About 500 people on Thursday began a four-day silent march to Mexico City to protest drug violence that has left tens of thousands dead and the military strategy that has failed to stop it.
The marchers set off from the city of Cuernavaca, a popular weekend retreat some 90km from the capital, where it is due to end with a massive demonstration in the main square tomorrow.
Mexican poet and journalist Javier Sicilia called the protest after the death of his son, along with six others, in a brutal attack near Cuernavaca in March.
Another 38 cities planned similar protests for “peace, security and justice,” involving political groups and even illegal immigrants, who are often the targets of kidnappings and killings.
Participants called for an end to vicious drug-related violence between warring gangs and security forces which left almost 35,000 dead between December 2006 and December last year, according to official figures.
They also called for Mexican President Felipe Calderon to withdraw some 50,000 troops deployed across the country to take on the cartels since 2006.
“The army, you have to be realistic, has to return to the barracks, although it can’t be overnight,” Sicilia said as the protest began.
On the eve of the march, Calderon called on Mexicans to support his more than four-year military crackdown.
“Your understanding and your support, support from the entire society, is essential because some people, in good or bad faith, are trying to stop the government’s action,” he said late on Wednesday in a televised message.
The protest began as the search for bodies continued in two northern areas where mass graves have emerged in recent weeks.
A total of 183 bodies have been recovered so far from around 40 graves in San Fernando in northeastern Tamaulipas, and 121 have now been dug up in northern Durango.
Authorities blamed criminal gangs for the crimes, but more than a dozen local police officers were also detained for suspected involvement in the San Fernando killings.