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Mexico opens disputed memorial for drug war victims

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mexico opened a memorial Friday honoring tens of thousands of victims of a brutal drug war, but the garden of towering steel walls has been rejected by some relatives of the dead and missing.

Built with funds seized from drug cartels, the memorial was built during the administration of president Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term ended in December and was marked by an escalation of violence.

Although it was completed months ago, the $2.4 million monument was only unveiled now in a park of the sprawling Mexican capital, well after Calderon left office.

"This memorial remembers not only those who are gone, but also those who are still here," said Alejandro Marti, founder of the Mexico SOS group whose teenage son was murdered in 2008.

With President Enrique Pena Nieto traveling in Asia, the government was represented by Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who is leading a new security strategy focused on reducing the daily violence plaguing the population.

"This place is a reminder that we must accelerate our efforts to close any space for violence and impunity," Osorio Chong said.

The memorial has divided victim rights' groups, with prominent peace activist and poet Javier Sicilia refusing to attend the ceremony because it is next to a military base and lacks the names of the dead and disappeared.

"We don't want memorials. We want justice," Jose Antonio Robledo, whose son vanished in the north of the country in 2009, told AFP.

Marti argued that the memorial has no names because there is no official list of the missing.

The project's architect, Julio Gaeta, said that chalk would be available for people to write names or messages on the steel walls.

Sicilia founded the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity after his 24-year-old son was murdered two years ago. He criticized Calderon's drug war strategy, saying the 2006 deployment of troops was partly to blame for the burst of violence that left 70,000 dead in six years.

Another 26,000 people have disappeared.

Sicilia's movement wanted the government to turn an existing monument, a 104-meter (340-foot) tower called the Pillar of Light, into a memorial for the victims instead. The tower was built for the bicentennial of Mexico's independence.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130405/mexico-opens-disputed-memorial-drug-war-victims