HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Protesters Demand That Authorities Stop Killings
Pubdate: Sun, 31 Aug 2008
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2008 The Associated Press
Contact: http://www.dallasnews.com/cgi-bin/lettertoed.cgi
Website: http://www.dallasnews.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/117
Author: Alexandra Olson, The Associated Press

PROTESTERS DEMAND THAT AUTHORITIES STOP KILLINGS

MEXICO CITY - Throngs of frustrated people across Mexico, many
carrying pictures of kidnapped loved ones, marched Saturday evening to
demand that authorities act to stop the tide of killings, abductions
and shootouts.

The mass protests were a challenge to the government of President
Felipe Calderon, who has made fighting crime a top priority and
deployed more than 25,000 soldiers and federal police against powerful
drug cartels.

A sea of white-clad demonstrators carrying candles filled the 2.5-mile
route between Mexico City's Angel of Independence monument and the
main Zocalo square.

City officials refused to give a crowd estimate, but the Zocalo can
hold nearly 100,000 people. Tens of thousands overflowed into the
surrounding streets, unable to squeeze into the square.

Thousands more marched in other cities across the country.

Romana Quintera, 72, wore a photograph of her baby grandson, who was
kidnapped for ransom five years ago when gunmen burst into her home
and killed her niece. Two people have been imprisoned for the attack,
but they have refused to reveal the boy's fate, and Ms. Quintera said
investigators have given up on the case.

"We want an answer," she said, holding back tears. "We ask authorities
with all our heart to be more sensitive. Maybe nothing like this has
happened to them, or they would be more sensitive."

Despite the arrest of several drug kingpins, little has improved since
the Calderon government began its crackdown.

Homicides have surged as drug cartels battle each other for control of
trafficking routes and attack police nearly each day. In the
gang-plagued border state of Chihuahua alone, there have been more
than 800 killings this year, double the number during the same period
last year.

Last week, a dozen headless bodies were found in the Yucatan
Peninsula, home to Mexico's most popular beach resort, Cancun.

Saturday's protests were inspired by the abduction and murder of the
14-year-old son of a wealthy businessman. The case provoked an outcry
when prosecutors said a police detective was a key participant in the
abduction for ransom.

The boy's father, Alejandro Marti, called on government officials to
quit if they could not stem the crime wave. His challenge became a
rallying cry at the march, where many held up signs with his words:
"If you can't, resign."

The first people to arrive for the protest were relatives of
24-year-old Monica Alejandrina Ramirez, who was kidnapped in 2004 and
has not been heard from since.

Hours before the march began, the family stood silently beneath the
independence monument, holding up large banners with her picture. Some
colleagues of her mother, a circus performer, walked on stilts and
wore clown wigs to help draw attention.

"The most frustrating thing has been the indolence of many of the
authorities," said her father, Manuel Ramirez Juarez, a family doctor.

In a televised address Monday, Mr. Calderon promised
action.

"This is a cancer that we are going to eradicate," he
said.
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