08/26/12 Susie Byrd

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Caravan for Peace III Javier Cecilia speaks to El Paso City Council + Ricardo Palido & Council Woman Susie Byrd

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / August 26, 2012



DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. This is Dean Becker inviting you to listen in as we travel across America with the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity.

The drug war declared by President Nixon more than 40 years ago is reaching a bloody creshendo south of our borders. The Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, lost his son to the violence in Mexico and determined that those in power must be held accountable for this madness.

He lead to journeys across Mexico in the last year and he now leads a caravan across America visiting many of America’s major cities in an attempt to awaken politicians to the need to end this drug war.

The music you just heard was performed just north of the border with Mexico by a local band in Alamo, Texas.

On a 30 day journey we have, thus far, visited about 10 cities in the U.S. The following was recorded at a city council meeting in El Paso.


COUNCIL MEMBER: We’ll turn it over now to Miss Susie Byrd, please.

SUSIE BYRD: Thank you. I’m very glad to present this morning Javier Sicilia if he might come up. He is a poet and an activist. He lost his son to the drug war and comes to us today mobilized out of the pain of his loss to speak to us as United States citizens about what we can do to help reduce the violence in Mexico.

I stand here along side a diverse group of organizations and individuals throughout the city of El Paso to welcome Javier Sicilia and the Caravan for Peace.

We believe that the message of the caravan is a message that needs to be heard by the people of the United States, by the residents of El Paso and by each one of us.

The members of the Caravan for Peace traveled thousands of miles from cities throughout Mexico and the United States to share their testimony, to give a face and a name and a voice to the estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared and 160,000 displaced in Mexico since 2006.

They come here today to El Paso having already visited the cities of San Diego, Los Angele, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Along the way they discovered that their stories are our stories and that Mexico and the United States have both the shared responsibility and the shared grief.

Like many El Pasoans in this room today my family opened our home last night to two members of the caravan. We were very honored to receive Belynn from Los Angeles and her mother Maria San Puebla.

Belynn’s brother, Andres, was a resident of the city of El Paso and he earned his living as a truck driver in Mexico and in the United States. After finding out that our guest shared this special connection with El Paso we then found out that they also shared a tragic anniversary and a tragic vocation with Javier Sicilia.

Andres was disappeared in Mexico the same day that Javier’s son, Juan Francisco, was murdered. Maria joined the caravan in Pueblo, Mexico so she could share the story of Andres. And Belynn, her daughter who lives in Los Angeles, later joined her. Their presence her today is testimony to a suffering that extends beyond borders.

I come to you today along with Maria and Belynn to ask you to sign the resolution presented by the caravan and to publicly recognize the horrific and wide-spread results of a misguided War on Drugs which has included violence, displacement, unjust incarceration, the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives.

The resolution asks for the acknowledgement of our shared responsibility in this tragedy, our responsibility that’s rooted in unjust and inhumane policies on drugs, arms and immigration.

The passage of this resolution is an important act of solidarity that will link the city of El Paso and its inhabitants with the participants of the caravan and with the caring, committed and hopeful people of both countries who struggle bravely for change.

I’ll now invite three speakers to the podium to very briefly address this city council and the citizens of El Paso.

We begin with Ecardo Belido who will offer his testimony as a direct victim of violence. He’ll be followed by Gabrino Gomez, a human rights activist from the city of Chihuahua and remarks to the council will conclude with comments the prominent and pacifist, Javier Sicilia.

Thank you very much.

ECARDO BELIDO: [via interpreter] Good morning honorable members of the city council. Thank you for your commitment to human rights.

I thank you for your solidarity that you’ve shown in the face of drama that we’re all living through and for your interest in listening to us.

Until very recently entry into Juarez separated only by the Rio Grande lived two separate realities – different realities. While this city is the second safest city in the United States Ciudad Juarez is the most dangerous on the planet.

We live a reality that we could never of imagined and among other reasons, without a doubt, it’s because of this absurd declaration of war against drugs and the militarization.

In addition to this there’s also the implementation of the Merida Initiative which, according to the embassy, is “an association between the United States and Mexico to fight against organized crime and violence and at the same time promotes the respect for human rights and the state of law.”

There is no control of what is going on and the selective and massive violation of human rights has been justified from the highest points of political power in this country and in our country. Under the pretext of combating organized crime these crimes have been committed. In 2008 the congress of the United States has assigned more than a billion dollars to this program in Mexico.

