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Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Leads U.S. Peace Caravan: Will Americans Wake Up to Our "Absurd" Drug War's Blood Trail?

One of Mexico’s best-known poets, Javier Sicilia, laid down his pen last year after his son was murdered by drug traffickers. Now, he is on a mission to transform drug policy.
 
 
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 One of Mexico’s best-known poets, Javier Sicilia, laid down his pen last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug violence — violence that has left an estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared, and more than 160,000 Mexicans displaced from their homes over the past six years. Sicilia is now in the United States to launch a month-long peace caravan to "bring to the American people’s conscience their shared responsibility for the thousands of dead, missing and displaced in the drug war." [includes rush transcript]

Javier Sicilia, poet, essayist, novelist and journalist in Mexico. He is leading a caravan of Mexican anti-violence protesters. Sicilia began speaking out after his 24-year-old son was brutally murdered by drug traffickers in early 2011. He is being honored tonight in New York by the North American Congress on Latin America.

Rush transcript: 

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end our show today with one of Mexico’s best-known poets, Javier Sicilia. But he is a poet who no longer writes poetry. Sicilia laid down his pen last year after his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug violence—violence that has left an estimated 60,000 people dead, 10,000 disappeared, and more than 160,000 Mexicans displaced from their homes over the past six years.

AMY GOODMAN: Javier Sicilia is here in the United States to launch a month-long peace caravan this August. The caravan will traverse California to Washington, D.C., to, quote, "bring to the American people’s conscience their shared responsibility for the thousands of dead, missing and displaced in the drug war."

Javier Sicilia led a similar caravan across Mexico last June, which attracted so much attention, Mexican President Felipe Calderón agreed to meet with him and other relatives of drug violence victims. Sicilia’s efforts to legalize the drug trade is at odds with Calderón’s efforts, but they both agree the United States, the world’s largest market for illegal drugs, must do more to curb consumption. This is President Calderón speaking at the Americas Summit last month.

PRESIDENT FELIPE CALDERÓN: Consumer countries, generally the United States, should make a bigger effort to reduce consumption, and consequently the extraordinary flow of economic resources that goes into the hands of the criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: At the Americas Summit, Obama expressed willingness to hold a discussion on drug policy, but said legalization could lead to greater problems. He instead announced more than $130 million in aid for increasing security and pursuing narco-traffickers and drug cartels in the region.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For more on the ongoing drug war and upcoming peace caravan, we’re joined by Javier Sicilia. Time Magazine included his profile in its 2012 Person of the Year issue dedicated to protesters around the world. He’ll be translated by Malú Huacuja del Toro.

Javier Sicilia, welcome to Democracy Now!

JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] Thank you so much for receiving me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tell us about the impact of this war on the Mexican people.

JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] It’s an absurd war. Drugs are not a national security issue, they are a health, public health issue. Turning that, turning a health public issue into a national security issue has created a war, an absurd war that has killed many people, like 60,000 dead, and we don’t even know how many disappeared people, 250,000 displaced people, 8,000 orphans, and a divided country and obliterated. And the use of drugs, illegal drugs, in the United States has not [gone] down in any sense.

AMY GOODMAN: Our condolences on the death of your son, Juan Francisco. Tell us what happened to him on March 28th, just about a year ago, 2011.

JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] One of the strategies of President Calderón has been to leave the cartels headless, which makes that nobody controls the thugs, the people who are left there. So the thugs, the gangsters, took control over all the bars and restaurants and little shops.

One of my son’s friends, he was a designer. And the night before, he had been robbed. His work material, his cameras were stolen. So they went to see the manager of the bar the next day to claim about the robbery. He was kidnapped. And they called the gangster who controls the area, and he says he killed them, because they would go to the police if you leave them free. The manager said, "No, we are not here to steal people, to rob people." So the owner says—the owner of the place and the son says, "I have $300,000 in pesos, Mexican pesos, here, and three bands. Take them and—but kill them." And so he kills them.

And there is no security. Where was the police? Where was the army? Nobody was there. In Mexico, there is a 98 percent of impunity, which means if we were here, if this was Mexico, we were in Mexico right now, and we killed someone here, the odds of being caught and arrested would be 2 percent. Nothing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: About a year ago, we had on the show Jorge Castañeda, a former member of the administration of Vicente Fox, and we asked him about the war in Mexico, and he said it was basically—the drug war—that it was basically confined to a couple of provinces or states in Mexico, but was not a general problem for the whole country.

JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] It’s not just a national problem, because our country is completely Balkanized, divided and obliterated, but also it’s a problem of the United States for people. The war was created by the United States to protect their addict people. Drug consumption is a health issue and an issue of freedom. The person who decides to consume drugs, to use drugs, it’s their decision, and they hurt themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: We have one minute left here on the show. Why are you in the United States?

JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] I am here because of that, because on top of everything, the guns are legalized in the United States, and who he has who possesses a gun, it’s not like consuming drugs. It kills the other person, not just himself. These guns are getting into the country from the United States—legally, to have the army armed, and illegally, to have the drug cartels with guns. We want to put this in the consciousness of the United States, the government of the United States and the candidates to the presidency.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to wrap here, but we’re going to continue the discussion after the show, and we’re going to post it online at democracynow.org. Javier Sicilia, poet, essayist, novelist, journalist in Mexico, leading a caravan of Mexican anti-violence protesters, began speaking out after his 24-year-old son was brutally murdered by drug traffickers in March of 2011, being honored tonight byNACLA, the North American Congress on Latin America.

  

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.