Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 10, 2014

Rage and Fury Sweep Mexico, the World: Justice for Ayotzinapa

Rage and Fury Sweep Mexico, the World:  Justice for Ayotzinapa

By Frontera NorteSur
Censored News
Oct. 10, 2014

Swelling outrage over a police massacre and the forced disappearance of scores of students swept Mexico and the world this week.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators demanded justice for six people killed September 26 and 27  by municipal police officers and paramilitary gunmen in Iguala, Guerrero, as well as the safe return of 43 Mexican students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa reported kidnapped and disappeared by the same aggressors.

“Your dignified rage is our rage,” stated a communiqué from the general command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), shortly before 20,000 masked Zapatistas staged a silent march October 8 through the streets of San Cristobal de las Casas in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

On the other side of the country, hundreds of people marched in Ciudad Juarez in the biggest local demonstration of its kind in more than three years.  The demonstration was led by students from Ayotzinapa’s sister school of Saucillo, Chihuahua.  At the march’s conclusion protesters blockaded the Bridge of the Americas connecting Juarez with neighboring El Paso, Texas, for a half-hour on the evening of October 8.

Separately, dozens of Juarez civil society organizations, academics, writers and cultural workers published an open letter to the parents of the Ayotzinapa students.

Extending their sympathy to the bereaved parents, the signatories noted that Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, where thousands have perished in drug and state-fueled violence in recent years, intimately knew “the pain and tragedy” the people of Guerrero are undergoing at the moment.

Pledging to carefully monitor the Mexican federal government’s investigation of the Iguala crimes,  the letter’s endorsers wrote that last month’s massacre was carried out with the intention of imposing a “politics of terror” in order to annihilate criticism of “illegitimate governments that have diverted the use of power to favor a sick minority.”

The letter was signed by the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center, Casa Amiga, Citizens Medical Committee, Pastoral Obrera, Casa YMCA del Menor Migrante, the Popular Independent Organization, and many other local organizations.

The largest October 8 demonstration was reported in Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero not far from Ayotzinapa, where a crowd variously estimated to range from 20,000 to 50,000 people marched through the streets and rallied in the central plaza.

“We are all Ayotzi,” chanted throngs of students, parents, small farmers, community police and many others.  “They took them alive. We want them back alive!” Additionally, the demonstrators demanded the ouster of Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre.

A retired school teacher, Maria Luisa Antonio de la O, helped other women pass out oranges to the marchers. “We are mothers and what was done to those boys pained us,” de la O said.

Altogether,the Mexican media reported pro-Ayotzinapa actions in at least 25 of Mexico’s 32 states. In addition to the EZLN march in San Cristobal de las Casas, the national teachers’ union and other organizations mobilized 45,000 protesters in Tuxtla Gutierrez and several other Chiapas cities. In Guadalajara, about 7,000 people protested, as teachers spearheaded airport, highway and Pemex facility blockades in Oaxaca. A major highway was also blockaded in Michoacan by protesters.

In central Mexico, about 2,000 university students staged actions in Leon and Guanajuato, with the young people specifically targeting the inaugural day of the internationally-famous Cervantino Festival in the latter city.  Students released white balloons bearing the names of the disappeared students and chanted, “Why? Why do you kill us if we are the hope of Latin America?”

In Mexico City, parents of the disappeared students and Ayotzinapa alumni joined in an action that drew thousands to the Zocalo main plaza.  In comments to reporters, Ayotzinapa graduate Jose Angel Sanchez recalled other episodes of repression and smear campaigns against his alma matter, which has a reputation for militancy in support of popular causes.

Founded in the 1930s as part of a network of new government-run teacher preparation colleges designed to bring literacy to the countryside, Ayotzinapa and other rural teacher colleges in Mexico attract low-income, socially-committed students.

“We know and understand the history of struggle of the school and feel proud,” Sanchez said. “They can accuse us of whatever, but we are not murderers…”

Reflecting in part the activism of the far-flung Mexican diaspora, October 8 solidarity demonstrations were held in Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels and Manchester, England.

Reminiscent of previous years, Mexico’s human rights record is in the glare of the international spotlight. In the months prior to the Iguala Massacre, the imprisonment of community police and self-defense movement leaders Nestora Salgado and Dr. Jose Mireles,  attracted growing international attention, as did the June 30 shootings of 22 young people in Tlatlaya, Mexico City, whose deaths were initially  reported as the result of an armed confrontation with Mexican soldiers.

