<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #67

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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The State Government of Morelos, Mexico, Kidnaps Memorial Plaques of the Victims of the War on Drugs

Citizens Organize to Put the Names of the Murdered Up Again on the Wall of the Government Palace

By Carolina Corral
Narco News Cuernavaca

April 18, 2011

In the zócalo of Cuernavaca there lies an offering to Juan Francisco Sicilia, who now represents the 40,000 who have died since Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared a “war on drugs” in 2006. According to eyewitnesses, at 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, government employees removed the offering and pulled off some plaques while leaving candles that formed a cross on the ground. Just like those who prune a tree to double its flowers, today the citizenry will again resurrect the altar.

The offering has served as the epicenter of the Movement for Peace and Justice that began in Cuernavaca on Monday, March 28, following the assassination of the son of poet Javier Sicilia and an additional six people who were found tortured and asphyxiated in a car.

The offering centers on the power of the citizens’ complaint. It joins expressions of discontent, courage and an urgency of change through poems, posters, banners, murals, drawings, photographs and candles. It also brings together the three-week effort by citizens to add their own two cents to the altar. It is a place that welcomes people after a march, where there are cultural workshops for the public, and where artistic performances of protest are held. It has become a place of civic cohesion loaded with a symbolism that puts pressure on the authorities.

The offering was erected three weeks ago, without being guarded most of the time. It has been respected as a source for accumulating strong citizen opinions at the doors of the highest institution of government, letting the authorities know that that people are angry and that they will not be easily removed from their memory.

On Sunday the altar woke up deserted and exposed. At 8 a.m. it was reported that everything covering it had been disappeared. They took pieces of paper, cardboard, and removed 15 aluminum plaques which had the names of those who were murdered in Morelos during the “war on drugs.” The plaques had been stuck on the columns of the Morelos Government Palace last Wednesday during an event that was presided over by Javier Sicilia. But that was all they took: paper and metal plates. The public wants to change the situation in the country and they can’t rip out the heart of the offering.

It was the first attempt to remove the memory of the drug war—an uncertain attempt that has not resulted in a final cleaning. They decided to leave a cross that is formed by candles on the ground and surrounded by flowers. They also decided not to remove the rest of the eighty commemorative plaques. They have allowed hand drilling on to the Government Palace without having pressed any charges. It seems that the government understands that it can’t play the public in the same ways that it has done without a response.

Why did they make a hesitant attempt to remove the offering Sunday? Two important events happened yesterday.

On April 17, 1869, the state—which is now falling apart—was founded. Sunday marked the 142nd Anniversary of the State of Morelos and it was celebrated with a public event in the Cuernavaca zócalo with the presence of Governor Marco Adame.

In the official photograph of the event, important political figures appear in front of the Government Palace. Of course, the offering and the plaques are interposed to the solemnity of the building.

This is also the beginning of the Holy Week vacation period. The tourists, besides being curious consumers, also act as witnesses and communicators. To have an altar and walls filled with plaques that hold the government accountable for so many deaths, plaques which make a national call for citizen mobilization, represents a strong aesthetic that the government won’t be able to escape from unscathed.

It was just the right time to try and leave a clean city for an official photograph and a vacation period—two heavy reasons to try and return obscurity to the zócalo on Sunday. However, today the memory will return with a new offering.

The citizens that are participating in the maintenance of the offering are already organized to repopulate it. This time the act was carried out as a way to complain, during a press conference in the Cuernavaca zócalo today at 10 a.m. In front of cameras they denounced the government for having deeply offended the epicenter of the movement, the memory of those who were murdered, and the freedom of public expression. And they will be reminded that for each poster that was taken down there will be two more.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America