By Al Giordano
“I'm learning to walk again/Can't you see I've waited long enough/Where do I begin?”
- from Walk, by the Foo Fighters (from the 2011 motion picture, Thor)
MEXICO CITY, MAY 7, 2011: What began on Thursday as a few hundred silent walkers heading out from the city of Cuernavaca today entered the metropolis of Mexico City thousands strong. At the entrance to Insurgentes Avenue they stopped and an organizer with a bullhorn provided instructions to the marchers, more in the voice of a Broadway theater director than of a political speechmaker:
“Parents of our dead, to the front of the march, behind the black banner that says, ‘We Have Had It Up to Here. Stop the War!’”
And in perfect choreography, Mexico’s most renowned father of one of the 40,000 drug war martyrs in the past four years, took a step back and other parents, with the black banner, stepped forward. A woman with an olive tree, a young girl, and a man with the Mexican flag then took their places five steps in front of the banner. Youths from Cuernavaca placed the security rope five steps in front of them, and the photo was painted by thousands of feet and hands working in unison.
Behind the family members of the dead from Felipe Calderón’s war on the Mexican people, more than 150 indigenous, religious, environmental, student, neighborhood and civic organizations and union locals took their places with their respective banners. Rank and file people unaffiliated with any group found their places in between. The retro-guard of more youths firmed up the security rope at the rear of the march – about a half-kilometer behind the snake of a width of two traffic lanes – and everything was ready. The youth with the bullhorn then instructed the vehicles leading the caravan twenty steps ahead of it to begin moving again, as what seemed like hundreds of photographers, TV cameras and reporters preserved the scene for history.
Your reporter, for 14 years, has covered protest marches from top to bottom of the Mexican Republic. They voiced many grievances on many issues but after a while they all began to sound and look alike: the same chants, the same slogans, the same iconic images of Zapata and Villa and Che Guevara often with artillery in hand… Groups and factions trying to outshout each other with their chants specific to their causes, and a kind of nervous combination of both fear and hostility toward the police, and vice versa. For those citizens not involved in those struggles, some found such marches frightening. Many youths called them boring and uncool. The lack of public response and support tended to make many of those movements feel more alienated, and alienation leads to paranoia, and paranoia leads to frustration, and frustration leads to poor strategic and tactical choices. And thus, while they have long been large in size, protests in Mexico have tended to not achieve their goals. Movements have come and gone, made stabs at garnering greater support, then disappeared out of view again, their ranks diminished by the four horsemen of failure: alienation, paranoia, frustration and poor strategy.
Today felt different. Today was measurably, objectively, not the same. The loudest thing about this march was its contemplative silence and the applause and response it provoked from men, women, children, elderly folks, who came out of their homes and stores to stop and watch it pass by.
Through the relatively wealthy southern section of the city known as Tlalpan, local women had set up neat tables abundant with sandwiches, water, fruit, soda and more. “Are journalists welcome to a water?” I asked. Yes, they smiled in unison. Have an orange, too. Have a sandwich. Have two! They seemed almost crestfallen that all I wanted was a bottle of water.
Your correspondent had walked some kilometers already and sat down at the base of a statue of an animal, a couple meters above street level, to sip the water, watch the entire march walk by, and scribble into my notepad. Javier’s section of the march streamed by and Jean Robert, the tall white-maned senior citizen and intellectual who had walked three score kilometers from Cuernavaca, shouted to me, “do you know what that monument is, Giordano? It’s the monument of the street dog!” Ah, my patron saint!
Every human exchange we witnessed (this from the half dozen Narco News correspondents filming and reporting the events at this corner today, others are downtown and in Chiapas reporting related stories) seemed to have contained a degree of mirth, of humor, of hope. They had walked in from the provinces and were taking the capital. (And just as the 1994 communiquéby the Zapatistas of Chiapas pledged that on their way to take the capital they would stop to eat quesadillas in the town of Tres Marias, this silent march had complied with that promise, too.)
A friend who was with the March in the rural town of Topilejo last night reported, “It was like watching what we all hoped the Other Campaign of 2006 would become.” And in a sense it is the logical continuation of that worthy effort to unite all the social forces of the country, “from below and to the left,” to unravel the violent dictatorship that calls itself a democracy with endorsement from Washington and its obedient English-language media cadres.
Narco News will have more reports today and this weekend from different corners of the Republic, including from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, where thousands of indigenous Zapatistas responded to Javier’s call with their own silent march to stop the war.
