I have been trying to write this article for more than two weeks, trying to figure out how to feel and what to think, how people in Mexico feel. As I read local newspapers I notice everyone back home is shocked and indignant about the recent events in the state of Guerrero (a level of indignation that has not been seen since the massacre of students back in 1968). In a country where forced disappearances have unfortunately become a regular part of daily news, the case of Ayotzinapa stands out as particularly outrageous.
Without a doubt, one of the hardest things about being a foreign student is not being able to express support and to join closely in demanding that the authorities resolve the case. For sure, there is a certain feeling of guilt. Particularly, fellow students of Mexico at Sanford and I wished we were in Mexico on October 8th for the massive walk in solidarity to the #Ayotzinapa case.
Ayotzinapa is a town in the state of Guerrero. It is home of the Escuela Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos - better known as Rural Normal School Ayotzinapa - where students are trained to become rural teachers. Ayotzinapa’s students have long been protesting the increased university fees and government education reforms held in 2013.
On September 26th, the students arrived in Iguala, a neighboring municipality of Ayotzinapa, with the objective of raising funds for a school trip to Mexico City. According to the students’ version, they boarded three local buses with the consent of drivers (according to the municipal police, the students have hijacked the buses). The local police chased the students and started a shooting, which led to six deaths. Hours later, the local police purportedly gave the students to the gang Guerreros Unidos, which has been linked to the extinct Beltran Leyva cartel. Some students managed to escape; however, 43 students are still missing.
There are several hypotheses regarding the motivation for these violent events carried out by the police. According to Mexico’s General Attorney, Iguala’s mayor ordered the attack, because they wanted to prevent the students from protesting at the mayor’s wife event. Allegedly, the mayor's wife is the sister of two members of the extinct Beltran Leyva’s cartel. Almost a month after the abduction, the Office of the General Prosecutor requested arrest warrants against the mayor, his wife and the local public security secretary, who remained fugitives until last thursday.
Although the missing 43 students have garnered national and international attention, it is not the first time Ayotzinapa’s students have been killed by the local police. Ayotzinapa’s students are known for being politically active. The students often go to the cities and the main roads to raise funds for their studies or living expenses for their field work in rural Mexico.
Since the September 26th events, missing students’ fellows, mourning parents, inhabitants of the community, and the federal police have been searching for the abducted students. In this search they have found mass graves with 28 corpses, none of which are from the missing students. The corpses have only raised more questions, which (of course) the government has not answered. The identity of these corpses remain unknown.
On October 18th, Mexican police announced the arrest of Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, allegedly the leader of Guerreros Unidos. The government claims he is responsible for the disappearance of the students. According to Mexico’s Attorney General, 36 police officers and 27 members of the gang have been arrested. Iguala’s mayor and his wife are fugitives, as well as the head of the Municipal Police.
An article published in Mexican national media about the Ayotzinapa case looks at disappearance and homicide rates to identify any signal that pointed to this unfortunate event. Using official data, the authors show that Guerrero has been the most violent state in the country and that Iguala has been the most violent municipality in the state. A related article concludes that “if these facts are drawn from official data, how is it possible for local, state and federal authorities to not taking seriously these issues? If they had, for sure events like Ayotzinapa could have been prevented”.
For most Mexicans, Ayotzinapa is one more signal of Federal, State, and Municipal governments not committed to their people. Sadly, Ayotzinapa is not an isolated case; it is the result of decades of impunity, corruption, and collusion with organized crime.
#JusticiaParaAyotzinapa #Compartimoseldolor #43Vivos