Peace Caravan Encounters Massacres, Military Abuses and Disappearances in Torreón

Man beaten by Mexican soldiers

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at the Americas Program.

Gunmen armed with AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles massacred thirteen people in a Torreón drug rehabilitation center on Wednesday. The massacre occurred less than twenty-four hours before poet Javier Sicilia and his Citizens Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity were scheduled to arrive in Torreón for a rally against the drug war. The rehabilitation center is located just three blocks from the rally site.

Despite suspicions amongst some caravan participants that the massacre was an attempt to scare them away from Torreón, Sicilia refused to cancel the event in that city. “The march absolutely will not be postponed,” Sicilia told a press conference in Monterrey just before the caravan left for Torreón.

When the caravan arrived in Torreón, puddles of dried blood still filled the bullet-ridden rehabilitation center and ran out the door onto the sidewalk.

Sicilia had no choice but to hold the event as planned in Torreón. In a city ravaged by massacres, military abuses, journalist assassinations, and disappearances, residents risked their lives by simply organizing the anti-war rally.

According to participants, the massacre did have an impact on turnout though. “We live in constant fear,” said one protester. “There were people who wanted to be here today, but yesterday’s attack made them want to stay shut inside their homes.”

Olga Reyes Salazar, who has suffered the murder of six family members over the past two-and-a-half years in Ciudad Juarez, told Torreón residents that they can’t let fear overcome them. “We’re all afraid,” she told the crowd. “But if they keep intimidating us, we’re all just going to lock ourselves in our homes, and they’ll go there to kill us. So let’s leave our homes now and raise our voices against this government that is cruelly killing us.”

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Mexican Community Uses Barricades to Drive Out Organized Crime and Political Parties

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

Armed with machetes, sticks, and farm tools, residents of Cherán, Michoacan, covered their faces with bandanas and set up barricades around their community on April 15. It is a scene reminiscent of Oaxaca in 2006, except this time, the barricades aren’t meant to keep out paramilitary death squads; they keep out organized crime.

The barricades have come at a cost for the town’s 12,600 residents. Schools have been shut down since Easter, and the economy has come to a standstill. However, without the barricades, kidnappers and illegal loggers who are in league with organized crime would continue to prey upon the town with complete impunity. For Cherán’s residents, unabated impunity is unacceptable, because in addition to the usual laundry list of drug war crimes–murder, kidnapping, extortion, and torture–the illegal loggers, protected by organized crime, have destroyed an estimated 80% of Cherán’s woodlands.

When the municipal, state, and federal governments refused to protect Cherán from organized crime, the community took matters into its own hands. Now, not only are they driving organized crime out of they’re community, they’re also kicking out the political parties, whom they blame for allowing insecurity and crime in Cherán to spiral out of control.

Continue reading “Mexican Community Uses Barricades to Drive Out Organized Crime and Political Parties”