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  1. Calliope

    MEXICO CITY — Reeling from a drug war that has killed tens of thousands and a boom in violent crime in general, Mexico has built a memorial to victims of violence. But like a crime scene still under investigation, it sits off limits behind white tarp, wrapped in questions and uncertainty.

    A series of rusted metal slabs amid reflecting pools in a corner of Mexico City’s biggest park, the memorial now stands as an accidental metaphor for the fog and doubts that swirl around the country’s layered debates on violence and victimhood.

    Rushed to completion by President Felipe Calderón, whose six-year term was overwhelmed by the explosion of violence, the site has not yet publicly opened. On Nov. 30, in Mr. Calderón’s last 90 minutes in office, his administration sent a short e-mail to reporters announcing that the memorial was complete and in the hands of the civic groups that had called for it.

    But in fact the transfer of the military-owned site has been mired in bureaucratic delays, and there remains disagreement over who the victims are — particularly in the bloody war against drug cartels and other organized crime that has consumed the country.

    “We are fighting a war against an enemy we don’t know,” said Viridiana Rios, a Mexican researcher at Harvard University and former adviser to the Interior Ministry who is studying drug war deaths. “We need to answer to the public. There are claims many of the victims are innocent. I would like to know if that is the case.”

    Few debates in the country are as divisive or politically charged as that over the storm of violence in recent years, with mass shootings and bodies hung from bridges, evidently the work of cartels, but also other killings, violent robberies, kidnappings and extortion that may or may not be the work of organized crime.

    A year ago, Mr. Calderón’s government released its last count of presumed drug-war dead — 47,515 since the end of 2006 — and then refused to release any further data, with his aides saying later that the count, dependent in part on reporting from state agencies, was not precise.

    Mexican newspapers and academics have done their own counts and believe the figure surpasses 60,000. Most recently, the government released statistics for all homicides, drug-related or not, putting the figure at 102,705 in the past six years, just under half committed with guns.

    What is certain is that violent crime often goes unpunished. Nearly 60 percent of the homicides remain unsolved, the Mexican census bureau said recently.

    Mr. Calderón’s aides had long asserted that most drug war victims were involved in the trade or other criminal enterprises, judging by the earmarks of heavy weapons used or crime-ridden areas where they were found.

    But victims’ advocates note that many bodies, some dug up from common graves after perhaps years, remain unclaimed and unidentified, leaving the circumstances of their deaths a mystery. In addition to the known killings, some 25,000 people have been reported missing in the past six years. How many fell victim to violence is unknown.

    A new law, stalled during Mr. Calderón’s term but enacted a little more than a month after Mr. Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1, aims to compile a more precise registry of crime victims and provide financial relief for their survivors, though critics contend the law does not clearly address who exactly a victim is or how the fund will be paid for.

    The law and the memorial grew out of the emerging victims’ rights movement, but reflect also the uncertainties of assigning guilt and innocence.

    In this case, said Luis Vázquez, a scholar at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Mexico City, the split is between the middle and upper classes, which are concerned about crimes like kidnapping and extortion, and human rights groups, which are focused on abuses of the military and the police in the warlike attack on cartels.

    “There are two groups and two discussions going on related to victims of crime,” he said.

    It follows that those two sides disagree on whom the memorial should honor. They even dispute who came up with the idea for it.

    Javier Sicilia, a poet embraced by the left whose son was murdered by a drug gang in the south-central city of Cuernavaca in 2011, said he first proposed a memorial for drug-war victims at a security forum in November 2011 with Mr. Calderón.

    But another advocate for the memorial offers a different account. Isabel Miranda de Wallace, whose son was kidnapped for ransom in Mexico City in 2005 and never seen again, said she had long pushed for a memorial to all victims of violence and mentioned it to Mr. Calderón a year earlier. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Mexico City last year as the candidate of Mr. Calderón’s right-leaning National Action Party, but says she is not a member of any party.

    “I told him we have a lot of people in pain,” said Ms. Wallace, now the memorial’s biggest champion.

    In the end, the administration agreed to provide nearly $2 million for the project and helped organize a monthlong contest among architects, who submitted 68 designs to a panel of judges from architectural schools and civic groups.

    The designated site was a military parcel next to a parade ground in the city’s enormous Chapultepec Park. That angered Mr. Sicilia and others who view the military’s heavy-handed actions as abusive. “As you can imagine, we see that as an insult to the dead, the suffering of victims, the pain of the country and historical memory,” he said.

    The winning design was led by Ricardo López Martín and two other architects. Just off one of the city’s main boulevards, its several dozen rusted slabs, set in a shady garden, evoke the passage of time and at night are illuminated from within. Some showcase quotations from the likes of Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez and Anne Frank. Visitors can leave messages, too.

