08/05/12 (written by nkelly) – The announcement of the construction of a monument dedicated to the victims of drug-related violence in Mexico has sparked a debate. The government-backed “Memorial a las Víctimas de la Violencia” will not be unveiled until November 15 of this year, although construction of the project–15 large steel walls surrounding a reflection pool–will begin soon. The design for the project, which comes from a student at the Mexico City College of Architecture, is expected to cost the Mexican government approximately 22,890,000 pesos (about $1.75 million USD). The current plan is for the monument to be built next to the Campo Marte military base in Mexico City, the nation’s capital.
Critics argue that the memorial, and particularly its location next to a military installation, is an insult to the victims and their families and a reminder of the escalating violence in Mexico since 2006. Prominent activist Javier Sicilia, among others, have condemned the building of the statue, labeling it a “barbarity and an insult to the victims,” and saying it does not acknowledge the individuals lost. He argues that the proper tribute to these victims is to identify their bodies and provide more details surrounding their deaths, which critics have argued the Mexican government has done a poor job of doing thus far. Sicilia rejects the idea of the structure being erected right next to the military base, calling it “a mistake in every way.”
On the one hand, however, many activists in Mexico have been demanding the construction of the memorial as a tribute to the over 50,000 victims lost since 2006. They argue that the memorial will offer the country a place for reflection (espacio de reflexión) to remember the victims, as well as serve as a cautionary reminder to not let history repeat itself. One such advocate, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, head of an anti-kidnapping foundation called Alto al Secuestro, argues that the memorial’s intent is to “remember what many people in this country have lived through–the pain, the suffering, the violence that has taken place–so that society never returns to relive a situation like this.” For his part, Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré argues, “it is important to give crime victims this recognition.”
The debate about the Monument to the Victim’s of Violence coincides with an unfolding situation in Mexico surrounding the delayed passage of the Victim’s Law (Ley de Víctima)—a law that offers monetary compensation to victims of violence and would create a national registry to document human rights violations such as kidnappings and forced disappearances. As the Justice in Mexico Project reported in July, President Calderón passed the legislation off to the Supreme Court for review citing he had objections to specific components and refused to pass the bill as such.