Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Anti-Drug War Movement Emerges in Mexico

Written by Kristin Bricker

After four years of war that has left nearly 40,000 people dead, countless more disappeared, and soldiers on the streets of every state in the country, many Mexicans are finally "fed up" with President Felipe Calderón's drug policy. This weekend, Mexicans in at least 25 of the country’s 31 states will protest to “stop the war, for a just and peaceful Mexico." Protests are also planned in solidarity in at least twelve cities in Europe, Canada, the United States, and Brazil.

The largest protest will begin on May 5 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, where protesters will march 100 km to Mexico City for a rally on Sunday, May 8. Marchers will follow the Mexico City-Cuernavaca freeway, which could bring traffic on one of the country’s largest freeways to a standstill over the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend.

Mexico’s beloved journalist and poet Javier Sicilia convoked the protests after his son, Juan Francisco, was found murdered along with six other people in his home state of Morelos on March 28. Sicilia declared that he was “hasta la madre” (“fed up” or had “had it up to here”) with politicians and criminals. He vowed to abandon poetry (“The world is no longer worthy of words,” he wrote in his last poem) and to dedicate himself to stopping the drug war. “I’m going to march,” he said in a video message, “because I don't want any other family to suffer the loss of a son as we are suffering due to a poorly planned, poorly executed, and poorly led war."

Common Cause

After nearly 40,000 drug war murders, it was Juan Francisco’s execution that brought Mexico to the tipping point. This weekend’s mobilizations are expected to be Mexico’s largest anti-drug war protests to-date. Moreover, nearly every sector of Mexican society has confirmed its participation in the protests: labor, indigenous peoples, students, journalists, intellectuals, opposition politicians, feminists, artists, drug war victims and their family members, former political prisoners, Mormons, sex workers, autonomists, peasants, communists, marijuana legalization advocates, migrants in Mexico, Mexican immigrants living abroad, Catholic church leaders…even the commanders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) have ordered Zapatistas to take to the streets to “end Calderón’s war.”

Sicilia coined the protests, “We’ve had it up to here. Stop the war. For a just and peaceful Mexico.” However, he insists, “I’m just one more voice.” He believes that the movement’s proposals must come from the grassroots. The Network for Peace and Justice, which is helping Sicilia coordinate the protests, is encouraging citizens to hold assemblies and develop proposals for a “re-founding of Mexico.” Those proposals will be taken into account in a document that Sicilia will read at the end of the march on May 8.

Some organizations and individuals have already published their demands and proposals.

Students and young people gathered at the National Forum of Young People in National Emergency in Cuernavaca on April 28-29 to coordinate for the May 8 protests and develop a set of demands. Young people suffer the highest murder rates in the drug war, leading Forum participant Raúl Romero to lament, “Young people are no longer this country’s future; we’re this country’s dead.” The Forum published six demands: immediate demilitarization, an end to violence and impunity, decriminalization of drug consumption, a dignified life (which would include job opportunities), art and culture for everyone (including a proposal to nationalize the corporate media), and a guaranteed college education for everyone.

The Collective for an Integral Drug Policy (Cupihd), an organization of drug policy experts, will hold a march for marijuana legalization on May 7, and on May 8 it will join the national protests in downtown Mexico City.

Sociologist and nationally syndicated columnist John Ackerman borrowed a phrase from Argentina’s recuperated factory movement to sum up his proposal for the movement: “Que se vayan todos” (“they all must go”), referring to Mexican politicians. “We have to demand the immediate ouster of all high-ranking officials who are involved in this criminal war at the federal and state levels,” argues Ackerman. “Beginning with, of course, [Secretary of Public Security] Genaro García Luna, [Defense Secretary] Guillermo Galván, and Calderón. These politicians have spent enough time in office, and they’ve demonstrated that they are incapable of assuring social peace.”

Sicilia has called for the resignation of the governor of Morelos and several state legislators because they are “negligent and corrupt.”

“We’ve Had It Up To Here!”

Juan Francisco’s senseless and brutal murder was the catalyst that united drug war critics from diverse social sectors and across the political spectrum. However, discontent over increasing violence and human rights violations has been brewing in Mexico for quite some time. Pockets of resistance to the drug war have formed across the country, although it is only now that they are all coming together at the national level.

