Mexican poet's peace caravan arrives in Juarez

AP News
Posted: Jun 11, 2011 12:53 AM
Mexican poet's peace caravan arrives in Juarez

A Mexican poet who has turned his grief over a murdered son into a crusade for peace ended his weeklong "consolation caravan" Friday, demanding the government shift its armed offensive against drug trafficking into an aggressive pursuit of the cartels' assets.

Javier Sicilia, who started the caravan from outside Mexico City last Saturday, had amassed about 1,500 followers, including others who had lost innocent family members and friends to drug violence, by the time he reached Ciudad Juarez, the country's most violent city.

In this city, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, about 20 victims' relatives gave speeches attacking police for not doing their job.

About 500 people, including Sicilia, signed a pact calling on the government to remove all military forces and to better enforce asset forfeiture laws in order to weaken drug cartels by blocking money laundering activities among other things.

Sicilia visited a park created in the memory of 15 teens slaughtered in 2010 by gang members in what was believed to be a case of mistaken identity, as well as a field where the bodies of eight women were found in 2001. Hundreds of women were murdered in Juarez in the 1990s, the symbol of the city's violence before a fight among drug cartels heated up, killing at least 3,100 people last year alone.

"Do your jobs, stop humiliating the citizens of Juarez, and do justice to so many who have died," Sicilia called out to state and local officials. "This is the beginning of a civil resistance movement to transform consciousness, to start a dialogue in the absence of government policies."

The number of homicides has fallen for three straight months in Juarez, though government officials haven't given a reason for the drop. But the city is emblematic of Mexico's problem with drug crimes and impunity. At least 95 percent of crimes there are never prosecuted, according to local human rights groups.

Several people have been arrested in the March 28 slaying of Sicilia's son, Juan Francisco Sicilia, a college student who authorities say was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Prosecutors say drug gang members killed him and six others 10 days after a couple of Sicilia's friends had a chance scuffle with the gangsters.

The caravan of about a dozen buses started in Cuernavaca, a central resort and industrial city where Sicilia's son and the others were slain. It ended Friday in Ciudad Juarez, but Sicilia will host a press conference in El Paso Saturday.

Since then, Sicilia has led several marches, first in Cuernavaca and then from Cuernavaca to Mexico City. He also has proposed writing the names of the dead on plaques at the spots where they were killed throughout the country so that they won't just be numbers.