Thousands of Mexicans have marched into Mexico City, the capital, to protest against the wave of killings that has claimed 38,000 lives since Felipe Calderon, the president, launched his war on drug gangs in late 2006.
Demonstrators, many wearing white and walking in silence, held up placards that read “Not a single more death,” “Enough already” and “No more bloodshed”.
“We’ve come from San Juan Copala [in Oaxaca state], seeking peace, because we’re also suffering violence and injustice,” said Mariana, a 21-year-old from the Triqui tribe, wearing indigenous clothing.
The march started on Thursday about 72km from the capital in the tourist city of Cuernavaca, which has been rocked by drug-related violence.
Javier Sicilia , the Mexican poet and journalist, called the protest after his son and six others were found killed and tortured in March near the resort city of Cuernavaca, about 90km from Mexico City.
“We don’t want any more death because of this growing mess,” said Sicilia, from a platform in Mexico’s huge central Zocalo square, where the demonstrators gathered.
“No more deaths, no more hate. We’ve come out to walk these streets with dignity and peace … violence will only bring us more violence,” he added.
Calls for resignation
Sicilia, who called for a broad peace pact between citizens, government officials and politicians, also demanded that Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia resign.
Protesters on the march, which the city government said attracted about 150,000 people, told local media they wanted the government to change its strategy in the war on drugs.
Sicilia set off with several hundred people from Cuernavaca, and many Mexican cities also planned to hold similar protests for “peace, security and justice”.
Participants are showing their frustration with growing violence between warring drug gangs and security forces that has left thousands dead.
More than 1,400 are reported to have been killed last month.
They also called for Calderon to withdraw about 50,000 troops deployed across the country since the start of the crackdown five years ago.
“We want to give the faces, names, dates and stories of each of the 40,000 victims that this mortifying strategy has left behind,” Sicilia said at the start of Sunday’s march.
Helped by friends, Carlos Castro, 49, held up a large blanket with photos of his wife and two daughters.
They disappeared one January night in Xalapa, in the east of the country, and he has not heard anything of them since.
“I’ve not found any other way to protest, nobody has spoken to me and the authorities know nothing about them,” he said.
“The idea of coming here with this blanket is to send a message to the people that have them. So they give them back to me.”
Calderon’s policy has led to the killing and capture of dozens of drug kingpins since December 2009 but the bloodletting has hurt Calderon’s conservative party and Mexico risks losing control of large areas to drug gangs near the US border.
“We’ve had it with this terrible government that goes unpunished. We want peace,” said Araceli Vazquez, 60, as he held up an improvised placard with his demands.