A peace caravan led by Mexican activists has kicked off a month-long journey across the United States to call for an end of the U.S.-backed drug war. The caravan will criss-cross some 20 states to "call for change in the bi-national policies that have inflamed a six-year Drug War, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border." The caravan is organized by Mexican poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was murdered by drug traffickers last year. Javier Sicilia joins us from the tour, which has stopped in Phoenix, Arizona. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a peace caravan led by Mexican activists which has kicked off a month-long, cross-country journey across the United States to call for an end of the U.S.-backed drug war. The caravan will criss-cross some 20 states to, quote, "call for change in the bi-national policies that have inflamed a six-year Drug War, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border."
The caravan is organized by Mexican poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Javier Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug violence, violence that has left an estimated 60,000 people dead, 10,000 disappeared, more than 160,000 Mexicans displaced from their homes over the past six years. Javier Sicilia led a similar caravan across Mexico last June.
We are now going to join the peace caravan, which made its way from Los Angeles to, today, Phoenix, Arizona. Javier Sicilia is with us. Time magazine included his profile in its 2012 Person of the Year issue dedicated to protesters around the world. He’s being interpreted by Jen Hofer.
Javier Sicilia, welcome to Democracy Now! Why have you come to the United States to challenge the drug war here, come from your country in Mexico?
JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] Because in the war against drugs, that has been continued by administrations that have followed Nixon’s, the United States plays a part in the responsibility for Calderón’s drug war. It began with narcotrafficking, drug trafficking, at the beginning of said administration. We believe that drugs are not a question of national security, but rather of public health. This is a war based on idiocy, the same as the prohibition against alcohol. In addition, North American weapons, weapons—very deadly weapons, assault weapons, through the Mérida Initiative, have armed the Mexicn military, as well as organized crime in Mexico. But it seems that a large part of the United States, the government of the United States, of Barack Obama, they don’t feel responsible for the situation. We are coming to say that they actually are responsible. Behind their addicts here in the United States, their weapons, are our dead. And we must construct a peace together, change this policy of war into a policy of peace, a path, a route of peace.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you feel is the most important issue the United States should take on right now? You have said that it’s from the United States that the drugs have come—the guns have come over the border into Mexico and where the drug demand is. The issue of guns and the issue of the demand for drugs, Javier Sicilia?
JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] Well, I think that it’s both of those things, in addition to money laundering, which has really not been addressed directly at all. So I think it’s not just one thing. It’s three things that go hand in hand. And in addition, this has provoked an incredible criminalization of African-American communities and also Latino communities. So it’s important to take up these questions, from our perspective, together.
But their foundation really has to do with the providing of drugs. If we look at the narrative trajectory, if we look starting in the 1920s with the prohibition of alcohol, it’s easy to realize that what that prohibition produced was an increase in criminality, mafias, corruptions among authorities, terrible alcohol which damaged many people physically. It’s the same thing that’s happening now, but on an international level, with the prohibition of drugs, the war against drugs. The only people who benefit from this war are the lords of death, the lords of war, the lords of money and the counterproductive businesses, which the only thing that they achieve is to damage our democracy and our freedoms.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Javier Sicilia, you’re making your way from Los Angeles. Today you’re in Phoenix. You’re moving on to Texas. Your journey, where it is, and your message for President Obama? You will end up in Washington, D.C. How many people are joining you along the way?
JAVIER SICILIA: [translated] Well, we hope that many people will join us. And from this program, we’re calling on people to come together with us. We are going to Washington, and hopefully many people will come to Washington with us in order to place these questions, these issues, as a priority on the political agenda. I want to ask people to join us. You can send a peace message via text. There are things that the president, that President Obama himself, can do without having to go through Congress in order to control the merchants of death who sell assault weapons, deadly weapons that are sold illegally to Mexican murderers. People can send a message of solidarity by sending a text to 225568, and in that way adding their signature, their solidarity, so we can take that message to President Obama and let him know that we have the support among the people for him to be able to make a change, given his capacity as president of the republic of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Javier Sicilia, I want to thank you so much for being with us, poet, essayist, novelist, journalist in Mexico, now in Phoenix, traveling across the country in an anti-drug-war caravan to Washington, D.C.
That does it for our broadcast. Latest news: Ecuador has announced it’s granting political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in the London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning for alleged sexual misconduct. He is concerned that he would then be extradited to the United States. Britain says they will still extradite him.