The central subject of my talk is about the people who have been disappeared. In Mexico they are now counted in the thousands. They’re speaking of incredibly large numbers. The least number that we hear is 10,000. Not forgetting the fact that in Chihuahua every 20 hours a woman is killed.

When I refer to disappeared people I’m speaking of all kinds of involuntary disappearances including women who are victims of smuggling, young people who are recruited by organized crime in which police have an active participation since they are a part of the criminal structure.

The forced disappearances and following the definitions of the international organizations like the United Nations and the Organization of American States. These are disappearances in which agents of the state have participated because concretely these examples in all of these cases the families believed they were looking for justice.

Silvia Anstat who disappeared in Ciudad Juarez since March of 1998. Her mother, Elva who is here present with us today, has never stopped in her search. She was taken away by federal police.

We also have the mother of Neetcia who was 31-years-old and Procia, 18-years-old who were detained with their cousin, Jose. They were taken away by elements of the Mexican Army on the 29 th of December, 2009 in an arbitrary fashion and without any judicial or legal order. Up until now we are not aware of their destination, of where they’ve ended up. The Elvardeo family which is the family of the victims has done absolutely everything that institutions are able to offer in these cases.

The family of Munos Valeta on the 19 th of June, 2011 was taken away from Chihuahua. All of the men that were present, the father, four children, a nephew and a grandson were taken and the people who are responsible are municipal police and federal police.

The Mustomanta family in Ciudad Juarez has denounced that the federal police took away two members of their family when they were on vacation in Vera Cruz on April 9 th, 2010.

Pamela La Pesa Cortillo was taken away by state police on the 25 th of July, 2010. The municipal police in Torean Cowilda disappeared on Maria Morales on 2 nd of July, 2010. Jose Hernandez was stopped for a traffic violation in Chihuahua and he never appeared again.

I mention them because all of them believed in justice. All of them went to the authorities to denounce what had happened and none have been found. The authorities have not paid attention to it. They have done nothing. Contrary to this they’ve not encouraged those who have been looking for their loved ones. They’ve criminalized them. Always and after insisting that the authorities investigate. As soon as they ask the authorities to investigate they immediately begin to receive threats and if they continue to investigate these threats become reality.

And it’s for this reason that many families do not report what’s happened. They don’t report what’s happened because they don’t believe in the authorities because they know that nothing will happen. That, contrary to this, they know who has done it and they know that things have gone badly for these people because there is complete impunity.

These families, all of them, have a modest way of life because now they’re living in poverty. They’ve had to flee, abandon their houses, lose their jobs, leave their schools. Now they’re struggling just to eat. They don’t have the money to register their children in school. They don’t have medical care. They can’t receive their pensions because legally they’re loved ones are not dead.

They’ve gone to the authorities to demand support and we remember that in all of these cases these are people who have been disappeared after intervention by state actors. The response from the state has been demagogical and without any real results.

This is the reality that we’re living. This is our Mexico.

Thank you very much for listening to us today. I’d ask you to do as much as you can to stop the flow of arms into Mexico and to assist us with these issues.

[audience applauds]


DEAN BECKER: Next the El Paso’s city council invited Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, to speak.


JAVIER SICILIA: [via interpreter] Good morning. Thank you very much.

Thank you very much to John Cook, Susie Byrd and all of the council members here. Thank you very much for having us here to speak with you today.

The words of Carrie and the words of Gavino are incredibly eloquent in regards to the situation we are facing in Mexico.

The War on Drugs and also the incredible corruption of the state have led us to this situation of pain and impunity. As Gavino mentioned the lack of attention from the state agencies in Mexico is incredibly large - above all for the victims of disappearances. But the most obvious evidence of this lack of attention to the victims is the failure to pass a general law for victims of crime in Mexico.

And the recent declaration from the government that they are going to stop counting the number of dead which is a huge crime against humanity. This is what we are living through in Mexico with our government and the reason why we’re here is because we believe there’s also a responsibility for the government of the United States. A responsibility which has not been assumed by the federal government nor by the citizens of this country.

A responsibility because the war which Calderon launched at the beginning of his term has its origin here. It began in 1971 with the declaration of the War on Drugs by Richard Nixon – a war in which he declared in the beginning was to be a global war. A policy which appears to be more of a state policy than a governmental policy because it’s been continued by all subsequent administrations whether Republican or Democratic including the administration of Obama.

