ON A BLAZING August day last summer, Rosa Pérez Triana faced a crowd of several hundred people in downtown Tucson and held up a color photo of a pretty young woman.
“This is my daughter, Coral,” Pérez said in Spanish, her voice breaking. “A year ago she went missing. There are thousands of people in Mexico like me who don’t know what happened to their loved ones.”
A middle-aged woman from the violent state of Nuevo León in northern Mexico, Pérez had come to the United States with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity to tell her North American neighbors what had happened to her daughter—and to an estimated 80,000 other Mexicans who have been killed or disappeared during the country’s six-year-old war on drugs.
Her daughter’s story is typical. Guadalupe Coral Pérez Triana vanished on July 24, 2011, somewhere on the road between Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and Monterrey, Nuevo León. Five other young women were traveling with her. All are missing and presumed dead.
“The main purpose of the caravan is to show a human face,” explained Laura Carlsen, director of the Center for International Policy’s Americas Program in Mexico, who joined the caravan on its last leg through the East Coast. “These are people whose family members were victims.” Such are the human costs of the war on drugs that the U.S. government supports with arms and money.
According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. government has contributed $1.9 billion through the Mérida Initiative to help Mexico wage the drug war. Not only do Americans provide the market for the drugs sold by the drug cartels, they also supply the weapons that have taken the lives of thousands.