43 missing Mexican students

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Tragic circumstances for the missing, and for Mexican democracy

Author: rebbeca marroquin – contributor

Thousands have protested over the missing students. / Global Journalist

Thousands have protested over the missing students. / Global Journalist

On Sept. 26, 2014, about 100 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a college in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, traveled by bus to schools in their state for their teaching practicum. Other students planned to participate in an annual march in Mexico City on Oct. 2 to pay tribute to the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968, where hundreds of rural school students were killed by the military and police for establishing a social movement. El Sur Newspaper reported these facts.

The Mexican government’s political model differs from that of the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, which is based on left-wing political ideologies, and constant conflicts with the authorities occur as a result.

Since the students hijacked at least one of the buses, police officials were notified and prepared to stop the students in the city of Iguala. The mayor of Guerrero, Jose Luis Abarca, made the assumption that the students would disturb his wife Maria de Los Angeles Pineda’s political speech and ordered the officials to take full control of the situation.

At about 9:00 p.m. the three buses were blocked by municipal police officers, who immediately and unlawfully opened fire from every angle. Unarmed, the students cried for help in an attempt to save their wounded classmates. Six students were killed, some were arrested, and others were able to flee the scene according to Vice reporter Daniel Hernandez and surviving victim Ernesto Guerrero.

Officials took no safety measures to secure the crime scene and left the dead bodies abandoned in the street for more than four hours. In addition, 43 students have been missing since.

Prior to the murder and disappearance of the students, the all-male institute had a history of social activism.

The tragic incident prompted nation-wide protests in response to the lack of rule of law that is evident in Mexico. Families, fellow classmates, human rights defenders and other supporters, gathered at the patriotic Angel of Independence monument located in Mexico City, to protest the Igualan government’s negligence towards the disappearance of the 43 Normalists. Normalists refers to students who attend the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School

Bryan Salazar, a 19-year-old student from Coahuila, Mexico, believes the crime will remain unsolved because of the government’s impunity and lack of empathy towards the victims of the organized crime.

“There’s many protests, students painting murals in their schools, and the government does nothing” Salazar explains.

“To be honest I don’t think the government will step up. The government talks about how things will get better at an attempt to make people forget about the situation,” he adds.

“In reality nothing is getting better.”

Current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made a visit to the state of Guerrero and promised justice and a thorough investigation to search for the missing victims.

During the investigation there was speculation that Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s wife, Maria de Los Angeles Pineda, is related to members of the United Warriors gang, a group of drug cartels. In confusion, an assumption was made by an unknown source suggesting that some of the Normalists were affiliated with the gang Los Rojos, who are the enemy of the United Warriors, but the belief is still unclear according to Leonzo Barreno, an adjunct University of Regina Journalism Professor, whose research focuses on Indigenous and Latin American politics.

Nonetheless, the citizens of Guerrero have lost trust in the politicians, who have failed to solve the case since the disappearance of the students in September 2014.

Barreno said that “I hope that the judicial system in Mexico has the capacity to really go after whoever did this, right, and bring some justice to you know, to show that there is still some form of justice in Mexico”

Barreno continued, saying that “At this point it looks bad not just for the state of Guerrero but also for the entire country”

“Hopefully the government of the states, the Mexican states, and the federal government of Mexico,” he argues, “will hopefully do something and put more attention to these schools in these rural areas, right, if they really want to call themselves a democracy.”

"They took them alive. We want them back alive. Solidarity with the 43 disappeared students." / Sortica

“They took them alive. We want them back alive. Solidarity with the 43 disappeared students.” / Sortica

Over the past couple years, the Mexican government has demonstrated a derision of democracy by condemning any disagreements with its own political views. The question that many are waiting to be answered is whether this is a case related to conflicts between drug cartels or matter of political disagreements between a minority and the authorities.

Barreno states that “I don’t think that the students were attacked because of their ideological views, I mean, personally, I think there is also information that, or confusion that, hasn’t been proven yet that some people may have used these students and said that they were members of an opposing cartel.”

Referring to the students, Barreno added “They were not violent people. Somebody blamed them for something that they were not. And that’s the reason why they were kidnapped and killed”

“In any part of the world, in any country that calls itself a democracy, protest is a right.”

“It’s not a gift,” Barreno explained. “It’s something that is entrenched in every institution in every country, and if a country was to take that away from you, that country is becoming a dictatorship,” he concluded.

Agreeing with Barreno’s argument, Bryan Salazar states that “one should demand what they deserve even if it’s something that the government isn’t giving them”

Paulo De La Cruz, a 25 year old former student in Coahuila, Mexico poses the following question: “The government is the one that has the power, the one who has to make order, but if they don’t do it, then who will?”

It is important to recognize and not take for granted the freedom students have in a first world country like Canada. It is also of the upmost importance that students stand up for and actively use their democratic rights.

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