Why They Are Marching Against Drug War Violence
Mexican Citizens, In Their Own Words
By Erin Rosa
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
April 10, 2011
The mass marches that rocked Mexico last week made history, and in Mexico City attendees made their demands clear: no more violence, no more “war on drugs,” and no more militarization. With numbers reaching 20,000, the people marched from the city’s Bellas Artes palace to its central plaza in the zócalo. Like with any large group, there were different ideas and goals. Some talked about a vague notion of “peace,” which they thought would come with a better “strategy” for the drug war. Some thought the violence was due to Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s failings as a leader, and wanted another politician to take his place. Others said they would love to see Mexico start a revolution like Egypt. Despite the differences of opinion, after interviewing dozens of attendees, it was evident that everyone shared a tangible resentment towards the current Mexican government and its drug war.
Mexico City marchers on their way to the zócalo. DR 2011 Sarahy Flores.
“I’m here because I’m sick of so much blood,” said Silvina Silva, who came to the march after hearing about it on the radio and television. “It’s impossible to go on like this.” The marches became big news in the country after Mexican journalist and poet Javier Sicilia called for people to come out into the streets on April 6
to protest the drug war violence that has left more than 40,000 people dead since Calderón took office. On March 28, Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco Silvia, was found dead outside of the town of Cuernavaca, about an hour from Mexico City in the state of Morelos. Juan Francisco was one of seven victims found shot and gagged in an abandoned car on a highway, according to the state Attorney General’s office. The marches took place in North America, South America, and Europe, with the largest happening in Cuernavaca—50,000
people made it the largest march in the history of the town and the state. “I think it’s a useless war,” Silva said. “The narcos
have been here all of my life. In Europe there’s a lot of trafficking, but not so much death.” When asked what the solution to ending the deaths was, she thought for a moment and then said, “It’s hard to tell. Because when it comes to society so many young people are being turned into killers, for example. Where do you go from there?”
On Facebook, the march was titled “40,000 pésames. Marcha por el cese de la violencia en nuestro país. (40,000 Condolences. The march to end the violence in our country),” and went viral, gaining hundreds of followers each hour. Others heard about the march by word of mouth. Fernando Morales Hernández, 16, decided to come to the march after he heard about it from a group of friends. He hadn’t heard of Javier Sicilia. “Mexico’s a beautiful country, but it’s a country with a lot of violence and problems,” he said, while holding a sign that read Ni uno más! (Not one more!) “I think that all Mexicans feel that the time for patience is already over.” Standing next to him, Alfredo Muñoz, 17, said he was fed up with seeing people his age killed in drug war violence. “I’m saying no more to this. It’s not important if young people are killed. When it comes to the issue of security with us, well, our system of security, the police, how are they making it better? Because many of them are corrupt.” Both Fernando and Alfredo are from Mexico City. When asked if they or family members had been personally affected by the violence they said “Fortunately, no.”
Alfredo Muñoz and Fernando Morales Hernández DR 2011 Joshua Eichen.
Since Calderón began his “war on drugs,” Mexico City’s reputation as one of the most dangerous areas in the country has rapidly changed to being one of the safest; it’s a place where both the narcos
and the political class can shelter their families, away from the shootouts and kidnappings that are now occurring on a daily basis in other parts of the country. Because Mexico City is a federal district, the law is supposed to prohibit the military from performing law enforcement duties within city limits. For the most part, they’ve stayed out. As recently as a few months ago soldiers were spotted in the south of the city, decked in combat gear with the stated purpose of looking for drug trafficking suspects. It’s no secret that if the Army enters the city, the gun battles and murder scenes that have plagued towns like Cuernavaca will follow. In this way, the city provides a shining example as to how military policing operations have increased the violence: the safest place in Mexico right now is the place without an Army in the streets.
Even though many city dwellers are not directly affected by the violence, that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned. Everyday, Mexico City residents watch and listen to the media as it reports on the grisly details of Calderón’s war—the parents whose children are murdered or disappeared, the public display of mutilated corpses—each story confirming that the bloodshed is getting worse, and worse, and worse. “I’m already sick of so many people being killed for no reason,” said Andrea Torres, who attended the march with her sister, Margaret. When asked why they came, Margaret said,“I’m here to support an idea that I have in common with all of the citizens. I’m a part of them. It’s that we’re tired of this silent war and not being able to do anything to help ourselves or the people that are dying.” When asked what was the solution to ending the violence, Andrea immediately responded “Education and legalization.” Why? “Education, so we aren’t making little narcos, and legalization to put an end to the quantity of drugs that are here. Maybe, like that, legalization can be a big step to ending all of the violence.”
Santiago Mora Van and Toumani Camara show their T-shirts. DR 2011 Joshua Eichen.
Legalization, while not the universal response as a solution to ending the violence, was discussed by attendees. Right before the marches, Sicilia called for legalization
and to treat the consumption of drugs as a public health matter. Santiago Mora Van and Toumani Camara, who were there with their family, wore T-shirts that said “Legalize Drugs” and “Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Mexico” in Spanish. “We agree with Javier,” said Mora Van. “One of the primary factors of narco trafficking is that the only way to end this is to take away the value of it. I don’t think we can keep waiting for more deaths.” Along with the theme of legalization, another word that found its way into the march was “egiptazo
,” a word that means many different things to different people, but roughly translates to doing what the Egyptian people did in Mexico. When asked what usage of the word was supposed to mean, Camara said “I think it’s about sending a message that we’re tired of the violence…It’s about creating ways to find a solution, since we think that having the ‘war against drugs’ is wrong.”
Francisco Diez paused when asked what egiptazo was. “It could be that…it is referring to us going out into the streets to take out the politicians, so that we find a way to change the policies of the government we’re against.” Diez said. “I would really like for the country and society to listen to what’s happening outside so they’ll support us.” Gabriella Torres, who was standing next to Diez, said “I don’t think we’re socially prepared for what that implies… We forget things. This is not the first time that we have seen violence.”
Maria Teresa Tovar DR 2011 Joshua Eichen.
“This morning Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna said it would take seven years for all of this to end. How many more are going to die in seven years?” said march attendee Maria Teresa Tovar. “Already a lot of young people are being killed. The majority of them are very young. They are kids that turned bad because they don’t have work, they don’t have school, nothing…They don’t want anyone to say anything. They want us to keep quiet about what is happening.” Both Maria Teresa and her daughter, Alejandra Salas, said that legalization could be one of the best options for Mexico. “It’s a problem that has always existed. It’s a war that is in the end a business, no? In this war the narcos
are always benefiting economically.”
These mobilizations come on the heels of the Mexican media’s controversial proposal to censor any negative news about the “war on drugs.” The unprecedented size and scope of this week’s protests against that war indicate that, like the militarized drug policy itself, the strategy is not achieving its intended result.
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