Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico anti-drug convoy crosses border to accuse US

Protesters in El Paso, Texas hold a banner saying "We are tired of your war" (11 June 2011)
Image caption Marchers carried signs saying "we are tired of your war" and "we want peace"

A "peace caravan" which has spent a week travelling through Mexico to protest against drugs-related violence has crossed the border in the US.

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who led the convoy, said the US bore a "grave responsibility" for failing to tackle the drugs crisis.

He told supporters in El Paso, Texas that US citizens who used drugs were also partly to blame for the violence.

Mexico's drugs gangs are battling for control of the lucrative US market.

Mr Sicilia and his convoy of about 20 coaches began their 2,500km (1,550 miles) journey in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, last week and have criss-crossed the country.

They arrived in the Ciudad Juarez, close to the US border, on Friday before moving across the border.

Ciudad Juarez has become the frontline of Mexico's drug war, with about 3,100 violent drugs-related deaths in 2010.

'Imposing war'

Mr Sicilia, whose son was killed by a suspected drug gang hit-man in March, told crowds gathered in El Paso the US "must admit their responsibility in the violence in Mexico".

He repeated his call that the US should end its Merida Initiative, which trains and supports the Mexican army in its war against drug traffickers.

"The US has a grave responsibility in all this, when its citizens remain silent, they are imposing war on us," said Mr Sicilia.

He called on people in the US to put more pressure on officials to end the violence, but added that individuals also had a role to play in reducing the demand for narcotics.

"Americans have to realise that behind every puff of pot, every line of coke there is death, there are shattered families."

Nearly 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon deployed the army in the fight against the cartels in 2006.

Mr Sicilia wants Mexico's army to be withdrawn from the streets and for the more to be done to prosecute drug cartel members and seize their assets.

But Mr Calderon has said pulling the army out is not an option.