Friday, July 29, 2011

With Plan Merida a “Plan Oaxaca”?

More Soldiers Bring Violence to Communities Previously Less Affected by Drug Trafficking in Mexico

Audio report by Rebecca Ellis

“Plan Merida is supposed to be about fighting drug trafficking, but we are seeing another agenda here in Oaxaca. And it has created more violence in communities which did not experience such violence before Plan Merida. The military presence in different states where there was little violence previously is hardly justifiable and has just served to increase the violence.
This is why one of the principle demands of the caravan is that the army gets off the streets.”
 Isis Contreras, youth activist and radio commentator for Radio Jenpoj, Oaxaca
In December 2006, during his first week in office, Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels. Since then, up to 34,000 (official Mexican figures) people have died in Mexico as a result of the so-called “War on Drugs”. Cd. Juárez, across the border from El Paso, is now considered the deadliest city in the world, where close to 7000 people have died since March 2008. There is now an estimated 10,000 security forces patrolling the streets of Cd. Juárez, where the violence continues to escalate.

Tension has also escalated in the south-western state of Oaxaca, primarily attributed to political repression rather than organized crime or drug trafficking. Despite the Merida Initiative’s stated purpose of fighting drugs in Mexico, youth activist Isis Contreras refers to what she calls “Plan Oaxaca,” which has a different objective altogether than that of fighting drugs.

President Calderon stated to the press in June 2011 that he may have been “misunderstood” in his drug war policies. He had previously made a public apology for the “collateral damage” – e.g..g. 34,000 Mexicans killed – incurred by the war on drugs. This half-hearted lamentation of Calderon was perceived as half-hearted and at best, with bitter irony, by many in Mexico.

Socrates Vasquez is Mexican representative of international independent radio network AMARC in Mexico and director of Radio Jenpoj, a community-owned and -operated radio station in Tlahuitoltepec, an indigenous Mixe community in Oaxaca. Vasquez elaborates on the radio station’s response to the increasing violence in Mexico which he insists is not only related to drug trafficking, but also to policies enacted under the Merida Initiative. Overall, he characterizes Mexico as being in a state of civil war, meaning not only the war against drug traffickers but a war of the Mexican state against social movements within the country.

Under the Merida Initiative, the Mexican government has deployed 50,000 troops to fight the war nationwide. Human rights complaints against the Mexican military have increased from 182 to 1,791 – almost 10-fold – from 2006 to 2009, according to Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH).
Isis Contreras reports that civilians not involved in drug trafficking have been affected and sometimes killed by police and military units. She expressed her conviction that Plan Merida has created a militarized climate even in the state of Oaxaca, where drug trafficking is not as prevalent as in the northern regions of Mexico.

*Poet and peace movement leader Javier Sicilia has vowed never to write poetry again, but his poetry has inspired others to pick up the pen and the mic to express their indignation of Calderon’s treatment of the Mexican population as collateral damage in his drug war. For this reason, I have underscored this audio piece with poetry. The audio of “Silencio de la Palabra” is courtesy of the video group. Excerpts from “Contra los Muros” poem by David Huerta was recorded on May 8 (2011), where it was read at a mass rally against the drug war held in the Zócalo Square in Mexico City, the National Cathedral bells ringing in the background.

Moderation: Rebecca Ellis
Voice-overs: Kathy Cantrell & Ben Ferguson

Written, produced and edited by Rebecca Ellis

Click here to listen or download audio report.

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