Mexico: Day 4: 80,000 Citizens Demand Peace, Justice and Dignity Against the War on Drugs

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

The National Protest for Peace, Justice and Dignity started its final stage early on Sunday, May 8, from the National University (UNAM) in Mexico City. International media reported that between 80,000 and 90,000 protesters joined the silent crowd on different points of the route across the capital.

#marchanacional at Eje Central, Mexico City. Image by @alconsumidor

Fountains were tinted red in the city:

Fountain in La Alameda. Image by Geraldne Juárez.

And political cartoonists set up a small workshop in Bellas Artes, to help demonstrators draw their banners.

Die Better (a pun related to the government's slogan "Live Better") Image by @jaimediseno

Citizen activists set up a booth collecting signatures to promote a trial in the International Criminal Court against President Felipe Calderón and all others who might be responsible for war crimes during the last 4 years of the War on Drugs. John Ackerman tweeted [es] that around 10,000 signatures were collected during the protest to support this trial.

In Bellas Artes, near the main square of the city, the atmosphere was friendly and playful, but people showed their discontent and opposition towards the violence generated by Calderón's strategy. Almost everyone had banners, flowers and flags.

"They put the guns. Mexico puts the deaths". Image by Geraldine Juárez

"We are what we do to change what we are". Image by Geraldine Juárez

#Marchanacional (national march) finally reached downtown Mexico City in silence.

Javier Sicilia in downtown Mexico City with #marchanacional Image by Geraldine Juárez

The crowd yelled: “No More Blood! We've had it up to here! Not one more dead!” (¡No más sangre, estamos hasta la madre, ni un muerto más!) through Cinco de Mayo Avenue:

The main square, El Zócalo, was already packed before protesters entered. Some of the parents that have lost their children spoke while demonstrators entered the square. The father of Adriana Morlett was there again, denouncing the government for corruption. A mother that lost her son –a graffiti artist– demanded public spaces for street artists, and another father shared the story of the killing of his two sons: an architect and a graphic designer. A member of a community police group in Guerrero spoke about their experience in turning their community into one of the most secure areas in that State thanks to citizens taking the lead.

Patricia Duarte (@madreABC), who heads the movement Cinco de Junio [es], read the proposed National Accord. She also announced the citizen trial for the ABC Kindergarden case where 40 children died in a fire. Parents of the victims are still seeking formal justice.

Patricia Duarte from Movimiento Cinco De Junio. Image by @alconsumidor

The National Accord, to be signed in Ciudad Juárez on June 10, has 6 points that are described in detail in the complete document [es]:

1. Exigimos verdad y justicia.
2. Exigimos poner fin a la estrategia de guerra y asumir un enfoque de seguridad ciudadana.
3. Exigimos combatir la corrupción y la impunidad.
4. Exigimos combatir la raíz económica y las ganancias del crimen.
5. Exigimos la atención de emergencia a la juventud y acciones efectivas de recuperación del tejido social.
6. Exigimos democracia participativa, mejor democracia representativa y democratización en los medios de comunicación.

1. We demand truth and justice.
2. We demand an end to this war strategy and that an approach of citizen security is taken.
3. We demand a fight against corruption and impunity.
4. We demand a fight against the economic roots and proceeds from crime.
5. We demand emergency care for youth and effective actions to recover the social fabric.
6. We demand a participatory democracy, a better representative democracy and a democratization of the media.

Javier Sicilia took the microphone, thanked participants and said that Mexico must be a place full of people in the streets “at the right place and at the right time”. Then he demanded the resignation of the Public Safety Secretary, Genaro García Luna, as a signal that the President is listening to the demands of the people: “We want a message from the President announcing that resignation to know that he listens to us”.

He later read Heidegger and continued with this speech:

We have come so silently because our pain is so great and deep, and the horror from it is so immense, that there are no words to say it. With this silence, we say to the authorities responsible for the security of this country that we do not want one more death because of this growing confusion that only looks to suffocate us, like they suffocated the breath and the life of my son, Juan Francisco, and Luis Antonio, Julius Caesar, Gabo, María del Socorro, the Commander Jaime, and many thousands of men, women, children and elderly people killed with the disdain and vileness of worlds that are not and never will be ours.

To tell us and tell them that we believe the nation can still be reborn and emerge out of its ruins, to show the lords of death that we are standing.

He also questioned the fact that some governors have been publicly denounced as accomplices of organized crime and still are in the administration and their political parties protect them. He denounced the partidocracia and its complicity with mafias, which will lead voters to think about which cartel or de facto power to vote for in the next elections. Sicilia also reminded listeners that legislators attempted to pass the National Security Law under the table, and said that it is absurd that the national security is reduced to a military issue.

