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Activists ask for U.S., Mexico to end military handling of drug war

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Activists and families identifying themselves as Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity are winding up their tour of the United States. They're spreading the word that both Mexico and the U.S. need to find a non-military solution to solving the drug war, which has led to the deaths of countless innocent people.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Caravan for Peace was started by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia in 2011 following the murder of his son, a victim of the drug war being waged both in Mexico and the U.S.

More than 60,000 people have reportedly died and at least 20,000 others have "disappeared" since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006. Calderon's use of the military to halt the drug war there - which is largely fueled by U.S. demand for narcotics, has resulted in thousands of deaths. Over the first half of 2012 alone, an estimated 21,500 people were murdered due to drug-related violence.

Calling on both the U.S. and Mexican authorities to change these militarized policies, they are urging the U.S. to crack down on the trafficking of arms to Mexico, which has played a vital part in the ongoing violence that pervades the country.

"There is strong evidence that these weapons are coming from the USA," Sergio Aguayo, a noted Mexican academic, says, speaking of arms in drugs-related violence.

Aguayo has been outspoken against lax U.S gun control and contemptuous of a perceived lack of regard for Mexican lives. It must be noted that Mexican drug cartels favor AK-47 and AR-15 assault weapons, easily available at almost all U.S. gun shops near the U.S.-Mexican border.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have confirmed that approximately 70 percent of the guns being used and recovered in the Mexican drug war are of U.S origin.

The Caravan for Peace has always been to urge both the Mexican and U.S governments to find alternatives to the drug war.

In its tour of the United States, the movement has showcased individuals who have lost family members to the drug war. Olga Reyes spoke out in Washington, D.C. saying she lost six members of her family to drug-related violence. Reyes noted that she has more than 20 additional members of her family now living in exile for the same reason.

 "Felipe Calderon's government has not fulfilled its commitment" towards the victims of the drug war, Aguayo says. Aguayo also pointed out that while Calderon's term in office ended with the July elections, his militarized anti-drugs policies have not been halted.

But Aguayo says that much of the responsibility for the drug violence in Mexico lies with the U.S. government. "Help put out the fire at your neighbor's house before your house catches fire and ends in ashes," he said, paraphrasing the former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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