Prominent Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia has called on the government to explain the alleged presence of CIA and DEA agents in Mexico, where they reportedly are carrying out intelligence and police-training duties.

He made the demand a few days after The New York Times reported last weekend that a total of 24 Central Intelligence Agency and Drug Enforcement Administration operatives are working in the country in an investigative and training capacity and helping combat drug trafficking and organized crime.

A State Department spokesman also said Monday that the U.S. government has intensified its anti-narcotics support operations in Mexico through a greater exchange of information and intelligence on criminal organizations active in that country.

Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Government Secretary Jose Francisco Blake should appear before Congress "to explain the matter," Sicilia said in a press conference here Wednesday, in which he expressed his movement's opposition to "the interference of Americans in the war against organized crime being waged in our country."

The presence of the CIA and the DEA is "illegal and unacceptable," the poet said, adding that it represents a clear violation of Mexico's sovereignty.

Sicilia also slammed the Mexican government's contention that the U.S. agents' presence stems from bilateral cooperation agreements and fully adheres to the nation's laws.

"The U.S. government's incursion into our country is humiliating for Mexican army (soldiers) who have been assigned law-enforcement duties," the activist said.

President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against organized crime after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of Federal Police officers and army soldiers to drug-war hotspots.

The president said the federal forces must have the lead role because municipal and state police are ill-prepared to battle the well-funded, heavily armed drug cartels and easily corrupted by the mobs, but critics in Mexico and abroad say the deployment has led to a sharp rise in human rights violations.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in March that the National Human Rights Commission - Mexico's equivalent of an Ombud's Office - had received close to 5,000 allegations of human rights violations by the military, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and rape dating back to 2007.

Critics also say the use of the military has only escalated the drug-war violence that has left more than 40,000 dead since Calderon's inauguration.

The Permanent Legislative Committee of Mexico's Congress, meanwhile, requested that Blake and Espinosa, as well as federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire, appear before the panel and explain the supposed presence and activities of CIA and DEA operatives in Mexico.

Sicilia, accompanied at the press conference by other members of his Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which he launched after his 24-year-old son was murdered by suspected drug-gang members earlier this year, urged citizens to take part in a silent march Sunday in Mexico City.

The goal of the rally is to demand a "halt to the war and a reorientation of Mexico toward peace," as well as to reject militarization, injustice, impunity and neglect, Sicilia said.

"We have to demonstrate peacefully in all corners of the country with all our creativity and drive for peace," the poet said.

The demonstration to be led by Sicilia and a group of prominent academics, artists and intellectuals, will begin at the Anthropology Museum and end at the presidential residence and the Senate building, where the marchers will leave behind hundreds of old shoes to represent the dead and exchange kisses as a symbol of peace.

Sicilia has led numerous marches since his son's murder in March to demand an end to impunity for violent crimes and denounce the president's decision to militarize the struggle against the cartels.

While several suspects have been arrested in his son's killing, Sicilia says it is shameful that thorough investigations are only seen in high-profile cases.