Caravan for Peace Calls for End of Mexican Drug Violence

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A group of activists are traveling across the U.S. to protest the way the Mexican government has handled its war on drugs. The “Caravan for Peace” will journey 6,000 miles by bus and on foot and visit 25 cities to call for an end to the violence that has left 60,000 people dead and another 10,000 missing since 2006.

The Caravan for Peace kicked off at Friendship Park in San Diego near the Mexican border. Its final destination is Washington, D.C. The group has chosen to take its message to America because the U.S. DEA, CIA and the Pentagon have supported the use of Mexican armed forces in the war on drugs. Recent attacks on Mexican newspaper offices and the kidnapping and murder of journalists has made the Mexican press wary about reporting on the violence, which may be another reason why the activists are taking their message to cities in America.  Attacking the drug culture in Mexico is complicated by the fact that the violent cartels are glorified by many.

The breakup of the powerful Columbian Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s led to the growth of equally powerful cartels in Mexico. The Mexican drug war is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting for regional control. Mexican armed forces are part of the conflict, focusing on dismantling the cartels. The U.S. government is also involved in an effort to slow the stream of illegal drugs that crosses the border from Mexico. The Congressional Research Service reports that the majority of illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine now enter the U.S. from Mexico. javier Sicilia activist in war on drugs

Led by poet and novelist Javier Sicilia, the Caravan has been staging protest marches throughout Mexico since 2011. Following the death of his 24-year-old son Juan Francisco, who was murdered by suspected drug traffickers when he was out one night with friends, Sicilia formed a group called Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. In May of 2011, the group organized held a rally in Mexico City that was attended by more than 200,000 people. Related protests were held in over 30 Mexican cities and in other locations around the world.

Protesters are calling for the removal of Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Genaro Garcia Luna, Secretary of Public Security. Organizers of the Caravan for Peace claim that instead of eradicating Mexico’s drug trade, corruption in Mexican law enforcement has benefited drug traffickers and led to an increase in money laundering. Caravan organizers also claim that the death toll has risen since Mexican authorities launched a military offensive against the drug cartels.

The Caravan for Peace will include about seventy Mexican activists and relatives of drug war victims. About thirty American will also join in the journey through the South, Midwest and East Coast. According to Sicilia, “We will travel 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.”