ThinkMexican created a Storify post with the development of #marchanacional in many cities of Mexico. Vivir Mexico made an impressive compilation with photos of that day; Demotix also published a curated photo essay about May 8.

Leo Gzz (@Sicapeas) uploaded one of the best visual chronicles of May 8, which includes testimonies of parents and family members of young victims of the War on Drugs.

Many cities in Mexico and in the world joined Marcha Nacional in solidarity. A gallery of the demonstration in Tamaulipas – a State where clandestine graves with a recent total of 188 bodies have been found – by ContigenteMX is available on their site.

In Germany, demonstrators in Frankfurt and Berlin demanded immediate demilitarization of Mexico.

In Paris, demonstrators participated in “Action Empty Envelope” in Champs Elysse and marched to the postal office to send 100 envelopes labeled with incidents of violence to Calderón's office in Mexico City. Emmanuel Delaloy published a photo essay of these events.

Marcha Nacional in Paris. Image by Emmanuel Delaloy

Eduardo Molina (@molintosh) tweeted a picture of London demonstrators protesting outside the Mexican Embassy. New York and Barcelona joined too:

"National Emergency: Not one more death" in Barcelona. Image via @mimooso

"No More Blood" in New York City. Image by @marthacristiana

Mainstream international media like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported on the national march. Al Jazeera prepared this feature about #marchanacional:

Hours after the protest, the federal government issued a press release [es] where it expressed respect for the protest and reiterated that violence is not generated by the police and the army.

However, on Monday May 9, national security spokesman, Alejandro Poiré, defended Public Safety Secretary Genaro García Luna in opposition to the demands of Javier Sicilia. President Felipe Calderón offered to dialog with the main organizers of #marchanacional:

We can agree or disagree [..] Of course that doesn't exclude the possibility and the responsibility to dialog, to listen to each other and understand each other.

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

Thumbnail vía Vivir México. [es]


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  • malcolm kyle

    In 2009, NPR analyzed thousands of news releases on the federal attorney general’s website announcing arrests for organized crime, weapons and drug offenses. The information surveyed spanned from the day Calderon assumed the presidency in December 2006. The analysis showed that Nationwide, 44 percent of all cartel defendants are with the Zetas and Gulf cartels. Only 12 percent of the defendants are with the Sinaloa cartel. The numbers contradict the Mexican government, which claims it has arrested twice the percentage of Sinaloa gang members.
    “I think you’ve identified an issue of concern, and that is, why is the Sinaloa doing so much better than the others and why is the Sinaloa cartel been the one that has escaped a lot of the prosecutions compared to the other cartel numbers?” — U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), a former federal prosecutor who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, when asked to review the NPR analysis.
    NPR’s analysis is supported by a Mexican law professor and organized crime expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, who has done his own analysis of cartel arrests.
    “If you look at the main organized crime group in Mexico, that is, the Sinaloan confederation, it has been left relatively untouched. The Sinaloa has been clearly the winner of all that competition among organized crime groups. And as a result of that, they have gained more economic power, they have been able to corrupt with more frequency and corrupt with more scope. Now you see that Sinaloa is the most powerful criminal group, not just in Mexico, but all over Latin America,” — Law professor and organized crime expert. Edgardo Buscaglia
    “Has the Sinaloa infiltrated the Mexican government? Absolutely. Has the Sinaloa infiltrated the Mexican military? Absolutely.” — Texas Congressman Michael McCaul
    “When the Sinaloan cartel began to be protected by all the apparatus of the government after 2001, it felt the power for the first time in history to occupy plazas that for dozens of years belonged to other cartels. So you saw them take on the Gulf cartel in Nuevo Laredo [in 2005], My hypothesis, after five years of investigation, is that Joaquin Guzman Loera is the best example of corruption in Mexico.” — Anabel Hernandez, (from the video I posted) an award-winning investigative reporter who has spent five years researching a book on Guzman.

  • Rick Stewart

    Mexico made a giant step forward when they legalized small amounts of drugs for personal use (heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, etc.).

    Now they need to take a deep breath and take the next step – legalize the production, sale and transport of all drugs. Once honest business people are in charge of these drugs, drug related violence will plummet and probably disappear altogether.

    Of course the US will react negatively, and try to punish Mexico, but if Mexico stands firm, and articulates the superior intelligence of its policy, the US will be forced to eventually back down.

    Mexico has a chance to make one of the greatest possible contributions to the future well-being of the world, and I hope they will find the courage to do it.

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