This section of Insurgentes Avenue includes white overhead walkway bridges for pedestrians to cross and avoid the highway-velocity traffic that normally pummels through it. Today, each of those bridges was adorned with banners in solidarity with the march and its cause, many signed by Tlalpan neighborhood groups, and people who climbed them for an aerial view of the march applauding and flashing V signs at the walkers down below.
Transit police in neon-yellow uniforms flanked the left side of the march as a human barrier between it and the city’s big red electric Metro Buses that came speeding through every ten minutes or so. In between those moments, women from the neighborhood ran out handing sandwiches and water bottles to the police, too, who gladly accepted them. One uniformed officer interviewed by an Australian National TV News camera today, said, “I support this march. This is about what all Mexicans want.”
During each of the walk’s rest stops, Javier retreats to the passenger seat of a vehicle parked in a shady spot, takes a sip of soda or a bite of a cookie, and is besieged by reporters seeking interviews. (A scene from yesterday, with a high-heeled big media star using too much make-up: TV AZTECA REPORTER: “Javier, what has happened on the march?” JAVIER, shrugging his shoulders, smiling: “Nothing.”) Today, as the cameras mobbed around him as if in the Pinball Wizard scene from the rock opera, Tommy, trying to get interviews, something exclusive, trying to see him, feel him, touch him, Javier reached into the back of the truck and held out an offering between two halves of a bread roll. “Would any of you,” he said, “like a sandwich?” And next thing they are too busy eating sandwiches to bother him with questions.
Javier Sicilia and his merry band (they kind of do conjure up images of Robin Hood and company) walking into the big city from Morelos may very well stop the drug war. They are harnessing a public opinion that has existed for a long time but no one had given voice or form to it. I’m a believer. We’ve been documenting and reporting everything they’ve done and will keep on doing so and see it all the way through. But I observe they are doing something else, maybe something even bigger than that once-thought impossible policy change, as well. They are teaching us how to walk again: Another way to fight. Not with polarization and sloganeering, but with creativity and fun, with a warm heart and a cool head. Heaven knows that if anyone has a right to rant and rail and shout and pound his fist into the air, it is he who lost his son so cruelly so few weeks ago. But here he is, today, in the nation’s capital, handing out sandwiches to reporters and to cops, giving them, too, a shot at redemption, to learn to walk again.
(Photo DR 2011 Alejandro Meléndez.)
By Al Giordano
When a parent has to bury a son or daughter, as Javier Sicilia pointed out this month after the assassination of 24-year-old Juan Francisco Sicilia, there is no word for what the parent becomes: “the death of a child is always unnatural and that’s why it has no name: I don’t know if it is orphan or widow, but it is simply and painfully nothing – from these, I repeat, mutilated lives, from this suffering, from the indignation that these deaths have provoked, it is simply that we have had it up to here.”
The fast developing saga of one father’s search for justice – not just for his own loss but for the families and friends and countrymen of 40,000 slain in the drug war of president Felipe Calderón since 2007 – has shaken the conscience of the Mexican nation. Tens of thousands of citizens have mobilized under Sicilia’s call of “Stop the War, for a Just Mexico, in Peace.” And as momentum builds toward a silent march to step out on May 5 from Sicilia’s city of Cuernavaca to Mexico City on May 8, the first signs of a smear campaign by the few defenders of Calderón’s War left emerged this week in an unpredicted location: on Facebook.
While Calderón has publicly attempted to treat Sicilia’s loss with respect – including that he invited the poet, father and nationally beloved journalist to the presidential manse of Los Pinos in the days after the murder of Sicilia’s son and six other innocents – he and his allies have been gritting their teeth as any tyrant and his lackeys anywhere tend to do when the citizenry turns audibly against the violence of his decrees.
One of Calderón’s closest personal and political buddies this week let it slip how those in power really view Sicilia and the citizen movement that has risen up around him.
Let us show you a screen shot and then tell you about Luis Carlos Ugalde, the individual who typed these words from his Facebook account on the fan page of the Mexico Institute, part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC:
Here, and just so no tyrants will need their spectacles to read the words on that screen shot, Ugalde responded to a call by one global citizen for Mexico Institute friends to vote in favor of Javier Sicilia for a Global Exchange “people’s choice” award in human rights.
The idea of honoring a human rights advocate with a human rights award was apparently offensive to Ugalde, who at 6:44 p.m. on Wednesday typed onto Facebook:
“Speaking out does not necessarily menan (sic) speaking well. It is laudable that he has come out to organize civil society. However, his message suggesting making a pact with drug trafickers (sic) to decrease violence in Mexico, is quite dangerous and provides the bad incentives to fight impunity in Mexico.”