This is a military strategy whereby weapons are given to the Mexican Army to fight against the cartels and there are also weapons which are passing illegally into Mexico to arm the cartels. This war, then, only benefits the Lords of Death, the Lords of Pain, the Lords of War, the Lords of Violence.

We’ve come to say that you should be aware of the responsibility which you have. That behind each one of the addicts in this country who continues to consume drugs and behind the weapons are our dead, our disappeared, our pain.

We can only stop this war (which is an international, national, bi-national policy) if we, citizens, unite to stop this erratic policy.

And for this reason we thank you that we can come before a local government which is as sensitive to the issue as you. We’re very thankful for this resolution which helps to make visible the problems which the caravan is dedicated to mention. It’s a proposal that puts the country on a better route to peace.

We ask you, no, we thank you…we ask you to push to make this resolution reality at a federal level, at a state level. It’s incredibly important that we do this.

If the United States helped Mexico to create this war that’s why we ask you for your help to create peace because without you, without city council members, without the government, without citizens we won’t be able to do it. But all of us, together, as Franklin said, “We will.”

We will put an end to this continual loss of our children, loss of family members and this incredible pain so thank you for your help.

I would ask before I say goodbye I would like to remind you of all the pain of the victims – so many parents that are here in this room today. I would like to ask all of you for a moment of silence for their pain.


DEAN BECKER: Once again that was the leader of the Caravan for Peace, Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia, who lost his son to the madness of drug war addressing the El Paso city council.


JAVIER SICILIA: [via interpreter] Thank you very much.

COUNCIL CHAIR: Javier, at this time I think it’s appropriate for us to read the resolution into the record and for the council to take action on it so I’m going to ask Miss Byrd if she’ll read the resolution into record, please.

SUSIE BYRD: WHEREAS, an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children have been killed in Mexico, almost 11,000 of them in our sister city of Ciudad Juárez, during the past five years; and

WHEREAS, the people of El Paso and the surrounding region recognize our personal, practical, and economic connections with Ciudad Juárez and the country of Mexico; and

WHEREAS, it is strongly in our interest to reduce death, violence, and human rights violations on both sides of the border; and

WHEREAS, trafficked arms and munitions from the United States to Mexico is deeply involved in killings; and

WHEREAS, the trade in illegalized drugs is a driver of criminal profits, corruption, impunity, and violence, with negative effects on the border region; and

WHEREAS, money is the lifeblood of the criminal system in both countries and causes corruption in our home region; and

WHEREAS, human rights and human security in Mexican law enforcement and the military are key to building and sustain a peaceful and secure society in Mexico; and

WHEREAS, accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation are fundamental U.S. values that provide an enduring basis for a safe and prosperous border region, in particular when applied to migration enforcement and immigration policy:


That the City Council endorses the following five principles for members of the U.S. public and U.S. public policy:

(1) Adhere to existing U.S. laws regulating gun and munitions sales, particularly with respect to trafficking to Mexico, and endorse the attached Code of Conduct for the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership;

(2) Spur discussion about current drug policy and alternatives to it;

(3) Improve tools against money laundering;

(4) Prioritize human rights and human security in U.S. cooperation with and assistance to Mexican law enforcement and the military; and

(5) Prioritize accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation in U.S. migration enforcement and immigration policy.

COUNCIL CHAIR: I would ask for a motion to approve the resolution, please.

COUNCIL MEMBER: First of all city council, good day to you and I am against this resolution.

The Caravan for Peace is a good movement but not in America. The 60,000 Mexican citizens killed since 2008 – that’s a tragedy, I feel for them. 10,000 disappeared folks to include journalists, 9,000 dead since 2008 in Juarez alone - a clear evidence of human rights violations.
Juarez, as stated, we all know is the murder capital of the world. Corruption is word that has not been used in all of this - yesterday at county commission and today. Corruption exists from the lowest to the highest level of the political world in Mexico.

This peace movement will not stop the cruelty and the murder rate and narco-trafficking in Mexico. It is a good cause but it will not stop it.

The Medera Accord had good intentions. A billion dollars has been given to Mexico and a billion dollars has not made an impact to stopping this wave of crime. The narco-trafficking continues.

