Press Release  | 10/30/2013

Today: "Voices of the Victims" Tour Comes to Bay Area to Call for an End to the War on Drugs

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Javier Sicilia to Speak at Stanford University of Pain Caused by Failed Drug War – and Need for Alternative Drug Policies to Prevent Future Victims

Stanford, Calif. – Today, Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia will visit the Bay Area to speak firsthand about the devastation and pain caused by the drug war in Mexico.

Sicilia’s visit – to Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies today at 4:30pm – is part of the bi-national, 11-city “Voices of the Victims” Tour calling for an end to the drug war that has left over 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared, and 250,000 displaced from their homes in Mexico.

The Voices of the Victims Tour began on October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, during which 24 representatives from the Mexican victims’ organization, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, participated in panels and roundtable discussions to strategize with activists from around the world about how to bring the war on drugs to an end.  On Friday, October 25, several parents from Mexico, whose children have been killed or disappeared as a result of the drug war, shared their testimonies during a moving panel entitled, “From Victims to Advocates: Parents Against the Drug War.” They were joined by mothers from the United States who have also lost (or been forcibly separated from) their sons and daughters because of violence, overdoses and incarceration caused by the war on drugs.

These parents will continue to share their pain – as well as their urgent call for badly needed reforms – with roughly a dozen communities in the U.S. and Canada before concluding their Tour in mid-November in Jackson, Mississippi.

“Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible,” Sicilia said. “We will travel across the United States and Canada 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 all three of our countries.”

Sicilia comes with a profoundly moving story and message. His 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was killed along with six friends by cartel henchmen in 2011. Instead of grieving privately, Sicilia made his pain and rage public with an open letter with the refrain "Estamos hasta la madre!" (colloquial Mexican Spanish for "We've had it!"), calling on all sides of the conflict — including the United States, whose drug and gun market is fully implicated — to a moral reckoning. He is a founder of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity and has led several marches and caravans across Mexico and the U.S.

The Tour follows last year’s unprecedented, 27-city Caravan for Peace, led by Sicilia and other family members of drug war victims from Mexico and supported by more than 150 organizations from the U.S. and Mexico. Like the Caravan for Peace, this year’s tour is demanding that Mexican, U.S. and Canadian opinion leaders explore solutions to the root causes of violence: failed prohibitionist drug policies, lax control on guns smuggling and a militarized approach to immigration which has led to an increasing number of migrant victims.

A year after the Caravan for Peace, the political context in Mexico has changed but the day-to-day reality of violence has not. Though Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was initially successful in changing the tone of the media coverage of Mexico’s out-of-control violence, the grim reality is that murder, extortion, corruption and general public insecurity continue at the same emergency levels.

But there are important signs of hope. In the United States there have been undeniable shifts in attitude on drug policy, gun safety, and even immigration policy.  A broad consensus is forming among health professionals, police, local politicians, business leaders and the public on both the need to rethink the drug war and to regulate marijuana as a simple and logical first step. For the first time ever, opinion polls by Gallup and others reveal a strong majority of Americans favor legally regulating marijuana, which the people of Colorado and Washington state have already voted to do. In South America, Uruguay will likely become the first country to legally regulate marijuana at the national level next month. And at the urging of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a groundbreaking, two-part report on drug policy reform options in the Western Hemisphere, in which it gave serious consideration to different forms of legalization, and also stated that the “decriminalization of drug use needs to be considered as a core element in any public health strategy.”

The Tour aims to advance the debate about alternatives to the drug war in all three countries, focusing in particular on reducing the escalating violence in Mexico, mass incarceration in the United States and the failures of the current models of dealing with drugs and drug misuse. Meeting with drug policy reformers, human rights and migrants’ rights defenders, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, harm reduction and public health groups, and elected officials, the victims aim to expose the real causes of violence in Mexico, to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S. and Canada, and to inspire U.S. and Canadian civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity throughout the Americas.

Specifically, the “Voices of the Victims” Tour calls for a comprehensive new security strategy, including at minimum:

  • A new, non-prohibitionist model of drug policy, which explores diverse forms of regulating drugs in order to reduce the enormous profits generated by the illicit drug trade;
  • 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; and
  • an end to the militarization of the border and the criminalization of migrants, and the adoption of policies that protect the dignity of every human being, including migrants who have been displaced by violence.

Following its visit to Denver, the Voices of the Victims Tour made stops in Seattle, Washington, on October 26 and Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 27. It swings through the San Francisco Bay Area today, October 30, before continuing on to Tucson, Arizona, November 1-2; Toronto, Ontario, November 4; Ottawa, Ontario, November 5; Chicago, Illinois, November 6-7; Los Angeles, California, November 8 -10; and Washington, DC, November 12-13. The tour will conclude in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 15.

For more information:  http://www.globalexchange.org/mexico/voices  
About the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity: http://www.movimientoporlapaz.mx (in Spanish) http://www.Caravanforpeace.org  (in English)

Facebook: facebook.com/globalexchange  
Twitter: @voicesofthevictims.

Contact: Ted Lewis: 415-225-3787 or Tony Newman: 646-335-5384

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