Magazine article New Internationalist

Naming the Dead in Mexico

Magazine article New Internationalist

Naming the Dead in Mexico

Article excerpt

A woman climbs onto a rudimentary stage in Durango, central Mexico. In her hand she holds a photograph of two young men. 'The soldiers said there was a mix-up,' she shouts. '"Señora, your sons were good people, but we made a mistake."'

After years of silence, bereaved relatives like this speaker are calling for an end to President Calderón's war on drugs. Durango is notorious for its narcofosas - mass graves of criminal gangs' victims. But the speaker's sons were killed by the military. 'Collateral' deaths like this 'mix-up', alongside chronic insecurity, are driving citizens to breaking point.

Far from stamping out crime, the war on traffickers has given rise to vicious turf wars. Cartels are diversifying into kidnapping and extortion, while deepseated corruption continues to impede justice. Since Calderón declared his war in 2006, murders have risen to a staggering 35,000.

Now, a new peace movement wants to name their dead. It is led by poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered last March. His impassioned public condemnation of both gangs and 'criminal politicians' unlocked a wave of public anger and grief. 'We are amassing so much pain,' he wrote. 'This collective tragedy must unite us so we can escape from this hell.'

Since then, the campaign has advanced at a punishing pace. Tens of thousands turned out for marches in April and May. June saw a 'caravan of solace' zigzag north through states ravaged by violence.

Sicilia talks of healing in public encounters with orphans and widows struggling with a loss like his own. …

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