Citizens of Mexico are mobilizing to protest and, in some instances, avenge the 43 students who disappeared after a clash with police on Sept. 26 in Iguala, about 120 miles southwest of Mexico City. Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam believes Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca coordinated the abductions out of concern that the students might interfere with a speech his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda was to deliver. Currently, there are multiple confessions and pending DNA evidence that suggest the students have since been executed.
The 43 students, all young men between the ages of 18 and 25, were training at a college in Ayotzinapa: the Ayotzinapa Normal School, to become teachers. The students were traveling back from protesting their school’s lack of funding in Iguala when they noticed police trailing behind them.
One survivor, Omar Garcia, said in a BBC interview that police followed the bus full of students from the centre of Iguala for only a short time before overtaking them.
“Then they got out of their cars and started to shoot into the air and shouted at us to get out of the bus,” Garcia said. Garcia reported that some students emerged from the bus and upon trying to talk to the police were met with more gunfire, this time aimed at the feet of students. It was reportedly an attempt to herd students back to the bus, until police began shooting directly at the bus and into the windows and doors. Garcia said that some ran, but those still on the bus stayed and were taken away.
“We watched from a few meters’ distance,” Garcia said. “We saw that they were taking away the other students but we couldn’t help them because the police were armed and were shooting at anybody that came close.” Six people died on site.
Later, other students from the school came to the site and stayed for about three hours. “We surrounded the area so that the police or other authorities couldn’t come close,” Garcia commented. “We didn’t want anyone disturbing the evidence.”
Third year Wilmarie Ríos Jaime, who is currently studying abroad in Mexico with the Mexico Solidarity Network, was able to comment on the situation via email.
“The Normales-Rurales were started by Lázaro Cardenas to educate those that were at the margins of society,” Jaime wrote. “Historically, the students from the normales-rurales have been a challenge and a problem for the government because they have been a constant source of antagonism to the hegemony that the Mexican government and elite perpetuate.”
More than 2,000 people disappeared and were never recovered after clashing with the government in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the last 50 years alone, several massacres of Mexican citizens have been documented, all at the hands of police and military.
On Oct. 28, experts searched the landfill site near the town of Cocula where gang members allegedly killed and burned the students and found bags containing human remains. In a televised press conference held Friday Nov. 7, Murillo announced members of the gang Guerreros Unidos: United Warriors, confessed to the abduction, execution and subsequent burning of the students in the municipal dump of Cocula.
Murillo ended with the expression, “Ya me cansé,” which translates to “I’m finally tired” or more commonly, “I’ve had enough.” Before the end of the night, the phrase spread like wildfire through any and all social media networks. Many citizens were disturbed by the seemingly uncaring comment and overall tone of the speech, and further, some suspected Murillo of involvement, but the phrase itself evolved into a call to action. # YaMeCansé took flooded the internet, imploring citizens to march in Mexico City the following night.
“The corruption that flows through the government an all of its agencies apparent and known by everyone here,” Jamie wrote. “They arrested the ex governor of Guerrero and keep arresting policemen that have been accused of being responsible for the events. But people question and challenge the idea that the orders for their disappearance started with the governor, this chain of command must go higher than that.”
The following day, demonstrators vandalized the walls and attempted to break down and set fire to the door of Mexico’s National Palace. President Peña Nieto, who represents the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has a history of allegations of corruption and accusations about the government’s ability to fight crime. On Nov. 11 demonstrators attacked the regional headquarters of the party.
On Nov. 12, some 500 student demonstrators and teachers attacked the Guerrero state congress in the state capital, Chilpancingo, in protest of the government’s handling of the case. Citizens set five cars ablaze outside and caused extensive damage to the congress building itself. Protestors also set fire to the education department’s audit office in another part of the capital.
Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda have been arrested on suspicion of ordering police to overtake the students. The state attorney’s office reported Abarca has been charged with six counts of aggravated homicide and one count of attempted homicide. Iguala’s police chief has fled.
“We mobilized to show that we were angry; that we wouldn’t be accomplices of this violence by staying silent,” Jamie wrote. She added that it is important to note that while violent acts are occurring, there are many involved in peaceful protest. Jamie participated in her first protest just a week after the disappearances were announced. “The government uses violence like this to instill fear and discipline in society, and that’s why I think these mobilizations are important. To show that people are tired of being afraid and of keeping silent.”
“This is not an isolated incident,” Jamie ends with a call to help Mexico. “This is part of a normalized reign of military coercion and endemic violence. We need to approach Mexico’s conditions in a dialectical way, and see everything that has happened throughout history to comprehend why we are where we are today.”
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