Mexico City – More than 100 people participated in a demonstration to call for an end to the drug-related violence that has claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people since 2006 in Mexico and demand the return of army troops to their barracks.
"Mexico is tired, afraid and in pain," writer Elena Poniatowska said during the protest Monday in Mexico City.
Society should "not be indifferent" to the anti-drug strategy implemented by President Felipe Calderon, who has just created "more violence than ever," Poniatowska said.
The event was held at the Mexico City Museum as part of a campaign launched last year to end the wave of violence in the country.
The public should reject the government's militarization of the war on drugs, a policy that has led to the deployment of 50,000 army troops and 20,000 Federal Police officers across Mexico, the writer said.
"Let's rise up against this, like now at this event, which is barely a start ... for a new attitude toward life," Poniatowska said.
Journalist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, for his part, expressed an interest in participating in "any movement that leads to an end to the violence."
The "1 minuto x no + sangre" campaign is a "contribution by citizens so people can understand that the way of arms is not the only way to deal with criminal violence," Granados Chapa said.
The protest drew about 120 participants, including intellectuals, journalists, artists and victims of violence.
"We demand that the army return to its barracks," Argos production company chief Epigmenio Ibarra said, adding that Calderon should be impeached for launching a "war" that has resulted in the deaths of innocent people.
Calderon "has betrayed the Mexican Revolution and there will only be justice in the country if there is an end to impunity, because without punishment there is no justice," actress Ofelia Medina said.
Poet Javier Sicilia, who is leading a national movement aimed at reconstructing a country destroyed by crime and violence, participated in the protest via telephone.
Sicilia thanked Mexicans for their support following the murders of his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, and six other young men on March 27 by the violent Pacifico Sur drug cartel in Cuernavaca, the capital of the central state of Morelos.
"We are all on the same road and we don't want more bloodshed ... we have had it up to here with this situation and it's time for a change," Sicilia said.
The poet set out with a peace caravan last Saturday from Cuernavaca with the goal of traveling to Mexico's most crime-ridden cities.
The caravan will end on Friday in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, where participants will sign a national pact to reconstruct the country.
The pact, which will be signed by grassroots and other non-governmental organizations, will call for improvements in the administration of justice, a move away from the militarization of the war on drugs to a focus on public safety and the dismissal of officials to fight corruption and impunity.
The Calderon administration responded to the protest, denying the charges leveled by the peace activists.
The government has not militarized the war on drugs and the armed forces have not left their barracks and taken over the streets, federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.
The majority of army troops and marines "are not assigned to operations fighting organized crime," Poire said, adding that "the violations that have occurred have been incidental, have been punished and are not the result of a structural matter."
Human rights groups have reported a rise in violations committed by soldiers engaged in the war against Mexico's drug cartels.