    Ms. Wallace concedes the project got fast-tracked with the goal of dedicating it before Mr. Calderón left office. Planned for a week before he stepped down, the ceremony failed to come to pass. However, two weeks before leaving office, Mr. Calderón publicly dedicated a nearby memorial to fallen soldiers.

    Now, Ms. Wallace said, the opening of the victims’ memorial must wait until the paperwork transferring the property from military to civilian use is completed, possibly in February.

    Mr. Calderón, who begins teaching at Harvard this month and has been the subject of protests there, declined to comment through a spokeswoman. The office of his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, would not say if he would attend a dedication, acknowledging no date was set.

    Some passers-by have no idea what is behind the white tarp in the park, and some who do frown on it as an unwelcome reminder of their country’s troubles.

    “I won’t be bringing my daughter to see a monument to victims of violence,” said Gabriel Ruiz, a publicist who passes the shrouded construction every day and believes most of the victims were involved in crime themselves.

    Anibel Renteria, a secretary having lunch in the park, said, “If this gives comfort to people who lost somebody, it seems fine to do, but I never would have had this idea.”

    January 23, 2013




  1. source
    Mexico's controversial memorial for drug war victims

    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=32088&stc=1&d=1365337945[/imgl]A controversial memorial has been unveiled in Mexico to commemorate the tens of thousands of people killed during the brutal drug war.

    The massive structure is divided into several steel walls, which feature poems and quotes from famous writers but have no names of victims.

    It is located next to Mexico City's renowned Chapultepec Park.

    But the monument has been rejected by some relatives of the dead and missing, who do not feel represented.

    "This memorial remembers not only those who are gone, but also those who are still here," said Alejandro Marti, the founder of Mexico's SOS group, whose teenage son was kidnapped and murdered in 2008.

    "This memorial should symbolise a common struggle for all Mexicans to avoid another Fernando, another Hugo Alberto, another Juan Francisco," he added, referring to other victims of the drug war.

    Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, also speaking at the inauguration ceremony, said the country needed to turn the years of violence and pain into positive, generous and productive action.

    "The victims of the violence are not numbers. They are stories. They are a pending agenda for the government and for all of society," he said.
    Military base

    At a cost of $2.4m (£1.6m; 1.9m euros), the 13,846-sq-m memorial was built with funds seized from drug cartels.

    But a prominent opponent of the drug war, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, declined to take part in the ceremony.

    Mr Sicilia, whose son was kidnapped and killed in 2011, said members of his Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity did not feel represented by the memorial.

    He objects to the fact that it is located next to a military base and does not include names of the dead and disappeared.

    Officially the memorial has no names because no list of the dead exists, although there is room to add them.

    Mr Sicilia has called for the "Tower of Light", an existing monument built for the bicentennial of Mexico's independence, to be turned into a "Tower of Peace", in memory of the victims of the drug war.

    Some 70,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico in the past seven years, and many more remain unaccounted for.

    President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December last year, has vowed to quell the violence.

    BBC News 7th April 2013
  2. Calliope
    Re: Mexico's controversial memorial for drug war victims

    Nice story sourcey! I started a thread on this memorial back in january, here, with a story from the NYTimes (but yours has a better photo I think lol). I've reported your post to see if the two can be merged. :)
  3. Moving Pictures
    Re: Mexico's controversial memorial for drug war victims

    I thought it was going to be considered "controversial" because many of the dead were involved in drug trafficking/dealing and belonged to drug gangs. I mean, I'm not saying they deserved to die, but I don't think most of the dead were so innocent.
  4. Calliope
    Re: Mexico's controversial memorial for drug war victims

    Moving Pictures, I think you have the wrong picture of the violence caused by the so called war on drugs in Mexico. President Calderón did claim that 90% of the victims of that violence are tied to cartels, but he pulled that out of his ass, having no way of knowing since the investigation of crime there is generally so abysmally minimal and poor. Read this story I've grabbed just below to see some of the kinds of victims of violence related to the WoD that seem pretty decidedly innocent to me...

    The Drug War’s Invisible Victims
    Friday, February 10, 2012 |

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=32108&stc=1&d=1365392521[/IMGL]There are many kinds of war. The classic image of a uniformed soldier kissing mom good-bye to risk his life on the battlefield has changed dramatically. In today’s wars, it’s more likely that mom will be the one killed.

    The UNDP states that by the mid-1990s, 90% of war casualties were civilians–mostly women and children.

