Thousands of Mexicans march to protest drug war

Protesters want the government to change its strategy in the war on drugs.

Updated: May 09, 2011, 09:17 AM IST

Mexico City: Tens of thousands of Mexicans on Sunday marched into the capital city to protest the wave of killing that has claimed 38,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drug gangs in late 2006.

Demonstrators, many wearing white and walking in silence, held up placards that read "Not a single more death”, "Enough already" and "No more bloodshed”.

The march started on Thursday about 45 miles from the capital in the tourist city of Cuernavaca, which has been rocked by drug-related violence and where in March suspected hitmen killed the son of writer Javier Sicilia, who is heading the march.

"We don`t want any more death because of this growing mess," said Sicilia, from a platform in Mexico`s huge central Zocalo square, where the demonstrators gathered.

"No more deaths, no more hate. We`ve come out to walk these streets with dignity and peace ... violence will only bring us more violence," he added.

Sicilia, who called for a broad peace pact between citizens, government officials and politicians, also demanded that Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia resign.

Protesters on the march, which the city government said attracted about 150,000 people, told local media they wanted the government to change its strategy in the war on drugs.

Along the four-day march to the Zocalo, Sicilia was joined by activists, academics, artists, immigrants and members of social organisations, as well as the relatives of victims of the violence.

"We`ve come from San Juan Copala (in Oaxaca state), seeking peace, because we`re also suffering violence and injustice," said Mariana, a 21-year-old from the Triqui tribe, wearing indigenous clothing.

Helped by friends, 49-year-old Carlos Castro held up a large blanket with photos of his wife and two daughters. They disappeared one January night in Xalapa, in the east of the country, and he has not heard anything of them since.

"I`ve not found any other way to protest, nobody has spoken to me and the authorities know nothing about them," he said. "The idea of coming here with this blanket is to send a message to the people that have them. So they give them back to me."

Calderon`s military-led crackdown has led to the killing and capture of dozens of drug kingpins since December 2009 but the bloodletting has hurt Calderon`s conservative party and Mexico risks losing control of large areas to drug gangs near the US border.

"We`ve had it with this terrible government that goes unpunished. We want peace," said Araceli Vazquez, 60, as he held up an improvised placard with his demands.

April was the most violent month yet in Calderon`s fight, with 1,402 deaths, Milenio newspaper reported.

Bureau Report