But while such stories have become tragically common in Mexico, this was the first time the mourners could vent their grief in front of tens of thousands of sympathizers and TV cameras from across the world.
And in this media spotlight, the protesters made a new demand — amid the failure of the government to provide security, they cried, the Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna must resign.
“We don’t want more dead. We don’t want more hate,” protest leader Javier Sicilia told the crowd. “President Felipe Calderon — show you are listening to us, and make the public safety secretary resign.”
The demand announced at Sunday’s rally gave a new edge to a movement that has been steadily rising amid the massacres and mass graves of Mexico’s drug war.
Up until then, protesters had come out with a mix
of condemnations — of the cruelty of cartels, abuses by the army and the failure U.S. war on drugs — but not a clear solution.Javier Sicilia was there:
However, rallying to topple a particular official is a tactic that has successfully unified movements throughout history, from the French Bastille to modern Cairo.
In fact, many protesters in Mexico City’s central plaza said they were directly inspired by the uprisings in the Arab world.
“People are standing up to transform their societies in Egypt and in Syria. We have to do the same thing here — to change our country from the bottom up,” said Ruben Bueno, a 42-year-old school teacher, who said two of his valued students had been gunned in the violence.
“Why did the president launch the army in an absurd war that has cost 40,000 victims and left millions of Mexicans in fear?” Sicilia asked in his speech in the plaza. “Everyday, we hear terrible stories that wound us and we ask ourselves, When and where did we lose our dignity?”But Calderon hasn’t yet said he’d actually change anything.
Calderon responded on Monday that he would meet with Sicilia and other protest leaders.
“I also want a Mexico in peace. I also want a Mexico without violence. I also want Mexico without the repression of organized crime,” Calderon said in the presidential palace, before setting off to meetings in the United States. “I salute the march for the peace.”
Meanwhile, even the Wall Street Journal has noticed,, Nicholas Casey wrote 10 May 2011, Mexico Poet Says No to Drug War
Nearly 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence since then, with authorities saying Monday that another 13 were killed in a shootout between military and drug gangs at a lake on the border with Texas. Mr. Sicilia and his followers hope the mounting toll is enough to create a popular groundswell. This year has been especially terrifying. A mass grave site in Tamaulipas was discovered with at least 183 bodies last month, while a second, in the state of Durango, had more than 160.There’s more in both articles.
“There are killers in the street, the government’s strategy is failed, and we are hasta la madre,” said Mr. Sicilia in an interview, using popular Mexican phrase meaning “fed up.”
Some experts point to Colombia as a successful precedent. As the country’s main drug trafficking group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, boasted popular support as it fought the state, demonstrators turned out en masse to counter the claims in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to streets of Bogotá carrying banners that denounced kidnappings by the rebel group.
“They sent a clear message to the FARC that a broad portion of Colombia was against them,” said Alexander Wilde, an expert on Latin American social movements at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.