When Calderón declared war on organized crime, some towns racked by violent cartel rivalries initially welcomed the military's presence. However, it quickly became apparent that the military brought more chaos and abuses, not law and order. "The military doesn't solve anything because it commits a lot of abuses," a farmer from Galeana, Chihuahua, told Proceso reporter Marcela Turati. "They beat people, steal vehicles, rob from houses. Their trucks look like moving companies, they drive around loaded with so much furniture."

Initially reported in the press as isolated incidents (if they were reported at all), the military's abuses quickly turned into an epidemic. In mid-2009, human rights organizations noted that the drug war led to a significant increase in human rights abuses. The Mexican military now receives more human rights abuse complaints than any other government agency.

A handful of horrifying incidents shocked the nation and captured headlines for a few days, such as when soldiers killed two unarmed students in March 2010 on the campus of the elite private university Tecnológico de Monterrey (“Tec”). The soldiers planted weapons on the dead students to make them appear to be cartel gunmen. The cover-up managed to temper the public’s response to the shooting; the military’s wrongdoing only became clear months later.

Seven months later, on October 29, 2010, Federal Police shot and gravely wounded student Dario Alvarez Orrantia on the campus of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez as he participated in the 11th Walk Against Death during the International Forum Against Militarization and Violence. The shooting enraged students across the country and provoked protests. Students from the Mexico City metropolitan area who participated in the Forum and witnessed the shooting decided to form the Metropolitan Coordinating Committee Against Militarization and Violence (COMECOM). "We decided to begin to join together to denounce the crimes that are repeatedly committed against students," says COMECOM member Raúl Romero. "We want to network with organizations, regardless of political affiliation, in order to unify our voice and demand an end to Felipe Calderón's war." COMECOM is currently comprised of twenty-five metropolitan-area organizations.

Up until recently, the only killings, shootings, or kidnappings that provoked public outcry were those that were obviously perpetrated by government security forces. Cases in which the perpetrator was unknown or believed to be linked to organized crime were ignored. The Calderón administration labeled these murders “collateral damage” and Calderón himself argued (without substantiating his claim) that 90% of drug war murder victims were linked “in one way or another” to organized crime. The stigma meant that drug war murders weren’t mourned, let alone investigated.

The drug war’s true impact on Mexico’s civilians became apparent earlier this year when three members of the beleaguered Reyes Salazar family were found tortured and murdered in Chihuahua, bringing the family death toll to six. The Reyes Salazars are prominent activists and upstanding citizens who appear to have been targeted by a criminal organization. The government’s response was typical: it attempted to deflect public outrage over the murders by spreading rumors that the bodies were found with “narco-messages” that accused the victims of working for organized crime. The family fought back against attempts to smear their loved ones’ names and organized protests that brought organized crime’s innocent victims into the international spotlight for the first time.

The government also attempted to downplay Juan Francisco’s murder through “unconfirmed reports” leaked to the media that a message from the Gulf cartel was found with the bodies that said, “This is what happens for making anonymous calls to soldiers.”

A National Movement Is Born

Like the Reyes Salazars, Javier Sicilia refused to let the government write off his son’s murder as yet another tick on the country’s so-called execution-meter. “Many of the dead, maybe the majority of the dead, they have a story. They were innocent and they were killed stupidly for no reason,” Sicilia argues. “They're human beings, and behind them there are families who are suffering very much."

Sicilia’s outrage over his son’s murder—amplified by his excellent public speaking skills and his contacts in Mexican media—has caused disparate struggles to coalesce into a national movement against the drug war. The protests began with over 500 people in Cuernavaca on March 29, the day after Juan Francisco’s body was found. On March 30, protesters held a candlelight vigil in Cuernavaca.

By April 6, the protests had spread to at least 21 Mexican states and twelve cities in eight foreign countries.

