Pubdate: Fri, 21 Sep 2012
Source: Final Call (US)
Copyright: 2012 FCN Publishing,
Contact: (773)602-1013
Author: Starla Muhammad


CHICAGO ( - Teresa Carmona stood in front of cameras and
microphones, facing reporters in the heart of downtown outside City
Hall, sharing her story of heartache, and she was not alone. Like many
others Ms. Carmona was there to give a face to tens of thousands of
victims of violence resulting from the "war on drugs," particularly in
the U.S. and Mexico. Nearly 100 people, mostly from Mexico, boarded
buses in August in Tijuana and 30 days later landed in Washington,
D.C., stopping in nearly two dozen U.S. cities along the way for
peaceful marches, gatherings and vigils in Black and Latino

The "Caravan For Peace: Marching for Peace with Justice & Dignity with 
the Victims of Violence" was spearheaded by Mexican poet and writer 
Javier Sicilia. His son Juan Francisco was murdered along with six of 
his friends in 2011, adding to over 60,000 killed and 10,000 missing in 
drug-related violence over the past six years, said caravan spokespersons.

A September press conference brought together grassroots activists,
politicians and ordinary people demanding an end to the bloodshed and
ineffective policies of both the American and Mexican governments, who
were charged with contributing to the problem. During the 6,000-mile
cross-country bus trek, the caravan stopped in Chicago, Sept. 2-4 for
a series of events including community dialogues and a peace march.
Mr. Sicilia, Ms. Carmona and others recounted how their lives have
been changed by the war on drugs.

"At the time he was killed, he was studying architecture in the best
public university in my country," said Ms. Carmona, speaking of her
son Joaquin, who was brutally murdered inside his apartment in Mexico
25 months ago. His killers have not been found, she said.
"Ninety-seven percent of the crimes in Mexico, there is no
investigation. Actually there is no will to investigate and I even
think that we don't even have the resources to investigate. Resources
are put into the war on drugs not in investigating," she told The
Final Call. Asked why so many seemingly innocent people are being
killed and kidnapped in Mexico, Ms. Carmona shook her head from side
to side. "I don't know. I'm just Joaquin's mother," she said.

"The caravan is coming to bring families of the victims of the
violence, many of them have been killed, to bring a message to stop
approaching this problem by thinking that you can suppress it," said
Reverend Walter "Slim" Coleman, a longtime immigrants' rights and
community activist in Chicago.

Marchers got off buses in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, a
predominately Mexican part of town. Despite the heat and humidity,
they walked peacefully, many holding pictures of slain or missing
loved ones, several miles to a Black Baptist church. Pastor Marshall
Hatch, of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, opened the
doors of his place of worship to the caravan and supporters after the
march Sept. 3, telling The Final Call it is important to educate the
community about "global NARCO systems" behind the misery in many

"The same system that is of course causing the violence and mayhem on
South of the border, (are) the same forces that profit and cause the
kind of exploitation and mayhem on this side of the border," said Rev.

"This is an economic enterprise when we talk about drugs and guns. An
economic enterprise involves production, distribution and
consumption," said Jose E. Lopez, executive director of the Puerto
Rican Cultural Center in Chicago. Mr. Lopez said when he heard about
the caravan's stop in Chicago, he came to lend his support.

The root of the problem is U.S. consumption of illegal drugs and the
abundance of guns that are manufactured in America, he said.

"Eighty percent of the guns in Latin America are produced in the
United States that are used in this war. In the case of Mexico, 50,000
people have died in eight years. That's more than in major wars that
people have died," said Mr. Lopez.

The war on drugs in Mexico is just an extension of the one in the
U.S., said Oscar Chacon of the National Alliance of Latin American and
Caribbean Communities, who also helped organize the Chicago leg of the

"When you look at the human cost of our African American brothers and
sisters in the U.S., measured by the level of incarceration of these
communities, you can clearly see the parallels with what is happening
now in Mexico," Mr. Chacon told The Final Call.

"The difference now is that in Mexico they're not incarcerating too
many people. They're killing people," said Mr. Chacon.

Those that are not killed are often sold as sex slaves, especially
young women and girls, held for ransom and even for internal organs,
offshoots of the global drug trade, said activists. The most important
thing that has yet to happen, continued Mr. Chacon, is recognizing and
admitting many of the drug policies put in place as far back as the
early 1970s have failed. "There is more drugs in the U.S. today than
there were back in 1971. And so clearly if we have seen over and over
again to do what we've been doing doesn't produce any results and we
continue to do it, that's a serious sign of insanity," he added.

According to since the declaration of "war on drugs"
40-years-ago, the U.S. has spent at least $1 trillion and costing
taxpayers $51 billion in 2009.

Mass incarceration in the U.S., which disproportionately affects
Blacks and Latinos, is another result of failed policies argue
opponents of current strategies.

According to some reports, 25 percent of inmates in U.S. prisons are
incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. Some put the figure even

"While African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the U.S.
population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of
those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those
convicted of drug law violations," notes

The issue of drugs has to be looked at differently, said Mr. Lopez,
including the possibility of legalization, like what was done with
alcohol. Many activists argue drug legalization will eliminate the
drug market which will in turn reduce violence. Though the caravan was
made up of citizens from Mexico, a multi-denominational, multi-ethnic
contingent marched with the group.

Rev. Hatch was asked if hosting the event at his church was a way to
promote more Black and Latino Unity. "That is the point. We try to
have some semblance of Black and Brown unity by having the event here.
We were asked to host it and of course we agreed to do it because it
was that kind of teaching tool," he explained.

Mr. Sicilia called the Chicago gathering a profound symbol of unity
and peace among the two communities. "It is also a symbol that shows
our shared pain in the war on drugs," he told the audience at the church.

Ishmael R. Muhammad, student national assistant to the Honorable
Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, was among local
leaders who addressed the caravan and stressed Blacks and Latinos
share a common enemy wishing to see the destruction of both
communities. To the delight of the crowd, many who did not speak
English, Mr. Muhammad, who was raised in Mexico, spoke Spanish and
shared the fact that Nation of Islam patriarch and his father, the
Honorable Elijah Muhammad, settled a part of his family in Mexico.

"One would ask why would a Black leader go to Mexico and settle a part
of his family there. Because Elijah Muhammad saw the future of the two
people. As you walk down the street from Little Village seeing your
people, coming into the Black community, you see that both communities
suffer," said Student Minister Muhammad.

It is important to put a human face on the victims, so that they are
not forgotten which made the caravan and its mission important, said

"In this country in particular we can say 'well that's happening in
Mexico' and we don't know what it is until you actually meet the
mothers and the sisters and the people who have lost husbands and
children and so forth, and see their tears and you know that this is a
human reality that we have to respond to," said Rev. Coleman.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt