Mexico City – Prominent Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia accused the government of seeking to "dilute" the movement he heads, citing its attempt to change the format of a planned meeting to include other grassroots groups.
President Felipe Calderon sat down with members of Sicilia's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, on June 23 and pledged to hold another follow-up meeting three months later, but the government on Wednesday night suggested a "broader gathering in which other social groups would also participate."
"That would be a way to optimize and articulate reflections on common points of interest in a comprehensive and inclusive manner," the formal meeting request, sent by Deputy Interior Secretary Juan Marcos Gutierrez and disseminated Thursday by the MPJD, said.
The movement's representatives said at a press conference Thursday that they would arrive on Oct. 7 at 10:00 a.m. at the doors of the Chapultepec Castle, venue of the first meeting, for a new gathering held under the same format as the first.
The participants in that earlier sit-down only included members of the MPJD - mostly family members of victims of drug-related violence - and government officials; no representatives of other non-government organizations involved in public safety and human rights issues in Mexico were present.
Sicilia said the disagreement over the format, which led to the cancellation of Thursday's scheduled meeting, was due to the fact the government "is not understanding the scale of the national emergency."
"It's a government that bases its policies on the media. Since the media are no longer covering us (as much), they decided that we're no longer a strong movement," he added.
"They're mistaken if they want to minimize us. They're mistaken if they want to dilute us because the movement still has very high morale and is still very empathetic with the citizenry, that invisible element that doesn't matter to them," the poet said.
Human rights defender Emilio Alvarez Icaza, who also is affiliated with the MPJD, agreed that the new larger format "shows a desire to dilute the movement."
The former president of Mexico City's Human Rights Commission said it was important to renew the dialogue and called on the government to "honor what been agreed upon" earlier and hold the meeting under the same format.
He acknowledged that the discussions with the government thus far have revealed clear divisions, with activists opposed to the current military-based strategy against the violent, well-funded cartels.
The MPJD also has spoken out against proposed legislation whose focus, it says, is on broadening the powers of the military and police rather than on guaranteeing citizens' rights and safety.
Alvarez also noted that Sicilia's movement has criticized the way in which a new prosecutor's office for victims of violence was recently unveiled, calling the action "premature" and saying the MPJD was not informed despite its ongoing talks with the government.
The MPJD was launched in April shortly after the murder of Sicilia's 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, and six of his friends in Temixco, Morelos state, by suspected drug-cartel members.
The group, which has carried out various marches and met with victims of drug-related violence in northern and southern Mexico, is demanding a halt to Calderon's drug-war strategy based on deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police on the streets of crime-wracked cities and towns.
Some 34,000 people have been killed in turf battles among rival drug cartels and clashes between the mob enforcers and the security forces, according to official figures through January.
The MPJD, however, puts the drug-war death toll at around 50,000 and says another 10,000 people are missing.
Sicilia also has demanded an end to impunity for violent crimes.
While several suspects have been arrested in his son's killing, the poet says it is shameful that thorough investigations are only seen in high-profile cases.