William Lloyd George explores the “Caravan of Solace” anti-drug violence movement for TIME. Just as hundreds of Mexicans screamed “Justice” during the final stop of the Caravan, many of the activists associated with the protest questioned both the success and the overall mission of the week-long tour. While Mexican activists agree that the country’s war on drugs has come at a steep price of an estimated 34,000 civilian deaths since 2006, ascribing blame and prescribing remedies to the crisis has proven difficult. Still, as George writes, this protest could be the start of a larger movement:
Sicilia doesn’t think Mexico alone is to blame for this ongoing tragedy. He says the U.S. government is also to blame. The next day, at an event over the border in El Paso, America’s second safest city, Sicilia asked American citizens to pressure their government to put an end to the Merida Initiative, which has provided over $1.5 billion to the Mexican government to fight the cartels. But Sicilia and his colleagues argue the initiative has only increased the violence by providing money to a corrupt army and police forces. They also asked for the U.S. to de-legalize guns, which they claim are flowing over the border and arming the cartels. “If U.S. citizens don’t pressure their government… they will become accomplishes of a crime against humanity,” Sicilia told the El Paso crowd.
Mexican media have tried to label the caravan as the beginning of a civil resistance movement; it has even been likened to Mexico’s version of the Arab Spring. That would be premature. The numbers at most of the rallies were small compared with the populations of the cities involved and the movement is far from united, with many different elements trying to get their causes on the agenda. Nevertheless, last week, for the first time, the relatives of those killed have been empowered to come out on stage and tell their stories. With elections coming up next year and Calderón having already said an end to the war on drugs is completely out of the question, policy change is unlikely. But the movement has only taken the first steps of what they say will be a long-term struggle to end the violence and the impunity that propagates it. Says LeBaron: “The seeds have been planted in a desert. It’s not sure if they’ll grow, but if they do, it will be a beautiful thing.”
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