Anti-violence activist Javier Sicilia pleaded for an end to “so much pain” and death at the conclusion of a four-day “Walk for Truth, Justice and Peace” in Mexico City on Sunday.
Speaking in the capital’s central square, where the walk participants were met by a hostile group of President López Obrador supporters, Sicilia declared “it’s now time to put a real end to so much pain, death, humiliation and lies.”
The activist, who organized and led the walk that left Cuernavaca, Morelos, on Thursday, criticized the federal government’s security strategy, asserting that the “abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not bullets) approach that favors addressing the root causes of violence with social programs over combating it with force is no better than the failed policies of past administrations.
He and members of the Mexican-American Mormon families who lost nine members in an attack in Sonora last November declined to take up the offer of a meeting with members of the government’s security cabinet, instead sending a contingent of victims of crime to the National Palace to submit a range of documents. These included a proposal for transitional justice to Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez and Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo.
“We have nothing to speak about with the security cabinet,” Sicilia said to applause from approximately 1,200 people gathered in the zócalo.
However, the activist did offer some blunt advice to the president, declaring that he had a choice between “continuing to walk towards the horror” that Mexico saw during the first full year of the new government, when homicides reached an all-time high, or “uniting us . . . through a state policy based on truth, justice and respect.”
He also said that López Obrador must decide “the side of history” towards which “he wants to walk.”
Sicilia said that his justice proposal includes the implementation of an “international mechanism” to investigate crimes and prosecute offenders, the establishment of a truth commission to identify the patterns of violence in the country and the creation of a compensation scheme for family members of victims.
“We mustn’t repeat the past; the past destroyed us and continues to destroy us. We must create something new that preserves life. A real and authentic transformation of the country must be based on truth, justice and peace,” he said.
“. . . We know that it’s not easy; it’s never easy to confront a crisis of civilization of the size we’re suffering today but if we don’t do it . . .violence will always reign. . .”
Earlier on Sunday, Sicilia led the last leg of the peace walk from the Estela de Luz monument outside Chapultepec Park to the capital’s central square.
Hundreds of victims of violence, family members of missing persons and parents of children with cancer were among those who walked along Reforma Avenue to the historic center, intermittently breaking their silence with cries of “Truth, justice and peace! Truth, justice and peace!”
“. . .Health is also justice,” said Rosi Salas, mother of a little girl with leukemia.
Her participation in the walk came days after parents of young cancer sufferers renewed their protest against a long-running cancer drug shortage at a Mexico City children’s hospital.
Relatives of the LeBarón family involved in the November 4 ambush in Sonora that killed three women and six children walked part of the way wearing just one shoe to pay homage to Mackenzie, a 9-year-old girl who survived the attack and walked miles wearing only one shoe to look for help.
Parents of the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in September 2014 also joined the march.
“You’re not alone,” said Melitón García, father of one of the young men who were studying to become teachers at the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College before their disappearance and presumed murder. “The pain that you have is the same that we have for the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa.”
Upon their arrival in the zócalo, the walk participants were met by a group of more than 100 staunch López Obrador supporters who labeled them fifís, or elitists, among other disparaging terms, and demanded that they leave the square. Members of the LeBarón family were told to go back to the United States.
The newspaper El Universal reported that the peace activists and allies of AMLO, as the president is commonly known, engaged in scuffles in the central square, with the latter accusing the LeBarón family of being traitors, having voted for former president Enrique Peña Nieto and even orchestrating the massacre of their relatives themselves. Members of the media were also caught up in the confrontation, El Universal said.
Proceedings inside the National Palace later on Sunday afternoon were much more civilized, according to Security Secretary Durazo.
He wrote on Twitter that government officials engaged in a “courteous and respectful dialogue” with “a committee of the Walk for Truth, Justice and Peace,” adding that they listened to their “demands and proposals.”
Interior Secretary Sánchez said that “people want to participate in peace and justice” and that “there will be as many meetings as are necessary – we’ll work together, there will be truth and justice.”
For his part, human rights undersecretary Alejandro Encinas rejected the claim that López Obrador had snubbed the walk participants, given that senior government officials were dispatched to the National Palace to meet with them instead.