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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fractures begin to appear in Sicilia's peace movement

By Chris Covert
Julian LeBaron in 2011

After losing to violence three members of Javier Sicilia's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity since last October, a fourth member has voluntarily severed his relationship, according to Mexican news accounts.

Julian LeBaron who is a resident of Galeana municipality  in Chihuahua state and a fundamentalist Mormon leader announced in an open letter that Javier Sicilia's peace movement had formed a relationship with governments, a nexus which he compared in the letter to repairing a car with a saw.

According to the open letter publish in whole in Proceso leftist news weekly's website Saturday, Julian LeBaron's beef with Sicilia's group has been the dialogue Sicilia has established with "highest authorities of the Mexican state", and how some members of the movement have come to embrace electoral politics as a means of bringing peace to Mexican society.

Senor LeBaron probably refers to two meetings Sicilia had with Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa as well as a meeting with top federal cabinet officials, legislators and senators from Mexico City last fall.

In a Sunday morning explication of LeBaron's decision, another Proceso report had him comparing Calderon's method of dealing with gang and drug violence with having heart surgery with chain saws.  Le Baron also has a problem with what he has seen as the weak accommodations the federal government has taken with the peace movement's concerns.

Chief amongst those are legislation recently signed by President Calderon that made high school for all Mexican youth compulsory, an increase in secondary education spending and the creation of an Office for Victims of Violence.

A co-founder in Sicilia's peace movement, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) professor Emilio Alvarez Icaza Longoria has taken exception to Le Baron's assessment of the strategy in Sicilia's movement.  He said initiatives such as the violence against victim's office will need many "adjustments", his term.  He also said the dialogue with government officials has "changed the narrative "with regard to violence.

The peace movement by Sicilia has had a number of problems since the fall of 2011.

The violent deaths of three top members of the peace group has emerged as one.  Those deaths include:
  • Leiva Pedro Dominguez, who was shot to death in Aquila municipality in Michoacan state by unidentified armed suspects in August, 2011.

  • Nepomuceno Moreno Nunez, who was shot to death last November by armed suspects in Hermosillo, Sonora.

  • J. Trinidad de la Cruz Crisoforo, who was shot to death in Santa Maria Ostula in Aquila municipality in Michoacan state last December.           
All of these violent deaths were unrelated to Felipe Calderon's war on the cartels, two of them related to local ongoing disputes over land. One was said to be related to Moreno's Nunez's alleged former involvement with a local violent gang.

Poet and peace movement leader Javier Sicilia

Unlike with his own son Francisco, Sicilia could not point to those three deaths as at least emblematic to Calderon's efforts to deal with drug cartels, as tragic as they were, but they do point to a problem Sicilia has with his allies.

Senor LeBaron has himself lost relatives to organized crime violence, when a brother in law, Benjamin LeBaron and his brother in law, Luis Carlos Widmar Stubbs, w
ere kidnapped and murdered in 2009.  LeBaron was impressed enough with Sicilia's grief in the loss of his own son, that he moved to Cuernavaca, Morelos to aid Sicilia in his then nascent movement.

Other problems had emerged as well.  For example, it was found out by Mexican press that Sicilia had an armed federal security detail accompanying him since his first meeting with Calderon in the spring of 2011.  That detail nearly ran afoul of Guatemalan authorities when they entered Guatamala armed.

Presence of the detail assigned Sicilia could well have been a major reason why Commandante Marcos of the Marxist Ejercito Zapatista Libercaion National (EZLN) refused to meet with Sicilia when he decided to pay a visit.  He was personally turned away by EZLN operatives.

The same issue could well haunt Sicilia when he comes to the US in August to make a scheduled tour of the US-Mexico border later this summer.  Security arrangements for Sicilia have yet to be announced, if they will be, but it is unlikely US local law enforcement will allow armed Mexican security personnel to accompany him in his tour.  If not, Sicilia may well be forced to rely on other means of personal protection.

Sicilia may not be a target of cartels, but cartel and gang violence is apparently so pervasive, his security detail invoked a security protocol last fall while touring through Veracruz state.  Agents had spotted armed suspects on the road, and forced Sicilia's entourage off the road. Agents then dismounted weapons at the ready into a defensive laager before allowing the entourage to continue.

Lastly, the most likely final straw for LeBaron was the inclusion of several unidentified members of the peace movement in political candidate slots of the mainstream leftist Partido Revolucion Democratica (PRD) to run in the general election July 1st.

Sicilia himself was asked to join as a candidate for PRD, but he refused.

The PRD, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as its flag bearer is an obvious natural next step for a peace movement seeking political power, and the change that comes with it.

Lopez Obrador has long been advocating ordering Mexican military units off the streets and to the barrack, almost word for word what Sicilia has been demanding since April 2011, when he first started his movement.

Sicilia's reluctance to join PRD in imposing a disarmament solution in the face of extreme and wanton violence is understandable.  Sicilia is in general agreement with Le Baron that the peace movement must focus on people and their suffering, not political power in advancing its goals.

But the movement is fracturing from the apparently growing nexus with the Mexican national political establishment.

Perhaps LeBaron wants some distance from the institutions he sees as at least as responsible for organized crime violence as the cartels.  How he would personally proceed to advance his own goals is now anyone's guess.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for


  1. who cares how this guy describes present tactics ... mormons believe they each get their own planet when they die. how can you take anything seriously these idiots say?

  2. Everybody bitches,everybody gripes,complains,SO whats the BETTER plan? Calderon sent the military? Who else is there? Who will stand up to the Narcos-Nobody- just listen to all the criticism. Is it true that the PRI will take over the country next July? If this happens then would that not Say Something?? It would be a hell of a comment on Mexican voters, and you can't blame that on the USA.

  3. i think what LeBaron is saying is that Sicilia's movement is being compromised by politics and business as usual. he is saying the peace organization is being watered down.

  4. they will be a cartel soon


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