Peace activist visits UA, talks drug war
When Javier Sicilia’s son was kidnapped and murdered in Mexico in March 2011, he decided he’d had it with Mexico’s war on drugs. Sicilia, who was once a poet, put his pen down and instead ensured that his voice was heard through activism and peaceful protests.
The world-renowned peace activist and poet spoke to the UA community on Monday in a talk titled “Mexico’s Future: Peace or Endless War?” Sicilia addressed the issues of who is responsible for Mexico’s drug war and what can be done to end it.
Sicilia, a native of Mexico, said the statistics are imprecise. The Mexican government has reported 48,000 dead since the war started, almost six years ago. The Pentagon has reported 150,000 dead, according to Sicilia.
“These figures increase day to day, and below them is a terrorized population,” Sicilia said. “For every consumption of theirs (Americans’ drug consumption), we have someone dead.”
Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on drug traffickers shortly after he took office in December 2006. He sent the army “to the streets to pursue delinquents,” Sicilia said.
“It’s created a state of war … and this means violations to human rights from the army,” he added.
Both the Mexican and the U.S. government are responsible for this war, Sicilia said. The U.S. has taken a public health policy issue and turned it into a national security issue. In order to protect and keep Americans from using drugs, the U.S. is providing weapons and advising Mexican military to combat drug traffickers.
“Since drugs enter from Mexican territory, they’ve (the U.S.) created a war for us,” Sicilia said. “They tell us we have to combat drug traffickers and they invest in violence in Mexico, on legitimate violence.”
Kidnappings and murders have made it unsafe for people to live comfortably in Mexico. According to Sicilia, in certain towns, people are afraid to leave their home after 7 p.m. Sicilia said crime in Mexico is currently addressed with 98 percent impunity.
“If we were in Mexico and we decided, right now, to commit a crime, murder someone … there would be a 2 percent chance that we’d get caught,” Sicilia said.
Sicilia asked that the U.S. not only legalize, control and market its own drugs but also regulate and better control weapon policies.
“Just as they’re arming and militarily advising Mexican armed forces for the combat, they’re also allowing high-powered firearms to be smuggled daily through the border and arming the drug traffickers,” Sicilia said.
The U.S. has the right to maintain and protect its people’s right to bear arms, something Sicilia said he doesn’t quite understand but is in no position to question the American belief or culture. What Sicilia asked for is reform, so that these weapons don’t make it into the hands of Mexican drug traffickers, he said.
“You can go to a gun fair here and buy them,” said Margaret Wilder, an associate professor in Latin American studies. “It’s really easy to pass all of the arms that are legal here to get illegally into Mexico.”
Inspired by graduate students, Wilder organized Sicilia’s visit and was pleased with the number of people who attended the event, she said, adding that the war on drugs is a bi-national problem.
On an individual level, Sicilia was asked how citizens living on the border can help stop the drug war. Sicilia suggested that Americans urge politicians, whether President Barack Obama or local congressmen, to control arms and reform drug laws by making them a public health policy issue.
Raul Graciano, a mechanical engineering sophomore, was raised in Mexico and recently began to read about the drug war and Sicilia’s movements. Graciano lost an uncle in Mexico when he was 10 years old, and more recently lost two friends because of the drug war.
“Most of the college community who consume drugs, they should become aware of what are the consequences of consuming drugs,” Graciano said. “They are funding the cartels.”