Poet, activist Javier Sicilia promotes nonviolence in Mexico

When Time Magazine made the protestor Person of the Year, it featured several interviews with activists around the world. One featured protestor was Javier Sicilia, leader of Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, who also made an appearance at DePaul last week.

Sicilia held a talk at DePaul’s Art Museum on April 16 and discussed the mission of the MPJD and the current state of Mexico. Once famous for his poetry and writing, he became the face of that movement after his son was killed last March.

The purpose of MPJD is to promote nonviolence in a violent country. According to Sicilia, they’re adding to the discourse of the Zapatista movement, another activist organization in Mexico’s history. Drug-related violence has caused thousands of lives in Mexico, and Sicilia said there have been 20,000 disappearances and 250,000 displacements.

“We are the victims of this nation,” he said.

The first problems he addressed were economic. He believes the current economic model in Mexico is failing and isn’t compatible with handling poverty. The increase of drugs and prosecution has also led to money laundering. Additionally, he sees a constant process of acquiring and consuming that has led to a change in society.

“This way of seeing life has invaded every aspect of human life to the point where it’s all that matters,” he said.

Sicilia also maintained that Mexico and the United States need to change the politics surrounding drugs. Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderón continue to prohibit drug use, but by doing so, Sicilia claimed they’re inadvertently contributing to the selling of illegal arms and violence in Mexico. To fix the problem, Sicilia said drugs need to be de-penalized.

“Not to do it is a stupidity,” he said. “Or it’s perverse. It’s a stupidity to say this war is protecting our children.”

Additionally, he said drug use should be a matter of public health and not politics. He referenced his personal smoking habit as something that is “not national security.”

“It has to do with individual rights,” he added. “If someone wants to get drugged, let them do that. This has to be treated as a public health issue.”

The bigger issue at hand, according to Sicilia, is arms control-or what he believes is a lack thereof.

“Weapons kill people, and they’re everywhere,” he said. “They’re sold like candy.”

Part of Sicilia’s purpose for visiting DePaul is to promote the MPJD’s “peace caravan” in August 2012. They’re going to start in San Diego on Aug. 12 and work their way across the country to encourage people to join their movement for change. He hopes U.S. citizens can also use social media to spread the message.

“The democracy isn’t in the White House,” he said. “It’s in the people.”

At the end of the day, Sicilia believes that Mexico needs to find peace and justice before it can fix its other problems. Otherwise, he said, Mexico will lose democracy.

“Statistics has a face,” he said. “They’re humans that need justice. They’re human beings that demonstrate the tearing apart of a country.”