First of all, getting lectured by Luis Carlos Ugalde on “impunity” is something akin to being force-fed a speech on "democracy" by deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Impunity is something that Ugalde publicly embraced in 2006, as then head of Mexico’s Federal Elections Institute (IFE, in its Spanish initials) when he refused to recuse himself from arbitrating a massive and well-documented case of election fraud in Mexico’s presidential elections. It was an election in which the candidate who received 1.5 million more votes than the other was denied the presidency by Ugalde and his electoral politbureau, and, instead, the post was handed to second-place finisher Felipe Calderón, who only a few years prior had served - you can't make this stuff up - as best man at Ugalde’s wedding in Tepoztlán, Morelos.
Now, that’s impunity! When you can be the top umpire over an electoral game in which you can deliver the presidency of a nation to the best man from your wedding, and not even have to recuse yourself from the case: ain’t that grand? The guy who won the most votes in that election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, later called Ugalde an “electoral felon.”
Of course, impunity has its rewards. Since leaving the Federal Electoral Institute in 2007, Ugalde has been lavished with fellowships and teaching gigs at important US institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Harvard University. According to Ugalde’s own Facebook page, he now resides in Washington, DC, and even posts a cute profile photo of himself in front of the cherry blossom trees on the Potomac Basin:
(Oh, my, there goes the neighborhood: your correspondent is embarrassed to disclose that he has five “Facebook friends” in common with this “electoral felon.” Fair enough: we’ll have to post this story on their Facebook pages, too, then: that's what friends are for!)
Anyway, many keen observers have noticed what they see as a direct relationship between Calderón’s 2006 ascension-by-fraud to the presidency and the violence he unleashed when he militarized the drug war a few months later. After all, what better way to distract from the public grievance that you’re not, um, a real president than sending the Armed Forces into the streets to fight an unwinnable war and creating daily headlines and gruesome photos and TV images of so many of the 40,000 to perish in the bloodshed?
So when one man, in his immeasurable grief, stands up and says “we have had it up to here” with that simulated “war on drugs” and an entire country’s discontent finds echo in his call, the engineers of that false presidency have got to be a little bit concerned that the jig may soon be up, especially at this moment in history when an “Arab Spring” has become so attractive to people in other lands, maybe especially others with pyramids and pride for the ancient advanced civilizations of their own.
Most disgraceful about Ugalde’s Facebook indiscretion, is that it was knowingly dishonest – one could even say “fraudulent” - in its claim that Javier Sicilia had suggested “making a pact with drug traffickers.” For this is a point that Sicilia himself clarified in the national magazine Proceso more than two weeks ago.
Sicilia’s words at that moment were very valuable and instructive, and still are, so they are worth repeating here:
He said that such a pact would not come at this moment, but, rather, once drugs are legalized and their consumption will be treated as a public health matter.
In a brief declaration sent to the media, the poet and collaborator of Proceso, Javier Sicilia – whose son Juan Francisco was assassinated with six others on March 28 – said that if we don’t want to make such pacts then there will have to be “pacts of honor” so that the civilian population isn’t touched and the prisoners of the gangs should be treated according to human rights standards.
“My statements about a pact with narco-trafficking, as tends to occur in such a tense world and distorted by political interests, were not well understood. When I referred to a pact, I referred precisely to the fact that narco-trafficking has existed for a long time in our country. It is part of our life. However, since the war was unleashed as a means to exterminate it, the US, which is the grand consumer of these toxic substances, has not done anything to support us.
“The weapons that are arming organized crime and are killing our kids, our soldiers, our police, come from the US and they are not doing anything to stop them. These guns are maybe worse than any kind of drug, they are powerful, terrible and widespread,” said Sicilia.
He asked that “if the US doesn’t prosecute and put a stop to its arms industry – a legalized horror – why should we prosecute the producers of the drugs?”
Sicilia’s call, in fact, requires no pact with drug traffickers. It would simply and unilaterally pull the rug out from under their huge profits by legalizing and regulating drugs like alcohol is regulated today.
But Luis Carlos Ugalde, not surprisingly, doesn’t seem to exercise a scholar-fellow’s expected academic rigor when choosing to smear a father and poet who only weeks ago lost his son to the newly militarized “drug war” that Ugalde is at least partially responsible for wreaking. That's because he’s the guy who put Calderón in the powerful post to which he was not elected, thus creating the need for a big violent distraction from the cloud of illegitimacy that hung, and continues to hang, over his government.
