Remarks of Javier Sicilia to the Mexican National Congress at Chapultepec Castle
The Poet Cited Ezra Pound: “When a man betrays his word, or his word is worth nothing, or that man is worth nothing.”
By Javier Sicilia
Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Mexico
July 30, 2011
Mister and Madame legislators, compañeros and compañeras with the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, compañeros and compañeras of civil society:
Before starting this conversation, we want to begin, as we have done in all of these conversations, with some verses, this time from María Rivera:
“Here they come, the headless, the handless, the chopped up
Those whose coccyx was broken
Those whose heads were smashed
The little ones crying…
Here they come, those who sleep in buildings, in clandestine tombs:
They come with blindfolded eyes, hands tied, shot between the temples…
Here they come, the dead, so lonely, so mute, so much like us, joined under the sky of Anáhuac,
To scold us.”
In the name of our dead, of our pain, and the darkness that Mexico is going through, I ask that those present stand and take a moment of silence.
Here we are again, in Chapultepec Castle, after walking thousands of kilometers and embracing each other in order to break the loneliness and the pain which the criminals and a negligent state – co-opted and corrupt – have together imposed on us against the truth in our hearts that is peace and friendship. We have come here again, leaving our families, jobs, and carrying heavier loads than we can bear, in order to, as we did with the President, speak and remind you that despite the immense salaries that you earn, which are from the work of the good men and women in this nation, you have a duty. We don’t like it being like this. But a long time ago the lawmakers of this nation, in the name of their own petty interests and those of their political parties, in the name of their privileges and their business, in the name of bad ideas from the government, have moved away from us. The state, we remember, isn’t as it was conceived by the culture that left us with the old regime that you continually expand as a criminal education. It is not a place for political looting or a place for contractors. It is that which the nation has been building with the blood and the pain of its best men and women, a place for statesmen. The lawmakers don’t listen to the rhythms and the heartbeat of the country. They, joined by the criminals and other powers, seek to hijack the democratic aspirations and the hope for well being from the nation.
You have done it through omission, ignorance and complicity. These things exist because you have not stopped them. Your premises, the newly opened Senate and the House of Deputies, are the architectural expression of your isolation. It is a bunker of power that prefers to turn its back on the citizens and gaze at itself in a mirror of your ambitions for legislative paralysis and political manipulation, which turns electoral processes into a big business for a few, and into a cruel game of illusions for the citizens.
Despite this, we have come again to the Castle, where the empire of those who were wrong to believe that foreign arms would solve Mexico’s problems resides today, but it is also a place where young people defended their homeland and where the El Salvador Peace Treaties were signed, a symbol of the hope that brings us here today with the best will. But there are also deep doubts that you are really listening to us and are committing yourselves to Mexico. We say this not only because it’s already been mentioned, but also because we have been witnesses to outrageous acts committed by lawmakers—acts that in other countries would have had different outcomes, with adherence to truth and justice. Over time, you haven’t done anything more than use words in a humiliating way, that is to say, a demagogic way, with the most recent case being the way in which you have betrayed citizens’ demands for political reform. With that, because the Word is sacred, this creates a deep distrust among the citizenry. A quote by poet Ezra Pound should be the subject of meditation, not only for you, but for every human being in the nation, “When a man betrays his word, or his word is worth nothing, or that man is worth nothing.” It’s both things, dear legislators, because the Word and the man are the same.
However, as we said, we come with good will. We are convinced that, beyond the people, interests and parties that you represent, beyond the fair reproaches that we make to you and the serious doubts from those who tell us that these conversations do nothing, we are convinced that you, as we told the President, can hear – in this full democratic exercise – your human heartbeats.
That’s why we repeat to you what we’ve been left to repeat ever since we began walking: that this country, our Mexico, is living in a national emergency. What we’re demanding from you is not only a change of attitude that is consistent with democracy – that is to say, power from the people and citizens – but also an extraordinary and humble effort to stop the nation from being plunged into irreparable social chaos.
