Translated by Penn Tomassetti
AN OLD AND CURRENT ‘PROBLEM’
October 23, 2014
Research conducted collectively by Koman Ilel, Kolectivo Zero, Radio Ñomdaa and Más de 131.
Polhó, Chiapas. With candles, in silence, men, children and women of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) mobilized again for the students, families and teachers of the rural Raúl Isidro Burgos normal school in Ayotzinapa.
As they said in the communiqué released on 19 October, they were “illuminating” the paths, standing on the hillsides in communities in the five regions in which the Zapatistas caracoles are located.
When travelling the roads of the region of Los Altos, groups of at least hundred people could be seen in Oventic, Polhó, Acteal and Yabteclum.
“Presentation alive of the 43 missing students, punishment of those responsible for the killings and the enforced disappearances,” read one of the banners raised in front of the church at Polhó.
“We support the students, teachers and relatives of the Raúl Isidro Burgos normal school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico,” read another banner.
In addition, the Zapatistas also demanded the “unconditional release” of Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez, indigenous Yaqui prisoners in Sonora opposed to the operation of the Independence Aqueduct, who were arrested in September.
In the communiqué of August 19, signed by Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, the Zapatistas said:
“Although small, our light will be a way to embrace those who are missing today and whose absence hurts. Let this light show that we are not alone in the pain and anger which is seen in the lands of the Mexico of below.”
“The rich man dreams of extinguishing the first light. It is useless, now there are many lights and they are all the first” says the Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, issued by the EZLN in 1996.
The Zapatista mobilisation was carried out at the same time, responding to the call of thousands of people who demonstrated in Mexico. From the Federal District panoramic pictures showed a huge slogan in white painted on the ground of the plaza of the Zocalo saying: “It was the state.”
Members of the Indigenous National Congress read a declaration in the Zocalo, which was also signed by the EZLN, warning that they will continue mobilizing until the students of the normal school are found and the Yaqui Indians are freed. They branded the Mexican government as a “Narco State” and accused them of using “terrorism” against the population.
Also in San Cristobal de las Casas eight thousand people with candles mobilized demanding the safe return of the normal school students.
Meanwhile, Las Abejas de Acteal, Tsotsil indigenous adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, mobilized and issued a communiqué on 22nd October in which they compared the disappearance of the normal school students and the massacre of October 2nd, 1968, with the death of the children from the ABC nursery and the massacre of 45 people who lived among them on December 22, 1997, during the presidency of Ernesto Zedillo.
“We know the pain, we have lived it,” their communiqué says, “we say again, with all respect, that today more than ever, we will not allow any more deaths, more massacres, more disappeared people in our Mexico.”
Some activists have asked us for background information about the massacre of the students from Ayotzinapa School in the city of Iguala in Guerrero, Mexico. There is not much information circulating in English, so here is more in case you want to know:
The Ayotzinapa School is an iconic school for elementary rural teachers (that’s what the word “normalista” means, because they are teachers of “escuela normal” which means “elementary school”). So when we say “students,” that is what they are, but they are studying to be teachers. They are mostly indigenous people and peasants. The school is located in the heart of the mountains (the Sierra), in a very, very, very poor rural area. It is iconic because it is where two important teachers in the 60s and the 70s started a guerrilla movement that truly challenged the system. These important guerrilla leaders were Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas. They were both teachers, and they first organized non-violent civil rights groups demanding social justice, but they became guerrilla leaders because they found out that there is absolutely no way for people to learn how to read and count numbers if they cannot eat, and Guerrero is a very poor state where people literally starve to death while rich tourists in Acapulco and Iztapa celebrate Film Festivals and Book Fairs. (This is not a metaphor: there was a film festival with James Stewart in Acapulco in the 60s while the guerrilleros were killed in the Sierra and now the Governor of Guerrero wanted to go on with his International Book Fair after the massacre of the students). The governors of Guerrero have been always tyrants linked to anti-guerrilla death squads, the Government counter-insurgency “dirty war” and organized crime. Sadly, this is not the first massacre either (Aguas Blancas 1995). What makes it different is that the Governor of Guerrero and the Mayor of the Iguala City were “selected” by the former Mayor of Mexico City, AMLO, the same man who hired Rudolph Giuliani in Mexico City to apply his “Zero Tolerance” plan against crime, and is considered to be a “leftist” and “the hope for the future”. So as you can see, under a capitalist system, these “leftist” leaders who decide to be part of the problem are never part of the solution.
The school has a high level of demand each year, with about 600 people applying, but it only has seats for 140 new students each year because the Government has been always willing to close it. It does not close it because it cannot, since the school has a lot of support from the communities.
Which explains part of what happened: the students were preparing a rally for October 2, the anniversary of another student massacre (1968), and they were planning to boycott the Mayor’s wife ceremony (her annual report as head of some activities first ladies are assigned to in Mexico, but in this case the wife is also involved in the organized crime). With the permission of the bus drivers, they “borrowed” two buses which they were going to bring back later, as they usually did. This is indeed illegal, but it was also customary and a non-violent action which does not justify what happened next.
The Mayor got angry when he learnrd that they were going to protest at his wife’s official ceremony and ordered the Chief of Police to “take care of them”. The police department of that city is so involved in organized crime, that they shot some of them without even arresting them (according to the testimony of two students who survived), then they arrested the rest and handed them to the drug-smuggler assassins to torture and murder them. One of them was flayed. The others were tortured. There are non-confirmed testimonies that the rest of the students were also tortured and their bodies burned.
