The end of the Caravan for Peace and the case of Miriam Isaura López – Ensenada, Baja California
Last week saw Javier Sicilia’s Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity make its final stop on its tour of the United States. Ending its journey in Washington, D.C., the caravan has attempted to highlight the terrible human costs of drug-war policies – costs that have been unimaginably horrific in Sicilia’s home country of Mexico, where approximately 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since a military-led “crackdown” on the country’s cartels was initiated in 2006.
Sicilia said: “We have traveled across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war – and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both [Mexico and the US].”
Echoing the views of the majority of drug policy reform advocates, Sicilia urged that drugs be dealt with as a public health matter, rather than one of national security. He said the violence generated by the illicit drug trade “has killed more innocent people than drugs would have killed over decades and centuries”. This violence is, of course, a consequence of drug policies that have gifted control of a lucrative trade to organised criminals.
Once they had arrived in D.C., Sicilia and his fellow caravanners spread their message on a march from the White House to FreedomPlaza, before having meetings in 27 offices of Congress and with Mexican ambassador Arturo Sarukhan.
In the spirit of the Caravan of Peace’s tour, reproduced below is another brief case study that attempts to show the true human impact of the war on drugs in Mexico. Special thanks go to one of the most recent Count the Costs supporters, the Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, (the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights) for providing the story.
The case of Miriam Isaura López – Ensenada, Baja California
On 2nd February 2011, Mrs Miriam Isaura López Vargas disappeared in Ensenada, a city in the state of Baja California, when she was supposed to collect her two children from school. Mrs López Vargas wasn’t able to contact her husband until a day later, when she informed him that she had been detained on suspicion of drug possession.
Mrs. López Vargas was taken to a military camp in Tijuanashe, where she was detained and subjected to torture and various forms of inhumane treatment, including sexual violence. She was not granted any legal representation.
A week later, on 9th February, she was transferred to Mexico City, where she was put under what is known as “arraigo” in order to be investigated for a statement she was coerced into making without a lawyer present and after having been tortured and threatened. She was held under arraigo for two separate periods of 40 days.
Arraigo is a precautionary measure, which amounts to the deprivation of liberty for those suspected of being involved in organised crime. It is intended to be used as a means of investigating criminal suspects, but in practice, it is being used as a form of public surveillance that allows the authorities more time to establish whether the detained is guilty or innocent. As such, arraigo is arbitrary detention, something which clearly contravenes Mexico’s human rights obligations and violates, among others, the right to personal freedom, the principle of the presumption of innocence, as well as due process and judicial review.
On 26th April, when the arraigo concluded, Mrs López Vargas was transferred to a prison back in the city of Ensenada. Five months later, in September, she was released by a judge who declared her innocent. Mrs López Vargas has since filed legal complaints concerning her horrific treatment. The General Attorney has made no progress in investigating her case.