Press Release  | 08/07/2012

"Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity" to Embark from San Diego August 12 Calling for End to Drug War that Has Killed 60,000 in Mexico

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Javier Sicilia and other Victims from Mexico and United States to Make 6,000-mile Journey Through 20 Cities to Honor Lives Lost to Drug War, Culminating in International Day of Action in Washington D.C.

Caravan Proposes Comprehensive Solutions to Violence: Explore Drug Regulation, End Weapons Trafficking, Prevent Money Laundering, Eliminate U.S. Military Aid, and Ensure the Safety of Migrants

Tijuana/San Diego – On Sunday, August 12, a broad bi-national coalition of more than 100 U.S. civil society organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Global Exchange and the Drug Policy Alliance will join the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice & Dignity (MPJD) to embark on the “Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity” across the United States.

The Caravan will be led by renowned Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who emerged as a leader of the MPJD after his son Juan Francisco was killed in senseless prohibition-related violence last year, together with  family members of Mexican victims of the drug war. They will unite with victims and supporters from the United States for a month-long voyage across the continental United States.

The Caravan for Peace seeks to end the failed drug war that has left more than 60,000 dead in Mexico in the last five years, and resulted in more than 500,000 Americans behind bars for drug offenses.

“Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible,” Sicilia said. “We will travel across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war – and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both our countries.”

Bringing together victims from both countries, the Caravan aims to expose the root causes of violence in Mexico, to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S., and to inspire U.S. civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity on both sides of the border.

“The NAACP has joined this coalition to call for an end to ineffective criminal justice policies like the war on drugs and racial profiling that fail to address the real problems of our communities,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We must abandon the unsuccessful “tough on crime” approach to justice and adopt a “smart on crime” strategy that places individuals, their welfare and dignity, and community safety at the center of drug policy.”

Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of NALACC, stated that “Our decision to join the Caravan for Peace comes from an understanding that many U.S. policy failures are interconnected: from the drug war, to the highly punitive approach to human migration, to hateful anti-immigrant policies, to the systematic incarceration of increasing numbers of people, particularly racial minorities.” He added “the Caravan offers us the opportunity to begin to explore solutions based on a shared commitment to the wellbeing of people across borders.”

Background:

Beginning at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, CA, the Caravan for Peace will travel over 6,000 miles through more than 20 cities and communities in 10 states—including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, El Paso, Houston, Montgomery, New Orleans, Chicago and New York—before arriving in Washington, D.C., on September 10. The Caravan will officially conclude on September 12 by calling for an International Day of Action for Peace in Mexico.

The goal of the Caravan for Peace is to engage in citizen diplomacy to stop the U.S.-led war on drugs and to start a healing process from the national emergency that has devastated Mexico. Throughout the journey, family members will tell stories of the drug war’s human toll while building ties with communities throughout the U.S. also deeply impacted by the drug war.

Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed and more than 10,000 have disappeared in Mexico due to violence caused by drug prohibition. Rather than curbing drug use or supply, prohibition has enriched violent traffickers, armed with illegal weapons and sustained by laundered money, both of which flow into Mexico from the U.S. unabated. The militarization of drug policy has only escalated the violence, corruption and impunity, leading to more deaths and disappearances that have torn the fabric of Mexican society.

The drug war has produced painful consequences in the United States as well. The U.S. ranks first in the world in incarcerating its own citizens, with less than 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of the world's prison population. Roughly 500,000 people are behind bars for a drug law violation today. Blacks and Latinos are vastly overrepresented among those arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses, even though drug use rates are similar across racial and ethnic lines.  Thousands of people in the U.S. have died because of prohibition-related violence. And thousands more have died because the criminalization of people who use drugs makes them too afraid to seek treatment or to call 911 in the event of an overdose. Instead of keeping communities safe, the war on drugs has become the longest, deadliest and most costly war in U.S. history.

The Caravan calls for a comprehensive new security strategy, including at minimum:

  • The exploration of alternatives to drug prohibition, including diverse forms of drug regulation and decriminalization; and an open discussion of drug policy reform that replaces the current criminal justice approach with a public health focus;
  • a halt to the illegal smuggling of weapons across the border to Mexico, which can be achieved by giving authorities effective regulatory tools and adequate resources without infringing on U.S. constitutional rights;
  • concrete steps to combat money laundering, including closing loopholes and holding financial institutions accountable;
  • the immediate suspension of U.S. assistance to Mexico’s armed forces, and a reorientation of U.S. aid to Mexico in a manner that prioritizes  human security, development and the healing of Mexico’s torn social fabric; and
  • an end to the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrants, and the adoption of policies that protect the dignity of every human being, including immigrant populations that have been displaced by violence.

In each city along the way, the Caravan will be welcomed by local communities, who have planned rallies, marches, candlelight vigils, forums, performance art and more. For details about the events planned in each city, visit: http://www.caravanforpeace.org

More than 100 U.S. organizations* are part of the Caravan effort. In addition to NAACP and NALACC, these include Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), National Latino Congreso, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Border Angels / Angeles de la Frontera, CIP-Americas Program, Presente.org, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Veterans for Peace, Witness for Peace, L.A. Community Legal Center, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, School of the Americas Watch, Fellowship for Reconciliation and Global Exchange.

Also participating are: Alianza Cívica, Sin Fronteras, INEDIM, Fuerzas Unidas por los Desaparecidos en México, Asociación Popular de Familiares de Migrantes (APOFAM), FUNDEM, Red por los Derechos de la Infancia, CuPIDH, Espolea, Reverdecer, Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la Cultura de Diálogo, Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, Alarbo, Servicios para la Paz, Serapaz, Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (Cencos), and many more.

For more information: http://www.caravanforpeace.org; or http://caravanaxlapaz.org/

About the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity: www.movimientoporlapaz.mx
Facebook: www.facebook.com/caravan4Peace
Twitter: @CaravanaUSA (www.twitter.com/caravanaUSA)
Mail: caravanapresspass [at] movimientoporlapaz [dot] mx

* Supporting organizations do not necessarily endorse all of the Caravan’s policy positions.

Contact:
Tony Newman, Drug Policy Alliance: +1 646-335-5384
Mauricio Patrón, Cencos.org +052 (5533-6475)

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