EL PASO, Texas (AFP) – A week-long Mexican peace caravan crossed the border into El Paso, Texas on Saturday as protest leader and poet Javier Sicilia called on the US to do more in the fight against drug-related violence in Mexico.
“The United States must admit their responsibility in the violence in Mexico,” said Sicilia as he spoke in front of hundreds of members of American organizations and immigrants.
He asked Washington to end the Merida Initiative, a plan that began in 2008 to support Mexico and certain Central American countries in their fight against drug traffickers by partnering with the governments and providing assistance such as training and equipment to law enforcement.
Friday, US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said the US supports the caravan’s message for peace, especially in Mexico where society as a whole has been touched by violence.
Sicilia, who has emerged as the face of the protest movement since his son and six others were tortured to death near the central resort of Cuernavaca, was cheered by hundreds of people waving American and Mexican flags as he walked through the streets of El Paso.
On Friday, Sicilia sponsored the signing of a citizens’ pact in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican town across the border from El Paso.
The pact calls for a radical change to President Felipe Calderon’s strategy of fighting drug trafficking. The Mexican president began an offensive against drug traffickers immediately after taking office in December 2006 and since then, 37,000 deaths have been attributed to confrontations with the traffickers or between drug cartels.
“This senseless war must stop, because of the damage it has caused in Mexico and in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador,” Sicilia told the AFP.
The civil pact also asked that a new human-rights based security strategy be put in place as well as a fight against corruption and impunity. The pact emphasized the need for social policies that will offer the country’s youth attractive solutions to combat the offers of the drug cartels.
The demonstration in El Paso marked an end to the caravan route that traveled almost 3,000 kilometers between Cuernavaca and the US border, passing through the Mexican areas most affected by the violence.
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