|English | Español||December 11, 2013 | Issue #67|
The Importance of Journalism and Communications to Social Movements
Remarks of Javier Sicilia to the School of Authentic Journalism, March 27, 2012, in Mexico
Javier Sicilia with another talisman added to his collection: the credential and press pass of the School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2012 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky, Narco News.
It’s important, when new movements spring forth, that there be a strong concentration of media attention that can put everyone’s eyes upon what might not be important to the logic of the media industry. In our movement it was really very important because there was a lot of media attention when it was born. And one of the first people who realized this importance was Al Giordano. I remember when we were working to see what steps we were going to take, we were meeting in an important center for different community organizations in Cuernavaca and people called me and said, “Al Giordano is looking for you,” and I came out into the garden and there was Al Giordano and Gringoyo (Gregory Berger) with a camera and a microphone… Al told me: You have to begin to speak here where I am standing because we are going to spread your message. Perhaps the first strong and interesting media message for the movement – there had already been others – was with Al Giordano, who began to move the life of the movement in the alternative media.
I think that the press attention was important because without it the huge demonstration of May 8 would not of have been possible. The media focused on the movement and upon me and began to multiply and unite a message that had been disperse, and this allowed many people to converge with the movement and its demands.
I didn’t think that the movement was going to have this convocational ability and after the large march in Cuernavaca we announced that we would leave Cuernavaca on May 5 to walk toward Mexico City in a long walk with the Mexican flag in front as a symbol of national unity and that “we have had it up to here.” I remember doing an interview with Carmen Aristegui and she told me, “Javier, all the media is paying attention, but what will happen if it just ends up being you and the flag that arrive in the capitol?” I told her that I have never been a media obsessed person, I have a certain reluctance of the media, and that the question of how many arrive in Mexico City was not important. What was important was that the truth arrives. And if I have to arrive alone, it will not damage the truth I bring. The truth continues being the truth.
I thought that I would arrive, if not alone, with just a small group of victims and conscious men and women who take responsibility for the pain that covers us in this country. But the media had done a job of concentrating attention on all this and what we found in Mexico City and in many parts of the Republic where people also marched were thousands upon thousands of people understanding that this is a national emergency. It is the humiliation of the nation and a disregard for everything human through the criminalization of the victims. The movement is strong but unfortunately the media coverage began to disappear. We stopped being important to them after our Southern Caravan in September 2011. We stopped being news for them to report and we went from communicated to incommunicado in the thousand ways to describe this pulverization by the media. And it seems like that is the importance of the media because for many people they saw the lack of attention as a sign the movement was losing strength.
If you are not shown in the media, in the world of communication that leaves us all incommunicado, its seems that you then cease to exist. But what have maintained this movement are the forms of communication that don’t involve television or newspapers but, rather, the alternative media and social networks. Another great journalist Epigmenio Ibarra, who reported on the movement in its moment just as he did with the Zapatista movement, said to me when we where halfway toward Mexico City in the march, “Don’t worry. If those with power have the media, we have the networks.” And networks are what have kept this movement in the consciences of many people, the social networks and alternate forms of communication.
Let’s not forget the precedent that was created in the dialogues of Chapultepec, in the first meeting with President Calderón, it was very difficult to get to the castle and sit down with the president. It was him that asked for the dialogue and we told him, “Very well, but it should be in the open, in front of the nation.” They began to get nervous and told us, “okay, but we control the signal, there is always a closed-circuit TV signal here for events of this nature,” the government controls that monopoly and you all know how it manages the power of media. They make all public meetings look boring and guarantee that nobody watching knows what is going on. It’s the front pages of the newspapers that do the talking and the front-page rules.
