Pubdate: Wed, 29 Aug 2012
Source: Daily Texan (U of TX at Austin, Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Daily Texan
Author: David Maly
Cited: Caravan for Peace:


Editor's note: Quotes from Javier Sicilia and Maria Guadalupe Aguilar 
Jauregui were translated from Spanish by a translator at the rally.

Hundreds of members of the Austin community gathered at City Hall 
Saturday to call for an end to drug violence in the U.S. and south of 
the border.

Saturday marked the Austin stop on a two-month, cross-country tour by 
the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a grassroots 
initiative started by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia after his son and 
six of his friends were killed in 2011 in drug-related violence. 
According to an article on Sicilia in Time magazine, the drug war in 
Mexico has been responsible for at least 10,000 disappearances and 
60,000 deaths since 2006.

The caravan works to find solutions to the drug violence problem in 
both the U.S. and Mexico, specifically advocating a change in drug 
policies in both nations. Representatives of multiple human rights 
organizations, including the UT chapters of the League of United 
Latin American Citizens and Students for Equity and Diversity, 
attended the rally.

Joshua Tang, history senior and co-director of Students for Equity 
and Diversity, said decriminalizing drug use is the main goal of the 
caravan, a move that would decrease drug-related violence and 
ultimately get people off drugs.

"Instead of criminalizing drug use, we would treat it as a medical 
condition," he said. "We would enroll people in health care programs 
and so forth, where they could be treated for their drug use as 
opposed to throwing them in jail."

Tang said the U.S. and Mexico are strongly connected on this issue.

"Most of the weapons that drug cartels use are made in the United 
States, and U.S. buyers are major buyers of drugs grown in Mexico, so 
both sides need to work together to solve this issue."

Sicilia said the current war on drugs has been a futile effort, 
ultimately ending with a racially disproportionate prison population 
receiving reduced freedom instead of the treatment it needs.

"It's a completely failed and erroneous war, and it has opened the 
doors to hell."

More than 100 Mexican citizens who have seen an innocent family 
member either die or disappear because of drug-related violence are 
traveling with the caravan to share their stories of loss.

Maria Guadalupe Aguilar Jauregui displayed a picture of her son, Jose 
Luis, who has been missing since January 2011.

Jauregui said she thinks about her son every day and searched for him 
every day before joining the caravan. She said she is traveling with 
the caravan to help shed light on drug violence so other families 
will not end up like her son, with two small children who now have no father.

"I want the disappearances to stop," she said in Spanish.

Sicilia said he believes UT students can make a difference in their 
world by simply making a greater effort to participate in political life.

"You have to participate in social life, not only as students, but as 
citizens," he said. "You have to come out to the streets, organize 
and push for policy change."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom