After a month on the road, bringing an inspirational message of justice and dignity to dozens of cities across the country that have been ravaged by America’s failed war on drugs and other harmful policies, the Caravan for Peace arrived in Washington, D.C., this week, the conclusion to its historic journey.
The 150-member caravan has been crisscrossing the United States since early August, sharing stories and testimonies about the pain that so many have suffered as a result of the war on drugs.
Led by poet Javier Sicilia, whose son, Juan Francisco, was murdered in Mexico last year, the caravan’s mission is to bring attention to five critical elements affecting relations between the United States and Mexico: the failed war on drugs, money laundering, arms trafficking, the need for humane immigration policies and the building of closer ties between the two countries.
Since 2006, failed drug policies have led to an estimated 70,000 deaths in Mexico and more than 20,000 “disappearances.” For the most part, these killings are carried out by rival drug cartels – with weapons from the United States – vying for control of the billion-dollar U.S. drug market.
It is important to realize that the wave of violence that has claimed so many lives in Mexico has its roots on both sides of the Rio Grande; the United States and Mexico have a shared responsibility in this conflict.
The wave of violence that has inundated Mexico in recent years also has implications for America’s immigration policies.
While the economic crisis of the past six years has resulted in more departures than entries, a new group is venturing north to escape the violence that has resulted from failed drug policies in both countries.
These individuals come in hopes of finding better opportunities and safety in America. Sadly, the Clinton-era “Operation Gatekeeper” has made an arduous journey around border fencing the only option available for some. Since 1994, more than 10,000 people have died crossing the treacherous deserts and mountains separating the U.S. and Mexico.
Fostering a dialogue rooted in hope and dignity on both sides of the border is vital to solving the problems that face the United States and Mexico.
“I am convinced that change will come from the bottom up of society, not from the top. If we the citizens don’t voice our concerns and pressure the politicians, nothing is going to happen,” Sicilia said.
As the United States prepares for the November elections, I encourage our elected officials in Washington and all Americans to heed Sicilia’s message. Only by embracing the principles of justice and dignity and learning the true toll of the war on drugs will we ever achieve peace.
Mexico may provide the deaths, but the United States provides the demand for drugs and the weapons to kill thousands. Now is the time for all of us to call for an end to the war on drugs. Join us while we still have the time. Our children are counting on us.
Enrique Morones is the president and founder of Border Angels and is an organizer and participant in the Caravan for Peace. He is also the 2009 recipient of Mexico’s National Human Rights Award.