The violence that the country is living with and the violence that has stricken millions of families is a co-responsibility of the three branches of government. You know that the war undertaken by President Calderón is illegal, costing us, according to figures, 50,000 deaths, more than 10,000 disappeared, more than 120,000 displaced, and leaving Mexicans with insecurity and fear. The call for the intervention of the armed forces in public security matters forces the presidents to ask for the authorization of such a sovereign act. He didn’t and that violated the constitution. But you, Mister and Madame legislators, who have the power to stop him, also violated it not only through your failure to exercise your powers and obligations, but also by appropriating a budget for the Armed Forces to fight this war. You are also co-responsible for our dead and our pain. Not only for what has been said, but for many other things. How much time have you taken to respond to those who have known about the kidnappings, torture, crimes and disappearances of our Central American brothers for years? Why have you tolerated the rotten National Institute of Migration, which has been eroded by the tentacles of criminal groups and doesn’t bring forward the painful voices of Father Solalinde and others, the voices of pain and complaint? Why haven’t you driven the private sector and academia to identify areas with the greatest social risk, and together with the citizens of those areas worked to avoid the crime that has taken hold of children and adolescents, turning them into victims? Why haven’t you confronted, in a comprehensive and citizen-driven way, the advances of criminal groups and their accomplices with the police and authorities in the districts, municipalities and states that you represent? Why, in the face of our children and young people – who have been destroyed by your policies and denied a future – have you not increased money for education to open up more tuition and cut down on the long lines of thousands of students who can’t get places in school and universities? Why, when confronted with this national emergency that the country is living in, have you not made a national agenda that would be at the service of Mexico and avoid the upcoming elections that are, as they have already been announced to be, elections of shame? Until now, you have only been political operatives to political party interests and not as you should be the moment you assume responsibility as legislators: servants to the people. For you, education, culture, science, life in the towns and the neighborhoods, citizen participation in state matters and the tragedy of the victims in the war have only been priorities that are not from the heart but are rather about public expenses. Instead, they have been and are about your political parties, your onerous and corrupt elections – and we call them your elections because they do not belong to the citizens. You only see the votes you can obtain and the wasteful and corrupt ways that you can collect them. They are also the weapons, the violence and the sumptuary works that accommodate you.
In the face of this reality, but with the knowledge that you have a great responsibility that your humanity and your position as legislators should assume, we didn’t come here for you to tell us that you are not responsible, that the fault belongs to other parties or to the executive or judicial branches. Nor did we come here to listen to party positions, but rather we want you to be accountable to the nation and to history for the first time, and tell us once and for all if you’re going to choose peace or war.
Here on this premises we have twenty victims and thirty members of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity from different civil, academic, intellectual, journalistic and artistic organizations that advise the movement. We all represent not only the murdered, disappeared, raped, and tortured of this country – real victims with names, last names and faces – but also a metaphor from Mexico for other millions of victims: those shattered by the wrong economic policy, the children and young people whose present has been ruined and future denied because of this policy, those who make up the majority of both innocent and guilty victims in this war. They are the shattered, those who have seen – in the name of a global economy and the interests of money and death – their lands, their families, and their relationships of mutual support devastated. They have been thrown into unemployment, to begging, to immigration, to neglect. Because of this economy all citizens have seen our air, our water, our trees, and our nature shattered. In the name of them and of the justice that we are demanding, in the name of this co-responsibility that you also have in this war and this pain, we are coming to first recognize the debt that you have as representatives to the people to ask for forgiveness from the victims and the entire nation that you have not defended or represented with dignity.
Second, we demand that you stop the National Security Law that you are seeking to pass and that you replace it with another, working together with the citizens. The law that you are seeking to pass violates the civil rights and freedoms described in the Constitution and it confirms the dishonor by controlling the corruption and inefficiency of the institutions with the imposition of a military and police state. We can’t allow democracy to be given up to authoritarianism or chaos. Accordingly, neither can we allow peace to be surrendered to war in order to conserve the political parties and the patronage plums that betray the country. We are demanding that you, on the side of the people, embark on a path to peace while recognizing your mistakes, without turning what has obviously been a serious mistake into the norm. That is why we are striving for a Security Law that guarantees security and full respect for civil liberties and human rights first, a Security Law that understands security from a citizen perspective, one that takes into account not only the real opinions of communities but also one that gives attentive and intense social protection to the groups who are the most vulnerable to the violence and co-option of crime: young people, women, immigrants, campesinos, the unemployed, marginalized urban dwellers and addicts.