The drug war is a drug war by American government. It is also a war against narco-trafficking. No impact has been made.

The rule of law does not exist in Mexico. Total disrespect for the rights of Mexican citizens does not exist. The Mexican authorities do not listen to the cries of justice and help of Mexican citizens. The Mexican government, the Mexican authorities does not respond to its people.

The sad reality is that killing will not stop, city council. Money will not stop it. People in Mexico will.

I predict and it is predicted that Mexico is on the verge of the age of collapse. There’s two countries that will collapse within the decade- that’s Pakistan and Mexico. The responsibility for the security and safety of Mexico and its people lies solely in the hands of its people not in the hands of America.

To blame America for the woes of Mexico and other countries woes is incorrect. I am tired of hearing people like this, this movement to come and criticize my country, Mr. John Cook.


DEAN BECKER: it was at this point that the hundreds in attendance at city council turned their back on this speaker.


RUEBEN GARCIA: Mr. Mayor, I’m one of the lead organizers for the visit of the caravan here in El Paso. Just a couple points of clarification.

Number one, the resolution is a resolution that is being submitted by El Pasoans. This is an El Pasoan resolution. This is not a caravan resolution. We, El Pasoans, are submitting the resolution in support on behalf of the issues that are being raised by the caravan. So I would like to just clarify that it’s our resolution from El Paso coming before you, our city council.

Number two, again, in a point of clarification, the code of conduct is not something that we developed. The code of conduct comes directly from the association the mayors against illegal gun sales of the United States. This is an association of several hundred mayors from the United States and when they developed the code of conduct it wasn’t developed with Mexico in mind. In fact, these were mayors in the United States that were talking about the level of gun violence in their own cities. All we did was to take their code of conduct and include it.

So, as points of clarification I want you to know where the code comes from and Mayor Cook did an excellent job about explaining exactly that it doesn’t call for the control of weapons. It is an invitation to people who sell guns…look, folks, these are the consequences of the sales of guns. We’re not talking about not selling guns. We are talking about voluntarily selling them in a way that is more responsible.


DEAN BECKER: There was much more discussion in the council about how to treat the subject of gun sales and the use of the word “legalization.”

Here’s an excerpt of what the ironically named city council member, Dr. No, had to say on the subject.


MICHIEL NOE: What you just said right now is that we can’t even begin to discuss the possibility of legalizing it. I don’t want to begin that discussion because it just won’t go anywhere in this country.

The discussions held by the group prior to today’s meeting – they were the one’s advertised in the media that they spoke about how they were talking about legalizing drugs in our country and why we can’t start moving that way.

This concerns me. I don’t want to take steps in that direction. I’m sorry. That’s my beliefs. I have children. I will do everything I can to protect them from drugs.

RUEBEN GARCIA: I would join you in that belief also but I still think that the resolution should stand on its own merits.

MICHIEL NOE: I think everyone in this room knows what the resolution is aiming towards – the discussion towards legalizing drugs.

SUSIE BYRD: Thank you. I want to thank you for being here today and presenting this on behalf of the El Paso community. I think it’s really important for any policy (whether it’s something that we adopt as city council or the federal government adopts) that we always look towards to see it accomplishing what it set out to do and what are the harms and consequences of that policy.

This is a policy that’s been 40 years in the making and from our position on the U.S./Mexico border have had the opportunity to see the consequences of the current drug policy.

I do think it’s important for us from our particular place in the United States to be able to speak to policy makers in D.C. and Mexico City about the consequences because we’ve seen the consequences of current drug policy.

I think that there is a real…all we’re doing in this resolution is essentially what we’re doing today – having a conversation about it, advocating that we continue in a conversation about it.

What can we do as United States citizens to reduce the harm associated with the consumption of illegal drugs and also reduce the harms associated with the sale of those drugs in countries like Mexico. I think that that’s something that needs to be discussed and should be discussed and so I would encourage council to adopt the resolution. I think it’s a strong resolution and I think that it’s important for us to adopt it.


DEAN BECKER: So after more than an hour of the nuance of one or two words the resolution was passed.

I urge you to tune in to Century of Lies for this week which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations. It will feature my one-on-one interview with Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia.

Please, dear friends, examine the evidence, determine for yourself if this drug war needs to last forever.

This is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage, Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network reminding you that this drug war has no basis in reality and it depends on you to help bring it to an end.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org