Mexico drug war strategy will continue despite appeals from activists, Calderon says
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday met face-to-face with activist-poet Javier Sicilia in a long and often colorful public meeting aimed at reaching a consensus on how to curb the country's rising drug-war death toll.
Sicilia demanded Calderon apologize for carnage that has left an estimated 40,000 dead, and demanded a change in the government's anti-crime strategy. But Calderon, flanked by Cabinet officials, repeated once more that it would be wrong to alter the basic thrust — a military-led campaign against the country's powerful cartels.
Calderon also said he would like to be remembered for other things he has done during his administration, such as building hospitals, fortifying education and legal institutions, and his environmental initiatives. But the conservative president admitted he will "probably be remembered for [the drug war], and probably with much injustice."
The meeting, at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, was televised live and attended by other relatives of victims of drug-related violence.
Some relatives fought back tears at times as they bluntly criticized the impunity enjoyed by criminals. Julian LeBaron, a prominent Mormon activist from Chihuahua state, reminded Calderon that in the case of his brother Benjamin, who was killed in 2009, no one had been placed behind bars yet.
"It's time to send a message to the world that violence does not end with more violence," LeBaron said. "Let's end this war now, so that you will not be remembered as the president of the 40,000 dead."
The event, dubbed "Dialogue for Peace," was called in response to the "Caravan for Peace" that Sicilia, LeBaron, and others led two weeks ago to Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. At the end of the meeting, Calderon promised to have another meeting with Sicilia and other prominent peace activists in three months.
Sicilia also announced a forthcoming caravan to the south of the country and to Guatemala.
— Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City
Photo: Mexican President Felipe Calderon greets poet Javier Sicilia at the "Dialogue for Peace" in Mexico City, June 23, 2011. Credit: Associated Press