You’re wrong to think that the war today will lead us to peace tomorrow, those of you who believe that this war, which has taken thousands of our children, should go on for more years. No war functions in abstractions; it can’t comprehend the death of any of our children. As Gandhi said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” And that is why we are demanding a Security Law that establishes conditions for that, a law that, as we said, works for peace with justice and dignity and not the one that has been promoted from the executive branch and seeks to institutionalize a war that will multiply the victims and the suffering, a law that would approved by you to be a clear step backward in the exercise of liberties and human rights in our country, a Security Law that also contemplates the design of alternative citizen-based strategies with support from the state that is in agreement with the needs of each place to rebuild the social fabric and lead to the gradual withdraw of the Army from the streets, a Law that contemplates the creation of mechanisms to legalize certain drugs and reduce their demand and harm, a law that creates democratic controls for our police like with the federal police force’s Independent Police Auditor, a law that focuses on people and not institutions and contributes to establishing and defining a state policy on security – putting clear limits on the arbitrary use of force and discretionary decisions when using state resources, a law that, in accordance with sovereignty, is approved upon the constitutional reform of human rights, establishing not only guarantees of democratic checks and balances, but also guarantees that security forces of any kind will always act like any public servant, inside the framework of the law that establishes and motivates their actions, a Law that will give balance and participation to different powers in decision making.
The clearest evidence of the need for this Law comes in the recent statements by the Secretary of the Navy, who accuses human rights defenders of attacking the image of his institution and being at the service of crime, thereby putting them at greater risk. The discussion of this law should be parallel to the urgent design and implementation by the legislature of effective and efficient mechanisms to protect human rights defenders and journalists in the country who suffer serious attacks or live under serious threats, with it even becoming international concern. The discussion of the Security Law should also be parallel to the approval of a legislative framework that gives autonomy to public ministries.
Additionally, Mister and Madame legislators, we are left to insist that the humiliation that thousands of Central Americans that live with in our country is absolutely disgraceful, to the extent that before the eyes of the international community, what is happening with them is seen as a tragedy, which together with what Mexicans are living with seems to take on the dimensions of a Holocaust.
Third, because peace also implies justice and truth, a task we must do together is the drafting of a Victim’s Law that considers access to justice, damage reparation, and comprehensive care through a national program for victims, which besides including different levels of government also includes a public fund for this purpose in accordance with international standards and jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Similarly, it goes against a power that is always afraid of the truth and the inability of the justice and human rights system to determine responsibilities regarding the victims of this war.
This Law should pay special attention to those groups that are the most vulnerable: children, orphans from the war, people threatened for demanding justice, women victims of the violence, and young people who in this shameful century are forced to join the ranks of the criminals. You are obligated to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like was established in Colombia, to register the 50,000 murders that took place in our country during this current administration in order to validate a right to the truth, to tell us the names and the stories of those who have lost their lives, those who were disappeared, those who are being threatened and displaced from their communities, clearly establishing which victims died in this war against organized crime, who the innocent victims of crime were, who lost their lives at the hands of security forces and in what conditions, be they criminals or innocent citizens. This Truth Commission – your excuses for not creating it are only excuses masked in fear – should be managed by independent citizens with proven moral integrity and human rights defenders, who are officially established by the Legislature and provided with the technical and financial resources to do their jobs. These kinds of commissions have been an important tool in humanizing and repairing the damage, through different peace processes not only in Latin America but also in Africa and Europe. They light the way to justice, recognizing the victims, reconciliation and coexistence.
Fourth, because we have children and young people, with this war and the wrong economic and social policies destroying the earth and stealing the peace, we demand that you limit the National Union of Education Workers machine of manufacturing votes and complicity, and we also call for the protection of autonomous development and relationships of mutual support in towns and neighborhoods. Our children and our young people must have a broad range of options to choose from, to live their lives freely and exalt our nation. We can no longer accept or allow that the future of our children and our grandchildren be in immigration, misery, death or violence. What we have done to them is unbelievable, inhuman, and criminal. It is unacceptable that the state doesn’t guarantee the right to an education and that thousands of young people can’t follow their dreams because there are no resources.