    Mexico’s drug war is a good example of the new wars on civilian populations that blur the lines between combatants and place entire societies in the line of fire. Of the more than 50,000 people killed in drug war-related violence, the vast majority are civilians. President Felipe Calderón claims that 90% of the victims were linked to drug cartels. But how does he know? In a country where only 2% of crimes are investigated, tried, and sentenced, the government pulled this figure out of its sleeve.

    Not Just Homicide

    There are also war tolls beyond the body counts. The homicide number misses the disappeared, the thousands whose bodies–dead or alive–are never found, never counted. And it hides the mutilation of lives caused by “collateral damage”: the loss of loved ones, families forced from their homes, permanent injury, orphans and widows, sexual abuse, lives lived in fear.

    These costs fall primarily on the shoulders of women–the mothers, daughters, and sisters who are left with the nearly impossible task of seeking answers and redress in a justice system outpaced by violence and overrun by corruption. They are often re-victimized by government agencies that ignore, reject, or stifle their pleas for justice.

    “Families that demand that our children be found face all kinds of threats… the loss of our property, isolation, rejection by our own families,” said Araceli Rodríguez, a mother whose son, a young policeman, was disappeared on the job. His police unit refuses to give information on his disappearance. “I wake up and find that it’s not a nightmare, that his absence is real and the impunity is also real.”

    It’s rare to hear the voices of the women who bear the brunt of the drug war. Their pain doesn’t make headlines. Some need anonymity to remain alive. Many have been granted protective measures by the government or international human rights organizations because of the extreme threats they face.

    There is no official information on why these thousands were killed. When their bodies are found in unmarked mass graves, no one even knows who they were. With violence the norm, executions can —and do— target grassroots leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, and rebellious youth under the cloak of the drug war.

    Telling Stories

    Despite all these difficulties, some 70 women told their stories amid tears and despite fear for their lives in Mexico City on January 22. The meeting called by the Nobel Women’s Initiative brought an international delegation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams together with Mexican women victims of the violence and women human rights defenders.

    From the sketchy statistics available, women make up a relatively small proportion of the murdered in Mexico, but they are the majority of citizens who denounce disappearances, murders, and human rights violations in the drug war. They work on the front lines of defending communities and human rights. For their efforts, they become targets themselves. In Mexico, six prominent women human rights defenders have been murdered in the past two years.

    The last report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recognized that threats and especially “explicit death threats against women human rights defenders are one of the main forms of violence in the region, with more than half coming from Latin America, most of those (27) from Mexico.”

    Sometimes it’s the drug cartels that seek to silence women activists. But a recent survey of Mexican women human rights defenders revealed that they cite the government (national, state, and local) and its security forces as responsible in 55% of cases of violence and threats of violence to women defenders. Among government officials charged with public safety and justice, they encounter at best indifference and at worst death threats and attacks. A human rights defender from the state of Coahuila explained that searching for a disappeared loved one implies “always having to be in the hell of the institutions, which are often infiltrated by crime.”

    Gender-based violence including femicide has skyrocketed in the context of the overall violence. The number of femicides in Chihuahua since sending the army in has risen to 837 for the period of 2008- June 2011 —nearly double the total femicides in 1993-2007. Women rights defenders report that the vast majority of threats and acts of violence against them include gender-based violence.

    Silent No More

    Olga Esparza, whose daughter Monica disappeared in Ciudad Juarez in 2009, explains through her tears that the government simply doesn’t care. “We’re the ones who have to carry out the investigations, with our own resources.” She adds that government officials often add insult to injury, “They say she’s probably just gone off with her boyfriend or she’s a prostitute or drug addict.” In her case, as with so many others, there’s no investigation, no results, no justice.

    Another woman described how her work with indigenous communities led to her rape and torture by police agents. She continues to live in terror due to threats against her life and her family.

    Alma Gomez of the Center for the Human Rights of Women in Chihuahua summed up what she sees in the center, “Women are the invisible victims, we are always at risk in this military and police occupation. We know of gang rapes by security forces that the women don’t even report; arbitrary arrests; women who make the rounds between army barracks and city morgues searching for their sons, fathers, or husbands. We are the spoils of war in a war we didn’t ask for and we don’t want.”

    “Victim” is really the wrong word for these women. The mother whose son disappeared more than two years ago said, “In the struggle to find my son, I joined the peace movement. I learned that I can transform my pain into a collective force and together we can help more people to have a voice and to now be empowered to defend their rights.”

    Valentina Rosendo, a Me’phaa indigenous woman from the State of Guerrero, was raped by soldiers and took her case all the way up to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. She sums up the reason for participating in the Nobel Women’s forum, “It’s really hard to speak out, but it’s more painful to keep quiet."

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