By LISA LUINENBERG
— MINNEAPOLIS — “Vivos los llevaron y vivos los queremos!” (“They took them alive and we want them back alive!”), chanted participants in a recent forum in solidarity with the parents and friends of 43 disappeared students from Aytozinapa, Mexico.
On Sept. 26, 2014, municipal police opened fire on students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico. The students, who were part of a school known for its radical activism, were traveling by bus on their way to join a protest. Six people were killed and 25 injured in the shootout. Policemen then forced many of the students into police cars, and the whereabouts of 43 remain unknown.
Since that time, only one body has been identified, although several mass graves have been discovered in the region. “These are the worst atrocities we’ve seen in Mexico in years, but they are hardly isolated incidents … these killings and forced disappearances reflect a much broader pattern of abuse and are largely the consequence of the longstanding failure of Mexican authorities to address the problem,” stated José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
In fact, it is estimated that as a result of the drug war in Mexico, over 100,000 people have been killed and more than 23,000 are missing since 2006.
But the Mexican government has been rife with corruption and has done little to ameliorate the problem. In fact, the Mexican government recently declared that they would end the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, despite any conclusive scientific evidence of what occurred on that day or as to the whereabouts of the disappeared students.
The parents of the students have been ceaselessly seeking justice for the past six months, demanding a continuation of the official investigation and organizing mass protests of tens of thousands of people in Guerrero and in Mexico City. This month, parents and students from Ayotzinapa are touring the United States in an effort to raise awareness and to put international pressure on the Mexican government to act.
In March and April, the Caravana 43 is touring the West and East coasts as well as the central United States. On March 29-30, they stopped in the Twin Cities, Minn., to participate in several events organized by the Frente Unido 43 (United Front 43), a coalition made up of Morena Minnesota and other local groups who formed to organize local events surrounding the tour. Hundreds of people attended the events, which included a cultural event and panel discussion on Sunday, March 29, and a protest outside the Mexican consulate on March 30.
Panelists included parents and a student from Aytozinapa, as well as local representatives from Witness for Peace and Black Lives Matter. A student from Ayotzinapa and a survivor of the attack spoke eloquently about the need to continue the struggle for justice. He maintained that the government intends to breed fear in the Mexican population. They want Mexicans to believe, “this will happen to you if you resist,” he said. “But we will not be silenced…walking together, we can change this situation.”
He spoke about the need to raise consciousness and inspire action through mutual defense, and mentioned the similarities between what happened in Guerrero and what is happening to people of color at the hands of the police here in the United States. He concluded his speech to a standing ovation for his bravery and passion for justice.
The people of Ayotzinapa have demonstrated that they are ready for anything, and we can learn from their example. They have lived through hell but refused to give up the fight for justice for their children who were forcefully disappeared. Aytozinapa is a beacon of hope for the rest of Mexico, a spark that was ignited by campesinos and indigenous people from a rural area, who have historically been the flame behind the big transformations in Mexico, such as the Mexican Revolution.
The attack in Ayotzinapa was a blow against the rural schools, against the people of Ayotzinapa and Guerrero, against Mexico, against Latin America, and against humanity. Through this incident, the corruption of the Mexican government, a bourgeois government that continues to persecute and oppress its own people, has become clear.
Ayotzinapa teaches us that in the struggle for justice, we must become the architects of our own destiny. Disunity among the left does not serve this purpose. We must come together in solidarity in order to advance towards the justice for the oppressed and the liberation of all peoples.
To donate to the Caravana 43, send checks to Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, 3611 Golden Tee Lane, Missouri City, TX 77459. Checks should be written out to the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras.