The Caravan for Peace arrived in Washington, the last stop on its tour of the United States, during which families of the victims of violence on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have marked “an end and a beginning” with their condemnation of the war on drugs.
After traveling more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) and stopping in 26 cities, the 110 participants in the caravan led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia arrived in the United States capital.
“This is an end and a beginning,” Sicilia said at an event organized by the AFL-CIO to welcome the caravan to Washington.
“We come from afar bringing to the heart of this country all the horror of this useless, lost war,” said Sicilia, who in March 2011 lost his son Juan Francisco to the violence of organized crime.
Conflict among rival cartels and between the traffickers and the security forces has claimed some 60,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon – whose term ends Nov. 30 – militarized the struggle against the drug trade.
Against the “absurd” policy of the war on drugs, the Caravan for Peace called for an approach based on legalizing drugs, enforcing gun control and prosecuting money laundering.
“Drugs are not a matter of national security, but of public health,” Sicilia told Efe, recalling that the violence sparked by the illegal trafficking of narcotics “has killed more innocent people than drugs could ever have killed over decades and centuries.”
One of the activists accompanying him is Teresa Vera Alvarado, whose sister Minerva went missing in 2006 in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. After years of fruitless searching, Vera joined the caravan “to help all the other people who are mourning a loss.”
“We come to raise authorities’ awareness in both countries so they do their job, because very often they make fun of us, they say they’re investigating the matter and they’re not,” Vera told Efe.
The caravanners continued to spread their message on a march from the White House to Freedom Plaza in Washington, and were to continue Tuesday with meetings in 27 offices of Congress and with Mexican ambassador Arturo Sarukhan.
Throughout their journey around the United States, their message has taken on elements of the immigration problem, since the war on drugs has led to “criminalizing immigrants,” Sicilia said.
The war on drugs “is opening the way to authoritarian states,” the poet-turned-crusader said in an interview with Efe.
With his trek from Tijuana to Washington, Sicilia believes he has started an “unprecedented process” that both citizens of Mexico and the United States share, the realization that “declaring war on drugs in absurd.”
“Every day we’re on the point of losing our democracy. We’re not only losing our children, which is the most tragic part of it, but we’re opening the way to authoritarian states with this absurd logic. This war has killed more innocent people than drugs could ever have killed over decades and centuries,” he said.