So, we said, “no, we want our narrative,” and they got more nervous. “What do you want as a narrative?” they asked. “I want Epigmenio Ibarra with four cameras, plus the media credentialed by you, the daily Reforma, La Jornada, but I also want all the alternative media that accompanied the caravan present.” They then got worse than nervous. They said, “no way, that would break all the protocols.” I told them, “It’s very simple. We will go to the castle and if you come, fine, and if you don’t show up, that’s fine, too.” They had to accept, and that was very important, because something unprecedented in this nation happened: The alternative media and Epigmenio Ibarra attended together with the official media and that obligated the commercial media that are very controlled by the state to report at the level of freedom of expression that is the trademark of the alternative media.
That’s why your presence and formation is so important, and it will be important when we travel with the caravan in the US that you accompany us as you did in the caravans in the south and north of this country. It is you who obligates the mass media to cover an event important to the life of this nation, that it’s about peace, justice, drugs, the arms war, that this is causing so much pain to us as it is to North Americans. Thanks to my reluctance with the media I think I have learned about how the media can work and the importance of attracting their attention. And I think that the work you do obligates the media controlled by those in power to turn their attention to us again and again and not disappear. I think now is an important moment and it’s great that you are working in it, with the movement, on the question of the movement, because the Mexican elections have erased us from the media spectrum and we can see, once again, this column that we have formed between the State and crime, which is the victims.
And what you can see now in the newspapers is the frivolity of the elections and on the other hand the tearing apart of this country. And in the middle of that, nothing, nothing that we have done, nothing of the demands, and nothing of what we have tried to weave together to save the nation. That’s why it’s important that during these frivolous elections, we turn our attention to the tearing asunder of the country, the problem of the victims and what we call the political content of this struggle. The speech we made on May 8 in the zócalo of Mexico City so filled with people, we said it clearly and it was forgotten: “If you do not clean the ranks of your political parties, we won’t go to the ballot box. If you don’t clean up and steer this country in a new direction, all that awaits you are the elections of infamy.” We’ve now come to that point and nobody remembers the content of that speech.
It would be good to remember that the six points that we read a year ago to break this abyss have not been complied with and that’s why these will be the elections of infamy and the citizenry, as we said then, has to ask itself not for whom it is going to vote, but, rather, which cartel it will vote for. That is the reality we are living in this country. It seems that this breach has been erased and one can follow in the official media, in television, what we warned about a year ago. That’s why the work you are doing is so important and what you can do to return to make visible what the media only represents today as an empty space.
Anyway, that’s what I wanted to say to you in relation to the importance of communications for the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. I would have liked to speak with you more about the movement but I think you have already worked on that during these intensive days. Therefore, I think we can now open up a space for questions…
PAULINA GONZALEZ (Los Angeles, California, US): (In Spanish). I will speak in English; it’s easier for me. (In English). We’ve heard a lot about the fear by the people. In North America we hear a lot about Mexicans who are very concerned about their families in Mexico. Can you tell us a little bit about how in the movement people are overcoming their fear and how the movement helps with that?
JAVIER SICILIA: I think what the movement has given the victims is precisely the security to be in a community that worries for them and that has broken what the state and the criminals did, which was leave them in solitude, in impotence and in disregard. We could also perceive this in the great march from May 5 to 8, the people lost their fear and it was the government that began to be afraid. And when a government begins to fear its citizens that’s called democracy. When it happens in reverse and the citizens are afraid of their government, of its uselessness, which is what we have here, it is a sign that we are entering a chaotic totalitarianism.
“If you are not in the media, in the world of communication that leaves us all incommunicado, its seems that you then cease to exist. But what have maintained this movement are the forms of communication that don’t involve television or newspapers but, rather, the alternative media and social networks, Sicilia told 80 journalists from six continents during the School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2012 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky, Narco News.
That’s when Julian LeBaron, one of the leaders of the movement, a Mormon who held the Mexican flag throughout the caravan, a Mormon from Chihuahua whose brother had been murdered, detected what was going on and he said from the stage, “Are there any murderers here? Raise your hands. Are there any rapists? Raise you hands. Are there blackmailers? Raise your hands.” He went on mentioning these kinds of crimes that are committed and after various minutes of taunting them, they began to leave the square. Then Julian said, “You see? When we are united, they don’t find a place among us.”
That is what the country needs, to lose fear and go out into the streets anew and say that we are not disposed to accept the intolerable.
ANDREW BEALE (Albuquerque, New Mexico, US): Hi. As we all know the US has big role in the drug war. What do you think that the US, both its government and its people, needs to do so that the movement can achieve its goals?
JAVIER SICILIA: I think there are three very important things. The first is, legalize drugs, or consume your own drugs, because ours is costing us a high price. The consumption by North Americans of drugs that come through Mexico is costing us, the Mexican people, and a lot.
In second place, demand that your government controls the flood of weapons into Mexican territory. We know that the North Americans have a culture that we don’t understand, which is in the use of weapons and the possession of firearms is a freedom in the Constitution. For us, I think for the whole world, legalized weapons truly are a matter of national security whereas drugs are not. Drugs are a matter of public health. But for the North Americans and the Mexican government drugs are a national security issue and the weapons are not, they’re a legal business in the United States. The way these two things are inverted is killing us. That is what the North Americans can do, to become conscious of what the prohibition on drugs and the legalization of weapons that pass freely into Mexico are doing to us.
The third thing is to pressure your government to end Plan Merida (Washington’s policy that finances the drug war in Mexico), because Plan Merida is giving a lot of money to the country to fill it with legal guns, among them the illegal weapons that arm organized crime and the legal ones that arm the police and the army. The Mexican people are in the middle, and we are being murdered.
Pressure your government so that Plan Merida and its money will not be destined to weapons but instead to the reform of the Mexican state and the reconstruction of the social fabric. Those are three things that the North American people can do to influence its government.
ANDREW STELZER (Oakland, California, US): This week we’ve been talking in the School of Authentic Journalism a lot about how to organize a community and a movement. So I’m wondering what you have learned in the past year about organizing people and a movement. What works and what doesn’t work?
JAVIER SICILIA: The truth is that I have no idea. I’m not a politician nor someone who belongs to organizations, nor have I worked with any kind of organization. I’m a poet and the movement was born perhaps from a poetic inspiration. And around this inspiration many organizations came together and many citizens took to the streets, many people who have never been militants in any cause, they are everyday people. So, I’m surprised. I don’t know how all this has been organized but that, yes, it does have an organization. And that is part of its novelty. It’s that it is a corps of victims made visible. From this body came two legs, one that walks toward mobilizations, and the other that goes toward political dialogue. Pressure and dialogue, this worked very well during the first stage of the movement. We mobilized and we held dialogues when we weren’t mobilizing, and the dialogues stopped happening and the two legs began to separate and now we are in a moment of bringing them back together. But that is a metaphor; it’s not an organization. It’s a metaphor for how I have seen this movement move.
I think there are people who understand this better than me. I think that Al Giordano is a man who is expert in these kinds of things and he can say more interesting things about how a movement is organized. And others who are part of the movement and made it possible like Pietro Ameglio, who is part of the organization, or Emilio Alvarez Icaza, in the matter of the dialogues on the political level. There are people prepared for that who understand it better than I, because I can’t begin to understand it. I continue being moved by my intuition and by the motives of my heart.
LAURA GARCIA (Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico): I have a question about how this movement is perceived in the North of the country, because I was surprised a lot when I said to my activist friends in Monterrey and Chihuahua that I was going to cover the movement. I found a lot of apathy and a lot of disillusion. And it worries me because it’s a duplication of efforts and, really, we’re all seeking the same thing. And I’d like to know your options regarding that and if there is any kind of plan or strategy to unite forces.
JAVIER SICILIA: What I could see in the two caravans is that there are two Mexicos. There are many, really, but clearly there are two. The North is an atomized world. It is a world where individualism has found a place, a world that has broken its social fabric and people there are alone. When we passed through the North, not as many people were inspired to get on stage and tell their stories.
