|No Están Solos: Mexican Peace Caravan Arrives in Washington|
|Written by Nico Udu-gama|
On September 10th, the 120 members of the Mexican Peace Caravan arrived in Washington, DC, concluding their 6,000 mile-voyage across the United States. Through 26 cities, the historic caravan carried the message of ending the War on Drugs, militarized US foreign policy, gun smuggling, money laundering and inhumane immigration policies.
I had the privilege of joining the caravan for the final few days from New York to Washington: marching, yelling, laughing, sharing meals and of course, listening to the stories of a son disappeared, a daughter, a brother.
One mother, traveling with her two sons, carried around the picture of her 4 other disappeared sons. She wept silently as the mother of a murdered police officer read out her story, but was the first to yell out one of the slogans of the caravan: “No estás sola!” – You are not alone.
Another woman’s brother – Miguel Orlando Muñoz Guzmán - had been disappeared because, as a young official in the army, he spoke out against drug corruption in the army. She blames his superior officer for his disappearance, then-commander of the 5th Zone, Luis Montiel López. In 1962, as a lieutenant, Montiel López took a course in “Counter-insurrection” at the School of the Americas, and later was involved in Mexico’s Brigada Blanca (White Brigade), a paramilitary death squad which operated in central Mexico.
The caravan has been a unique opportunity for organizers and activists in this country to understand the effects of US drug policy and foreign policy. In New York, poet and spokesperson for the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity – the Mexican organization that coordinated the caravan –, Javier Sicilia, led a march into HBSC, flinging dollar bills smeared with red paint symbolizing blood in the bank’s entrance. HSBC has been tied to over $7 billion of cash transfers from drug cartels. (And it’s not the only bank)
The caravanistas have continued to drive home the message that the War on Drugs is little more than a cover-up for a huge money-making effort, a grisly mix of guns and capital, a business of death and prison. Many caravanistas with whom I spoke were stunned by the level of criminalization of African-American and Latino communities in this country, and saw the prison industrial complex as part of the same machine of repression used against the poor in their country.
In our trip to Baltimore, the city famously portrayed in the hit television series, The Wire, -and a city tremendously impacted by foreclosures, poverty and jails- we met with local activists, like a mother who lost her 16-year old son 8 years ago to drug-related violence. She and members of the Baltimore Mixtape Project (an artist and musician collective in the city) said that “when someone suffers, we all suffer; when someone dies, a little piece of all of us dies.”
In a talk at Johns Hopkins University, Javier Sicilia devoted some time to discussing why he believes this war continues to devastate communities, from Cuernavaca to Baltimore. US Americans’ desire for abundance and a materialistic culture, he noted, were at the root of the violence and exploitation. In his mind, it was no surprise that a country that uses “a large share of the world’s resources” also “locks away 25% of its population.”
As we explore that culture of greed and individualism, we may begin to understand the culture that prioritizes military solutions to social and economic problems. If we cannot begin to understand materialism, we can’t fully understand why the United States finances and trains the very same people who are carrying out the blood-letting in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The School of the Americas (view pictures from the Caravan’s stop in Fort Benning) has trained the dictators, assassins, death squad leaders and drug traffickers that have ravaged the hemisphere; the violence is simply a way to be able to continue “business as usual.” As long as there are rebellious, marginalized populations that dare to speak out, there will be a business for death and destruction.
Our visit to Baltimore made clear the connection between poverty and militarization: we were reminded that in poor areas of the city, it is easier to purchase an assault rifle than it is to buy fresh fruit or vegetables. This economic misery, coupled with high violence (by commission or omission of the state) makes these areas unlivable, turning them into open-air jails or, when the neighbors start leaving, facilitating land grabs. It’s important to not see the War on Drugs – whether played out in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Baltimore or Washington, DC – as merely a failure in policy that can be amended with a new layer of policies, but rather as a systemic issue of greed and racism, for which finding a solution requires an entire culture shift away from our current direction.
As activists and organizers dedicated to closing the School of the Americas and ending US militarization, we recognize that the struggle is long and difficult to travel. But we welcome initiatives like the Mexican Peace Caravan that continue to expose the true face of the War on Drugs as real step towards healing society’s wounds and building alternatives to militarization.
Did you miss the caravan, or it didn’t pass through your community? You can still be a part of history! September 12th has been labeled as a Day of Action against the War on Drugs. In Washington, DC, the caravan will join local organizers for a march and procession from St. Stephen’s Church (1525 Newton St, NW) at 5:30pm. Organizers are calling on activists around the country to hold similar solidarity actions.And see you November 16-18 at Fort Benning to protest the School of the Americas!
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 22:09|
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