The search for their bodies has also uncovered the existence of many mass graves. Iguala City, where the massacre occurred, is a bridge city for drug smugglers, the main cartel there being named “Guerreros Unidos” (“United Warriors”). All kinds of drugs are sent from there mainly to Acapulco Harbour, but also to other harbours. It is also an area of poppy cultivation.
The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which conducted the caravan of victims of organized crime, led by poet Javier Sicilia (who came here visiting OWS and actually had an action in HSBC Bank), proposes to end organized crime by legalizing drugs. They say it is the only way to stop that spiral of violence, but their proposal is highly criticized by corporate media, because it challenges the capitalist system.
The Zapatista communities joined the international protest this past October 22 lighting “a candle of dignity for Ayotzinapa” and here is their statement in English: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2014/10/23/joint-declaration-from-the-national-indigenous-congress-and-the-ezln-on-the-crime-in-ayotzinapa-and-for-the-liberation-of-the-yaqui-leaders/
We will continue protesting here in New York this Sunday in Union Square at 3:00 pm and then we will decide what’s next regarding Ayotzinapa and also future actions in NYC against the construction of an airport in Atenco.
OCCUPY WALL ST ZAPATISTA
(Background information from Malú, a Mexican writer who has been supporting the Zapatista movement for 20 years and has been supporting the Occupy movement since September 2011.)
The following information concerns the legal information about the call for protection (amparo) of the comrades of San Sebastián Bachajón (judgement 274/2011) from the dispossession of their land made on February 2nd, 2011.
On September 29th 2014, the Third Collegial Court of Tuxtla Gutierrez unanimously revoked (in judgement 224/2014) the cancellation of judgement 274/2011 (a ruling passed down by the Seventh District Judge of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas), after a complaint lodged by the Sexta adherents of San Sebastián Bachajón. The court subsequently ordered that the case be sent to the Mexican Supreme Court, because of the relevance and transcendence of the issue in terms of the International Right of Indigenous Peoples.
The ruling of the Seventh District Judge, José del Carmen Constantino Avendaño, had been revoked because it had been considered to have interpreted the Law of Protection incorrectly with regards to ‘substituted representation’. In the case at hand, the ejidatario Mariano Moreno Guzmán – founder of San Sebastián Bachajón – was an appropriate substitute representative because his legal action sought to defend the collective rights of his fellow ejido members in the face of the Ejidal Commission’s complicity in the acts of dispossession initiated by both the government authorities of Chiapas and of Mexico. These acts had begun on February 2nd 2011, when a police operation (involving around 800 officers) took land (which remains under their control by force and without the consent of the General Assembly of Ejido Inhabitants) with the support of the Ejidal Commission – with the aim of facilitating privatisation of resources and the establishment of a tourism Megaproject.
The Collegial Court recognised the legitimate legal action of Mariano Moreno Guzmán, and thus referred the case to the Mexican Supreme Court – with the hope that it would resolve Moreno’s case once and for all. The following motives were given for this referral:
The possible action of the Supreme Court regarding this case would allow for the development of the legal rulings that could benefit the indigenous communities of Mexico. We will keep you informed about the progress of this process.
(52) 961 157 69 24
1st October, 2014
Translation by Oso Sabio
“We are a group of Mexicans in Glasgow, Scotland. We marched last Sunday in one of the most important squares of the city and today in front of the library of the University of Glasgow because most are students of that institution.”
AN OLD AND CURRENT ‘PROBLEM’
Nation-building is full of violence. Many nationalities have built themselves up at the cost of others. Mexico is not the exception and the Yaquis are one example. Today, the dispute over water has caused “the Yaqui problem” to re-emerge in Sonora. A leader of this ethnic group, Mario Luna, from the town of Vicam, is in prison. He maintains that his imprisonment is explained by his opposition to the removal of water from his community. In contrast, the local government says it is for stealing a car and temporarily depriving the owner of his freedom. This is one more episode in the difficult historical relationship between the nation and the Yoeme and the system of power that reigns in the rest of the country, in the great nation.
TWO CLASHING NATIONAL INTERESTS?
The “Yaqui problem” or the “Yaqui’s problem with the rest of Mexico” goes back a long way, from the difficult relationship between Yaquis, Jesuits and colonial authorities. The tension, which sharpened in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, and its consequences linger on. The last episode of the contradiction between what survives of the Yaqui nation and the government of Sonora revolves around the Independence Aqueduct, a local government project made to take water from the El Novillo dam and to stock Hermosillo. The Yaquis maintain that this aqueduct, which was built by a governor who has his own lake on his ranch “Pozo Nuevo” [“New Well”], infringes on the tribe’s right to 50% of the water from the Yaqui river, according to the 1940 ruling from President Cárdenas.
The concept of nation does not have a single definition, though a simple dictionary definition is useful for our purposes: a nation is a social group that possesses a sense of identity, has a shared historical experience and substantial cultural elements and that for the most part inhabits an identifiable geographic area.
By 1821, the Yaquis already possessed all the attributes of a small nation, since, during the colonial era and under the control of the Jesuits, they formed a solid community structure and a strong sense of ethnic identity that was accentuated after the Jesuits left. With Mexican independence and the power vacuum that followed, the Yaqui organization was strengthened. It clashed head on with liberal politicians from the national government and the ambitions of foreign interests that wanted their lands, waterways and labor. The outcome was a series of rebellions and alliances with other indigenous and white groups.
The Yaqui historiography is extensive. There are some very useful works that can help in understanding the tensions of the last two centuries in the regions between the Yaqui and Mayo rivers, such as those by Héctor Cuauhtémoc Hernández, Insurgencia y autonomía: Historia de los pueblos yaquis, 1821-1910 [Insurgency and Autonomy: History of the Yaqui People, 1821-1910], (CIESAS, 1996); or the doctoral thesis by Ana Luz Ramírez on the relationship between Yaquis and the regime that emerged from the Mexican Revolution (The College of Mexico, 2014).
At the moment of New Spain’s disintegration and the beginning of the difficult construction of the Mexican State, the Yaquis lived in full autonomy, but it did not last. The government of Sonora was always divided in the 19th century, but desirous to impose its political and military authority over all the territory and on its own terms. That increased the appetite for Yaqui resources — land, water and labor — and led the relationship among the eight Yaqui towns and the State authority to waver between negotiations, mutual recognition and head-on collision. From that collision emerged political-military-religious men that are already a part of the regional history as well as national history: Juan Banderas and his movement (1825-1833), Cajeme and Tetabiate at the end of the century.
When the Mexican State finally consolidated at the national level in the Porfiriato [rule of Porfirio Díaz, 1876-1911], great colonizing businesses emerged, like the company Constructora Richardson, which obtained 400 thousand hectares in the Yaqui area. It was then that the government opted for a “final solution” to the problem — mass deportation to Yucatan and Veracruz in order to disperse the Yaqui nation. At the outbreak of the 1910 Revolution, some Yaquis joined the revolutionaries but others remained in rebellion and the new regime decided to combine repression (the Lencho massacre in 1917) with assimilation, deportations and military-agricultural colonies, where they gave lands, assets and certain autonomy to the Yaquis in exchange for loyalty.
In 1926, under pressure from the expansion of “modern” foreign economic interests in the land, the Yaquis joined the remaining “De la huertistas” [followers of Sonoran governor Adolfo de la Huerta, who led a successful coup detat´against President Venustiano Carranza in 1920 and a failed one against Álvaro Obregon in 1923] and carried out one last great rebellion. The federal government, controlled by Sonorans, followed the harsh policy of the old regime and proposed, according to Ana Luz Ramírez, “the cultural extermination of the Yaquis” which included aerial attacks and even suggested using poisonous gas against them (pp. 146-174).
Defeated, deportations of the Yaquis continued in 1927. The arrival of “Cardenismo” [Presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, 1934-40] and the marginalization of “Callismo” [rule by President Plutarco Elias Calles, 1924-28, and as "El Maximato, from 1928-34] was necessary so that the Mexican president could meet with the Yaqui governors and give them back a part of their lands and water.
Joint Declaration from the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN on the crime in Ayotzinapa and for the liberation of the Yaqui leaders
(Note: this text was read by CNI members in one of the mobilizations held in Mexico on October 22, 2014, and not by EZLN representatives, as some of the paid press reported.)
Mexico, October 22, 2014
To the students of the Normal Rural[i] Isidro Burgos, in Ayotiznapa, Guerrero
To the Yaqui Tribe
To the National and International Sixth
To the peoples of the world
“Because those of us below hurt with rage and rebellion, not with resignation and conformity.”
—EZLN, October 19, 2014
From our peoples in struggle, from within our resistance and rebellion, we send our words as a reflection of this part of the country that we have constituted and call the National Indigenous Congress. We are gathered by the pain and the rage that call to us because it is a pain and rage that we share.
The disappearance of the 43 student compañeros of the Normal Rural Isidro Burgos of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, kidnapped and disappeared by the Bad Governments, imposes upon us a shadow of mourning, anguish, and rage. Our hope for the reappearance of the compañeros is also the pain that unites us; our rage illuminates the candles that today light the way of mobilizations all over the country, raising the cry of dignity and rebellion in Mexico below.
We know that as long as this country is governed by criminals, led by the supreme paramilitary leader Enrique Peña Nieto, those who strengthen their political and social conscience by exercising and defending education will be murdered and disappeared, and those, like the Yaqui Tribe, who defend water for their ancient and heroic people, will be imprisoned.
The Mexican government has tried to minimize the criminal repression of the student compañeros as if they were just a few more victims of delinquent crime, as they have done time and time again across the country. They may be just a few more dead for the media, but those of us who have suffered many kinds of repression know that that the delinquents are in the political parties, all of them, in the house of representatives and the senate, in the municipal presidencies, and in the halls of government.
Ayotizinapa pains us. The 43 students are still missing and the State acts as if it doesn’t know where they are, as if it wasn’t the State itself who took them. They try to disappear our conscience as well, but today the disappeared are present in the thoughts of this whole country, in the attentive gaze and the heart of those of us who make up the National Indigenous Congress.
In this country there are dangerous mafias, and they are called the Mexican State. We disturb and bother them, we who struggle, we who have no face—who have had it torn away—we who are nobody, we who see and feel the violence, we who suffer multiple and simultaneous attacks, we who know that something terrible, very terrible, is happening in this country: a war against all. It is a war that we below see and suffer in its totality.
We reiterate today that as long as our student compañeros from Ayotzinapa do not appear alive and well, as long as our brothers Mario Luna Romero and Fernando Jiménez from the State of Sonora continue to be held prisoner for defending the sacred waters of the river Yaqui, as long as they remain kidnapped by the bad governments, we will continue responding accordingly.
As in Guerrero, the repression against the people, the extraction of natural resources, and the destruction of the territories in the entire country are operated by the Narco State, without scruples. It uses terror in order to manufacture pain and fear; this is how it governs.
Against the war of extermination, this pain and rage has been transformed into dignity and rebellion. The only other choice would be to simply await death, dispossession, and more pain and rage.
We demand the return of the 43 disappeared students and the dismantling of the entire State structure that sustains organized crime!
We demand the immediate liberation of the compañeros Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez!
Their pain is ours; their rage is ours!
October 22, 2014
Never Again a Mexico without Us
National Indigenous Congress
General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
[i] The Escuelas Normales in Mexico are teaching colleges that principally train rural and indigenous young people to be teachers in their own communities.
In Chiapas, Thousands of Zapatistas Demonstrate in Support of Ayotzinapa and the Yaqui People
Chiapas, Mexico. October 22, 2014
Just as was happening in different parts of the country and the world, thousands of Zapatista support bases once again demonstrated in silence, this time from the autonomous communities, to demand the presentation alive of the 43 Ayotzinapa students and for the freedom of Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez, political prisoners from the Yaqui people.
As they had announced, the Zapatistas demonstrated on Wednesday afternoon, October 22, in the communities and roads of the state wherever they have a presence, in solidarity with the Ayotzinapa students and the Yaqui people.
In the Caracol of Oventic and nearby communities, banners are seen with legends that demand the presentation with life of the 43 students of the Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College, of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, as well as punishment for those responsible for the murdered students and the forced disappearance. “It is with rage and rebellion, not resignation and conformity, that we from below do our grieving,” said Subcomandante Moises in his letter of 20th October.
The Zapatista bases also demand freedom for members of the Yaqui people, Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez, prisoners for defending their land from the “independence” aqueduct, which the Sonora government wants to impose.
In the demonstrations the rebel Chiapanecos are also seen making offerings and carrying candles for the wellbeing of the disappeared students.
In different Chiapas cities, students, teachers, social organizations and human rights centres carried out marches and meetings to demand justice for Ayotzinapa.
Originally Published in Spanish by Pozol Colectivo
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Thursday, October 23, 2014
One by one we named the disappeared students. Although we are far from Mexico, today we met up for the fourth time in solidarity with the families of the students as we can not accept silence and we can not forget. Today we made visible the faces of the disappeared in the Mexican flag and we will continue to do so as often as necessary. Because we must not allow the Mexican state to disappear them a second time in oblivion. We can not cancel their existence like many others whose deaths have been buried in oblivion.
¡Vivos los llevaron! ¡Vivos los queremos!
They took them alive! We want them alive!
Supporters of the “disappeared” students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico gathered in Edinburgh today 22 October to participate in the Global Day of Action. Ten of us staffed a stall and distributed hundreds of leaflets echoing the call of the students’ families that the students be presented alive.
The stall, in the Meadows in central Edinburgh attracted much interest as we displayed placards declaring SOLIDARITY WITH THE DISAPPEARED STUDENTS IN MEXICO. Many people signed letters to the Mexican Ambassador in London, and several also expressed surprise that this atrocity had received very little publicity in the mass media. School students took bundles of leaflets to take back to their classmates.
This was not the first solidarity demonstration with Ayotzinapa in Edinburgh; last Sunday several Mexican citizens resident in Scotland’s capital demonstrated at the Mound on Princes Street, displaying photographs of the missing students.
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group www.edinchiapas.org.uk
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Edinchiapas
firstname.lastname@example.org (Photos of event available: please e mail)
Sign Amnesty International’s petition (in Spanish) here:
Information from Amnesty in English:
Further information UA: 246/14 Index: AMR 41/039/2014 Mexico Date: 7 October 2014
disappeared students still missing in mexico
The 43 disappeared students are still missing after being fired at by police and later attacked by unknown individuals in Iguala, Guerrero state. Twenty-eight bodies have been found in unmarked mass graves near Iguala, but their identities remain unclear and the search for those abducted continues.
The 43 students remain disappeared since 26 September in the city of Iguala, Guerrero state, southern Mexico. Around 25 of them had been arrested by municipal police, while those remaining were abducted by unidentified armed men operating with the acquiescence of local authorities, a few hours later. All missing students are victims of enforced disappearances. On 5 October Guerrero state officials found six unmarked mass graves near Iguala, apparently as a result of information provided by some of the 22 municipal police presently under arrest. At least 28 bodies have been exhumed, but forensic tests will have to be carried out in order to identify the remains. It is not yet clear if the bodies are those of the abducted students. On the basis of a petition from representatives of relatives of victims, independent international forensic experts are assisting with the identification process.
The Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) has taken up the investigation into the unmarked graves and the identification of the dead bodies. However, the investigation into the enforced disappearances and murder of six others on 26 September, including establishing the whereabouts of the 43 students, remains with the Guerrero state Attorney General’s Office despite allegations of possible links with criminal groups and its repeated failure to carry out effective investigations into grave human rights violations. The seriousness of these enforced disappearances and killings couple with the involvement of organized criminal groups are grounds for the PGR to claim jurisdiction in the cases, but so far it has stopped short of doing so.
Please write immediately in Spanish, English or your own language:
Urging the Federal Attorney General (PGR) to assume full responsibility for the investigation into the enforced disappearance of 43 students in order to establish their whereabouts promptly, ensure their physical and mental safety and bring those responsible to justice;
Urging the PGR to carry out a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the killing of six people on 26 September and the wounding of many others at the hands of Iguala municipal police and unidentified armed men;
Calling on the authorities to keep the relatives of all victims adequately informed and give them support and protection in accordance with their wishes, including supporting the work of international forensic experts;
Calling for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attack and abduction of students on 26 September, including the repeated failure of state and federal authorities to investigate frequent reports of collusion between local public officials and criminal gangs.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 NOVEMBER 2014 TO:
Minister of Interior
Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong
Secretario de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, col. Juárez, C.P. 6600, México D.F., México
Fax: +52 55 5093 3414 (keep trying)
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Ministro
Jesús Murillo Karam
Procuraduría General de la República
Reforma 211-213, Col. Cuauhtémoc, C.P. 06500, Mexico City, Mexico
Fax: +52 55 5346 0908
Email: email@example.com or click here
Salutation: Dear Attorney General / Estimado Señor Procurador
And copies to:
Local human rights organization
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 246/14. Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/038/2014/en
disappeared students still missing in mexico
Some 500 students attend the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College (Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos) in the town of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, some 300km south of Mexico City. They receive training to become primary school teachers in rural communities. Some of the local inhabitants are of Indigenous origin. In general, these communities – and the students themselves – are poor and suffer from high levels of discrimination, marginalization and lack of access to basic services.
The students at the rural training college are also politically active and they have staged many demonstrations in relation to rural teachers, education policy and other political issues. Acts of violence have been reported in some of these demonstrations, and public authorities have frequently blamed the student teachers. The training colleges have frequently been starved of resources in recent years as rural education has not been a priority.
In December 2011 Ayotzinapa students who were protesting on the main highway outside Chilpancingo, the state capital, were attacked by state and federal police resulting in three deaths, two of them students. At least 24 people suffered torture and other ill-treatment. Those police and superiors responsible for the abuses against students have never been held to account, encouraging a climate of impunity. Amnesty International has highlighted this case many times, most recently in its report Out of control: Torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico(http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/020/2014/en).
Arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment are widespread and persistent across Mexico. Most cases take place in the context of criminal investigations in which those arrested are tortured in order to extract “confessions” or “information”. Those implicated in torture, including police, army and navy, are very rarely brought to justice, with just seven convictions recorded to date at the federal level. Torture victims frequently face insurmountable challenges to prove their cases, including official forensic examinations which are rarely applied in time and in line with international human rights standards.
Abduction and disappearances remain routine in Mexico with public officials often acting in collusion with criminal gangs. The 43 students who have been forcibly disappeared since 26 September are part of the more than 22,000 cases of people who are missing or disappeared in Mexico and whose whereabouts remain unknown, according to government figures released in August 2014. The government has repeatedly failed to explain how they have calculated this figure, as well as any further information about those cases. It is unknown how many of those people have been victims of enforced disappearances in which public officials are directly or indirectly involved. In 2013 the Federal Attorney General’s Office set up a specialized unit to investigate cases of abductions and disappearances and establish the whereabouts of victims. To date, they have not released any detailed information regarding its effectiveness. For further information see Confronting a nightmare: Disappearances in Mexico(http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/025/2013/en).
The flames started to engulf the municipal palace of Chilpancingo in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero as the rage built within the students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College who, for over three weeks, have received no answers concerning the whereabouts of 43 of their fellow students. The last time the group of missing students were seen was in the custody of Mexican municipal police forces, who detained them after opening fire on their caravan in an attack that killed six people and injured dozens more. This massacre and subsequent disappearance of the students, known as “normalistas,” has sparked an international movement demanding that the 43 students be found alive. But it has also called into question the deep ties between drug cartels and Mexican politicians.
To understand the political significance of the Ayotzinapa case, it’s important to understand who the students are. The Ayotzinapa Normal School was founded in 1926 in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution as a teachers’ boarding school for youth from the most marginalized rural communities in Guerrero, a poor state in the south of the country. The students have been some of the nation’s most politically active; in recent years, they participated in protests against education reforms that they believed would privatize the system. Furthermore, the majority of the 43 who have disappeared grew up in rural farming towns that have been devastated by Mexico’s post-NAFTA economy. These voices of dissent are the ones that the government saw as a target for their machine gun fire — thinking no one would take notice.
But people have taken notice. On October 8, tens of thousands of them marched in solidarity actions in 80 cities across Mexico, Latin America, Europe and North America. On October 15 tens of thousands more people took to the streets, and the majority of public and private universities in Mexico City went on strike.
If you moved
The initial attack against the students came two and a half weeks ago, when local police, in conjunction with armed gunmen, opened fire on three buses full of normalistas in Iguala, Guerrero, located just 150 miles southwest of Mexico City. The students had traveled to this small city to ask for donations to help them finance their trip to Mexico City for the annual march honoring the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre. The students had boarded commercial buses, after asking for permission from the bus drivers, according to their testimonies. Commandeering buses is a common practice for the normalistas, who say their schools limited budget drives them to take these measures. They also often engage in Robin Hood-style expropriations of large corporations’ delivery trucks to get milk and other basic food items. (The normalistas constantly engage in anti-capitalist actions that most direct-action anarchists only dream about.)
While the normalistas of Ayotzinapa are known for protesting, that is not what they were doing at the moment that they were ambushed — contrary to the majority of reports that have appeared in the international press. Instead, they were en route to their school aboard the commandeered buses, when, according to students’ testimony, municipal police and armed gunmen opened fire on them in two separate attacks.
“If you moved, they fired, if you yelled or talked, they fired,” said Ayotzinapa student Mario in an interview with VICE News.
Two students, 25-year-old Daniel Solís Gallardo and 19-year-old Aldo Gutiérrez Solano, were killed. Dozens more were injured. In a separate attack nearby, armed men opened fire on a bus of a semi-professional soccer league, most likely mistaking them for the normalista students, killing 15-year-old soccer player David Josué García Evangelista, the bus driver Víctor Manuel Lugo Ortiz, and Blanca Montiel Sánchez in a nearby taxi.
The day after the attack, Ayotzinapa student Julio Cesar Mondragón was found dead. His body exhibited signs of torture: His facial skin was torn off and his eyes gouged out. Since then, 22 police have been detained from Iguala, as well as over a dozen supposed members of the narco-trafficking gang Guerreros Unidos and policemen from the nearby town of Cocula, for their involvement in the ambush.
José Luis Abarca, the mayor of this small city, first claimed to have no knowledge of the attack. (His excuse was that he was busy dancing at a government celebration with his wife.) Shortly thereafter, Abarca fled the town along with Felipe Flores Velázquez, the municipal secretary of security, and his wife, María de los Angeles Pineda, whose family has clear drug cartel ties. There is a search warrant out for Abarca and Velázquez.
Abarca, who belongs to the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which is considered by many to be a leftist opposition party, has been in the spotlight before. Last year, eight members of a campesino organization were kidnapped, of which three were murdered, including leader Arturo Martínez Cardona. One of the kidnapped campesinos managed to escape and gave a testimony stating that Abarca himself pulled the trigger that killed Martínez. No proper investigation was conducted into these murders, and the case currently sits before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Abarca’s mother-in-law, Maria Leonor Villa Ortuño, revealed in a forced testimony in a YouTube video released last year that her family members worked for the Beltran Leyva cartel and that they had financed the gubernatorial campaign of Angel Aguirre, who is the current governor of Guerrero. Thus it should come as no surprise that municipal police were working hand-in-hand with the drug cartel Guerreros Unidos, as the state has a documented history of narco-government collaboration. In fact, this cartel has hung banners in Iguala stating “The War has begun,” threatening to reveal the names of all politicians who have relations with this organized crime group if they don’t release the police detained for attacking the buses of students.
A week after the students disappeared, the state government claimed that testimonies of the detained police and cartel members led them to clandestine graves where the bodies of the normalistas have been buried. The international press immediately started pumping out their stories about the mass graves containing the students. The parents of the students are more skeptical; after all, it was state forces that fired on their children, kidnapped them and, according to the state attorney’s office, handed them off to a drug cartel.
Mexico is a mass grave
Rather than accept the government’s allegations, family members, students and human rights groups began pressing for an independent investigation. A well-known Argentine forensic team rose to the task. On October 14, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam stated that according to their investigation the bodies in the first round of mass graves do not belong to the students.
The question remains: If it’s not the students’ bodies, who are they? Likely they belong to the close to 10,000 people who have disappeared during President Peña Nieto’s first two years in power.
“Mexico is a mass grave,” writes the Mexican Catholic priest Alejandro Solalinde, famous for his defense of Central America migrants crossing Mexico. In other words, it may seem logical to assume that the remains of the dozens of disappeared people are those in clandestine graves that were discovered a week later, but as mass graves become more common across the country, this likelihood diminishes. Last year, in the nearby state of Jalisco, for example, at least 67 bodies were found buried in 35 different clandestine graves. The same Argentine forensic team is still trying to identify some of the remains of the 72 largely Central American migrants who were killed in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, just 85 miles shy of the U.S. border in 2010.
“The government wants to instill terror in the population,” said Edith Na Savi, a young indigenous activist speaking about why the students were targeted. “Ayotzinapa, here in Guerrero, has been an emblematic example of struggle, with these students who are organized and fighting for their right to education.” Na Savi also pointed to the state’s horrific human rights records; according to local media outlets, between 2011 and 2013, more than 17 political activists have been assassinated and more 16 incarcerated.
The state of Guerrero has a long history of political repression, particularly during the dirty wars of the 1970s, when the government disappeared and assassinated leftist and indigenous guerillas. Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vázquez, the most famous of these guerillas, were themselves both graduates of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College. These movements gained strength following the government’s massacre of students in Mexico City in Tlatelolco in 1968 and in Halconazo in 1971.
Guerilla armies still operate in Guerrero today but with much less strength. Since the massacre and disappearance of the students, at least three groups have released communiqués, including the People’s Insurgent Revolutionary Army, which stated that they are forming a “Popular Execution Brigade” to confront the Guerreros Unidos cartel. A communiqué from the Popular Militants of Guerrero blamed the government for numerous massacres including the recent military execution of 22 young people in a warehouse in the nearby town of Tlatlaya in Mexico State on June 30, 2014.
We want them back alive
Numerous politicians have threatened to close down the remaining 16 Normal schools, which are run by the Federation of Socialist Campesino Students, claiming that they breed guerrillas. In an interview conducted during the large mobilization in Mexico City on October 8, 2014, one student said that he was proud of the radical political tradition but not of the repression associated with it. “Five of our students have been killed in the past four years,” said the student during the protest, referencing a previous attack when the government opened fire and killed two students blockading a Guerrero highway to demand more resources for their historically underfunded school. “Now the people will think: if I study in Ayotzinapa are they going to kill me?”
As journalist Daniela Rea explained in a recent article, these students are also often on the frontlines of broad community struggles. “They, together with other residents of Guerrero, resist the construction of dams and mines on their land, the domination of the local chiefs, the militarization of indigenous communities,” she wrote.
But this activism has subjected the students to an increasing amount of hostility — both from the country’s elites and the government. And in an atmosphere of impunity, this hatred can turn into an outright massacre. As Mexican journalist Luis Hernando Navarro said, in response to a question on why the government would kill normalistas: “Because they can.” He added, “You see this in the media and society that the police believe that they won’t be tried for their crimes.”
Yet, this attitude is increasingly being challenged by mobilizations by students, family members and broader civil society demanding the reappearance of their fellow comrades. Graffiti painted on the streets of major thoroughfares throughout the nation beg people to not forget the normalistas, declaring: “You took them alive; we want them back live.”
One particularly poignant stencil sprayed on a central avenue in Mexico City features the face on one of the disappeared students and the words: “I don’t know you, but we need you to make a better world.”
Communiqué from the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
October 19, 2014
To the classmates, teachers, and family members of the dead and disappeared of the Escuela Normal[i] “Raúl Isidro Burgos” of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico.
To the Yaqui people:
To the National Indigenous Congress:
To the National and International Sixth:
To the peoples of Mexico and the world:
Sisters and Brothers:
Compañeras and Compañeros:
The Zapatista Army for National Liberation joins the actions slated for October 22, 2014, at 6pm, in demand of safe return for the 43 disappeared students; in demand of punishment for those responsible for the murders and forced disappearances; and in demand of unconditional liberation for our Yaqui brothers Mario Luna Romero and Fernando Jiménez Gutierrez,
As part of this global day of action, the Zapatista people will shine our small light on some of the paths that we walk.
Along the highways, dirt roads, paths and potholes, the Zapatista people will add our outrage to that of our Ayotzinapa brothers and the heroic Yaqui people.
Although small, our light is our way of embracing those who are missing and those who suffer in their absence.
Let this light demonstrate that we are not alone in the pain and rage that blanket the soils of the Mexico below.
Because those of us below hurt with rage and rebellion, not with resignation and conformity.
We call on the Sixth in Mexico and the world and on the National Indigenous Congress to also participate, according to their abilities, in this day of actions.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés.
Mexico, October 2014. In the twentieth year of the war against oblivion.
[i] The Escuelas Normales in Mexico are teaching colleges that principally train rural and indigenous young people to be teachers in their own communities.
A message from Dorset Chiapas Solidarity: We hope our readers will understand why we have recently been publishing some news which does not appear to be Chiapas-based. We hope they will also understand why we reluctantly decided to publish the following, when the hope of the world is that the students will be returned alive. Thank you.
Proceso: José Reveles
He was a young normal school student from Ayotzinapa, one of the Indigenous who were saved. Suddenly, he broke out weeping inconsolably. Father Alejandro Solalinde recalls:”And I wept with him, we cried together for a long time.”
That was on Wednesday, October 15.
Last Sunday, October 12, the priest was able to interview some of the police and people involved in the kidnapping of the 43 students who, supposedly, the government continues “searching for,” but they were eliminated in the early hours of September 27: “I cannot tell you who they are, because their lives are in danger. They are full of fear, because they are people of conscience, people of our people who were witnesses of the horror (in truth, they were more than witnesses, he adds). They are people who told me that some of the injured students they burned were not dead.”
Solalinde asked one of the informers who communicated the horror directly: “Why didn’t you report it?” “He replied, ”But to whom, if everyone is judge and jury? I cannot go say anything knowing that they are going to kill me first thing. My testimony wouldn’t reach anyone’.”
In an interview, Solalinde recapitulates: “It is heartrending information that fills me with sorrow and pain. Its confirmation would reveal not only the viciousness of an entire system, but also its hypocrisy and the mismanagement of the tragedy. Instead of taking a humanitarian approach, they took a political one, as if the tragedy could be a political resource for channeling (advantages) to the political parties.”
Proceso: Are you confirming it? Do you have any doubts about these witnesses?
“No. Absolutely not. They gave me details, but they are like police in Oaxaca who did things against their will and were driven nearly mad by their conscience, by remorse. They no longer serve the State.”
Proceso: Did you first inform the bishops, the Catholic hierarchy?
“I haven’t spoken with them, but I will. I am a friend of the Bishop of Acapulco and of the others, and I know that the Church has a lot of information, because the people approach their ministers and confide in them what is haunting them inside.”
Proceso: Why did you make this massacre public, when the government says that it is continuing to look for the 43 normal school students alive?
“Because my conscience demands it. I cannot remain silent. I am outraged to hear Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero saying that he is hopeful, that he is confident that they are going to find the normal school students alive.
“Why do they manage the truth politically? They knew [the truth] before I and other priests whom people approach. In the government, from the outset, they receive information from everyone; they are only pretending with political opportunism.”
The State Shot to Kill and Kidnapped
Proceso: Can you overcome the entire power structure?
“My conscience and my duty as a priest come first, before such considerations. I do not manage myself like the politicians. We have to get to the bottom with the truth and not manipulate it politically.”
The well-known defender of migrant rights then adds, “We have to arrive at total transparency,” because the State “persecuted the normal school students. It shot them. On two occasions, it shot to kill. It delivered to the criminal gang the survivors they were able to capture and they were burned in a cruel manner.”
Proceso: Might they not have wanted to trick you with false or exaggerated information just to make a scandal?
“Everything is possible. Even a trap for me. Except that one knows and has experience with people. I would prefer that they pounce on me rather than continuing to deceive the people with false hope, when the government already has all the information.”
Father Solalinde likes to respond with questions: “Oh, how I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think so. Let’s see: if the students from Ayotzinapa were alive, do you think that they [government] would pass up the opportunity to release them so the problem wouldn’t continue to grow? [Failure to do so] is the best confirmation that they were liquidated. This is why the young student burst into tears when I began to talk to him about the other testimonies, because they [government had] raised the hope that they would find the disappeared students alive.
“Clearly, we see that the political parties are making time for everything to remain in doubt and gain time to win the election [midterm Congressional elections in June of 2015]. The government first [PRI, Party of the Institutional Revolution, party in power]. The PRD [left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution] is doing it in order not to lose that important stronghold [Guerrero's Governor is PRD], because it involves political capital.
“The PAN [rightist National Action Party] has never had influence in the southern part of the country because it has not had any interest in poor people; nonetheless, it can also make the most of the two [political parties] that are already stalled, because a third party could possibly make gains in Guerrero society.”
The priest says that starting at the federal level, through the state level and, of course, at the municipal level, “everything that happens in Guerrero is a patch. All that is done is a patch, but the same thing happens in Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, everywhere.
“What is needed is a reworking of Mexico, the country in which bodies appear everywhere. Mexico is a grave. Why not make a national pact, a national dialogue. Why not take the best that we have and rework the country?”
The priest answers his own question: “Because the authorities invest more in powers for domination, and because they are at the service of other neoliberal, capitalist interests. We do not interest them. They do not care about us.”
Politicians “appear on television. The people see them on television, in photographs and in the press. They are people who seem serious, responsible. They seem truly concerned about us. But the truth is that we are alone.”
The priest says that in Michoacán, Veracruz, Nuevo León and in other states, only palliatives are implemented. The government does not yet know what to do “and the problem is that the violence is border to border and coast to coast.”
The Politically Useful
Another point-blank question is posed by the founder and director of the Migrants on the Road shelter located in Ixtepec, Oaxaca: “Let’s see. Politically speaking, what is least damaging? To say, ‘here are the tortured, burned, buried, destroyed’? Or to manage that they are disappeared?”
He does not wait for the response, which he has himself repeated several times: “For the politicians, the preservation of hope is more useful because, with that, there is no evidence, yet, that [that strategy] exhibits the criminality of the State itself.”
Solalinde said that it was providential that he missed the plane that was to take him from Guerrero to Nayarit. Instead, he was given the opportunity to be connected with eyewitnesses who were present at everything.
Proceso: Only eyewitnesses?
Solalinde hesitates for a few seconds, then responds: “Something more than that.”
He is not very explicit, because he doesn’t want to jeopardize those people. He knows that the government checks all his movements. By telephone, he prefers not to speak about certain things. But he lets loose: “Obviously, they remain fearful. I cannot say anything more because, believe me, it isn’t just them but also their families who are threatened if they tell what they saw.”
Translated by Jane Brundage
Proceso, 17th October, 2014
The 43 Ayotzinapa normal school students disappeared from Iguala are dead. There is no hope that they will appear alive and some were burned alive, Father Alejandro Solalinde said today.
In an interview for the Novosti agency and the Austrian daily Der Standard of Vienna, he said: “From Sunday to today, I have had several meetings with witnesses, eyewitnesses, students who suffered the first and second attack, but there are other sources, who are not students, who spoke to us of another time. They talk about some that were wounded, and the wounded were burned alive. They poured diesel fuel on them. That is going to become known. They say that before they put wood over them, some of them were alive, some dead.
“The first direct information I got on Sunday. The second I got yesterday in Mexico City. The first thing I learned is that there are witnesses, but they are afraid to speak. There are witnesses among the police themselves. There is always someone who has a conscience; but if they talk, they fear that they are going to be killed,” said the priest.
Solalinde clarified that he doesn’t know whether the young people could be in one of the pits that the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) found in Iguala.
“We don’t know. If they are in the pits, the Argentine forensic anthropology team doesn’t have the technology to find out. They can work in normal conditions, but it is impossible with charred remains,” but, he insisted: “There is no hope that they are alive.”
Solalinde, who is the National Human Rights Award winner in 2012, said the Mexican government is managing the case politically rather than as one of justice, and assessing what truth to tell, that with the least political cost.
“What is least painful for the system? To say they were burned up, with all that implies? Or to say that they are missing, and they do not know what happened? Because it is less shocking to say the latter, and also less compromising, but it is more painful for the families to leave them with hope. The government knows many things. If it is withholding the truth, that is its responsibility. I must say, their management is already contaminated and its management is not one of justice. It’s political,” he charged.
Translated by Reed Brundage