<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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The Latin Americanization of the Million Marijuana March

Mexico City and Buenos Aires Protests Among this Year's Largest

By Dan Feder
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

May 11, 2003

MEXICO CITY: The Million Marijuana March, begun each May in New York City five years ago with the all for legalizing the famous leaf, caught fire in Latin America’s two largest Spanish-language media centers this month – Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina – as well as with a pro-legalization protest held in Rosario, Argentina last weekend.

The Million Marijuana March passes through Mexico City’s Alameda Central
Photo D.R. Daniel Rosh 2003
According to the daily Página 12 in Buenos Aires, the rally to legalize marijuana in that city drew 12,000 people. The Mexico City demonstration attracted about 1,500 – three times the attendance of last year’s gathering, according to organizers.

Similar events were organized in more than 100 cities around the world. Hundreds attended in New York, and a march through Toronto drew several thousand.

In Latin America, the media’s attention to the event has taken off as well. Reporters and camera crews followed the two-hour march and demonstration through downtown Mexico City, and, unlike the previous year, all major Mexico City papers featured reports and photos the next day, including front-page placement in the national daily La Jornada.

“We are here to march as citizens in defense of our customs,” said Ricardo Sala of vivecondrogas.com, one of the organizers, as the crowd gathered in front of Mexico City’s historic Palace of Fine Arts. “We say no to the government’s provocations, no to the illegality. We want respect for our individual sovereignty, we want the government to get out of decisions about our own bodies.”

The large crowd marched down a busy downtown avenue and then through the city’s central park, known as the Alameda. Another organizer, the upstart political party México Posible, passed out flyers reading “Strike a blow against drug trafficking: legalize marihuana.” Others, like the Mexican Association for the Study of Cannabis (AMECA, in its Spanish acronym) distributed information about drug policy reform and Harm Reduction, a non-prohibitionist strategy for diminishing the damages associated with drug use under prohibition.

In Buenos Aires, speaking to the multitude in the Rosedal de Palermo park, Gustavo Hurtado of ARDA (Harm Reduction Association of Argentina) said:

“The repressive policies [of drug prohibition], the prosecution of personal possession of small amounts of drugs as a serious crime, and makes drug users into criminals. This keeps them out of the healthcare system and only increases the potential for harm and the risks of HIV/AIDS transmission.”

Like many policies pursued by the US administration, he said, drug prohibition is an “irrational agression.” The central message of the Buenos Aires march, said Hurtado, was to “say no to the war on drugs, and say no to the war on drug users.”

Mexico City and Buenos Aires aren’t just the two biggest cities in Spanish-speaking América. They are the two headquarters of the big Spanish-language media, with a “market” much larger than that of English-speaking North America. Only a few years ago, the Latin American efforts to end drug prohibition were all but invisible, both in the streets and in the papers and on TV. But that’s changing rapidly. Demands for change are now right at Big Media’s doorstep. If the extensive media coverage of these events is any indication, those demands have begun to be heard, loud and clear.

Silvia Inchaurraga contributed to this report from Argentina

See our previous story in Narco News on the Mexican legalization movement.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America