MEXICO CITY – Poet Javier Sicilia’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity plans to hold a wake in Mexico City this week for those who have died in the wave of violence in Mexico, with similar events planned in other cities across the country and abroad.
The event will begin with a silent march Monday evening to the Angel of Independence monument, the site of frequent protests in the capital.
A memorial service for the victims, estimated by organizers at more than 50,000 and at nearly 40,000 by the government, will take place at the monument, where a wreath will be placed.
Performances by singers and other artists will take place later, with participants being urged to fast during the all-night wake.
Sicilia plans to deliver an address on Tuesday at an event attended by relatives of crime victims, peace activists and artists, including Chavela Vargas.
Similar events are planned in Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, Veracruz and Torreon, a city in the northern state of Coahuila, all of which have been plagued by drug-related violence.
Activists plan to hold memorial services in Berlin, Paris, Montreal, Zurich and Amsterdam.
The peace movement’s aim is to pressure President Felipe Calderon’s administration into changing its security strategy in the war on drugs, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Mexicans.
Sicilia’s 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, and six other young men were murdered by the violent Pacifico Sur drug cartel in the central state of Morelos on March 27.
The poet has rallied Mexicans who are fed up with the drug-related violence and a government strategy that has done little to stem the killing.
“The reality of each day is that we have people dead, we are afraid, the streets belong to organized crime,” Sicilia said in a speech after his son’s slaying.
The poet has criticized both Calderon’s decision to militarize the war on drugs and the criminalization of innocent victims and their families.
The Calderon administration denies the charges leveled by Sicilia and other peace activists.
The government has not militarized the war on drugs and the armed forces have not left their barracks and taken over the streets, federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said earlier this year.
The majority of army troops and marines “are not assigned to operations fighting organized crime,” Poire said, adding that “the violations that have occurred have been incidental, have been punished and are not the result of a structural matter.”
Human rights groups have reported a rise in violations committed by military personnel engaged in the war against Mexico’s drug cartels.