Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections on the Peace Caravan

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia and his Peace Caravan have concluded their journey to protest the ravages of the drug war.
Sicilia, who lost his only son in March, almost 80 days ago, led the caravan, which marched from June 4-10 and included about 500 people: mothers, wives and children of people slain or disappeared in the narcoviolence. They traveled thousands of kilometers, across 12 Mexican states and the US border, from Cuernavaca to El Paso, Texas.
Leading the coverage is El Universal, which has heartwrenching stories from caravan participants.
One woman, Maria Herrera, lives in Michoacan, the territory of the "La Familia" cartel. Four of her sons have disappeared -- first two on one occasion, then two more. She said, "I don't know if they are alive, if they are eating. On their birthdays, I can't cry." She said that her sons are "innocent, good people." It was unclear if she was the same person as caravan member "Maria Herrero Magdaleno" described by La Jornada columnist Luis Hernandez Navarro, who also lost four sons in two separate incidents -- one in 2008 in Guerrero, the other in 2010 in Veracruz.
Meanwhile, Maria del Carmen Carlos Herrera, who lives in Coahuila, home of the "Los Zetas" cartel, told El Universal that her husband, Rafael Ibarra Bernal, was kidnapped, reportedly by Los Zetas, in Ramos Arizpe on April 2; she does not know if he is alive or dead. He was the pastor of a Christian church. She said that the president of Ramos Arizpe, Ramon Oceguera, told her not to waste time because the authorities cannot and will not do anything.
Sicilia ended the caravan by calling for a binational effort between Mexico and the US to combat drugs, La Cronica de Hoy reported, adding that the poet said that the US has "a high responsibility" for the narcoviolence. Sicilia also stopped in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, last Thursday to sign a 70-point plan calling for the Mexican army to disengage from the struggle and for a more human-rights based approach.
In La Jornada, Hernandez Navarro assesses the legacy of the caravan. He calls it "an act of justice," adding, "For the victims of the war on narcotrafficking, the caravan has won both the right to speak and the legitimacy of their discourse." He reported that these victims include both women and indigenous people, and called the drug war "absurd."

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