On April 27, the protesters diversified their tactics. That day, young protesters dyed Cuernavaca’s “Peace Dove” fountain blood red. Then, twenty young members of the Network for Peace and Justice temporarily shut down the State Attorney General’s Office. Later, they burst onto the floor of the Morelos State Congress and read a declaration. The protesters called upon politicians to combat impunity and corruption, and to promote human rights and a "dignified life."

That same day, Sicilia hung a plaque bearing his son’s name on City Hall in downtown Cuernavaca and called on others to do the same. “It's important that when we arrive in any plaza in any city in the country, that we see the names of our dead,“ declared Sicilia. “The plaques are being put up to remember them and to tell the authorities who criminalized them that these people are not mysterious statistics; they're human beings.”



  1. Some good news, i hope this helps.

  2. Why do people protest against the government? Its the cartels that cause chaos!! People should unify against drug cartel. BUT its much safer and easier to protest against the government! These protest are barking up the wrong tree. These protest are giving the drug cartel a sense of invincibility.

  3. Ironically, this is going on in Mexico City while at the same time the Global Marijuana March is going on as well.

  4. So what happens if the government pulls out of Tamaulipas and other parts of the country where ruthless gangs are trying to dominate their will upon the people? Do these protestors really want Los Zetas or other evil doers to be in charge?

    Pulling the military out would mean that horrific crimes like those committed in San Fernando could become commonplace in several areas where Los Zetas and others control territory. They would in essence become untouchable and any semblance of law would be completely gone.

  5. This is the real beginning of the end of this war. This is "the" publicity that can't be ignored internationally. Calderon will have to encourage the cartels to develop a truce or his party will completely disappear forever. The major cartel is not liking the publicity either however the smaller ones should be. If this continues, the US government may be shamed into taking a different approach also. Especially if it becomes international. If the universities in the US adopted the movement, the US would be forced to change it's stance. This is awesome.

    @ 11:32 am, Damn, is this the first article you have ever read on this topic? And did you even read the article? Are you that naive that you don't understand that the Mexican Government is deeply routed in the drug and cartel activity? Do you not understand that their Federal Police and Military fight with the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels? That the state and local police are part of the local cartels? Damn, read a few articles.


  6. that is not what they are asking for.
    they are asking for a carefully constucted, effective plan and security

    and social changes judicial-educational
    stop impunity


    I wrote an article on the 5th and posted on forum i have listed some of the many groups involved in social change or causes that are in this march. femicide for one...migrants for another...i have updated each day..this is an important good thing.

  7. ps

    the first leg on the 5th was never to be the largest at Zocalo in DF tomorrow people are coming from all over Mx. I know on libre people in Tamps we talking about the bused they are taking to the march

  8. The zetas along with the P.R.I. are behind this anti government b.s. they want to take power again, I really doubt than anyone wants to go back the the pri dictatorial days then, every one in any place of power can extort bribe blackmail, any citizen tehey dont care back then they even ended biting the hand that fed them, the same people that voted for them, it took them 70 years to wake up, i hope they havent forgotten abourt "mordidas" "calentadas"
    "coperachas" "los jefes" "los lics""mochate"
    Mexico has always been a very sad place to live a total lack civility or ethic codes.
    The P.A.N. brought the change God save mexico.

  9. @May 7, 2011 1:48 PM

    TRC you are just as naive as these stupid as these protestors...there have been plenty of protests in Mexico before and has it change anything? No. Why you say "this is awesome" you are just as stupid and naive thinking that the US and Mexico are going to change their policy because of this much blood has been spilled. Do you think that pulling back the military or federal forces will change anything? No. Even before Calderon came into office the cartels were already killing each other. Why you might ask the other reader to read first, maybe you should learn your history.

    "Do you not understand that their Federal Police and Military fight with the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels?"

    Oh yes, that why they killed El Nacho and Tony Tormenta last year right and extradited el Mayos own son to the US, some protection they have..freakin moron!

  10. @3:32, Nacho was sold out by El Chapo due to an internal conflict within the cartel. Tony Tormenta was killed because a renegade general kidnapped his wife and extorted him and he retaliated in the wrong way. Not all of the military personnel is aligned with the Sinaloa and Gulf but most are. There had been rumors of a conflict between Tony and his partner too. I assure you I have read on the cartel topics for years and know a few people in the Juarez Cartel. I have 2 Masters' Degrees and am far from being a moron but will not get into a name calling contest because this site is to share information and discuss "our" opinions.

