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Mexico: March Against Violence or Against the Government?

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

On Wednesday April 6, 2011, thousands of Mexicans in various cities throughout the country and some abroad, such as New York, Buenos Aires and Madrid, took to the streets to protest against violence. Some demanded the resignation of President Felipe Calderón, as they believe his strategy in the fight against crime and drug trafficking has exacerbated the bloodshed, according to reports by the BBC.

The murder of the son of journalist and poet Javier Sicilia [es], which happened in the state of Morelos at the end of March this year, revived a wave of indignation [es] against violence in Mexico and gave rise to the protest marches.

Mexicans protesting against violence in Mexico City's town square. Image by Alberto Millares, copyright Demotix (06/04/11).

Mexicans protesting against violence in Mexico City's town square. Image by Alberto Millares, copyright Demotix (06/04/11).

Citizens’ reactions quickly appeared in various blogs. Víctor Hernández [es], whose opinion appears in the blog Michoacán en Resistencia (Michoacán in Resistance), celebrated the fact that the marches were organised by ordinary citizens and were not the result of a media campaign orchestrated by some political faction:

Le aplaudo a la marcha contra la violencia que se llevará a cabo hoy en diversos estados de la República el ser auténticamente ciudadana. Fue convocada por el escritor Javier Sicilia, pero su organización y difusión la hizo la gente, principalmente de clase media, por medio de redes sociales y sin la ayuda de los medios.

Por primera vez la clase media se organiza para exigir un alto a la violencia sin ser convocados a ser parte de un acto mediático de la derecha. Lo hizo la gente por si misma.

I applaud the fact that the march against violence that will take place today in various states around the country is authentically grass-roots. It was called for by the writer Javier Sicilia, but it was organised and publicised by the people, mainly middle-class people, through social networks and with no help from the media.

For the first time the middle class is organising itself to demand a stop to the violence without being called on to be part of a right-wing media stunt. The people did it for themselves.

Javier Hernández Alpízar [es], for the blog Zapateando2, reproduced part of the open letter that Sicilia addressed to the government and the criminals, a document that was released before the protests. Hernández Alpízar pointed out that:

La carta, que se está convirtiendo en un documento que encarna la indignación de muchos, dice con palabras fuertes y claras lo que muchos ciudadanos ahora también suscriben: “Estamos hasta la madre de ustedes, políticos –y cuando digo políticos no me refiero a ninguno en particular, sino a una buena parte de ustedes, incluyendo a quienes componen los partidos–, porque en sus luchas por el poder han desgarrado el tejido de la nación, porque en medio de esta guerra mal planteada, mal hecha, mal dirigida, de esta guerra que ha puesto al país en estado de emergencia, han sido incapaces –a causa de sus mezquindades, de sus pugnas, de su miserable grilla, de su lucha por el poder– de crear los consensos que la nación necesita para encontrar la unidad sin la cual este país no tendrá salida (…)”.

The letter, which has come to embody the indignation of many, expresses in powerful and clear terms a view that many citizens now subscribe to: “We are fed up with you, politicians – and when I say politicians I am not referring to anyone in particular, but rather to a large number of you, including those who make up the parties – because in your struggles for power you have torn the fabric of the nation, because in the middle of this ill thought-out, poorly executed and badly run war, this war that has put the country in a state of emergency, you have been incapable – thanks to your stinginess, your fighting, your miserable scheming, your struggles for power – of reaching the consensus that the nation needs to find the unity without which this country will have no way out (…)”

Journalist and blogger Jenaro Villamil [es] reported that more than 10,000 people marched in Mexico City. For Villamil, the reason for the protest is clear:

Poetizados y politizados, multiclasistas e indignados, más de 10 mil personas marcharon de la explanada de Bellas Artes al Zócalo de la Ciudad de México para protestar por los efectos de la guerra contra el narcotráfico, al mismo tiempo que otros 8 mil ciudadanos, encabezados por el poeta y periodista Javier Sicilia, protestaron en Cuernavaca, el epicentro de esta protesta simultánea, a raíz de la ejecución de 7 jóvenes el pasado 28 de marzo en Temixco, Morelos.

