Mexico Peace Caravan’s Long Road Ends (Begins) With Pact Signed in Juárez
This post is also available in: Spanish
Hundreds of participants in the caravan and Juarez citizens gathered for the event cheered as pen was finally put to paper.
The signing followed sometimes difficult debates, long hours on the road and a process that included both bonding experiences and internal controversies.
The commitment to maintaining unity among the organizations prevailed through a lot of hard work and patience. The Pact reflects the basic agreements that came out of nine working groups on Saturday (the six points of the Pact announced on May 8, plus three additional subjects). A summarized version was read in the Plaza to the crowd–due to the unwieldy length of the entire document, a member of the drafting committee told us–; the full Pact will be available on the webpage within the next couple of days (we will provide the link as soon as it’s up).
Along the three thousand-some kilometer route of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, listening to story after story of violent deaths, families’ grief and government’s callousness or complicity was not easy. But in many ways the second phase was even harder.
Several issues came out clearly along the route as points of contention. The two major points of disagreement were whether to engage in dialogue with the government, particularly with President Felipe Calderon, and demilitarization.
The Pact calls for demilitarization of the country as an integral and necessary part of a change in strategy.
It does not call for dialogue as a consensus decision. However this has been a point that the poet Javier Sicilia and others have insisted on and shortly before receiving the final text of the Pact in the plaza from the drafting committee, Sicilia announced that there will be dialogue “even though some people don’t like it”.
I’ll give a brief overview of the discussion on this point, since it appears distorted or incomplete other press accounts. A group close to Sicilia argues that dialogue with the President is necessary 1) because victims have established it as a priority, 2) because Gandhian philosophy includes reaching out to enemies to appeal to their humanity and 3) because it’s necessary to exhaust these channels before rejecting them.
The Juárez organizations argue that 1) “Blood is not negotiatiable”–that is, that the government is responsible for the bloodshed and cannot be considered a legitimate counterpart as long as the current violent model continues, 2) derived from that, that demilitarization is a pre-condition for dialogue, 3) that while some victims may call for dialogue, others–especially in hard-hit Juarez–have spent many frustrating hours with authorities and no longer have faith in their ability or willingness to bring justice to their families, and 4) that the movement must concentrate efforts on building from the bottom up and consolidating civic forces.
The Ministry of the Interior immediately announced its eagerness to receive members of the peace movement to establish terms for the dialogue, according to the national press.
The other point of contention was demilitarization. However, when the second working group of more than 200 people met, a clear consensus on demilitarization emerged immediately. The discussion then turned to the timing of the withdrawal of the army. Within the movement, differences of opinion still exist on this point between immediate withdrawal and different possible plans for phased withdrawal or regional withdrawals. The Pact does not specify.
Eliminating immunity of the armed forces from civilian courts (fuero militar) was unanimously included in the pact, as was the demilitarization of the police forces–a common practice is to put military commanders at the head of police forces and transfer soldiers to police in many parts of the country.
The Pact also called for new drug policy and the immediate cancellation of the Merida Initiative. This point is, of course, critical to U.S. organizations seeking to support Mexico’s peace movement and will be discussed at length in the binational event to be held this morning and a later post.