Press Release  | 11/05/2013

Tomorrow: "Voices of the Victims" Tour Comes to Chicago to Speak Out Against Failed Drug

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Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia to Address Community Leaders at Luncheon Gathering on Need for New Drug Policies to Reduce Violence, Incarceration and Racial Disparities

CHICAGO – Tomorrow, Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia will visit Chicago to speak firsthand about the pain and devastation inflicted upon Mexico by the failed drug war.

Sicilia’s visit is part of the bi-national “Voices of the Victims” Tour, currently traveling to a dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada to call for an end to the drug war that has left over 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared and 250,000 displaced in Mexico in just seven years.

At noon, Sicilia will address the 2013 Annual Luncheon of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), to describe the unbearable human costs of the drug war for families in both countries. Joined by Chicago community leader and drug policy reformer, Walter Boyd, Sicilia will also discuss strategies for forging a bi-national grassroots movement to resist the drug war – and to demand alternative drug policies that will protect the safety, health and human dignity of people throughout the Americas.

WHAT: 2013 Annual Luncheon of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America: “Groundswell - Challenging the U.S. War on Drugs in the Americas

WHEN: November 6th, 2013, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

WHERE: Old St. Pat’s Church, 700 W Adams, Chicago, Illinois

SPEAKERS: Javier Sicilia, Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Mexico; and Walter Boyd, Executive Director of St. Leonard's Ministries, Chicago.

The Tour follows last year’s unprecedented Caravan for Peace, led by Sicilia and other drug war victims with the support of nearly 200 U.S. and Mexican organizations. The month-long, cross-country Caravan traveled 6,000 miles through 27 cities in 10 states, urging the U.S. and Mexican governments to put all options on the table to address the real causes of violence: failed prohibitionist drug policies, lax controls on gun smuggling and militarized immigration policies that have led to an increasing number of migrant victims. When it reached Chicago, the Caravan took to the streets for a mass march under the banner “No More Drug War.”

Coordinated by Global Exchange, this year’s Voices of the Victims Tour began on Oct. 23 in Denver at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance, where two dozen representatives of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity met and strategized with activists from around the world about how to end the war on drugs. In one of the Conference’s most powerful moments, Mexican parents whose children have been killed or disappeared shared their heartrending testimonies alongside U.S. parents who also shared their painful stories of loss (or forcible separation from) a son or daughter as a result of violence, incarceration or overdose caused by the drug war.

These courageous advocates have continued to share their stories – and their urgent calls for reform – with communities across North America. The Tour will conclude on Nov. 15 in Jackson, Mississippi, with a public conversation between Sicilia and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, seeking to connect the endemic violence plaguing Mexico with the systemic racism plaguing the U.S. justice system – both driven primarily by the drug war.

“Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible,” Sicilia said. “We are traveling across North America to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war – and the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in all 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 in an open letter with the refrain "Estamos hasta la madre!" (colloquial Mexican Spanish for "We've had it!"), in which he called all sides of the conflict 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 U.S.-imposed drug war has not just been a failure; it’s been a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Gary L. Cozette, Program Director for CRLN. “A relentless U.S. drug policy based on prohibition has diverted billions from prevention, treatment, education, and job training; poisoned people and environments with indiscriminate chemical fumigation; generated out-of-control violence in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed; undermined vital democratic institutions, and locked up millions of non-violent individuals, overwhelmingly people of color. This expensive, unjust and counterproductive policy must take a fundamentally new direction.”

In fact, local and state drug policies have begun to move in a “new direction,” but only in small increments. Chicago has removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana; while the State of Illinois has adopted a “Good Samaritan” overdose prevention law, which provides legal amnesty to people who call 911 to respond to an overdose; and earlier this year, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, which ultimately should allow some residents to access their marijuana from a legal supply, thereby ensuring they are not financing organized crime through their consumption.

After Denver, the Tour made stops in Seattle, Vancouver, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tucson, Toronto and Ottawa. The Tour visits Chicago on Nov. 6-7; then continues on to Los Angeles, Nov. 8 -10; Washington, DC, Nov. 12-13; and Jackson, Nov. 15.

For more information:  http://www.globalexchange.org/mexico/voices;
About the Movement for Peace with Justice & Dignity:
http://www.movimientoporlapaz.mx (Spanish); http://www.Caravanforpeace.org (English)
Facebook: facebook.com/globalexchange.
Twitter: @voicesofthevictims.

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

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