May 8, 2011 / 7:14 PM / 8 years ago

Thousands of Mexicans march to protest drug war

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Thousands of Mexicans on Sunday marched into the capital city to protest the wave of killing that has claimed 38,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drug gangs in late 2006.

People hold a banner during a march on the streets in Mexico City May 8, 2011, as part of a campaign against violence. About 300 people started the march in Cuernavaca on May 5, to protest against high levels of crime in the country and were joined by many other campaigners. The banner (front) reads, "Stop the War". REUTERS/Henry Romero

Demonstrators, many wearing white and walking in silence, held up placards that read “Not a single more death,” “Enough already” and “No more bloodshed.”

Local media said the march was some 20,000 strong as it closed in on Mexico’s huge Zocolo central square.

“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 45 miles from the capital in the tourist city of Cuernavaca, which has been rocked by drug-related violence and where in March suspected hitmen killed the son of writer Javier Sicilia, who is heading the march.

Helped by friends, 49-year-old Carlos Castro 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 military-led crackdown 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 U.S. border.

“We’ve had it with this terrible government that goes unpunished. We want peace,” said Araceli Vazquez, 60 years old, as he held up an improvised placard with his demands.

April was the most violent month yet in Calderon’s fight, with 1,402 deaths, Milenio newspaper reported.

Other, smaller protests were also planned for Sunday in different cities in Mexico.

Editing by Vicki Allen

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