LOS ANGELES -- Speaking to the annual Drug Policy Alliance conference on Friday, Mexican poet and social justice leader Javier Sicilia blamed "the 1 percent" for the brutal cartel violence that has gripped his country, and urged drug reform activists to stand with "Occupy Wall Street" in criticizing America's economic model.

"The answer needs to face the structural problem, the cause of this, which is the economy," he said, speaking through a translator. "...Those at 'Occupy Wall Street,' and all those that are called the 'Indignados,' also know that. It's the 1 percent that's causing all of this."

Sicilia, an award-winning poet and novelist, became one of the leading figures in Mexico's drug reform movement earlier this year after the torture and murder of his 24-year-old son at the hands of cartel hitmen.

He's since gone on to spark a national movement against cartel violence, placing tremendous pressure on President Felipe Calderon, whose military crackdown on drug cartels has turned the country into one of the world's bloodiest war zones. Over 40,000 in Mexico have died violently since 2006, when Calderon was elected.

"In this, all of you [at the Drug Policy Alliance conference], all of the people at 'Occupy Wall Street,' all of the peace movements all over the world and all of us in the movement for peace and justice and dignity in Mexico, we are all brothers," he said. "We are fighting for the same thing."

Sicilia went on: "That is why I think it is very important that we all criticize the economic model... We need to get to the root cause of this. The economy, in its original meaning, means caring for the house. And caring for your home means finding equilibrium, finding harmony."

In Mexico, Sicilia has called for "a re-foundation of the state," given rise through "peaceful revolution." And while he's maintained that the United States and its drug policies are every bit as responsible as his own government for the violence gripping Mexico, Sicilia added that the arrival of the 99 Percent movement in the U.S. has given him hope.

"This, for us, means giving drugs its place in humanity, as it has always been," he said. "It means saying no to guns, because those guns are what protect the 1 percent and make them even wealthier... I really think together, with all of these grassroots movements, we should have this vital reflection at this moment."

Photo: Stephen C. Webster