They were very afraid. The got more animated when they saw the care and attention the five hundred of us who were in the caravan were showing them, and in Monterrey the square was practically deserted. In the South, to the contrary, we found much better social fabric and organizations that were a lot stronger. When we went entering indigenous Zapatista territory, the fabric was even stronger and criminality much, much lower. When we arrived to Zapatista territory, I told the bodyguards that came with us, “You can’t enter here, you know?” And these men who had been very nervous in Durango and Monterrey said to me, “You all can relax, and we can, too. Here we are safe.” What am I trying to say with this? That societies that prioritize progress and competition, like Monterrey, like the entire state of Nuevo Leon – we have to remember that in the logic of neoliberalism, Monterrey is the model – are what they say the whole country should be like. But when they fell into disgrace the atomization destroyed them, they are left all alone. In contrast, when you see the regions of high social fabric like that of the Zapatistas, that in the logic of neoliberalism shouldn’t exist, that is what we cannot be. We found stronger, more dignified, more human societies there, and that should cause us to think.
Today in Monterrey we have achieved, with CADHAC (Citizens in Support of Human Rights), the construction of a movement of victims. “Lupa” is its name and we have pressured the prosecutor’s office strongly on the cases of the disappeared. In the North we have to construct more social networks, more social fabric and more community.
LEAH HENNESSEY (New York, New York, US): Thank you. This is a question for you as a poet. In writing this movement, do you feel that you have been able to keep making creative and inspired decisions freely? Or do you feel you’ve been thwarted by the rational expectations by political people or organizers? And if you have been able to keep acting through inspiration, how have you managed to do that given the enormous pressure?
JAVIER SICILIA: Well, a poet, being a poet, is not a profession. It is a way of being and of seeing. Although I have stopped writing poetry since the murder of my son, I have not stopped seeing nor feeling nor speaking like a poet and I believe this has been important in the movement, in the poetic narrative of the movement through its gestures and way of speaking. Poetry is always complicated for politics, because politics is unilateral and poetry is always pluralist. It breaks the order of the unilateral and permits the substantial to be present. I believe that has been part of the force of the movement and part of my way of being and continue being. It is also part of the critiques of us because it is difficult to read a poet.
But we have to give importance to the poetry of inspiration and not lose it because the large social movements have tended to detach themselves from the unilateral nature of power because they always had a spokesman who was a poet; Zapatismo and the Movement for Peace. The force of the Zapatista movement has been in the poetic ability of (Subcomandante) Marcos, who knew how to translate what is human politically and detach from political power.
Something like that has seemed to happen with the movement and I think a poet can’t lose himself because it is not a profession. It is a way of being, of seeing and of feeling, and that is difficult for politics to coopt.
ANAID CAMPOS (Mexico City): Hi Javier. Many thanks for being here. I would like to ask you, one year into this movement, what do you think are the successes you have achieved, however small they might be?
JAVIER SICILIA: Well, the most important thing is the movement made evident what should be evident, that the victims are human beings. They have names, a story, and families. They are not statistics. They are not collateral damage. They are human damages that speak of the horror of the nation. Putting human life back at the center of the nation is one of the achievements of the movement.
Sitting down with the president, and with Congressional leaders, with the victims confronting them, happened in front of the nation. That is a triumph. It’s never happened before. Since then the relations between those in power and the people have had to change. We obtained, beginning at that moment, the special prosecutor’s office for attention to victims. It is still a very week office that lacks sufficient budget but it’s a start. We also were able to create a good Victims Law for victims of the violence and we expect it will be debated in the Congress next week. The government wants to make a different Victims Law, one that seeks to minimize and keep it from talking about the reality of the country. It is going to be a hard discussion and we have been able to impede, until now, the National Security Law that would make Calderon’s war legal and would give the Armed Forces terrible powers over all national territory. And against this law we have proposed a Law of Human and Citizen Security. Those are the small successes we have achieved this year.
