MEXICO CITY - "That's the march where they want Calderon to withdraw the army from the war on the narcos," my friend said over the phone. "They want the government to withdraw. It's for abdication and against Felipe Calderón," he said, referring to the Mexican president. His comment suggested U.S. news audiences are getting another kind of scramble with their morning breakfast.
In actuality, 29 Mexican cities and 17 countries around the world supported the march. U.S. actor Edward James Olmos was photographed with Javier Sicilia, its leader, at the head of the 60-mile march, when it departed Cuernavaca for Mexico City. Sicilia's son is one of 35,000 casualties of the "war" over the past four years,
The civic movement has attracted church leaders, artists, business and social elites, the Alta burguesia, the glitterati and some party leaders. Even Subcomandante Marcos, who led an indigenous uprising two decades ago, headed a support march in Chiapas state.
Mexico has perhaps not witnessed public pressure like this since the silent march of 1927, which opposed President Elias Calles after the execution of a priest, Miguel Pro. That led Mexico to the abolition of capital punishment.
Members of the writers group Colectivo Entropico suggested the best place to see how many groups and average citizens participated was to stand in front of the Palace of Fine Arts. The colectivo is a gathering of creative writers, editors, illustrators and web techies who meet often for conversation, word riffs, good humored jokes, gossip and information about who's giving a book reading where.
On the way to the Metro subway station following the session, I asked Luis Alonso Gomez, a freelance copy editor, what he thought the march would accomplish. For the next hour, like someone accustomed to correcting style, he meticulously explained how two previous marches, led by a victim's family members, had shaped public thinking, that an emerging national civic union was changing the country with people power.
In the past, two families have led similar marches. One even brought the wrongdoers in and oversaw passage of a new law protecting threatened and extorted families. A prominent businessman chastised the president and his cabinet to do their job protecting the public or resign.
In Cuernavaca after three alleged drug gang members kidnapped and murdered Javier Sicilia's son and six other young men last month outside a club, the poet and journalist used his renown, not without criticism, to plead for a non-military approach to fight the crime spree.
Luis Alonso explained that the government's problem is having used the military. The government has whacked a beehive, making the killer bees more dangerous.
The news magazine "Siempre!'' has reported that a United Nations working group on disappearances and forced detention concluded that the military is not trained to investigate or even to interact with civilians concerning the 3,000 kidnapping cases for which organized crime and drug cartels are presumed responsible. With the military involved, government measures come at a tremendous cost of human rights.
The underlying complaint is that when the military was unleashed, elected and appointed officials became increasingly unresponsive to the public. Instead, they became further beholden to political patrons and party interests, focused on future elections -- and not public problem-solving.
State and local police forces and judiciaries especially are held in contempt for their inept roles in following professional procedure and dispensing justice. Wholesale corruption has compromised public confidence.
Hence the theme: "peace and justice" -- public peace through competent law enforcement.
This may well be the greatest challenge yet to corrupt public-policy practices that created the beehive in the first place, says Luis Alonso. He ought to know. He is an editor, one called a corrector, who can change a whole storyline with the turn of a phrase, a new understanding.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.