The best way to interpret this is that the clique around Calderón, despite having all the armament and firepower of the Armed Forces, the police agencies, the commercial media monopolies and the entire apparatus of Mexican State at their command, is very frightened of one unarmed poet and student of Gandhian nonviolence that is Javier Sicilia.
They’re even scared of the possibility that he gets an international “people’s choice” human rights award, so terrified that Ugalde, for one, had to type a knowing falsehood during Wednesday Happy Hour during the Easter Week holidays onto his Facebook account.
Forgive them, Facebook. They know not what they do…
By Al Giordano
(Gianni Proiettis with Mercedes Osuna in Chiapas, Mexico, in front of a military vehicle. Date of photo unknown.)
Ever wonder what it will be like to be deported from Mexico? Gianni Proiettis, the first journalist to be expelled by the Mexican regime since the 1990s (when the government of then-president Ernesto Zedillo kicked more than 400 journalists and human rights observers out of the country for having visited rebel indigenous Zapatista territory in Chiapas) today relates the story of his twenty-first century deportation.
Reached by Narco News on Sunday at the home of his sister in the Italian capital, Gianni – legal resident of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Mexico since 1993, professor at the Autonomous University of Chiapas (UNACH, in its Spanish initials) and correspondent for the Italian Il Manifiesto newspaper with a weekly blog on its front page about Mexican news – narrated, step by step, his unexpected transatlantic journey.
“On Friday morning I went to the immigration offices in San Cristóbal to renew my FM2 visa like I do every year. I had already given them all the required papers,” Gianni begins. “Two days earlier the office director had called me and asked for my passport with an excuse that now they process the applications via Internet. I suggested that I bring her a photocopy. She said, no, she needed the original. I gave it to them last Wednesday.”
(Technically, a passport is property of the government that issues it, and no other government, under international law, has the right to take it away from a foreign citizen, one of the multiple irregularities in this case that may lead to Gianni’s eventual, or even swift, return to his home of eighteen years.)
“She gave me an appointment for Friday at 10:30 a.m. The only thing left to do was to pay the annual fee. I got there punctually at the hour she had given me. They had me waiting for more than an hour, while they let others ahead in line. Every five minutes or so an agent would come up to me and say ‘five minutes.’ Everything seemed normal. Then one said, ‘Can you come in here to the room on the right?’ When I entered that room, there were five men in uniforms of the National Immigration Institute. One of them said, ‘From this moment now, you are under our custody.’
“I had in my pocket a protective order that a judge had issued last December, preventing my arrest, that Mercedes Osuna had gotten for me. I called to the office director, but she had disappeared. She wouldn’t show her face. An officer said that my protective order had already expired. I said, ‘Then return it to me.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, it will be traveling with you.’ From that moment on, I never got my protective order back, nor the receipts that proved I had given them all the necessary documents to renew my annual visa. They had taken away the proof.
“They put me in a van with five immigration agents. It was preceded by a federal police cruiser which moved at high speed to the airport in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. They escorted me into the government section, and quickly to a small executive jet which brought a pilot, a copilot, two agents, and me to Mexico City.
“Ninety minutes later I was in the Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, again in the government area. They offered me a steak or a fish but I said, ‘no thanks, you have taken away my appetite.’ It was already getting dark. I didn’t have a watch so I can’t tell you what time it was.
“One of the immigration officials in Mexico City told me, ‘You are being deported because you did not renew your visa. We gave you an order to leave that you did not obey. So we have deported you.’ I told him that that was totally false. Nobody had ever given me an order to leave. They invented the accusation out of thin air."
Yet the San Cristóbal office of the National Immigration Institute had signed a receipt back on April 5 when Gianni submitted his visa renewal forms with all the necessary paperwork. That receipt was among the documents taken from him by immigration agents on Friday, and never returned. However, the national headquarters must surely have a computer record of those transactions (didn't the local delegate tell Gianni that "now they process the applications via the Internet"?). Somebody broke the law, and it wasn't Gianni Proiettis.
“Then they escorted me to an Aeromexico flight to Rome via Madrid. Two agents came with me on the plane. It was strange. What was I going to do, escape from the plane mid-flight? But they insisted, ‘We will bring you to Rome.’
“Thirteen hours later, in the Barajas International Airport of Madrid, they brought me to a police office. I was still under arrest by two Mexican immigration agents. I noted the illegality of the thing. How is it possible that two Mexican police are detaining me in a Spanish airport when I have no criminal charges or legal obligations in Spain, or Italy, or even in Mexico, where expulsion is an administrative process?
“I tried to explain this to the Spanish police, that I should be free to go right there. They said, ‘We always do it that way.’ I said, ‘This isn’t an extradition, it is a deportation, Mexico no longer has authority over me.’ It was totally absurd. I was in Spain, but I was not free to go.
“At 8 p.m. on Saturday night we boarded a plane for Rome, still with the two Mexican agents. Then they made us get off the plane. As individuals, we were already documented with boarding passes. Of course I had no luggage. But in cases like this there is another layer of bureaucracy. The Spaniards said, ‘you can’t leave, more papers need to be filled out. You have to wait until the morning.’ So we stayed in the offices of the police. There were cells in the basement with cots, but the Mexican agents and I all tried to sleep on some benches in the office area.
“At some point I convinced them to take me to the airport restaurant area. The Mexican agents were actually nice kids. So we ate there in the restaurant area. Then we tried to sleep a little on the benches. At 6:30 a.m. they took us in a van to below the airplane, and we boarded.”
After a journey that began on Friday morning, 10:30 a.m. Mexico time, in the immigration offices of his city, Gianni Proiettis landed in Rome on Sunday morning, 9:30 a.m. Italian time (40 hours later). Gianni invited the two Mexican immigration agents to his sister’s house there, where they accepted the invitation for a coffee. (I would have gotten them drunk on limoncello, taken them to a bordello, and snapped some useful photographs, but Gianni, you can see, is a gentleman.) A little while later they left, and Gianni spoke with Narco News by telephone.
"But Gianni," I said, "remember back in the 1990s, when all our friends and colleagues who got expelled were given a letter by the Mexican government informing them that they had been banned from Mexican soil for a period of ten years? Did they give you any such letter? That letter is a very valuable thing. You could then use it for the opening chapter of what would surely be your international bestselling book titled, 'BANNED IN MEXICO!'"
“No,” he answered. “I signed a paper that confirmed they had returned my passport to me, and that was all.”
“Al, when will you be in San Cristóbal again so we can spend some time together?” Gianni asked.
“Because,” he added, matter-of-factly, “that is where you will find me.”
By Al Giordano
It seemed like only… last December… In fact it was… When state police in Chiapas, Mexico arrested Italian journalist Gianni Proiettis and attempted to turn him over to national immigration authorities (INM, or Instituto Nacional de la Migración) in an attempt to get him deported from Mexico after 16 years of legal residence in the country. We and others made a big fuss, and Gianni was released. The Chiapas state government then issued a formal public apology to Gianni and his family, stating it was a case of “mistaken identity.”
Today, four months later - Friday April 15 – Gianni went to the INM offices in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, for what he thought was his annual, routine, paperwork on renewing his visa.
There, he was held incomunicado, transported to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and transported by airplane to Mexico City where, Narco News has learned, he is now in a holding cell of the INM in the borough of Iztapalapa of the national capital, where people are brought before being deported from the country.
Moments ago, a judge issued a protective order for his release, and to prevent the INM from deporting him.
His wife, Maribel, tells Narco News that nothing strange or out of the ordinary had happened in recent weeks or since the December problems.
These are all the facts we have so far, but we’re on it. We just wanted to get this up quickly on Google News and other search engines and feeds so that the authorities know that whatever they are trying to do with Gianni will not happen in silence.
Update 10:04 p.m. Here is a copy of the "ámparo" filed through attorneys by Narco News School of Authentic Journalism professor Mercedes Osuna in Chiapas, and signed by the federal district court in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. Legally, this means that - because the authorities had not yet succeeded in putting Gianni on an airplane for deportation - that the case moves back to Chiapas and under Mexican law Gianni must be now transported back there before any other process can take place.
Update 11:25 p.m. Sad news. Mexican immigration authorities put Gianni on an airplane at 7 p.m. tonight and deported him to Rome. No reason given, not to his family, not to the Italian Embassy, not to his Mexican neighbors and colleagues and friends who knew him and loved him. The 9 p.m. court-signed protection order was already too late. As soon as we know more information, we will post it here.
By Al Giordano
Flanked by mothers, fathers, children and siblings of many of Mexico’s most nationally visible victims of violence, and by leading religious figures, poet and journalist Javier Sicilia today called for a national silent march to Mexico City, to culminate on the national zócalo on Saturday, May 8, under the banner of: “Stop the War, for a Just Mexico in Peace: We Have Had It Up to Here!”