Evidence later surfaced of a firing squad-style mass execution, prompting legal charges against four Mexican soldiers.

In Guerrero, the September 26 assault on the Ayotzinapa students added another level of horror to the spiral of violence aimed at social movement leaders and activists in the Pacific coast state.
Since 2009 numerous, prominent activists like Rocio Mesino and Arturo Hernandez Cardona have been murdered, while others including Nestora Salgado and Marco Antonio Suastegui have been imprisoned. Eva Alarcon and Marciel Bautista, leaders of the Campesino Environmentalist Organization of Petatlan and Coyuca de Catatlan, were reportedly abducted by policemen in 2011 and remain missing to this day.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, judged Ayotzinapa the worst politically-tainted human rights atrocity in Mexico since the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968, when hundreds of Mexican students were mowed down by the army and other security forces.

In a Washington press conference, Vivanco spoke about a letter his group was sending to Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. Expanding on the theme of forced disappearance, the letter demanded that the Mexican government publicize the cases of more than 22,000 people missing nationwide.

“There is an enormous improvisation,“Vivanco said about Mexico’s overall human rights policy. “Human rights are a secondary theme and there is only reaction to bigger scandals when public opinion demands answers and the media prompts it.”

The events surrounding Ayotzinapa are likely to have major if still unforeseen political consequences. Mexican political pundits filled the airwaves, print and cyberspace this week with commentaries on a deepening crisis of state, the emergence of a new authoritarian political regime grafted onto a narco-state and the wholesale disregard of human rights.

The Iguala Massacre may have been the final straw for several leftist guerrilla organizations, including the Popular Revolutionary Army, Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI), Revolutionary Armed Forces-Liberation of the People, and the heretofore unknown Popular Militias.

Largely quiet in recent years, the underground organizations issued a flurry of communiqués during the past week variously calling on the public to unite for justice, practice self-defense and enact “popular justice.”

The ERPI claimed a short video posted on YouTube this week that showed a masked and uniformed man, situated in a room with adorned with a Mexican flag and pictures of historic revolutionary heroes, reading a communique that announced the formation of the September 26 Justice Brigade, to go after Guerreros Unidos, the drug cartel widely accused of orchestrating the attack on the Ayotzinapa students in cahoots with fugitive Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s municipal police.

The ERPI likewise accused the New Left faction of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, of which Abarca belongs, of complicity in the attack on the students. The name September 26 Justice Brigade is reminiscent of the old Campesino Justice Brigade of Lucio Cabanas’ Poor Peoples Party that waged an armed struggle in the Guerrero mountains back in the early 1970s.

On October 9, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said four more people had been arrested in connection with the massacre, including the reputed leader of Guerreros Unidos and brother-in-law of Mayor Abarca, Salomon Pineda Villa, bringing the total number of detained suspects to 34.

“You can be sure that the objective is to detain all the involved people, and that the mayor, his wife and other functionaries are presented as witnesses,” Murillo vowed.
Mexico’s top cop added that four new clandestine graves had been discovered in the Iguala area, where a mass burial site containing the remains of 28 burned bodies, possibly belonging to the Atoyzinapa students, was uncovered last weekend.  Karam, however, repeated the government position that it was still too early to confirm whether any of the remains were of the kidnapped students.

At week’s end the protests for the Ayotzinapa students continued during a visit by President Enrique Pena Nieto to Aguascalientes, when 300 students from the local rural teachers’ college demonstrated on the 100th anniversary of the 1914 Revolutionary Convention that was convened in the city.

Sources: El Universal, October 9, 2014. Article by Doris Gomora. Arrobajuarez, October 9, 2014., October 8, 2014. La Jornada, October 7, 8, 9, and 10, 2014. Articles by Claudio Banuelos, editorial staff and correspondents.

La Jornada (Guerrero edition), October 9, 2014. Article by Margena de la O.  El Sur, October 9, 2014. Articles by Lourdes Chavez, Proceso and the Reforma news agency. Proceso/Apro, October 8 and 9, 2014. Articles by J. Gil Olmos, A. Rodriguez, M. Tourliere, correspondents and editorial staff. El Diario de Juarez, October 8, 2014.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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