RICARDO FIGUEROA (La Ceiba, Honduras): Thank you, Javier. My question is what has the government done in terms of public safety to lessen the number of violent deaths? And what demands have foreign nations made, if any, and how many countries have a presence of the movement for peace so far?
JAVIER SICILIA: The government has done absolutely nothing. The deaths increase day after day and the lack of security becomes more profound. The impunity is the same as ever. We have 98 percent impunity in this country. What that means is that if it occurs to us to go out and kill someone there is only a two percent probability that they will arrest us. That’s to say, nothing. That’s why crime is doing what it is doing to this country.
As for other countries, I think this brings us back to the theme that I touched in the beginning. I think the work that the alternative media has done, above all those from other countries, has allowed us to break the media blockade that the government put in place. And the eyes of a certain part of the citizenry in other countries can now see what is happening in our country. Thanks to these alternative media, there is a global network in support of our movement, in Spain, in France, in Holland, in Japan, and they have been fundamental because they have held demonstrations and mobilizations each time we have done something and this is important for us and for the country.
This government cares more about what they say in foreign countries than we can say as citizens of our own country.
FRANCISCO GOMEZ (Santander, Spain): Good afternoon. I would like to ask this: It is evident that there is a structural violence and also that there is a tradition of struggle and organization in Mexico, more in the South than in the North, that shows that the experience of the dialogues has ben disastrous, with lies and promises broken, etcetera, etcetera. I don’t know what your intuition says about what has happened until now and it seems it has been very effective as it drew the path and how it drew the portrait of the future, with a great alliance of social movements, with a bet on the autonomy of communities confronting the state, almost an attitude of civil disobedience toward a state that won’t protect you but does kill you. Because it is crazy enough to listen to those in power and to the people as if they were in two different spaces. I know that they are different, but it is supposed that the people are the owner of this space, of this nation. The question I have is how do we make civilizing change but, at least, how do we take the first steps?
JAVIER SICILIA: Yes, it is a difficult question. I think we go toward organizations that are independent of the state over the long term. I think that movements like Occupy, the indignados of Europe and the Zapatistas, above all the Zapatistas, are the clearest. They speak of this. They are going that way. I think that the tendency of the world is what Gandhi said; villages, spatial federations, national federations. I think it goes toward that. The process is going to be very hard and very difficult if we survive it because the global system will defend itself with its all.
“Without love, one is nothing, not without the moral reserve, the spiritual reserve, one can move but run out of steam. I think that it is the love of you all that has sustained me, that still sustains me. I did not expect it,” Sicilia explained on the one year memorial of the assassination of his son, Juan. DR 2012 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky, Narco News.
I can understand how other social movement that don’t have victims at the center of them but, rather, demands of a much deeper order in the social sense of the word. I can turn my back on the state but not to a movement that has victims at its center that need justice. And only the state can give them that.
BILL CONROY (San Antonio, Texas, US): Good afternoon, Javier. In the United States there is a story that receives very little coverage about the exodus of foreign citizens, above all businessmen and moneyed classes, arriving in the US, especially to the city where I live, San Antonio. It is estimated that thousands of people have moved there in recent years, and this is promoted by the US government in the sense that it offers “green cards” (residency visas) if they make a certain amount of investment in the city where they move to. This then sharpens the pain of the drug war in Mexico even more due to the exodus of resources that Mexico could otherwise use. But I want to know, if the people who leave Mexico represent possible allies for the movement? Or are they part of the problem?