More than a thousand friends, community organizers and independent media makers attended the announcement on Cuernavaca’s zócalo (city square) at 6 p.m. tonight, some arriving an hour early for a Catholic Mass where in place of the traditional call-and-response of “Lord, Hear Our Prayer,” the faithful chanted, “Not One More Death.” The Catholic priests on stage invited Julian LeBaron, Mormon and father of eleven children, brother of an assassinated anti-kidnapping organizer in the northern state of Chihuahua, to read each line of the call.
Delivering the sermon, Father Miguel Concha said, “We are against this war, a war that is not ours, a war that is theirs in the North. They sell the arms, launder the money, make business out of it, and we provide the deaths… May the Lord accompany us on this march today for a dignified, free, sovereign and just Mexico.”
Liberation theology has been a long tradition in Mexico, but today’s announcement marked the first time that repeated speakers, including the secular ones, so heavily quoted Gandhi and King and so explicitly espoused “nonviolent action” as the strategy for a nascent social movement – against the war on drugs - with such heavy national media attention upon it. The closest thing this country – where armed revolutions and insurrections and their heroes have been fetishized to an extreme in which the iconography became as much product as protest - has ever had as an example of that kind of movement was among Mexican Americans across the border and the United Farmworkers movement launched by the late César Chávez. What may be brewing here is Mexico’s first ever expressly nonviolent civil resistance, poetically waged against the national tragedy of mass violence caused by the policy of drug prohibition.
As young people (they’ve been the principal engine of the movement’s activity since it sprang up after the March 28 deaths of Sicilia’s son and six others) erected 96 more plaques on the stone columns of the Governor’s Palace behind the stage – each with the name of someone assassinated in violence during 2011 in this state of Morelos – Sicilia called for the resignation of Governor Marco Adame and his appointees, to chants of “Out! Out!” and “May They All Go!”
But his announcement went way beyond the mere convocation of new marches.
“We are going to call you there (to the Mexico City Zócalo) and commit ourselves to sign a national authentic, genuine pact, without simulations or institutional signatures – those institutions that are already mere vestiges of what was a nation. We are going to call everyone to sign a pact in the center of the city that has been most hurt among hurts, in the center of Ciudad Juárez. There, in the open wound of the Northern border, we are calling so that you, who have squandered our money, have made decisions in our name without consulting us, have defrauded our trust and have put the country in a national emergency, that you sign a pact that allows us to recuperate the representation of the nation that has almost been lost and that you make the posts you hold count for something before it is too late.
“But we will go there also to say to ourselves, confronted with your omissions and complicities, that we, from below, can also organize ourselves, have constituent and reconstituent assemblies in every colony, in every neighborhood, in every community, to create create governability and local and trustworthy security.”
In other words, behind, before and after the marches and the mass meetings, the work soon shifts to the local decentralized level in which neighbors and townspeople assemble together to decide how each locale wants to make itself safe again, then together with those in the rest of the country write what is essentially a new Constitution without consulting those already in power who, after all, never consulted the people on whether it wanted a “war on drugs” and all the violence it has wrought. And after, and only after, that process will the politicians, bureaucrats and the other powerful interests be invited to sign the pact that the people shall write without them.
In other points of human history, organizing ventures like this have been called shadow governments, or parallel institutions. The conclusion is that the Mexican State has failed to function, the people will now create a new one, and then give the old one last chance to acquiesce to what the people decide. The other word for that, in history, is revolution.
A new sign that these sudden protests are already shaking down key pillars of support for "the drug war regime" came this morning in the resignation of nine of 16 board members of the government-allied "NGO," Mexico United Against Delinquency, a group that has provided cover for President Felipe Calderon's drug war by calling for more cops and soldiers and prisons and spending in the war against drug traffickers. Its director, Eduardo Gallo y Tello, whose daughter had been kidnapped in 2000 and made to do slave labor, cleaned out his desk at Mexico United in the morning, and by afternoon was on stage alongside Javier Sicilia and other families of victims of violence, issuing a fiery prosecution of a drug war "that has never defined what victory would look like."
Or, as Olga Reyes repeated to us today, excited at the decision to complete this process in her home state of Chihuahua from which her family and she now are exiled by drug war violence: “The Armed Forces couldn’t save us. Now it is the job of the Unarmed Forces.”
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.