Photo: MPJD's peace caravan
Mexican poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia has received the U.S. government’s backing for his planned month-long peace caravan in that country aimed at drawing attention to drug-related violence and communicating his anti-drug war message.
Sicilia, who heads the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, was received here Friday by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne and spoke to him about his plans for the caravan, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 12 in San Diego and cover several southern U.S. states before making its way to Chicago and New York and ending in Washington in mid-September.
The United States has a long history of supporting freedom of expression, including peaceful expressions of protest and dissent, Wayne said in a U.S. Embassy press release.
He added that he appreciated the “courtesy” of MPJD leaders in sharing their points of view and plans.
The statement said the goal of the caravan will be to create awareness about drug violence, weapons trafficking and trans-border issues such as migration and money laundering.
U.S. activists, including representatives of the San Francisco-based human rights advocacy group Global Exchange, will take part in the peace caravan.
The 56-year-old Sicilia, who formed his movement after his son was murdered last year by suspected drug-gang members, says the United States shares the blame for the tens of thousands of drug-related deaths in Mexico over the past five-and-a-half years, citing the high demand for illegal drugs there and the north-to-south flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
He wants the United States to stop providing aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative, a U.S.-funded regional plan to battle drug cartels and other transnational criminal networks.
The activist also supports legalizing narcotics and insists that drugs should be treated as a public-health problem not as a national security issue, a stance that President Barack Obama does not share.
This summer’s caravan will be the first outside Mexico and the third since MPJD was founded last year.
The most recent one took place last September in southern Mexico and was aimed at raising awareness of the pain suffered by victims of violence, including large numbers of Central American migrants who are preyed upon by drug traffickers and corrupt officials.
Sicilia’s group, made up of relatives of victims of violence, also is demanding an end to Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s strategy of deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police to drug-war flashpoints, saying it has only made the country less safe.
Since Calderon took office in late 2006, organized crime-related violence in Mexico has left more than 50,000 dead, 10,000 missing and 120,000 displaced from their homes.