JAVIER SICILIA: I believe they can be allies but they are also part of the problem. Unfortunately, the great majority of the business class is profoundly anti-nation. It works for itself and its interests and this is part of the country’s problem. As en example we have this big businessman named Carlos Slim. It is terrible to have one of the wealthiest billionaires in the world in a country that has 50 million poor. This man is one form of what is the business logic of this country. His telephone monopoly has made the use of the telephone the most expensive in the world. It is a class that has dedicated itself to loot the country and when there is nothing more to exploit they leave. And they are part of the problem. This is terrible, one of our great tragedies, this business class that just like the politicians is not interested in serving the nation but, rather, in using the nation.
Together with those privileged ones who find benefits in the United States and who do damage to Mexico, are other displaced people, many thousands of them. When I was in El Paso, Texas, at the end of the caravan to Ciudad Juarez, I visited a house of exiled people, by good North Americans who give shelter to poor Mexicans who have to run from the violence because they are threatened because their family members have been killed. These beings live in conditions that we all should be ashamed of, in a condition of absolute illegality, unprotected by their country and living in another that if it catches them working it is going to put them in prison or expatriate them, putting back in the center of death. Human beings reduced to a reality worse than that of an animal that is the terrible part of this country that together with these privileged ones are those who are absolutely dispossessed.
MARTA MOLINA (Barcelona, Spain): Thank you Javier for being here and telling us all this. We are saying that the victims are the center of the movement, that the victims are the motive for the movement and that is what gives this movement a different narrative, and also inspired by poetry. What I want to ask you is how has this process been in which victims put down their personal pain and convert it to a common pain? Are you trying to turn this pain into the motor to reconstruct the nation and find justice for their dead and disappeared? There are victims in this movement who are women of an advanced age. We have many examples of these women struggling and becoming empowered during the northern and southern caravans and in the movement’s assemblies, sometimes against the recommendations of their own family members. The question is how has this process of empowerment of these victims gone that has turned them into the first to organize and construct this movement and, later, try to organize others in spite of their pain?
JAVIER SICILIA: I believe that one of the important factors, maybe the most important, is love. It is having hugged them, having dignified them, having you all as people making their pain our own. Our pain is theirs. Then the pain turns into dignity. We are beings of relationships. We are beings that tend toward what we have in common, a society that destroys reason just as the neoliberal society destroys rationality. It destroys the connection. It destroys the person who does not find an echo for her pain. When the movement goes forward and cares for them they find that this pain can be transformed into dignity and they recover their condition as persons.
Persons are made in common, never alone. The individual is contrary to the person. The individual is in vulnerable solitude. The person is a strong being, because he feels embraced by something in common, and this I think is one of the achievements of this movement, to have understood that love transforms the solitary into communion, into strength and dignity. I believe this is how the victims have become empowered. We have here among you all a person, Valentina Peralta (School of Authentic Journalism, class of 2012), who has done a job with this. She could tell you much more than I about this empowerment. She is someone who walks shoulder to shoulder with the victims.
She can say deeper things than I am saying because she is the face of this commonality, a face of the victims that she has been caring for and accompanying. Am I a little bit right, Valentina? More or less, she says.
VALENTINA PERALTA (Mexico City): Thank you, Javier. I would like to ask a question, too. When we think of you, we think in two ways. There is Javier of the peace movement, and Javier the father of Juan Francisco. And sometimes we are at the crossroads of each. I would like to ask you, first, if everything that has happened to the victims in the movement has also happened to you. If it has been less difficult to be part of a greater whole, of many people, or if we have stolen from you the possibility of your individual grieving.
I have another question. I can see that many victims want to come near you. They have in mind that being near you already resolves half their problem. We have seen extreme cases in which they have saved money to be able to travel and arrive at an event that you will attend just to be able to be hugged by you. And once they have hugged you for twenty seconds they go, as if, I suppose, as if they were Juan Diego when he came across the Virgin of Guadalupe. They have told us they are not interested in investigating the murder of their child, they say “I just wanted him to hug me.” At times those of us who make possible these encounters, like I have, we feel guilty, because we have broken your right to be at peace as an individual. We know that if a thousand people hug you and kiss you all at once, they end up killing you. But at the same time we are content because in a few seconds you chanced the life of a person. Is what we are doing correct?
