Mexican peace caravan 'disarms Houston'

In an unusual and dramatic protest against lax gun control laws in the US, relatives of victims of drug-related violence in Mexico destroyed a .357 Magnum pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle in Houston's Guadalupe Plaza Park on Aug. 27 and buried the remains in cement. The protesters were part of a Caravan for Peace that started a month-long tour of the US in San Diego on Aug. 12 to raise awareness of the US role in a "drug war" that has cost some 50,000 lives in Mexico since the beginning of 2007. The tour is to end in Washington, DC on Sept. 12.

Two caravan supporters bought the firearms at a High Caliber Gun & Knife Show in Pasadena, Texas, on Aug. 25 to show how easily gun smugglers can purchase weapons in Texas; the US is the main source of illegal guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico. The pistol was purchased in a five-minute transaction by a woman with a foreign accent who was not asked for identification. A man with US citizenship bought the AK-47, the favorite weapon of Mexican drug traffickers, after a 10-minute background check.

The Caravan for Peace was organized by the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD), an organization started in 2011 by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son Juan Francisco was killed in late March of that year, apparently by gang members. The movement opposes the militarized fight against the drug cartels started by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, with funding and political support from the US government, shortly after he took office in December 2006.

Sicilia sawed the barrels of the weapons in Houston with an electric metal saw provided by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who works in Texas as a welder. Then other relatives of victims smashed the weapons with sledgehammers.

Araceli Rodríguez wept as she put fragments of the guns in a wooden box and buried them in cement. Her son, Luis Ángel León Rodríguez, a Mexican federal police agent stationed in Hidalgo, Michoacán, was kidnapped in November 2009, apparently by members of the so-called "Michoacán Family" drug cartel; his body was never found. She said after the protest that for her the burial of the guns symbolized the Christian burial she would never be able to give her son in Mexico. (Presente.org video, Aug. 27; Fellowship of Reconciliation blog, Aug. 28; Vanguardia, Mexico, Aug. 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 2.

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