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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Mexico memorial to drug war victims inspires debate

Even as the winning design for the monument was announced, conflicting visions and bitter disputes arose over who should be honored and how.

August 08, 2012|By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Some warned against another fiasco like the monument saluting Mexico's bicentennial. The Pillar of Light was finished nearly a year and a half after the anniversary, with a price tag three times the original projected cost. It is now a widely lampooned tower of quartz plates, a lightning rod for criticism of the Calderon administration.

Calderon was also attacked by Sicilia and others for approving the war-victims memorial at the same time he was vetoing a law that would have provided economic, legal and medical assistance to the same community. The administration said the law failed to spell out the responsibilities of local governments; a challenge to the veto has been lodged in the Supreme Court.

The government said it was standing by its plan to build the memorial alongside the military field, Campo Marte, squeezed up against a busy highway. It said the selection process involved many civil-society groups (though it didn't mention the dissenters).

"In a democracy, we respect the opinions of various actors," Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said at a news conference last week.

Sicilia, at his own news conference, said a memorial that did not incorporate the necessary soul-searching would end up hiding "this national tragedy … as in so many mass graves."

He and his followers said they would build their own monument.

"The memorial," Sicilia said, "is a process of examining what happened, how they died and why … a process that has not even begun."

wilkinson@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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