43 students have disappeared in Mexico since 26th September. In addition 6 civilians have been found dead and many mass graves have been found within a month. The atrocities have resulted in a huge amount of outrage, not just in Mexico but all over the world.
Jordi Albacete and Matias Viotti
Since last 26th September 43 College students in the state of Guerrero Mexico have been missing as a consequence of a monstrous operation in which two criminal gangs, local police and corrupt politicians have been accused of being involved. In the same operation 6 civilians were found dead. The Mexican civil society responded en masse and is now demanding justice and the safe return of the 43 students.
On the 26th of September the students from Rural Normal College of Ayotzinapa travelled to two small towns, Iguala and Chilpancigo, to raise money for the school vegetable gardens and to protest about the hiring system in their school. Their first destination was Iguala.
In the town of Iguala, the mayor´s wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, daughter and sister of the members of one of the most dangerous drug cartels in Mexico (Guerreros Unidos) had taken over the council for her own private business. According to some investigators she had gradually hired assassins from this cartel in order to control the trafficking in the area. In the council the alliances with the criminal gangs and the impunity were completely normalised according to its workers.
The 26th of September was the inauguration of the electoral campaign for the council in which, M. A. Pineda was a candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, in its initials in Spanish) to replace her husband, José Luis Abarca. By chance, on the same day, two buses with the college students from the Normal School arrived in to town.
The Iguala city council has had an uneasy relationship (1) with the students since 2013, when a peasant leader, Arturo Hernández Cardona, was killed by hired assassins. The students protested against this crime on different occasions. This had serious repercussions.
The 80 students were leaving Iguala for Chilpancingo on their way to collect money for the school. The hired killers allegedly alerted the local police, informing them that the students would be travelling by bus. The police then called the mayor who responded to them in order to suppress the students at any cost and to avoid any potential boycott to his wife´s electoral campaign meeting.
When the police patrol cars blocked the buses with the students, the police started firing as the students started to get off the bus. The shooting ended with many severely injured and 2 students dead. In the chaos, another bus, transporting a teenage football team was shot alongside a taxi. Three more victims were killed in the shooting.
While some of the students were shot, dozens more were arrested in Iguala police station. Because in the arrest and the shooting hired killers were involved according to the investigators, the arrestees were transferred to a nearby police station another town. It appears that the officers would have changed their uniforms and the number plates of their cars, in order to eradicate any evidence.
In this brutal operation the leader of the hired killers, Sindronio Casarrubias, sent a text message to the leader of the criminal gang, Guerreros Unidos, telling him that the students were members of an enemy criminal gang, Los Rojos. Since then, according to one of the hypotheses of the investigators, the students could have been murdered. Many people think that they could have been transported in a livestock truck, then burnt and buried in a mass grave in a remote hillside.
The forensic team, comprised of Argentinean experts who identified corpses of disappeared during the dictatorship. They are continuing to identify the corpses in the mass graves around Iguala. Shockingly, some of the new found mass graves reveal that the bodies in these graves were previous victims of unknown crimes. The mayor and his wife are still missing. The leader of the cartel Guerreros Unidos was arrested two weeks ago.
The population of Mexico is still in shock, and has responded with a number of huge demonstrations that have paralysed the country. Both nationally and internationally there has been an increasing demand from some international law experts, specializing in human rights, to investigate this issue and call for it to be categorized as a “Crime against humanity” (2).
The Spanish ex-judge, Baltasar Garzon, responded to the issue and asked for the rest of former Chilean President, General Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and committed to human rights in Spain and Latin America, said about the case of the 43 disappeared students: “Without a doubt (3) this is a very serious problem relating to violence in Mexico and the authorises must provide an explanation for citizens, beginning with the Judicial System, and on the corresponding levels, the Executive and Legislative powers […] Genocide is not too far away from Mexico. So, how can we call that which happened to the teacher students (in Iguala) we are facing crimes against humanity”.
Solidarity from Scotland
The 22nd October a Global Day of Action in solidarity with the disappeared students in Iguala was held worldwide. The Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group held an information stall in Scotland’s capitol, Edinburgh, in order to raise awareness and ask for action local action and to demand justice from the Mexican government.
Matias Viotti interviewed one of the organisers for this event, Mike Cropley, in order to find out more about the Scottish solidarity campaign. Mike stated that Amnesty International has launched an “urgent action” on this awful situation. According to this group the British and the Scottish Government should put pressure on the Mexican Government by “making demands on the Mexican Ambassador to the UK, and the Mexican government calling for the safe return of the “disappeared” students, and asking for justice for the six people killed in Iguala.”
The solidarity group is strongly concerned about the disappearance of the students and keeps in touch with different local groups in Mexico, translating and spreading the word of any breaking news on this issue. Mike says: “We need to respond to any more calls for international action, and continue to spread the news about what has happened to the students from Ayotzinapa, and how they need our solidarity […] the movement continues to be very strong and groups of protesters blockaded several streets in Mexico City on 23rd October”.
Key information about Mexican Demography
Country population: 118.395.054 inhabitants.
Population of Mexico City Federal District. Mexico City is the 10th largest city in the world. It is the largest and the most inhabited in the Spanish speaking world with 21,4 million inhabitants.
Population of Guerrero state: 3,388, 768 inhabitants.
Population of Iguala: approximately 120,000 inhabitants.
Background for analysis
Mexico is a Federal Republic. In security responsibilities the states have some of controlled by the central government. Regarding the 43 disappeared students and the assassination of the 6 civilians in the state of Guerrero, there has been strong controversy (4) in making the state government take responsibility.
The state of Guerrero is one of the five most dangerous states in Mexico, alongside Chihuahaua, Nuevo León, Jalisco and Edomex, it accounts for 38% of the homicides in the country. This is according to the delegate of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), Alejandro Hope.
Mexico has a long history in which civil society, the indigenous movements, the peasants, the students, the workers and trade unions have fought for human and political rights organised to normalised human and political rights. Many of them have been incorporated into the Mexican constitution, following various revolutions.
Mexican history has hard episodes in the repression of students. Paradoxically, the college students of Normal were organising the commemorative events in memo of the massive killing of university students the 2nd of October of 1968 in which 200 students were killed, tortured and disappeared.
For many years, Mexico has been well known for its international solidarity. During the dictatorships in Spain, Argentina, Chile or Uruguay Mexico was one of the most generous countries offering asylum to the refugees. Besides, it has been for one of the strategic allies with the Cuban government for several decades when Cuba was completely isolated because of the pressure of the United States governments.
The urban society in Mexico is highly educated, with outstanding public universities and it has been regarded as one of the examples to guarantee public higher education. However in rural and popular areas, lack of resources like in the school of Normal, have always claim for equality and social justice in the access to education. Mexican society is dynamic, strongly rooted in the blended indigenous beliefs, traditions and gastronomy are highly influence by the indigenous cultural background. This also changes depending on the region of each state since Mexico is one of the most, ethnical and ecological, diverse countries in America. Mexico is one of the most unequal countries in the world with international billionaires and poor people in rural regions living in Third World conditions.
The Merida Initiative: Mexico frontier of the United States
In the last twenty years, successive Mexican governments, have taken a neoliberal shift, eliminating many of welfare rights achieved in its most progressive times.
Significantly, this shift started its momentum in 1994 (with) when the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was official. This led to the insurgence of the Zapatistas Indigenous Communities in Chiapas (in the Southern part of the country). This agreement allowed the rapid privatization of Mexican national resources. However many of these resources ended in multinational corporations from the United States.
In 2006 with the new government of Felipe Calderón a new strategy was launched to fight against the drug trafficking. This initiative led to a new agreement of cooperation with the US administration under George Bush in 2008. The Bush administration offered 1,5 billion $, of weaponry, army and police collaboration under this arrangement.
The implementation of this programme militarised Mexico quite rapidly. Many investigators have found that drug, people, human organs, and weapons trafficking have soared since the militarisation started after 2008.
The Mexican population is living in constant fear. The number of people murdered are devastating. Former PM Felipe Calderon acknowledged 70,000 deaths in his war against the drug trafficking (from 2006-2012). However shockingly different academic surveys estimate up to 130, 000 dead.
Currently under Enrique’s Pineta’s government the figures keep soaring in a horrifying scenario never known in Mexican contemporary history. The United States is the first provider of weaponry (5) to Mexico.
Use of English for Spanish speakers
See the green words in the text.
- Uneasy relationship. Probably in this context Spanish native speakers would have used hard, tense, difficult. Uneasy sounds more natural for English native speakers.
- “Crime against humanity”. In Spanish “Crimen de lesa humanidad”. This type of crime is non-prescriptive and universal. This means that any time this crime can be prosecuted.
- “Without a doubt”. Translating from Spanish is easy to forget this “a”.
- Strong controversy. Uncountable. A controversy is incorrect.
- Of weaponry. For heavy provision of weapons, tanks, planes, etc.