Since President Felipe Calderón militarized the “war” against drugs and organized crime upon taking office in late 2006, drug trafficking cartels and their violent spinoffs have gotten bigger, bolder and more numerous. Since the beginning of Calderón’s term in office, over 35,000 Mexicans have died violently either at the hands of organized crime, in the fights among organized criminals, in the fights between criminal gangs and the military or police, or extra-judicially at the hands of some organ of the federal or local state.
On its own terms, Calderón’s war against drugs and organized crime has been a massive failure; it has elevated the level of insecurity in the country.
This past Sunday, about a hundred thousand marchers filled Mexico City’s central plaza, the Zócalo, demanding an end to the daily violence. Unlike many previous demonstrations for public safety, notably a massive "March Against Insecurity" in 2004, Sunday’s “National March for Peace with Justice and Security” called for less military presence rather than more.
The lead contingent of the march had set out from the city of Cuernavaca three days earlier, camping along the way. It was organized by a well-known poet and political columnist named Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, had been kidnapped and murdered for reasons still unknown, about seven weeks ago. The murder, given Sicilia’s national standing, drew national attention.
Sicilia channeled his grief and anger into a national mobilization with six basic demands. In future blogs, I will comment on each of these demands, but for now, here they are.
First, the active investigation of all murders, disappearances, kidnappings, clandestine graves and person trafficking, along with the publication of the names of the victims and the “material and intellectual authors” of these crimes.
Second, the end of the military strategy of the fight against organized crime and its transformation into a program of citizen security and human rights.
Third, an end to corruption and impunity: the elimination of immunity to prosecution of public officials suspected of having links to organized crime, public corruption, or crimes against the common good.
Fourth, an attempt to end the economic roots and profitability of organized crime, particularly by combating money laundering.
Fifth, the creation of real opportunities for youth, along with the recovery of a social compact among citizens: the generation of decent employment and education.
Sixth, the creation of a democracy that is both participatory and more effectively representative: the democratization of the communications media to allow for more effective citizen participation.
Meanwhile, President Calderón, saying, “I, also, want a Mexico with peace, a Mexico without violence, freed from the lash and the oppression of criminality,” has vowed to keep up the military presence but has offered to dialogue with the marchers.
There will be reverberations.