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Apr 23rd
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No Más Sangre - No More Bloodshed PDF Print E-mail

A Growing Mexican Peace Movement Opposes U.S. Military Training, Support for Drug War

by Laura Carlsen

Mexico has become a pivot point in the global movement against militarization and human rights abuses under the so-called “war on drugs.” In recent months, a citizens’-based Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) has emerged, calling for an immediate end to the drug war and a new model of citizen security.

Throughout the country, people are organizing to defend victims’ rights, attain justice and change the security strategies of the U.S. and Mexican governments which have caused so much bloodshed and chaos in their communities.

The MPJD was catalyzed by the poet Javier Sicilia after his son was brutally assassinated on March 28, 2011. Sicilia joined other victims in pointing to President Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs as the cause of the steep rise in violence since 2006, when the war was launched. Since then, more than 50,000 people have been killed – an astounding figure that somehow fails to prick the consciences of the politicians on both sides of the border who continue to promote the failed strategies.

The Calderón drug war has deep roots in U.S. military policies in the region. Under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of NAFTA, Washington made Mexico a full partner in the Bush National Security Strategy by obliging its neighbor to the south to implement counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics measures and crack down on undocumented migrants on its southern border.

The Mérida Initiative, announced by Bush in October of 2007, spelled out these obligations. To date, some $1.5 billion have been approved by the U.S. Congress to fight the disastrous drug war. Not only has this plan been sustained without question since then, it has actually escalated under the Obama administration. In the face of mounting evidence that the enforcement/interdiction model fuels violent conflict among cartels, leads to human rights abuses by security forces and does not stem the flow of illegal drugs to the U.S. market, the aid has continued unabated and undebated.

The Mérida Initiative and Defense Department funds provide for equipment, intelligence systems and military and police training. While more discussion focuses on the big-ticket military equipment, the key to understanding the U.S. role lies in the training and advising.

An August 6 New York Times report (“U.S. Widens Role in Battle Against Mexican Drug Cartels”) reveals that the U.S. has trained 4,500 new federal police agents and supports CIA, FBI, DEA and other agents and former military personnel operating within Mexico, as well as a “fusion intelligence center” at a Mexican military base near the border.

These activities seek to lock in the drug war strategy that permits this historically unprecedented U.S. involvement in Mexican territory.

U.S. drug war training follows a pattern. mexicodrugwar.jpgOver the years, thousands of Mexican soldiers have been trained at the School of the Americas and other U.S. facilities to fight what are often wars against the Mexican people. SOA graduates have been traced to the violent repression of social protest in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca. One example is General José Rubén Rivas Peña, an SOA student who wrote the Mexican Army’s “Campaign Plan Chiapas 94,” which calls for the “training and support for self-defense forces and other paramilitary organizations.” Paramilitary groups have murdered hundreds of indigenous people in Chiapas and were behind the 1997 slaughter of men, women and children in Acteal.

Human rights controls in the training programs are weak. U.S. records show that the government has trained 5,000 military personnel since 1996. Although by law it must vet participants for prior human rights abuses, many go on to become notorious human rights violators.

Moreover, some U.S.-trained military leaders have defected to drug cartels. A Wikileaks cable reported by the Spanish daily El País (“Sicarios adiestrados por EE UU,” January 23, 2011) from the U.S. Embassy acknowledges that it trained Mexican Special Forces (GAFEs) from 1996-1998; former Mexican Special Forces agents founded the Zetas, one of Mexico’s most ruthless cartels. The cable cites the case of Lt. Rogelio Lopez Villafana, who received advanced training at Fort Bragg and later joined the Zetas.

The government cable closes with an obvious, but nonetheless remarkable, statement: “It is impossible to guarantee that every Mexican soldier who receives our training in the future will not defect to organized crime.”

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity formally calls for a halt to the Mérida Initiative and U.S. support for the drug war in its National Pact, signed in Juarez last June. At a protest against the School of the Americas in front of the White House last April, Perla de la Rosa, an activist in Ciudad Juarez, angrily addressed the “men of power:”

“How can we make you understand that this absurd war is a lie and because of this lie, millions of children, women and youth are dying, and we are losing our future?”

The U.S. government justifies spending billions to promote the war by citing “shared responsibility” in stopping illegal drug trafficking, while largely ignoring its responsibilities on its own side of the border. With thousands of Mexicans demonstrating against the U.S.-supported drug war, peace movements are beginning to realize they have a different kind of shared responsibility—to work to stop militarization and the mindset that generates the huge rise in torture, forced disappearances, extralegal executions and gender-based crimes that we’re seeing in Mexico today.

In November, U.S. peace activists will once again converge in Georgia to demand the closure of the School of the Americas and an end to foreign military training at the school. By doing so, they stand alongside the people of Mexico who are claiming the right to real security and public safety and rejecting false military solutions that threaten their lives and their democracy.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Policy Program in Mexico City. Laura has lived in Mexico City since 1986 and has published numerous articles and chapters on social, economic and political aspects of Mexico.

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Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

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