By MICHAEL SCHREIBER
On Nov. 20, rallies took place in Mexico and around the world protesting the disappearance of 43 students after a police attack in the state of Guerrero, and demanding that the Mexican government account for their fate. From Mexico City to Buenos Aires to London to New York City, chants rang out for “Justicia!” (Justice!).
The abducted youths were enrolled at the Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, a school whose student body is known for its social activism and leftist politics. On Sept. 26, they were riding on buses into the city of Iguala, Guerrero, on their way to a protest in Mexico City, when police intercepted them and opened fire on the buses. They shot and killed six of the students and detained 43 others who had not managed to flee. The bodies of the murdered students were left in the street for five hours until the authorities decided to intervene.
Over a month later, federal officials apprehended members of a criminal gang, who allegedly confessed that the police in Iguala had turned the 43 students over to them. Supposedly, the gang members shot the students, burned their bodies, and then threw bags containing their ashes into a river. To date, however, these allegations have not been verified by independent forensics teams that were called in to investigate. The demand remains, “Vivos los queremos!” (We want them alive!)
It was discovered soon after the abductions that the police were responding to orders from Iguala’s mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, whose wife was scheduled to give a political speech the same day close to where the police attacked the buses. Her family has been linked to the drug syndicate, Guerrero Unidos. After being confronted with the charges, Abarca and his wife fled the area, but they were located and arrested on Nov. 4.
In the past decade, more than 100,000 people have been confirmed killed in abductions in Mexico, while well over 22,000 others (according to official figures) are still missing. Mexicans have increasingly expressed their indignation over the federal authorities’ reticence to take effective measures to locate the victims, and to put an end to the violence, lawlessness, and corruption that has become endemic throughout much of the country. The police attack on the Ayotzinapa students and the disappearance of the 43 were the last straw for many people.
Tens of thousands of protesters converged in Mexico City’s central square, the Zocalo, on Nov. 20 to demand action from the federal government in finding the 43. Many chanted, “We are all Ayot-zinapa!” Students from the teachers’ college have been in several confrontations with the police over the years. On Dec. 12, 2011, state judicial police shot and killed two Ayotzinapa students during a protest.
More and more, demands call for the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who in turn has accused protesters and “outside agitators” of trying to “destabilize” the country.
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action