In this national emergency that we live in, we demand that the Chamber of Deputies approve enough resources in the next budget so that all young people throughout the country can study for their high school diploma as they so wish, and be given reassurance if they are willing and able to do university studies.
Fifth, because peace and democracy cannot live without deep citizen participation in government work, we demand an in-depth and immediate Political Reform that has repercussions on electoral processes. Until now, you Mister and Madame legislators, shut away as political party operatives in your bunkers instead of being citizen representatives, have refused to approve a law that gives the bare minimum of participation to citizen-backed candidates and citizen initiatives. In addition to that, the country needs to be saved from the deep erosion of legitimacy that keeps our institutions and pays for this atrocious war that we are fed up with. It needs a process to recall elected officials, to have plebiscites and referenda, that ballots have a “none of the above” option, a limit to official immunity, a reduction in money to political parties and electoral campaigns, and broad, collective and inclusive actions. These instruments that you have denied and kidnapped from us and the country are, with current circumstances, fundamental and suitable ways to remake the lost vitality of our institutions; they are the best weapons – not made as pistols, machine guns and bullets, but as votes of common sense – that we could have as a country to overcome the violence, insecurity and corruption that lives in our institutions. Reform could be approved in special session if you had the political will and public responsibility to do so, making it a part of Article 105 of the Constitution. It would help Congress to be held accountable to the public and would turn members into what José María Morelos, with his deep wisdom, called “servants of the nation.” Society, despite what you believe and seek to do, is not an adjective. It is the active subject of political life and the state’s responsibilities. Without it, you and any other power are not possible. Give us the participatory instruments to continue. Otherwise each time more citizens will withdraw their support for elections and you will remain in absolute illegitimacy.
Sixth, because peace cannot be created at the cost of the unfair and corrupt competition that we have grown accustomed to from you, and since you won’t take the responsibility of having civil candidates and an agenda of national unity in this national emergency we are living in, we demand a transparent system of accountability for the positions you take as legislators throughout the electoral process .
That’s why we need to together design an autonomous mechanism of citizen participation that is not connected to the Federal Electoral Institute and its miserable interests, which day by day destroy the possibility for lawmaker activity in elections to be transparent to all of society. (Sometimes you really believe that the citizens are idiots, but you haven’t been able to name three new commissioners in months.)
If you don’t authorize these spaces for us then in the next elections we will have a disgraceful government that will again manage the challenge of organized crime and divide the country among the powerful, politicians, cartels and the armed forces. We the citizens will be left exposed to the violence when the pact is broken or requires rearrangements.
Your responsibility is immense. If you despise it, or are not up to it, or if you allow particular interests to go above those of the country, you will have gone down in history as the face of moral decay. Kierkegaard, the father of existentialism who never allowed himself to fall into the traps of any power, once wrote on behalf of humanity that, “Nothing, no error, no crime is so absolutely repugnant…as everything which is official; and why? Because the official is so impersonal and therefore the deepest insult which can be offered to a personality.” Your commitment, Mister and Madame legislators, is to the human beings in this country, not to procedures, other interests, or ideological and partisan declarations. You must choose between damnation or conversion.
Next you will hear some testimonies from the victims that make up the Movement and who represent thousands throughout the country. You will also hear a presentation of some legislative proposals, some of which are bills that we are asking you to support. We are also insisting on some pending legislation. We are aware of your role as the state and that’s why we have come here, searching for a demonstration of what the legislature and civil society, accompanied by experts, can achieve in defining common goals and reaching mutual achievements to benefit the country.
We simply must see in the Chamber of Senators and the paradoxically named star of light, which due to the costs they inflict are an insult, are the misery in which half of the population lives, inside a bunker and a monument to the darkness and the closed ineptness toward the citizenry, without windows to the city and where you turn your backs on us so that, in our name, you can go negotiating personal and partisan privileges.
Translated from the original Spanish by Erin Rosa for Narco News.
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