    I do think peaceful protests will bring international concern that will create change long before a bloody misdirected war will. And I think that is how God prefers it.

    @ 3:27 If Mexico continues in the direction the PAN leadership in taking, there will be no business to extort and no one with any money to kidnap and extort pretty soon. To me, it seems that PAN is doing the same things but to the expense of the whole nation. With the PRI, you knew what you had to do. What I have seen happen to Juarez is a direct assault by PAN who seem to hate the people of Juarez. This is what easily turns me against PAN.


  11. @ 3:27...40 % of the businesses in Juarez have closed. 40 % of the houses are vacant. There is no new businesses. There is no tourism. There is no civilians on the streets after 7;00 pm. There is no social life.

    Wow, PAN is awesome huh?


  12. SEAL team 6 could solve the problem. I like the generals who want to grid off the country and begin attacking the cartels - proactive not reactive. Calderon is the first president to take on cancers of Mexico and try to elevate the standing of the common Mexican. The country is going in the best long term direction. The pain is in the here and now while the stress of armed conflict and victimization of citizens and visitors is going on. Mexico has some very dirty clothes and will need to run them several times through the washer to get them clean. Some are so badly worn that they will be destroyed while being washed.

  13. Why should Mexicans being paying the cost for the Prohibitionism that reigns supreme in the US? They shouldn't, and most Mexicans know that the US has traditionally made others pay for their own US problems by exporting the problems in form of a 'war' of some kind or another to other peoples. Now they see that first hand with this imported 'drug war' that Calderon has inflicted on them.

    Fact is, that in the country so full of people who say they are against 'Big Government', the population actually constantly has supported Big Government in form of a bloated Pentagon. Mexicans, like most all of the world, know that hypocrisy is spelled USA. US citizens are so full of arrogance and shit that Mexicans naturally are beginning to rebel against falling deep into it.


  14. There sure have been a lot of dead Federales killed by the guys they supposedly are working for!

    This anti drug war movement is nothing more than surrender. Surrender to the cartels, live with their boot on your neck and let them do whatever they want to in Mexico. Which, judging by past behavior, includes disappearing people; rape; murder; torture and invasions of entire towns. Sounds like a great bunch of guys to surrender to.


  16. Mexicanos al grito de guerra

  17. El nacho was sold out by "internal conflict" that is rumors and a load of bullshit!! Then why would CDS stand to loose Guadalajara after el Nacho was killed? Look what happen after his death, nothing but attacks on GDL and trying to take control of Guadalajara from rival groups...does not make any sense, el Chapo wants territory does not want to loose any. And "renegade general" really???????? I like how you didn't respond to El Mayo's son being extradited. I wonder why? So much for your two master degrees because you obviously lack common sense. Your one of those conspiracy theorists just like Ardent.

    "And I think that is how God prefers it." jajaja

    And keep thinking and praying to your god little man because this shit is not going away. Oh yes a "Peaceful protest" is going to change Mexico jajajaja, its obvious you have no clue about Mexico or my people jajaja its pathetic at best and like I said before and I will say it again "TRC you are just as naive as these stupid as these protestors...there have been plenty of protests in Mexico before and has it change anything? No. Why you say "this is awesome" you are just as stupid and naive thinking that the US and Mexico are going to change their policy because of this much blood has been spilled.

  18. @May 7, 2011 4:18 PM

    Last time I checked El Pan wasn't in control of Juarez it was El PRI and EL PRI also controls the state of Chihuahua look at that!! Forgot to mention that right!!!

    Wow, the facts are awesome huh?

  19. I do not agree with this protest!!! I live in Tamaulipas, with need the ARMY HERE!!!!Tamaulipas is kidnapped by narcos!!! seems that these people are criminals according to increible!! Mexico is in war!!!


