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Mexican Poet Retired His Pen When His Son Was Murdered -- Now He's Turned Tragedy Into a Movement to the End Drug War

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia and victims of the drug war are drawing attention to violence south of the border by traveling across the U.S. in a peace caravan.

Photo Credit: wickenden via Flickr


Most people probably wouldn’t consider poetry and bravery synonymous, but poet Javier Sicilia defies such primitive thought. In war-plagued Mexico, protesting against the prohibition-fueled violence carries the gravest risks imaginable. Many voices similar to Sicilia's have been permanently silenced for making the same cries for peace. The luckier of these are now six feet deep as a result of their courageous deeds. The not-so-lucky were slain and disposed of in ways known to no one except God and the killers themselves. Still, Javier Sicilia remains undeterred by the risk of death, and he warriors on with nothing to lose at this point.

Thankfully for Americans, the former poet has again decided to bring this determination for peace north of Mexico’s border, in the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity’s  “Peace Caravan” this summer. The American sea-to-shining-sea voyage will span roughly 6,000 miles in total. After departing San Diego on August 12, the caravan weaves across the States and eventually arrives in Washington, D.C. on September 10. The Greyhound motorcade is made up of buses, campers and trailers (of all sorts), and the convoy will be making demonstrations and overnight pit stops in numerous cities along the way.

As a former federal agent who’s worked on the border and inspected passenger buses similar to the ones about to embark on this trip, I can’t help but think how honored I will be to welcome these visitors after they cross the border into the United States.

Sicilia’s quest began the moment the lifeless bodies of his son, 24-year-old Juan Sicilia, and six college friends were discovered on March 28, 2011. After the students had their lives beaten and suffocated out of them, their corpses were stuffed in the back of a sedan and left abandoned along a highway in Morelos. The discovery was made on a Monday morning; apparently sometime earlier in the weekend a couple of the students had unknowingly gotten into an altercation with members of the fragmented Beltran Leyva Cartel, which is an organization that’s become lethally unpredictable since the death of “Don” Arturo Beltran Leyva. Evidently, the dispute took place at a nightclub in Cuernavaca, and as the seven friends were on their way home that evening, they were intercepted and abducted by masked reinforcements from the cartel.

Neither Juan nor his college buddies had anything to do with drug trafficking. Yet killing has become so thoughtless in Mexico these days that alternative methods for settling disputes seem rarely employed. Organized crime rules the day south of the border. What’s to stop cartel gunmen from murdering a few college kids over a scuffle when they already kill for sport every day anyways?

Yet Juan’s murder turned out to be different from your average killing. It woke a sleeping giant and gave momentum to countless numbers of victims who’d been waiting for someone to rally behind. Family members who’ve lost similar loved ones would now have a recognizable face for their grief in Javier Sicilia.

So viva Mexico and the United States alike, now uniting in an alliance to reform drug laws and end this pointless mayhem. The most pressing thing at the moment is getting marijuana legalized once and for all. This plant accounts for roughly 60 percent of cartel profits in Mexico, and its prohibition alone is responsible for much of the devastation wrought by the drug war. All the while its legality and legitimacy is welcomed by more than 50 percent of Americans (a figure increasing more and more every day).

There are varying reasons for supporting legalization, but one that can’t be neglected is the death toll accumulating south of the border. To me personally, this is the most immediate reason for ending prohibition. Third-party innocents from low-income, drug-producing countries die every day from our uncompromising drug policies. Yet the United States government remains committed to continuing down this unjust road-to-nowhere, which is something that should be intolerable to all of us.

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