Tuesday: “Voices of the Victims” Tour Led by Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Comes to Washington, DC to Speak Out Against Failed Drug War

Press Release November 10, 2013
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<p>Contact: Ted Lewis: 415-225-3787 or Tony Newman: 646-335-5384</p>

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia will arrive in Washington, DC, to speak firsthand about the pain and devastation caused by the failed war on drugs. Sicilia’s two-day visit is part of the bi-national “Voices of the Victims” Tour, 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.

On Tuesday morning, Sicilia will participate in a discussion at the Organization of American States (OAS) of its groundbreaking report, “Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas 2013-2025,” released in May, which lays out different options for the future of drug policy in the hemisphere – scenarios that break sharply from the U.S.-led drug war and include various forms of decriminalization and regulation. The OAS is the most prominent multilateral institution to endorse an open discussion of alternatives to drug prohibition, which has caused or contributed to widespread violence, corruption and human rights abuses in Mexico and Central America.

“Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible, and to raise awareness throughout North America of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war – and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in all our countries,” Sicilia said. “We have visited communities across the U.S. and Canada that have adopted sensible drug policy reforms – such as the regulation of marijuana and other alternatives described by the OAS – which are critical steps towards diminishing the power of organized crime, reducing state corruption, and constructing a path towards peace with justice and dignity."

On Wednesday, Sicilia will speak at a congressional briefing, “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico,” hosted by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM).  He will be joined by Claudia Samayoa, an internationally recognized expert on human rights in Guatemala who supports human rights defenders in preventing and responding to security risks. Ms. Samayoa’s perspective will be vital, as the drug war’s impact has been especially destructive in Guatemala and neighboring Honduras and El Salvador, which the United Nations has ranked among the most violent countries in the world outside of active war zones.

“Militarization in Guatemala has been promoted largely by U.S. drug war policies,” said Claudia Samayoa. “The support of the military and militarized responses to drug trafficking in the region has weakened police, eroded democratic spaces, and reopened spaces for human rights violations that afflicted the region for so many decades during the Cold War.”

At the briefing, the Mesoamerican Working Group – a coalition including the Drug Policy Alliance, Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA and Global Exchange – will present Congress with its new report, “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico: Analysis & Recommendations for Legislators,” which offers a roadmap to end the drug war and adopt new policies to protect the safety, health and human rights of people across the region.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, November 12

What: Presentation and Discussion of OAS Report: “Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas 2013-2025.”
When: 8:00 am – 10:00 am.
Where: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States, 1889 F St NW, Washington, D.C., 20006

Wednesday, November 13

What: “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico,” Lunch Briefing and Report Release, hosted by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM).
When: 12:00 pm – Lunch will be served
Where: Capitol Visitor Center – Congressional Meeting Room North

Javier 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 Voices of the Victims 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 address the real causes of violence: failed prohibitionist drug policies, lax controls on gun smuggling and militarized immigration policies that have led to growing numbers of migrant victims. At its final stop in Washington, DC, the Caravan educated members of Congress about the human costs of the drug war, was honored at Hill briefings, and marched on the White House holding banners reading, “No More Drug War.”

Coordinated by Global Exchange, this year’s Voices of the Victims Tour began on October 23 in Denver at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), where 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.

Michael Collins, Federal Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Our objective this week is to ensure that the Administration and Congress understand what is happening in Mexico and Central America – a region which has suffered heavily because of the drug war. In recent months, the U.S. has made important changes to its domestic drug policy – now we hope to see it make urgent changes to its foreign policy as well. A good place to start is by recognizing that a militarized approach to the drug war in Latin America has failed, and by pledging not to interfere in countries that decide to pursue alternatives to the costly and ineffective drug war model.”

At the start of their Tour, several Mexican parents who have suffered the murder or forced disappearance of a child shared their heartrending testimonies alongside U.S. parents who also told painful stories of losing (or being forcibly separated from) a son or daughter due to violence, incarceration or overdose caused by the drug war. Since then, these courageous parent-advocates have shared their stories – and urgent calls for reform – with communities across North America, continuing on to Seattle, Vancouver, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tucson, Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago and Los Angeles, before arriving in Washington, DC, on November 12.

The Tour will conclude on November 15 in Jackson, Mississippi, with an historic meeting between Javier Sicilia and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, to discuss the connection between endemic violence in Mexico and systemic racism in the U.S. justice system – both of which are driven primarily by the war on drugs.

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.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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