    As a Mexican I tell you, it is important that both people take responsibility in fighting corruption and impunity. I am very aware of our enormous domestic problems, but U.S. does not escape them. Are important parts of these problems. We must not be blind or deaf to the truth. Large economic interests that are managed for many years among bankers, drug traffickers and corrupt officials of both countries, have evolved into what is happening today here and there. If both people do not demand honesty in the fulfillment of the law and act together to combat corruption and negotiate with the heritage of the people, we're both going to suffer serious consequences. Become conscious of who is enriched by the drug trade and weapons. And who should this situation continue. I just want to inform you that in Mexico we have reached a point of no return, and we are determined to end all that quesiga exploited and impoverished. But in this process, the American people will have great surprises about their leaders and entrepreneurs. Thanks.

  21. The poet didn't seem to have a problem with things in mexico until his kid got killed. Now he's setting memorial plaques and organizing against the drug war because he just wants it to stop. He doesn't have a clue how to stop anything except maybe with non-violent protests. I hope it helps him deal with his grief. It won't have any other impact.

    Who on the "international" level do you think will notice the protests TRC? The UN? Human Rights? Nobody pays them any attention. What would they do? Bitch at Calderon to pull back the Army? Demand that he make a plan to change the judicial-educational systems and stop corruption and impunity by next April? Tell the US to make their citizens stop using drugs and to legalize mj at the same time?

    No one cares if US citizens stop using drugs. They just think if the drug market goes away the mexican criminals will stop being criminals. But they won't do that either. Mexico is a criminals paradise and that is why it is open season on law-abiding people. If you are inclined to any criminal enterprise, mexico is the place for you. Everybody gets away with everything. If you can stay alive long enough you can make a fortune and settle every personal beef you ever had without paying any consequence except paying off the police and the occasional politician.


  22. I read the comments with interest and see some of the usual suspects with their usual slant on things.

    I believe Sicilia is seriously misguided. I feel for him that he has lost his son, but ending the war on drugs will not "return peace to Mexico".

    Sometimes you fight because it is the right thing to do - not because it is popular.

    As a resident for more than a decade, I would never want to see a return to the deep-seated corruption of the PRI. Calderon has an enormous task trying to clean up the police, military, politicians and fight the cartels as well.

    Much of the violence timing is coincidental to "Calderon's war". The Zetas were comfortably part of the CDG back then and much of today's violence here in Monterrey is a result of Los Z's breaking away and trying to claim the plaza - that part has nothing to do with the government. Imagine how bad things would be if the government were not involved and the CDG and Z's were fighting each other without having to worry or expend energy to fight the military.

    Mexico has been in a crisis state for decades as the corrupt sold their souls to the cartels. Although life appeared easier, there were still lots of kidnappings, extortion and killings. Burying your head in the sand is fine, but don't imagine that everything was wonderful 4 years ago. It was a bomb waiting to go off.

    TRC - your comments are way off base. No one claims the PAN are the saviours of Mexico. Perhaps it is better to say they are the lesser of the evils. But they are trying to overcome decades of PRI corruption that created this mess. Your comments suggest that you are okay with the payoffs and institutionalized corruption where the rule of law is worthless.

    In civil society, this kind of activity is NOT ok. This is 3rd world behavior. And even worse is not even trying.

    Ardent - your anti-US rhetoric is getting old and reflects your ignorance of complex problems that exist within Mexico's borders. Perhaps blaming everything on the US makes you feel better, but that viewpoint is skewed and does not take into account the myriad of MEXICAN problems that are home grown (like the corruption).

    And finally, I leave you with this thought....let's assume that these protests are successful and the war on drugs end. Do you think life will be better? Or will it get even worse? If you want to see how much worse things can get, ending the war will relinquish sovereignty to the cartels and massive chunks of Mexican territory will be ruled by cartel "law". Is that what you really want?

  23. Texcoco Mex said.

    The bad thing about this is that they are accusing the Government for the violence. The reason Calderon started this war it was because the criminals were getting out of hand. If our Government is weak is because we are weak in our responsibilities as Mexicans.

  24. This all is heavily supported by all cartels. They want nothing more than this war to end. They have been paying people to demonstrate against the militairy and navy involvement from the beginning.

  25. Do these protestors not see the irony? You ask these Mexican officials to protect you from violence when you protest - but simultaneously try to tie the hands of the Mexican Military.

    You can't have it both ways. These cartels have engaged in the most extreme violence against civilians. Do you think "peace" will stop these animals? The Mexican Military MUST bring down the black hand of death.

    The approach must be without hesitation and they must bring an end to these parasites. Mexico must rid itself of these lazy cowards who have no work ethic. Mexico is a country of hard working people. They must now allow these lazy cowards try to take the easy path and leave everyone else in fear and poverty.

  26. The Palestinian fights and dies for his self-determination while the Mexican fights and dies for his self-deprecation.

  27. Are all these people - or even a significant portion of them - prepared to resort to violence? Face it, people, the violence is there. You're not going to take ANYTHING from a drug lord, or even a corrupt cop, unless you have the capacity to meet him on his own terms. He respects nothing but force. There's a bloodbath already happening. The question is, who gets bathed? Peaceful marches are alright for making a statement. But they will change nothing, in and of themselves.

  28. Dear Citizens of Mexico:
    Ending a war against drug cartels will not bring peace to your country. You should support your President and back your mexican soldiers. To date they have ridded your country of thousands of worthless persons related to the drug trade. Our prayers and thoughts go to the families that have lost loved ones in the cross fire of the drug violence. However, the number of those lost in the violence are minimal when you consider the how many overall have been lost. Those lives will not be in vain. Don't look now Mexico, but you are in the middle of a revolution. Lives get lost and people die -- even the innocent. Your country was governed by corrupt politicians and drug lords for decades. Your President is it revolutionary leader. Liberty and freedom come with a price and the price is bloodshed. When you stop the war on drugs you will be worse off than you are now. Quitting now will only send your country into more turmoil. Do you really want your country to go back to corrupt politicians on the payrolls of the drug dealer?

  29. I agree with Runaway1956 in that the peaceful marches won't change anything. They will probably take a grenade from a cartel or something.

    If the people really want to try do something they need to all arm themselves. Its against the law to have a weapon in Mexico as we all know but its not like the police can do anything when you have a few million civililans all packing heat!

  30. This is such a lame accusation, Anonymous 10:29...

    'Perhaps blaming everything on the US makes you feel better, but that viewpoint is skewed and does not take into account the myriad of MEXICAN problems that are home grown (like the corruption).'

    Everywhere, and not just in Latin America, US government melds itself like super glue to all the local corruption, and everybody from Osama to the dumbest peasant around knows that except for seemingly these USA folk who shout about how offended they are by the supposed 'anti Americanism'.

    'And finally, (Ardent), I leave you with this thought....let's assume that these protests are successful and the war on drugs end. Do you think life will be better?

    No, not necessarily... simply because the deaths in the so-called drug war' are a symptom of a much deeper rot in Mexican society and US society.... the unequal distribution of society's wealth. Plus, without decriminalization of drug use and small sales of drugs in the US the US government forces other societies south of us into the failed policies of our government's Prohibitionism, whether Latin Americans agree with it or not..

  31. .... Mexico as well as the U.S. and most countries is experiencing a massive deteoriation of morals and corrupution is wide spread across the world...

    ...As much as people cry out for solutions, the murder, the rape, the lawlessness continues all over the world...

    ...Everything has deteoriorated, and all people are trying to hold on to what will be left and they are compromising their morals and beliefs....

    ....It's in all individuals to survive whatever that survival means to them personally...

    ...God hates the evil that is being committed in Mexico. Killing poor migrants, sells (drugs), the murder, the rape, all of it.And only one curse after another will come from it...

    ...Here in the U>S>, you have young kids high in herion, meth, coke, etc, etc..

    ...The end is upon us, and all people can think about is how they are going to survive...

    ...Things will not get better, people are getting worse and worse by the day. I see (normal people so to speak that are affected) by the enormous evil upon us...It indeed is a plague, and as time continues, you will only see an escalation of the present...

    ...It's time for people to look real deep in your very own souls, because the APPOINTED TIME IS ON OUR HEELS....And soon we will all answer to GOD.!!!!!!


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