MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of people -- convened by the Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was recently murdered -- marched here to demand that the government and organized crime groups end the brutal violence gripping the country.
The protesters -- made up of students, Central American migrants, peasants, workers, women's organizations and parents who have lost children to the violence -- said they have grown weary of President Felipe Calderón's war against drug traffickers, a war that has already taken the lives of more than 40 thousand people during his administration alone.
"Out with Calderón! Out with Calderón!" chanted the marchers, as they reached their destination in the city center, while many of their fellow protesters could be heard yelling, "Assassin!"
Those taking part in the "March for Peace, Justice and Dignity" also demanded an immediate end to all weapons sales from the United States, weapons that have been shown to have made their way into the hands of organized crime groups in Mexico.
Leda Victoria and Jesús Yañez, members of an organization that defends the rights of Mexican youth, told New America Media that their demands to the Mexican government include "a total end to the criminalization of social [justice] struggle," because, they explained, a great number of activists have already been killed as a result of "Calderón's war."
One example, offered Victoria, is the case of the Reyes-Salazar family of Ciudad Juarez, a family she described as "defenders of human rights who opposed the militarization sponsored by Calderón," six of whom have been assassinated. "The political [strategy] of the Mexican government is to generate fear in order to keep people, especially young people, from organizing and protesting," said Yañez.
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With tears streaming down her face, Laura Margarita Rangel told New America Media why she decided to protest. Her son, 26 year-old Felipe Jaco, was murdered last year while leaving his home. Although Rangel has personally handed over ample evidence of the killer's identity to Mexican authorities, no arrest has been made. "Things in this country have gotten out of hand. There is so much corruption and impunity. The authorities are in collusion with the criminals," said Rangel.
Arturo Rojas Flores marched with a poster depicting a photograph of his 28 year-old son, who disappeared along with 12 other people in the state of Coahuila. According to Flores, neither the state nor the federal authorities have yet done a thing to find those responsible. On the contrary, Flores suspects that it was the police themselves who took his son. He explained to New America Media that on the day of the disappearance, one of his son's traveling companions made a phone call to their wife, telling her that the group had been stopped by the police. The wife then heard screaming, before the phone call was disconnected. Flores said that when family members went to report the disappearances, the police acted disinterested, and just days later the families began receiving anonymous phone calls demanding ransom money in exchange for their missing relatives.
"A lot of innocent people are suffering," added Flores. "Criminality has been unleashed in Mexico, due to government impunity and corruption. We're poor people who don't have the money to pay for lawyers, so the government abuses us. I believe we need a cleansing in the ranks of our politicians, the police and the military, and it should start with the resignation of the President."
As the march concluded, organizers told the crowd it was necessary to form a national peace agreement. And Sicilia, the poet, demanded the immediate dismissal of President Calderón's secretary of public safety, Genaro Garcia Luna. Even though a number of journalists, like Anabel Hernández, have reported on serious irregularities in Luna's official activities -- including his personal connections to criminal drug cartels -- Calderón has refused to remove Luna from his post, and quite to the contrary has expressed his total support for the secretary.
Protests were also organized in Europe, Brazil and in San Francisco, California, in a show of solidarity with those marching in Mexico City.