The Voices of Victims tour (#VoicesofVictims13) led by Mexican drug war victims ended last week after headlining events in 11 U.S. and Canadian cities spotlighting the human costs of violent prohibition and mass incarceration strategies — and the urgent need for sensible alternatives.
Frank dialogue was a hallmark of this tour throughout. In Washington, DC, poet and Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) founder, Javier Sicilia spoke bluntly in a White House meeting, telling Ricardo Zuñiga, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Juan S. Gonzales, Special Advisor to the Vice President on the Western Hemisphere that we must fundamentally change U.S. backed policies of militarized prohibition that are driving a human rights disaster throughout the region.
Candor was again in evidence at another Washington DC meeting, this one hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS meeting was convened by civil society organizations, MPJD, Global Exchange and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda who requested that José Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General and Emilio Álvarez Icaza Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights present and discuss the OAS findings in the report on “Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas 2013-2015,” published earlier this year.
Notably, Secretary General Insulza embraced the idea that it is time to decriminalize and regulate marijuana and possibly other recreational drugs. Nevertheless, Javier Sicilia admonished the OAS, and the governments it serves, to act quickly, accelerating what he sees as “timid” steps toward change. Watch B-roll of the event.
On Capitol Hill, Voices tour spokespeople for the MPJD joined allies from the Mesoamerican Working Group (MAWG) to speak at a well-attended briefing hosted by New Mexico Congresswoman, Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Participants spoke about the gruesomely negative impact of the drug war on human security, human rights, and democracy in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Javier Sicilia focused on the ongoing national emergency in Mexico that he says is being downplayed and underreported in the media due to government pressure. The Hill briefing attracted members of Congress, State Department Aides, and congressional staffers from more than two-dozen offices.
Congressman, Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, TX spoke out strongly for an end to prohibition-as-we-know-it, making a spontaneous presentation that reflected his experience living in and representing a district that borders Mexico’s most violent city, Ciudad Juarez. O’Rourke has supported the MPJD and the call for deep reforms on both sides of the border since he was a member of the El Paso City Council.
The aim of the tour was to build on the connections forged between broad coalitions of Mexican and U.S. peacemakers who worked together building the 2012 Caravan for Peace. That Caravan brought together a drug policy reform movement embraced by church and community leaders; leading African-American and Latino organizations; gun-safety advocates, a few good politicians, law enforcement professionals, human and immigrant rights advocates, and many others across the United States who gave support, uplift, solace, and a heartfelt push toward justice for those who grieve loved ones lost to decades of drug war folly.
The final event of the Voices tour at the 7th Annual Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) Unity Conference brought many elements together. It featured a conversation about how to build a cross border movement to end the drug war between Javier Sicilia, the bereaved-Mexican father whose actions sparked a movement for peace and Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, the bestselling book that demystifies the iron links between the drug war, mass incarceration, and the American caste system it helps perpetuate.
Michelle Alexander and Javier Sicilia agreed that the damage done by the drug war in various countries has a common source in our deeply militarized and misguided prohibition policies. Both Michelle and Javier are models of courage and determination to speak unpopular truths. They agreed to work together to build the international movement and consensus on the urgent need to rethink and build a movement to undo the militarization of the of the drug war.
They agreed that it was critical to assure that the voice of victims be represented at policy discussions and that those impacted by the war on drugs are vital by sharing their stories and their policy recommendations.
While the tour is over, the organizing continues. Please help us continue to support these courageous advocates of drug policy and gun safety reforms on both sides of the border.
Thanks to all the people and organizations for their support for the past month and we look forward to collaborating in the future.