<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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Organizer of US Families of Murder Victims, Renny Cushing, Responds to Mexican Call for US Involvement in Stopping the Drug War

Caravans from US Cities to Converge on El Paso and Juárez to Meet with Mexican Caravan Inspired by Javier Sicilia

By Terri Bennett
Class of 2011, School of Authentic Journalism

May 27, 2011

In 1988 Robert Renny Cushing’s father was shot and killed by a neighbor in his home, in the state of New Hampshire, in the United States. More than a decade prior, Cushing had been one of the seminal organizers of the movement on the New Hampshire Seacoast against the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant and the subsequent birth of the regional anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance, which inspired the national “No Nukes” movement of the 1970s.

Two men who lost loved ones to murder on each side of the US-Mexican border have joined forces to end the war on drugs. On the left, Renny Cushing. On the right, Javier Sicilia. DR 2011 Terri Bennett.
After his father’s murder, Cushing did not seek revenge. He put his organizing experience to work to form Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a national movement fighting for abolition of the death penalty and for victims’ rights for 23 years. As executive director of MVFHR, he serves as both a voice of the movement to end the death penalty and an empathetic ear to other homicide survivors trying to navigate the pain left behind by violence.

In March 2011, renowned writer and poet Javier’s Sicilia’s 24-year-old son was killed in the Mexican state of Morelos which has been under siege in the war between the national government and drug traffickers, in a murder that has yet to be solved. While some might have called for tougher drug laws, Sicilia channeled his pain into a movement to end the drug war, led by those who have suffered the most—the families of those who have been killed and wounded.

At a May 19 press conference in Mexico City, Cushing sat beside Sicilia as the Mexican poet and journalist announced a June 4 Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity. The Caravan will leave from Cuernavaca en route to Ciudad Juárez, where it will arrive on June 10, to bring together the many voices calling for an end to the drug war. Sicilia demands that Drug War efforts be refocused, with less emphasis on military and police operations and more on corruption, impunity, treating drug abuse as a public health problem, and the role the US plays in perpetuating the drug trade.

Ciudad Juárez, on the border of El Paso, Texas, is a symbolic and strategic destination point because it a central focus of Mexico’s violent Drug War, and statistics show the city is the most violent place on earth outside a war zone. Cushing’s attendance at the conference was also symbolic and strategic. His attendance marked a first step in the US accepting its responsibility for Mexico’s crushing Drug War, which has lead to over 40,000 deaths of Mexican citizens.

When Sicilia and members of the movement he has inspired learned that Cushing was in Mexico as a professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, he invited Cushing, among other US-based organizers, to attend his May 19 press conference in Mexico City and the caravan to Juárez. Cushing immediately responded.

“As someone who knows the unspeakable pain of having a family member murdered and the head of an organization of survivors of homicide victims,” Cushing said, “I have a great amount of empathy for the families of the casualties of the Mexican Drug war. I joined the press conference, and support the Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity, as an act of solidarity with other victims of violence.”

Cushing is a veteran of this type of human rights advocacy. He served three terms in the legislature in his home state of New Hampshire, introducing bills to repeal the death penalty and insure victims’ rights in the US. He also sponsored legislation guaranteeing victims’ rights to compensation whether or not they were in the US legally. But the scope of his work and his hopes for the movement have always been global.

Cushing has travelled as far away as Japan to collaborate with like-minded organizers. His trip to Hiroshima was particularly important to him. “My father fought the Japanese in World War II,” said Cushing. “He was wounded, and had Japanese shrapnel in his body until he died. But he didn’t celebrate being a vet. Somehow when I gave a speech there, and met people who had survived the bombs, it seemed liked closing a circle.”

More than thirty media outlets attended the press conference. Fernando Leon, a Mexico City-based journalist, underscored the importance of Cushing’s presence at the event. “This is the first time people have talked about US participation in this movement,” Leon said, referring to what has become known as the “Hasta la Madre” movement (roughly translated: “We’ve had it up to here!”).

“Before now,” said Leon, “There wasn’t an official call for the US to respond to this.”

Cushing is now back in the US, organizing caravans from stateside to converge on El Paso and, then, Ciudad Juarez on the weekend of June 10. He can be reached via the contact page of Families of Murder Victims for Human Rights.

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