption of the governments and the lords of money and death are destroying because of this useless war.
We dream that in Ciudad Juárez, Tamaulipas and Morelos, that in every single corner of Mexico, Central America and Colombia, that in each and every single neighborhood of the United States no son, no daughter, no father, no mother will be slaughtered, kidnapped, disappeared, butchered in the name of this absurd war, and they can all walk free and assured through the streets of their homelands.
We dream that drugs, which have been part of humanity in all its stages and times, and which the market has turned into indiscriminate and unlawful consumption, are subdued, as once alcohol was subdued in this country to the unyielding laws of the market and the control of the governments, so their use, which is part of our freedoms, is regulated and the money produced by it serves as a way to generate social programs.
We dream that the governments around the globe will thoroughly hunt money laundering which extortion, kidnapping, human and organ trafficking generate, and that their confiscations serve to limit and punish crime and to compensate the victims.
We dream that President Obama or the government that follows him sets limits to extermination guns and their illegal traffic, and also saves not only our country from violence but also from the deep gun culture that pervades the United States, a culture that is being shamed by the corruption that this war has generated.
We dream that the borders will be shut for firearms, dirty money and illegality, and will open instead to everyone so we can sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I dream that my daughter and my grandson will be able to come back to Mexico some day in the future, knowing that no one will kill them as one day they killed my son. I dream that all those who have been displaced by this war and are absolutely defenseless will be able to return to their homes with their families while being assured that nobody will harm them.
We have a dream.
We dream that one day the Mexican United States, whose president in a servile way sustained this war against drugs and has not ceased spitting words of spite against victims, will become with the new president in a place where victims find justice and where young people who are dying because of this war or are becoming part of the reserve army of delinquency, can count both on a human and worthy present and future.
We dream that no immigrant, no pauper African-American will be criminalized, scorned and segregated anymore on the grounds of the prejudice that this absurd war has engendered.
We have a dream.
We dream that together we will be able to save democracy and give it a new and deeper cause, that of a democracy that sets the dignity and freedom of human beings above any kind of interest.
This is our hope. This is also the faith with which for a month we have traveled through the American territory and we are now heading back to Mexico. With this hope we light up a candle in the darkness that surrounds us and we expect, waiting in hope, that many others lighten up until this light finally overcomes the shadows.
With this faith, Reverend King taught us that we can work together and defend peace, which is where freedom and good spring from.
This is why today, this day when we have risen because we could not tolerate any longer to see how the whole world is on fire, we ask you to ring out peace and freedom from the whiteness of Washington, to ring out peace and freedom from all the poor neighborhoods of the United States, to ring out peace and freedom from the deserts of Ciudad Juárez and Tamaulipas, to ring out freedom and peace from the ravines and towns of Morelos, to ring out peace and freedom from each city in Colombia, Central America and Brazil.
When this peace and this freedom that we have brought with us ring out in each country, in each neighborhood, in each city, we will then have found again the path that this absurd and criminal war has made us lose.