Photo Chronicle of Mexico’s Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity

by Kristin Bricker and Santiago Navarro

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

On June 4, poet Javier Sicilia and farmer Julian LeBaron led a 500-person caravan through what one major Mexican magazine referred to as the country’s “route of blood.” Over the following week, the caravan passed through some of the most dangerous places in Mexico: Michoacan, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Chihuahua. The caravan ended on June 10 in Ciudad Juarez, which Sicilia dubbed Mexico’s “epicenter of pain” because just over one-fifth of the country’s homicides occurred in that city in 2010.

One of the caravan’s principle goals was for drug war victims to network and organize. The caravan collected victims’ stories and contact information in every town it visited.

Dozens of drug war victims from across the country, such as Nepomuceno Moreno Nuñez from Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, travelled with the caravan to meet other victims and share their stories.

Moreno Nuñez (above, right, shown hugging Javier Sicilia) wants to find his son, 18-year-old Jorge Mario Moreno León, who was kidnapped and disappeared along with five friends on July 1, 2010.

Moreno Nuñez spoke with the kidnappers when they answered Jorge Mario’s cell phone. They told him that the young men were kidnapped because they collaborated with the Beltran Leyva criminal organization. “They made a mistake,” laments Moreno Nuñez. “They said that one of the boys [Mario Enrique Diaz Islas] was the son of an accomplice to the Beltran Leyvas. It’s not true.” In reality, Mario Enrique’s father, Mario Diaz Garduño, was the director of the Hermosillo municipal Health Department.

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Private Contractors Making a Killing off the Drug War

by Cyril Mychalejko

As tens of thousands of corpses continue to pile up as a result of the US-led “War on Drugs” in Latin America, private contractors are benefiting from lucrative federal counternarcotics contracts amounting to billions of dollars, without worry of oversight or accountability.U.S. contractors in Latin America are paid by the Defense and State Departments to supply countries with services that include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, training, and equipment.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,”said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which released a report on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America this month. “Without adequate oversight and management we are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we’re getting in return.”

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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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Mexico’s Drug War Victims Find Their Voice in Massive Silent March

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

Drug war victims finally made themselves heard in Mexico in the most unlikely way: a nation-wide silent March for Peace with Justice and Dignity.

Over 100,000 Mexicans took to the streets over the weekend to protest the war on drugs, impunity, corruption, and violence. The largest march lasted four days and covered nearly 100 kilometers from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Mexico City. On Thursday, May 5, about 500 protesters began marching in Cuernavaca. Along the way, more contingents joined the march, while other marches set out from different states to join the protest in Mexico City. By the time the marches met in Mexico City’s main square on May 8, an estimated 100,000 people were gathered to protest the war.

Those who couldn’t make the trip to Mexico City held protests in their own states. In Chiapas, 25,000 masked Zapatistas marched in complete silence to the main plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas, where Comandante David read a communiqué from Subcomandante Marcos. “Tens of thousands of people have died in this absurd war,” said Comandante David. “Their only sin was to have been born or lived in a country that is badly governed by legal and illegal groups who are thirsty for war, death, and destruction.”

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