JAVIER SICILIA: Those are very hard questions, Vale. Look, my experience as Juan’s father and part of the movement, I think it is this: I have done my interior work for many years. I had no idea of the consequences if I were to react the way I did. I have never accepted injustice in my life. That’s why I said to Carmen Aristegui that if I had to come alone, I would arrive alone. But I can say that had there not been the love with which I was received, the hugs, the love you have for me, that you all have for me, I think after arriving at the zócalo I would have fallen apart.
Without love, one is nothing, not without the moral reserve, the spiritual reserve, one can move but run out of steam. I think that it is the love of you all that has sustained me, that still sustains me. I did not expect it.
I will speak with a Catholic metaphor, one of my faith. When we speak of grace – that thing that comes to someone freely like a gift of God, it always arrives surprisingly through someone of flesh and blood. This surprise came to me through you all amidst my pain. I’m not sure if I am responding to your question, but, yes, I believe that love empowers. One can sustain and strengthen himself, but love arrives through others.
With respect to the other question, one can have two interpretations, one spiritual and another psychological. When someone becomes a media figure like me, in spite of myself, a kind of sacred aura surrounds one. And then this thing happens and, well, there is another psychological explanation for this… Perhaps there is something in me that I don’t think belongs to me. From that comes grace and love. And something emanates from me, a level of love that doesn’t belong to me, that is part of the grace that I can communicate something true and I can give true consolation that doesn’t come from me, it comes from somewhere else. That would be an authentic consolation. I would hope it would be something like that because if not it is something that will end and be turned off with time. So, it’s okay that you organize it so that I can hug others. I have hugged many people and I have cried with many along this walk and it has been healthy for me and for them because there is a connection of love and if this connection relieves us, well, we have to keep making it.
MARCELA ZENDEJAS LASSO DE VEGA (Mexico City): Hello Javier. Thanks for the inspiration. What do you think is the greatest challenge that we face one year into the movement to continue this process of constructing it?
JAVER SICILIA: I believe that maintaining communion, to not lose sight of the center that is the victims. I believe that at times other agendas of social order cause us to lose sight of the victims and I have noted something when I met with them as part of the movement. Suddenly, the victims began to assure us that the movement is not responding to them and that we have forgotten something very important. We have to put the victims’ demands anew in front of the state. That’s why I think the dialogues are important. That’s why I think it’s important to go to those in power and say, “You are responsible for all this.” And to say to the victims that we are not the state nor are we the guilty parties. We have to return again and again to put that demand at the center of this. If we forget about that, if we don’t keep rearticulating it that way, we could end up with a crisis of internal explosion, of implosion. We have to take care with this because we are all capable of losing the substance of the movement. I believe that there has never been a part of the movement that has understood the importance of the sixth point, which was about political reform. Political reform seems like it has nothing to do with the victims. But it has everything to do with everything: The force of punishment for corrupt bureaucrats, the force of a none-of-the-above vote on the ballot, the force of referenda, this is a force for the victims, too. I had to push this agenda without the movement’s support, and we failed because we did not have strength. I pushed it with the Wallace family and others, who many in the movement do not like. I think if the movement had understood this better, we would have achieved it. We lost sight of the power to impact upon the state. The state is responsible for all of this and this has to do with dialogues and it has to do with pressure.
ELLI ISMAILLIDOU (Athens, Greece): Good afternoon. I’m from Greece and before coming here to attend the School I read about the movement and tried to inform myself well. I work in a large mainstream newspaper in Greece. Before coming I spoke with my coworkers and told them I was going to Mexico. I was surprised when the first thing they asked was “Where? To the beaches? Acapulco? Cancun?” And I told them, no, to Mexico City. They said that there, nine years ago, the son of the Greek foreign minister was murdered there. But don’t worry, they said, he was involved with drugs and prostitutes. You should be fine. And later I began to read what the newspapers had published about it nine years ago. And there was nothing about drugs, no proof of any of that. In other words it was just like the murder cases here in Mexico and I realized that they were blaming the victim. And now that I want to write about these stories that have never been published in Greece I would like to know more about how to fight against this syndrome of blaming the victim, because it’s very complicated I believe it serves to convince people that they are not in danger.
