Calling for justice for their murdered or disappeared loved ones and peace for the nation, family members representing just a fraction of the 40,000 individuals who have lost their lives since President Calderon initiated his militarized crackdown against organized crime, crisscrossed Mexico in a week-long, 1,550 mile Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity. The caravan arrived at its final destination on Friday, June 9th, in Ciudad Juarez–a city dubbed the epicentro del dolor (epicenter of pain) by caravan leader Javier Sicilia, a Mexican writer and poet whose own son 24-year old son was brutally murdered earlier this year.
Victims are too often framed by authorities as mere statistics or collateral damage. Or, they’re blamed for being involved in drug trafficking themselves, such as when President Calderón has publicly stated that 90 percent of the victims are linked to organized crime. The caravan has served as a catalyst for countless Mexicans— from Morelia to Saltillo to Chihuahua – to courageously speak out and make their voices heard, putting a name and face on the devastating and widespread pain inflicted by the failure to halt ongoing bloodshed.
Once in Ciudad Juarez, victims’ family members were joined by hundreds more representing a broad cross-section of Mexican civil society joining together to work towards the creation of a pact that would chart a common agenda for peace and justice forward for this burgeoning civil society movement. Building on the framework released in May, discussions covered demands, tactics and strategies to rebuild the social fabric and reform failing institutions in Mexico. Topics included justice for victims, citizen security, respect for indigenous rights, the economic roots of organized crime, the development of alternatives for youth and other measures to reconstruct the social fabric, and an end to militarized strategies, corruption, and impunity. Although there is clear consensus on many issues amongst groups engaged in this burgeoning national peace and justice movement, other aspects are an evolving work in progress. For more details, see Kent Paterson of Frontera NorteSur’s great coverage of discussions here.
A pivotal moment for this growing movement will take place this morning (June 23) when Javier Sicilia, close advisors from the movement, and victims’ family members will engage in a televised public meeting with President Calderón at 10:00am Mexico City Time (11am Eastern; 10am Central; 9am Mountain; and 8am Pacific.) To view the meeting live, click here.
A posting from Global Exchange summed the challenges and opportunities for this meeting well: “This meeting represents a major milestone for the growing anti-war movement in Mexico. It is a moment of opportunity and peril. The opportunity is for the movement to speak directly to the Mexican public about the atrocities inherent in the current drug war model and the urgent need to change it. The peril is that the vast public relations machinery of the presidency could paint the moment to win Calderón points for listening, while ignoring the movement’s challenging call for deep change and reform of Mexico’s failing institutions.”
Whatever the outcome, it is unequivocal that the people of Mexico have courageously made it loud and clear that they demand a new strategy that will lead to justice and an end to bloodshed.