Globe, Latin America

In Mexico: “A monument to violence, not a memorial”

As the war on drugs in Mexico results in an ever greater death toll, now on top of this comes the controversy unleashed by the initiative to create a monument to the victims of the violence, on military territory.

Lorena Liquete

At his inauguration as president in 2006, Felipe Calderon already made it clear that the enemy would have no rest.

And what is certain is that it has indeed been this way. The Mexican army has spent six years without rest in combat, in the struggle to eradicate the organized crime of the drug traffickers.

It is a struggle that has already taken the lives of thousands since the war was declared on the drug cartels on the 11th of December 2006.

However, after more than 2000 days of conflict there is still no official figure of those who have lost their lives.

According to Leon E Panetta, United States defence secretary, and in agreement with the figures given by Mexican civil servants, the figure could already have reached 150,000 dead.

This figure was however denied by the Mexican government, who recognised that 50,000 had died and added that the number of 150,000 was given in reference to the number of deaths in the whole continent, not just in the one country.

On the other hand, the Movimento Por la Paz, the most important and relevant victims’ association in Mexico, gives a figure of more than 90,000 dead or missing.

On top of the uncertainty in the death toll figures, there is now the controversy that has been created by a Calderon initiative to create a monument in memory of the victims of the violence, on Campo Marte, an area given over to military use. The responses to the memorial have been strong, both by those in favour and those against it.

Isabel Mirando, principal activist of the High Association of Kidnap supported the projected and declared to The Associated Press that “the objective of this memorial is to remember the pain and suffering that the violence has brought to the lives of many of us in this country, but also to remind those in authority what their job is, and to what end they are working, which is to protect those who they govern over, and, in general terms, they have not managed this”.

But not everyone has expressed their support for the project. Just days after it was announced that the architect Ricardo Lopez Martin would be in charge of the project, when the first images of the planned monument were made public, showing 15 steel walls, the Movimiento Por la Paz demonstrated their wholehearted opposition in a press conference.

Javier Sicilia, poet and now leader of the movement since losing his son in 2011 allegedly as a victim of organized crime, showed his total rejection, explaining “that it will be an insult to victims, a monument to violence, not a memorial”.

And adding, “If this monument wants to be assumed as an achievement by some of the victims, we respect that, but we want to make it clear that we do not feel that it represents us, and that we won’t seek consolation from a sculpture that tries to substitute the genuine necessity of the memory with an act of simulation which attempts to hide the nature of this national tragedy”.

Sicilia, together with the rest of the members of the Movimiento Por la Paz, announced their desire to create their own monument, with the Chapultepec forest being the chosen location, as was suggested previously.

Felipe Calderón, presidente de México.

The idea was that: ‘The Movement would organize the creation of a National Memorial Commission seeking for the recovery of the names of each and every one of those who has died, and build a memorial where all Mexicans can go to hold the memory of our loved ones, where we can search for the serenity, consolation and inspiration necessary to reach reconciliation and recover and rebuild peace”.

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