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Mexican Poet's US Caravan for Peace Tours to End the Drug War

A new peace movement to end the US-sponsored drug war begins with buses rolling and feet marching from the Tijuana–San Diego border on August 12 through twenty-five US cities to Washington, DC, in September.
 
 
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A new peace movement to end the US-sponsored drug war begins with buses rolling and feet marching from the Tijuana–San Diego border on August 12 through twenty-five US cities to Washington, DC, in September.

Named the Caravan for Peace, the trek is intended to pEnforcement Against Prohibition, National Latino Congreso, Presente.org, Veterans for Peaceut human faces and names on the estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared and 160,000 displaced people in Mexico since 2006, when the US Drug Enforcement Agency, Pentagon and the CIA supported the escalation of the Mexican armed forces.

The caravan, which has staged mass marches across Mexico since 2011, is led by well-known Catholic poet Javier Sicilia, 56, whose son Juan Francisco, then 24, was killed in crossfire in Cuernavaca in March 2011. After his son’s death, Sicilia, vowing not to write poetry any longer, formed a Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) and penned an anguished grito, or cry, titled “Estamos Hasta La Madre!” The English equivalent might be “Fed Up!,” but the Spanish slang also means that the authorities “insulted our mother protector, they’ve committed a sacrilege,” Sicilia says.

About seventy Mexican activists, many of whom are are relatives of victims, and about thirty Americans will accompany Sicilia on the caravan along the US-Mexico border, north from New Orleans through Mississippi and Alabama, to Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Baltimore and Washington, DC. The US-based Global Exchange is charged with coordination and logistics. More than 100 US immigrant rights and peace groups are actively involved, including the Drug Policy Alliance, the NAACP, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Center for International Policy’s Americas Program, the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the National Latino Congreso, Presente.org and Veterans for Peace. Fifty grassroots groups are involved from California alone.

The caravan may force a response from President Obama, who at the Summit of the Americans this past April stated “it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.” At this point, the caravan has not reached a decision on whether to seek a meeting with the White House, according to caravan spokesman Daniel Robelo of the Drug Policy Alliance. But it will hold briefings on Capitol Hill and intends to reach out to administration officials, Robelo says.

After the caravan massed 100,000 in Mexico City’s Zócalo (main plaza) last spring, Sicilia took part in direct dialogue with Mexican president Felipe Calderón last June in historic Chapúltepec Castle. On a large table before the president lay photos of Mexicans slain in the conflict, often depicting them as smiling, hopeful human beings before the horror that claimed their lives. Sicilia said “The powers that be were trying to tell us that all those who were dying were just criminals, just cockroaches. We had to change the mindset, and put names to the victims for a change.”

The response to Sicilia’s call was spontaneous and widespread. Overnight he became a revered figure in Mexico. Soon he was one of the protesters featured in Time magazine’s 2011 “Person of the Year” issue.

Assuming favorable local and national coverage as the caravan crosses the United States, Sicilia’s voice will soon be heard by millions of Americans.

And an unusual voice it is. Authentic: the voice of a grieving father. Nonpolitical: “I had never thought of starting a movement or being a spokesman for anything.” Religious: he is a theologian trained in liberation theology, and believes “the life of the soul can be powerful too.”