Mexico peace tour: Final stop in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico's 'epicenter of pain'

Renowned poet Javier Sicilia concluded the week-long Peace Caravan Thursday night in Mexico's most violent city. Our correspondent is in the caravan, talking to residents along the way.

By , Correspondent

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    Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, center right, stands with Luz Maria Davila during an event of the 'Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity' in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Thursday. Sicilia, whose son was killed gunmen allegedly belonging to a drug gang, has organized the peace caravan that will drive more than 1500 miles through cities and states in Mexico that have been most affected by drug-related violence.
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The cry is clear and strong in the Villas de Salvarcar stadium in Ciudad Juárez, the Peace Caravan's final stop in its week-long journey across the north of Mexico.

The crowd is shouting one word: justice.

Hundreds of people have gathered in this brand new stadium to welcome Javier Sicilia, the poet who called for the 1,500-mile journey to reach what he has called “the epicenter of pain."

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This city of 1.3 million inhabitants has taken the brunt of the war on drugs declared by President Felipe Calderón in 2006. Of the more than 35,000 victims of violence in the past four years, 8,000 were in Juárez.

The city has a long history of violence. Because of its strategic position on the border with the US (El Paso, Texas, is only on the other side of the bridge), Juárez has always been home to drug cartels.

Murders are not new here – thousands of women were murdered here in the 1990s – and they are not the city's only problem. Forced disappearances, police brutality, extortion, and carjackings are just as common.

Yet, only 3 percent of crimes committed have been solved, or even investigated, says Sandra Rodríguez, a reporter at the local El Diario newspaper.

“If nobody is going to prosecute and punish those crimes, there's never going to be a solution to violence,” she says. “You can't build any solution with over 7,000 families who do not know who killed their father or their children.”

Two of her colleagues were killed in the past year, and investigations were barely started. “No country can be built on these levels of impunity and pain,” she says.

On Thursday night, the stadium is full of family members of victims of violence, holding banners with images of their loved ones, who were killed or disappeared.

One of them is Edwin, now 18, the only survivor of what is considered one of the city's worst massacres.

On January 31, 2010, Edwin was celebrating with his friends the victory of their (American) football team in an apartment just opposite his, when his stepfather ran in warning everyone to leave. He had seen the arrival of a commando. A minute later, armed men came in and started shooting.

Edwin pretended to be dead, and managed to survive the impact of 11 bullets. But his stepfather and 15 of his best friends did not make it.

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President Calderón initially said that those killed were pandilleros, or gang members. He later apologized and promised the opening of a new stadium in honor of the victims.

The stadium hosting Sicilia's caravan Thursday night is the one that was opened up recently following the president's promise.

Despite the prominence given to the case by the media, and the direct interest of the president himself, the case has not been solved yet. Some seven people were detained, but the trial is still ongoing.

“Every time we go for a hearing, something has changed,” says Bertha Camacho, Edwin's mother, who is accompanying his son Thursday night. “We don't know anything yet,” she says. “How is it possible to go to sleep peacefully, if we haven't had justice yet?”

Justice is on everybody's mouths and minds here in Juárez, and it is one of the six points that the movement that came all the way here is putting forward in a document to be eventually discussed with government representatives.

It might not be much, but it is the beginning of something, and victims such as Camacho feel that it is the first time someone pays Juárez attention.

“It's as if God himself had descended from the sky to cuddle us,” she says.

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