Mexico City – Prominent Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia said his movement's talks with lawmakers and the administration have broken down and that he feels "disregarded" in his efforts to demand justice for victims' families and bring an end to the drug-war violence that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since December 2006.
Sicilia made his remarks while leading a demonstration Thursday outside the lower house, where lawmakers were debating proposed public safety legislation that the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, opposes.
According to the activist, the legislators were responsible for the breakdown in talks "because of their disdain" for an oversight mechanism in that bill that had been agreed upon between lawmakers and activists on July 28.
At that meeting, the members of Congress' Standing Commission began talks with the MPJD aimed at giving a voice to the families of the dead and building with them an alternative path to peace and security in Mexico.
While the lower-house lawmakers did not agree to the activists' demands to halt the bill altogether, they did promise then that they would receive input during the debate from human rights experts and academics.
Sicilia says they reneged on that promise.
The MPJD emerged in April, weeks after the poet's 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco Sicilia, and six of his friends were killed near Cuernavaca, capital of the central state of Morelos, by suspected drug-gang members.
"They've sought to reduce (the talks) to insubstantial media formality, even as the legislative agenda continues onward deaf to the voices of the citizenry," the poet said.
The proposed Public Safety Law, proposed in 2009, has already passed the Senate and been approved on general terms by the lower house, but it still must be analyzed article-by-article and so changes could be made to the bill before it becomes law.
By giving general approval for the bill, what the legislators have really done is "continue the process of unconstitutional legalization of the current administration's military strategy, and therefore continue the war" against organized crime, Sicilia said.
The poet added he does not understand why the lawmakers, shortly after beginning talks with his movement, rushed to approve a law that "legalizes the war imposed by the United States and which will be the source of greater shredding (of the social fabric) and pain."
"Days after showing their willingness to talk with civil society and work together to build the path to peace, the legislators have turned their backs on us and voted the other way," he said.
Shortly after taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of army soldiers and federal police to drug-war hotspots, saying it was necessary because local and state police had been thoroughly corrupted by the well-funded drug cartels.
The deployment has been harshly criticized not only by activists in Mexico but also international human rights groups.
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.
Responding to Sicilia's remarks, ruling-party congresswoman Josefina Vazquez Mota read a statement in the name of all political groupings in Congress in which they expressed their "willingness to proceed with a permanent, sincere and respectful dialogue with the representatives of civil society in the context of the debate on national security."
The MPJD was scheduled to meet with Congress' Policy Coordinating Board on Thursday but Sicilia decided not to take part in the session.
Instead, he urged the politicians to return to the talks with "an authentic willingness to listen to citizens" and bring peace to the country.
Calderon's administration responded hours later, stating that "dialogue is continuing and must continue."
The poet, who has led numerous marches to denounce the president's decision to militarize the struggle against the cartels and demand an end to impunity for violent crimes, announced that his movement will hold another demonstration on Aug. 14.