Tens of thousands amassed in Mexico City’s Zócalo Sunday, the capstone to a four-day anti-drug war march that began in the city of Cuernavaca on Thursday. Much of the reporting over the weekend has focused on the man responsible for organizing the Mexico City march, Javier Sicilia. Sicilia’s son was killed in Cuernavaca less than two months ago – one of nearly 40,000 killed since late 2006 – and since then the poet and journalist has dedicated himself to organizing one of the largest demonstrations to date demanding an end to the country’s militarized drug wars. Mexico analyst and UNAM professor John Ackerman, himself a vocal supporter of this weekend’s demonstrations, is quoted in the Washington Post Sunday describing Sicilia’s organizing success as stemming from his capacity to unite a broad front – the upper class who are worried about security, the political left, the progressive wing of the Catholic church, trade unionists, and everyone in the middle who is, in Ackerman’s words, “just frustrated with the current state of affairs.”
Interestingly, the EZLN responded to Sicilia’s call for parallel demonstrations to be held in other cities around the country, organizing what looks to have been the largest simultaneous march in San Cristóbal de las Casas. As many as 20,000 people are said to have participated in that march – what the BBC suggests could be the beginning of a new Zapatista campaign.
In the Zócalo Sunday, Sicilia began to articulate the message of an anti-war coalition. He demanded the resignation of Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico’s director of public security. Proceso, which has excellent reporting on the entire march this week, highlights the movement’s demand for a new “social pact” (the details of which can be found here) and the nomination of a “citizen candidate,” unaffiliated with any of Mexico’s three major parties, for 2012 presidential elections. (Sicilia denies personal interest in the position). Proceso reprints Sicilia’s speech in the Zócalo Sunday, underscoring the call for some sort of electoral boycott should the movement’s demands go unmet.
Beyond Sicilia, independent journalist Kristin Bricker has excellent English-language reporting before and during the four-day march on other participants. La Jornada has coverage of the march in Spanish. And MexicoReporter.com has a video report, speaking with demonstrators as they entered Mexico City Sunday.
Bullet points from the last week:
· While results have not been made official yet, Rafael Correa has declared victory in the 10-question referendum vote held over the weekend. According to BBC, exit polls show the measures passing by somewhere between 51% and 57%. Just the Facts posts the eclectic 10 questions (with commentary) which were presented to voters Saturday. Reuters focuses on powers that will be granted to Correa’s to reorganize the country’s judiciary. Among other things, the New York Times looks at complaints from media groups about a few of the referendum questions.
· In Honduras, the Supreme Court ruled last week that it will dismiss all remaining charges of corruption against former President Manuel Zelaya. On Friday, the country’s public prosecutor Luis Rubí said he would not appeal that decision, although, as Honduras Culture and Politics notes, there remains some uncertainty about whether corruption charges could be re-filed at some future date. Last week’s decisions seem to open the door for Zelaya’s return to Honduras, although in a letter to supporters released Thursday, he said “persecution” would continue if he did so.
· AP and Reuters report that the Cuban Communist Party will begin public dissemination today of the economic reforms approved at the PCC Congress last month. Copies of the document will go on sale for one peso while an extended version explaining the new guidelines will cost Cubans two pesos. More on Cuba’s reforms from José Manuel Prieto in a long essay in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. Also, a new report from the New America Foundation’s US-Cuba Policy Initiative on economic reforms. Excerpts at the Havana Note.
· Continuing in Cuba, AP reports on the death of dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto in the central city of Santa Clara over the weekend. Fellow dissident Guillermo Farinas says Soto was detained and beaten by state security forces during a weekend demonstration and blames security forces for the death. Unconfirmed reports from doctors say Soto died of pancreatitis.
· New poll numbers show Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori now in a statistical dead-heat just one month before second-round balloting in Peru. A Catholic University Poll released Saturday shows Humala polling at 40.7% with Fujimori close behind at 40.5%. An Ipsos-Apoyo poll released Sunday places Fujimori in first, at 43.8% with Humala close-behind at 42.3%. Meanwhile, reluctant Humala-backer Mario Vargas Llosa has gone all-in against Keiko Fujimori. In his Sunday column in El Comercio, the Nobel Prize-winning author accused the government of Alan Garcia of ordering the country’s state intelligence services to sabotage the campaign of Ollanta Humala. AP reports on the accusations.
· Latin America News Dispatch reports on Brazil’s decision last week to break off relations with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after the regional body demanded Brazil halt construction of the $17 billion Belo Monte dam. In a 52-page response from the Brazilian foreign ministry, issued in late April, Brazil said it would continue with the project. Moreover, President Dilma Rousseff last week ordered Brazil’s envoy to the OAS, Ruy Casaes, to remain in Brasilia indefinitely.
· The Miami Herald reports on Arturo Valenzuela’s announcement last week that he will soon be stepping down from his position as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Valenzuela will return to teaching at Georgetown University.
· IPS reports on next steps being taken by Bolivia at the UN to legalize the coca leaf.
· The CS Monitor reports on Brazil’s extension of civil union rights to gay and lesbian couples.
· The New York Times looks at the return of crime, corruption, and congestion to Bogotá.
· Miami Herald reports on Southcom chief, Gen. Douglas Fraser’s comments last week that organized crime and drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America represent the region’s greatest security threats.
· In other commentary, Dana Frank writes in The Nation about recent teacher demonstrations in Honduras; World Politics Review talks with CEPR’s Alex Main about the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC; and Ruben Martinez, in the LA Times today, on the need for US solidarity with Mexicans seeking to bring the drug wars to an end.
· Finally, the New York Times on the deaths of two major figures from Latin America’s cold war past. René Emilio Ponce, a Salvadoran military leader accused of ordering the murder of six Jesuit priests in 1989, died last Monday at a military hospital in San Salvador. He was 64. And in Argentina, novelist Ernesto Sábato, the man who led the commission that investigated crimes committed by the nation’s military dictatorship and produced the commission’s famous “Nunca Más” report, died Saturday at his home Buenos Aires. He was 99.