One hundred and ten victims of violence from Mexico and human rights activists traveled thousands of miles, caravanning in 2 buses to visit 25 cities across the United States to urge communities from Los Angeles to New York, Tucson to Montgomery to help them stop the horrific violence that is afflicting their families and their country. The Latin America Working Group was proud to join with Global Exchange and other partners to host this historic caravan as they ended their journey on September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Let’s Listen to the Message, a New Approach to Drug Violence
Melchor Flores held a picture of his son, who was a street artist who dressed up in silver paint and entertained crowds in Mexico’s plazas. His son was known as “the galactic cowboy.” Shortly before he disappeared, he had been picked up by police in Monterrey. “We have knocked on all the doors, the Attorney General’s office, the police….” Relatives of victims in Mexico are doubly affected, because President Calderón and other government officials have dismissed their loss, saying the victims must have been involved in the drug trade. “I did not raise a criminal,” says Melchor emphatically. “I raised a good man.” When Javier Sicilia, a renowned Mexican poet, lost his son to drug violence, he wrote an open letter “To Mexico’s Politicians and Criminals,” in which he blamed the criminals for their “cruelty and senselessness,” and the politicians for their violent, corrupt and ineffective response. “The citizenry has lost confidence in its governors, its police, its Army, and is afraid and in pain.” His response catalyzed a vibrant victims’ movement in Mexico, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Victims are demanding justice for their sons, daughters, husbands and wives, and respect and sympathy, rather than blame, for their loss. They are also asking the Mexican government to take a more constructive approach to the problem of drugs, not a brute force approach that leaves more victims in its wake. “Mexico is in a state of emergency – and companies and governments of both countries must take responsibility for their complicity in causing this damage,” the Caravan’s website states, “Leaders on both sides of the border are responsible for the fallout of treating the sale and use of illicit drugs as a matter of national security instead of addressing it as a public health matter. This approach, carried out in Mexico by institutions that fail to respect the rule of law and have been permeated by organized crime, has resulted in our governments’ failure to protect their people and defend their rights.” In Sicilia’s letter to politicians and criminals, he told his government that “we have had it up to here because you only have imagination for violence, for weapons.” The movement calls on the U.S. government to end military aid to Mexico, and to have the imagination to think of responses to insecurity and violence that do not increase militarization, but rather strengthen justice and build communities. Finally, the movement calls for a humane approach to immigration, rather than policies that have militarized the border, criminalized migrants, escalated deportations and cruelly deported vulnerable migrants at night back into the hands of organized crime. “Our loved ones have names, they have mothers and fathers. They are not collateral damage. They have the stories of our lives,” we heard the victims say in the halls of the U.S. Congress. We need to hear their stories, and then do something to change the policies that have brought violence and sorrow to so many families. Let’s get on board the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Originally posted in Latin American Working Group