<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
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
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Javier Sicilia Calls Out to Alternative Media as a Force for Communication

At the 2012 School of Authentic Journalism, a Poet Reviews the First Year of the Movement Against the Drug War that He Inspired

By Laura García
School of Authentic Journalism, class of 2012

May 17, 2012

On our third day at the School of Authentic Journalism 2012 Al Giordano gave us a mission: to cover the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity’s first anniversary as authentic journalists. Furthermore, we were going to receive a plenary session with the man who started it all: Javier Sicilia.

It was a huge honor and massive challenge. This movement is the first to unify thousands of Mexicans to take to the streets and protest against drug-related violence and government inefficiency to deal with it.

During his day at the 2012 School of Authentic Journalism, Javier Sicilia converses with professor Mercedes Osuna, human rights defender
and community organizer from Chiapas, Mexico.DR 2012 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky, Narco News.
It was the conference we had all been waiting for. Javier Sicilia, the poet whose cry of pain unified a nation’s sentiment and got people out on the streets. He arrived for lunch and sat down with us to have his meal. Just a man: completely detached from delusions of grandeur or self-promotion that are common in people who function as leaders.

A room full of journalists and social advocates sat down in the downstairs hall ready to hear stories from the frontline of Mexico’s struggle for peace.

Sicilia’s deep, raspy voice enveloped the room and echoed with the pain of his son’s death and the thousands of others that have fallen victims to drug-related violence.

The Movement for Peace, in his words, has “made evident what seemed obvious: that victims are human beings, with families, stories and names.” Thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters that fight a crime impunity rate of 98 percent and look for their loved ones even though there is little hope.

The movement has provided victims with the “security that they are in a community that worries about them.” It is how Sicilia and all those involved fight against loneliness, impotence and silence. “Love is an important factor. Their pain has become dignity, ” he said.

He made a point that without alternative media the gigantic march in Mexico City on May 8, 2011 wouldn’t have been possible. “I have a resistance for all things media,” he said. Nevertheless, Sicilia has found allies in alternative outlets like Narco News. Alternative media forced “the media controlled by the powerful to focus” on the “national emergency” at hand.

The idea was to communicate and gather the information that was dispersed: to give the victims a unified voice that thundered. And he was surprised to find such a great response.

“I did not think the movement was going to have that summoning power,” he said.

With the different caravans to Mexico City and the southern states of Mexico, mainstream media reported of the Movement and kept them in the public agenda. But after the caravan south, mainstream media forgot about the movement and moved on.
Sicilia learned then the importance of the media: “people thought the movement lost strength.”

The problem, as he sees it is that the government is “more concerned about what can be said outside the country.”

But just as mainstream media let the movement down, alternative and new media came to the rescue.

“Social networks have kept the movement alive,” he said.

He continued by pointing out the historical paradox that we live in:

“Never in the history of human beings have we been so in communication and simultaneously so incommunicado,” said Sicilia. “The media have pulverized information.”

He then addressed the government of the United Stated with the Movement’s demands: legalize drugs “or produce your own”, control on arms trafficking, and press for a revision of Plan Merida.

Sicilia believes that these messages, victims’ testimonies and pressing for new legislation that protects victims and punishes criminals will eventually lead to change.

“When a government is afraid of its citizens, that’s when we are in a democracy,” he said.

Sicilia also spoke of how Mexico is divided into north and south. The struggles may be the same, but the way people react to them is different and that affects the synergy of the movement as a whole:

“The north is an atomized world. Individualism has installed there and it has broken social fabric. They are alone,” he commented.

The desolated plazas in the northern cities of Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez, prove that people are not moved to get out on the streets in unity like they are in the South.

After an emotional hour and half, Sicilia finished off saying that even the people who kill each other in drug-related incidents are our responsibility.

“Society is not doing what it needs to build citizens”, he said. “We didn’t do something right so they ended up dead.”

Moved and busy with our journalistic duty for the following day’s activities we watched Sicilia walk away, ready to take on the government, the cartels and even the media that would ignore the important stories that need to be told.

Read the entire transcript of Javier Sicilia’s talk, including questions and responses, at this link.

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