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Drug War Threatens Democracy, Mexican Peace Caravan Warns in US

LOS ANGELES, California, Aug 14 2012 (IPS) - “The war on drugs is endangering the best thing that the United States has given the world: democracy,” Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet who heads the movement of victims of the violence unleashed by the war on drugs in his country, said upon reaching the United States this week.

Sicilia and a group of 40 other relatives of victims of drug-related violence, along with dozens of human rights activists from Mexico and the United States, set out on Sunday in a binational Peace Caravan that will weave across the United States, eventually arriving in Washington D.C. on Sept. 10.

The slogan of the convoy, which consists of buses, campers and trailers, is “No More Drug War”. Its ambitious goal is to get the government of President Barack Obama to cooperate in cracking down on the smuggling of firearms across the U.S. border into Mexico.

But the main aim of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity is to press for a change in the United States’ prohibitionist drug policy, followed by Washington since the administration of Republican president Richard Nixon (1969-1974), and replicated in Mexico.

“If we continue to leave the problem only in the hands of governments and political organisations, the only thing we will have is more violence,” Sicilia said in San Diego, California, the first stop of the caravan, which will visit 27 cities.

He also said it would lead to a greater number of states that “disguised as democratic, will become more and more police and military-oriented, and more xenophobic.”

His proposal was seconded by Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, a member of the House of Representatives for California, who is running for mayor of San Diego, and by Juan Vargas, a Democratic member of the California state Senate. “It is clear that what we have been doing has not worked,” Vargas told IPS. “This has not been a war on drugs; it is murder of innocent people, on both sides of the border.”

The organisations taking part in the caravan estimate that 70,000 people have been killed, 20,000 have gone missing, 250,000 have been forced to leave their homes, and thousands have been widowed or orphaned – victims of the war on organised crime launched by conservative Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whose term ends Dec. 1.

In the United States, meanwhile, there are two million people in prison for possession of just a few grams of drugs. The binational trade in drugs and firearms generates between 19 and 39 million dollars a year, laundered by banks in both countries, according to statistics cited by members of the caravan.

The peace movement in Mexico emerged after the murder of Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco, on Mar. 28, 2011. In June 2011, the group drove halfway across Mexico, from the centre to the north of the country. And in September 2011 a second caravan drove from central to southern Mexico, to gather the personal accounts of victims’ families and draw support for the movement’s campaign against impunity.

The caravan that is making its way across the United States has the support of more than 200 organisations concerned with immigrant rights, human rights, minority rights and racial justice.

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