JAVIER SICILIA: Well, it has been one of the constant practices by the government that we have broken win, the matter of criminalizing the victims, a subtle kind of crime against humanity in the sense that if the victims are criminals then they deserved to die and the government isn’t responsible for what happens. For the bourgeoisie mentality – Europe is filled with that – that is reasonable, but if we tolerate it we are on our way to Auschwitz, to the idea the “the Jews don’t count,” that those who die are guilty. We made that visible and insisted that we have to name the victims, show that they are human beings and even if there are victims who are guilty and who kill each other, they are also victims.
Criminals aren’t born. They are made. And they become criminals because a state is not giving them what they need to construct themselves as human beings. Society is not doing what it must to build citizens. And it is important make their cases visible, too, not only those of the innocents, because we have to know what is happening and where they come from. What is happening to the social fabric and how can we stop creating criminals? Crimes should be prosecuted and a criminal can only be prosecuted when he has the status of human being. If not, he is turned into a cockroach and that is where everything falls apart. Anyone who dies has been criminalized so we have to say they are human beings, make them visible, put them in the consciences of the people and say that we cannot accept that criminals kill each other, either. This is a sign that there is not state. One of the actions we have been planning is to collect the names of all the victims and build a memorial with all their names to say that these are ours, something we haven’t done well for the victims. And we cannot allow this to happen. And this can only be done if we recognize the victims as human beings.
ARZU GEYBULLAYEVA (Azerbaijani in Istanbul, Turkey): I would like to ask about the disappointing moments in the movement, because I understand the passion and love that exists in it. Have there been moments when you felt it was over? For example, when you were traveling in the caravans, was there any moment of deception in the movement or among its members? Did any local government attack you?
JAVIER SICILIA: Yes, always when one talks about the beautiful part of communities it seems like everything is a Walt Disney film, but there is always the other side of living in a movement. All of us have a dark side and when we walk together for a long time the arguments, protagonisms, and bothers between people happen. But that’s why we walk together, work in common. We cannot lose sight of love. We have had to be constantly forgiving each other for the bad things we have done to others and that others have done to us. At times this is disappointing but it is also a part of being human, a part of life and of walking together. Every day I understand this in a very concrete way. I wear all these necklaces every day and each morning they are all tangled up together. What that means is that everything that is together ends up all tangled up. We have to learn to untangle them. We have to learn to turn deception into pardon and strength to be able to get back to work.
AL GIORDANO: Javier, you need to go now to another event that is a bit solemn. And before you go, I ask you to explain to everyone what it is.
JAVIER SICILIA: One year ago between today and tomorrow was the murder of my son and his friends. My son was a very noble boy, a good one. He had another virtue. He was an excellent soccer player. And today, in a little while, the soccer teams he played on are going to get together to hold a game in homage to him. I will play for two minutes because if I do more than that I’ll probably have a heart attack. And I want to be there to honor that which my son loved so much, that is named futbol, and which I also loved very much and have stopped watching since he died. So I beg your pardon for leaving now. Than you very much for your warm reception, your patience, and for being part of us. And many thanks for making me part of you.
AL GIORDANO: We would also like to thank you, Javier, for making us part of you. It is beautiful that a you and a me can become an us. And thank you also for inviting a delegation from the school to accompany you to the soccer game.
Transcribed by Isadora Bonilla, School of Authentic Journalism, class of 2012. Translated by Narco News.
Read Laura Garcia’s report about this session of the 2012 School of Authentic Journalism at this link.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism