Mexican poet wins human rights prize

Mexico City, April 23 (IANS/EFE) Poet Javier Sicilia received the Sergio Mendez Arceo Human Rights Prize this weekend for his efforts to promote peace in Mexico.

Sicilia, who became a human rights activist in the wake of his son’s murder more than a year ago, dedicated the prize to “the thousands of victims of violence in Mexico”, putting the toll at more than 50,000 since 2006.

The poet said the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which he has led since March 2011, will come up with new strategies to end the war on drugs, stop the violence and promote justice.

Sicilia’s 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, and six other young men were murdered by the violent Pacifico Sur drug cartel in the central state of Morelos March 27, 2011.

Juan Francisco’s killing led Sicilia to stop writing and dedicate himself full-time to working for peace so other parents will not have to feel his pain.

Sicilia organized the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, traveling across Mexico to spread his message of peace.

The peace movement’s goal is to pressure President Felipe Calderon’s administration into changing its security strategy, which has led to the deployment of thousands of army troops in the streets of Mexico’s cities.

The Sergio Mendez Arceo Human Rights Prize, which bears the name of a Mexican bishop, was granted to Sicilia in the individual category.

The Citizens in Support of Human Rights Association, which is based in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, received the prize in the group or organization category.

Bishop Mendez Arceo, who died in 1992, was recognized as a champion of human rights, especially during the armed conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and he was a supporter of the Cuban Revolution.

Mendez Arceo, known in Mexico as “the red bishop”, was involved in peasant movements and ordered the excommunication of anyone involved in torture.

The prize, which was created in 1993, is handed out by a committee whose members are named by 33 non-governmental organizations.

Winners receive a medal, a diploma and a cash award of 10,000 pesos (about $763).

–IANS/EFE

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