“¡Fuera Calderón! ¡Fuera Calderón!”, gritaron durante su paso los ciudadanos convocados en las últimas 36 horas que se reunieron en un templete improvisado, frente a Palacio Nacional, en el Zócalo de la Ciudad de México. Reclamos similares se escucharon en Monterrey, Mérida, Guadalajara y decenas de ciudades más donde se escuchó el grito de protesta.

Poeticised, politicised and outraged, more than 10 thousand people of all social classes marched from the Palace of Fine Arts to the Town Square of Mexico City to protest against the effects of the war on drug trafficking, while another 8 thousand citizens, lead by the poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, protested in Cuernavaca, the epicentre of this simultaneous protest, sparked by the execution of 7 young people on the 28th of March in Temixco, Morelos.

“Out with Calderón! Out with Calderón!”, was the cry of the citizens who were called together in the last 36 hours and met in an improvised bandstand outside the National Palace in Mexico City’s Town Square. Similar calls were heard in Monterrey, Mérida, Guadalajara and dozens more cities where the cry of protest was heard.

Mexicans protesting against violence in Mexico City's town square. Image by Alberto Millares, copyright Demotix (06/04/11).

Mexicans protesting against violence in Mexico City's town square. Image by Alberto Millares, copyright Demotix (06/04/11).

Meanwhile, the administrator of the blog México Sí [es] (Yes Mexico) expressed some interesting questions relating to the marches, while making it known that his view is that the marches are against crime, not against the government, and wondered about the efficacy of these mobilisations:

¿Por qué la marcha? ¿Se acaban de dar cuenta de que existe el crimen organizado que ejerce una violencia estúpida contra nosotros? ¿Y cuál es la solución? ¿Salir la sociedad a la calle a comunicar que está en contra de la violencia? Creo que todo eso no sirve de nada, la violencia es ejercida por sicarios carentes de una formación social, tipos sin estudios la mayoría de las veces, drogadictos, alcohólicos, gente deshumanizada para los que asesinar a alguien es como cuando un vendedor hace una venta. Los sicarios son pagados por sus líderes, tipos a los que tampoco les interesa la sociedad excepto para extraernos dinero. Al momento de la marcha los sicarios estaban borrachos o drogados, los capos felices porque habían logrado el impacto que querían, tener atemorizada a la población. Si la gente está asustada, será más fácil extorsionarlos, secuestrarlos y sacarles más dinero.

Why the march? Have they just realised that organised crime exists and exerts idiotic violence against us? And what is the solution? Society taking to the streets to convey that they are against violence? I think that all this is pointless, violence is carried out by hitmen with no social education, people that usually have not studied, drug addicts, alocoholics, dehumanised people for whom murdering someone is like when a salesperson makes a sale. The hitmen are paid by their leaders, people who are not interested in society except for extracting money from us. At the time of the march the hitmen were drunk or on drugs, the bosses were happy because they had achieved the impact that they wanted, having the population terrorised. If people are scared, it will be easier to kidnap them and extort more money from them.

And the blogger ends his post with an invitation to his readers:

No podemos dejarle la solución total de la inseguridad al estado, debemos involucrarnos y no esperar a que nos maten un hijo para empezar a protestar.

We cannot leave it to the government to totally solve the problem of insecurity, we must get involved and not wait until our sons get killed to start protesting.

These are just some of the opinions generated by the simultaneous marches of April 6 in Mexico. Hence it is clear that there is no consensus on the reasons for the march, who is being protested against and what will be achieved. However, it will be interesting to see how the country confronts the situation of insecurity and social unrest, with a view to next year’s electoral process in which a new president will be elected and the people will be able to decide in the ballot boxes, whether to confirm the rule of the party currently in power (which is conservative) or to give their trust to a candidate from some other political camp in the hope that the situation might improve.

This post is part of our special coverage Mexico's Drug War.

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