Javier Sicilia Posts First Names on Drug War’s “Vietnam Wall”
By Al Giordano
I’m going to make this quick because news is still happening to be reported here tonight in Cuernavaca, Morelos, where a national resistance to the “war on drugs” was born last week and rolls quickly toward destiny.
This afternoon at the sit-in against the national violence, underway on the Cuernavaca City Square, or Zócalo, Javier Sicilia arrived around 5 p.m., received by warm hugs by the locals and some especially heart-wrenching teary-eyed embraces by family members of other drug war martyrs who came here all the way from the US border state of Chihuahua: Julian LeBaron, brother of the late Mormon leader Benjamin LeBaron, an organizer against kidnappings who was assassinated in the town of Galeano in 2009, and Olga Reyes, of a Chihuahua family that has lost multiple members to assassins after it stood up against drug war violence (see Reyes Family: Militarization of Drug War in Mexico to Blame for Extortions, Kidnappings and Murders, Narco News, March 2, 2011).
Together with human rights leader and Catholic priest Miguel Concha, the three family members of drug war martyrs held a press conference for about three dozen local, national and international reporters and cameramen, at which Sicilia said he and his Morelos neighbors would be hanging plaques on the Governor’s Palace with the names of 95 state residents killed in prohibition-related violence since January 1 of this year. They also read each name aloud; 95 human lives in 100 days, all those human lives in just one of Mexico’s less populous states. Family members of various were there, standing tall and silent, relieved, surprised, proud that something the regime promised them would never be allowed them happened today: a dignified memory of their fallen.
Many – your reporter, included – thought that Javier's declaration simply meant they would hang banners on the walls of the state government seat, but the plot would soon thicken as he and others took up a power tool and began to drill metal plates, the first with the name of Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega (1987-2011) into the grey stone visage of State power, under the glare of TV network lights (including those of NNTV).
I had been talking with Sylvia Marcos and Jean Robert when the commotion started. Both of them, along with Javier (I'm going to ditch the term "don" that worthily proceeds his name from other pens: poets don't address each other that way), were young protégés of Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich back in the day when Illich had retired to Ocotepec, on the outskirts of this City of Eternal Spring. We looked up at Javier with his power drill buzzing and I exclaimed, all excited, “it’s a dilemma action!”
The colleagues looked at me quizzically, and there wasn’t time to tell them Ivan Marovic’s tale of when he and some chums made the Serbian regime arrest a wooden barrel, so I just said, “The governor is put in a dilemma with no good options. He can leave the plaques up, soon to be joined by hundreds of plaques by all the families over five years that have lost members to Calderon’s drug war, covering the entire palace! Or the governor can provoke an even more intense social revolt by sending police to remove the Vietnam Wall of the drug war. He loses either way.”
Javier Sicilia today called on citizens throughout Mexico to erect such plaques on every municipal and state government hall on every town and city square, so that the 40,000 Mexicans killed in Calderón’s war will not be forgotten. “We have to give them back their names, their history, and also to their families who have been criminalized. At every Zócalo, put up their names, put up a plaque, so that their deaths will never be repeated.”
And that’s how it was in Cuernavaca today: filled with the sense that everything is to be done and everything is possible.
Today was just the warm up for tomorrow: On Wednesday evening, at 6 p.m. (Mexico Time, Central Time Zone), the deadline that Javier gave the state prosecutors to solve the case of the assassinations of his son and six friends expires. He has called civil society – whose ranks last Wednesday in this town numbered 50,000 strong - down to the city square where he will announce his next steps in this nascent but steamrolling campaign to end the war on drugs in Mexico.
Sources have told us some of what will happen, and some of who will be here, including some folks of considerable national renown, but every damn one said “off the record,” knowing we’d keep our word. Suffice to say, we’re not moving from this spot until it happens. And after tomorrow, seems that we’re going to be moving a lot faster in this work of coldly and rationally documenting this history in the making. Auténticos: All hands on deck.