Mexico Erupts in Protest over Missing Ayotzinapa Students
EspañolOn the night of November 20, in at least 26 states across Mexico, thousands of people took part in the largest demonstrations to date over the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.
In Mexico City, thousands congregated in Constitution Plaza before the National Palace, with chants of “justice” and “you took them alive, we want them back alive.” Protesters demanded the impeachment of President Enrique Peña Nieto, the return of the disappeared students, and justice for the families of the victims.
— karla paola Gg (@karla15835) November 21, 2014
Three different groups set off at 5 p.m. local time from different points in the city, convening at El Zócalo, as the plaza is known. One march set out from the Monument of the Revolution, another from the Angel of Independence, and a third from the Plaza of Three Cultures, all iconic sites in the Mexican capital.
Once gathered in the plaza, protesters then set fire to an effigy of President Peña Nieto.
“We’re not going to allow any more murders, more disappearances, because it’s no longer just our children, it’s thousands throughout our country, and these thousands are joining in with our struggle. If he can’t comply with this — and its clearly happening — he should go, with all of his cabinet,” said the mother of one of the disappeared students, according to El Universal.
The Tlachinollan Center for Human Rights estimated that 500,000 protesters were present in the center of the capital. However, the Federal District Secretariat of Public Security registered only 30,000 participants.
The three groups of angry citizens all dressed in mourning, and before arriving in at El Zócalo, they observed a minute of silence, their fists in the air, in remembrance of the disappeared.
Among those present were not only students and relatives of those missing, but also concerned citizens, activists with organizations such as Amnesty International, and members of Catholic congregations, such as the Misioneras de Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro and the Franciscanas de María Inmaculada.
Also participating in the march was former Federal District Attorney General Bernardo Batíz, who commented that sometimes the country needs this kind of “shock” for its citizens to wake up and take action.
After the demonstration was over, a group of protesters trying to cross the security barriers of the National Palace — the seat of Mexico’s executive power — battled Federal Police officers for over an hour.
— Mario Herrera (@marioeherrera) November 21, 2014
The protesters, presumably anarchists, threw Molotov cocktails, stones, pieces of wood, and other projectiles found in the immediate area.
According to El Universal, there were demonstrations in at least 26 Mexican states, as well as messages in support from 27 countries around the world. In Argentina, demonstrators placed 43 empty chairs in front of Buenos Aires’ Obelisk. In Paraguay, the Senate delivered a message demanding further investigation into the whereabouts of the 43 missing students.
In addition to the mass protests, students held a national walkout in 122 secondary schools and universities, both public and private, across the entire country.
— Coma suspensivos (@Comasuspensivos) November 21, 2014
Still Waiting for Answers
The investigation into what took place on September 26 in Iguala is still in its initial stages. What is known is that municipal police ambushed the students as they traveled by bus. The results of this attack — presumably ordered by Iguala Mayor José Luis Albarca and his wife — were tragic: six dead, 25 wounded, and 43 disappeared.
One of the hypotheses that the investigators are working under is that the Guerreros Unidos cartel murdered the missing students. Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam indicated two weeks ago that the bodies had been burned in a garbage dump in neighboring Cocula State, according to two arrested members of the cartel. Forensic experts in Austria are analyzing the remains recovered from this location, while the families of the missing students wait for answers to the case.
As a result of the mass protests, the Mexican government suspended festivities commemorating the Mexican Revolution, a 1910 armed revolt that inaugurated huge changes in the national political scene.
Peña Nieto: Resign!
Andalusia Knoll, a journalist present during the demonstrations, told the PanAm Post that the dominant feeling on Thursday was one of anger.
“There were many people who had never taken to the streets before who decided to come out and demonstrate. There’s such a high level of violence and impunity in Mexico that people have no other option than to go out and protest. I think people are looking for the resignation of Peña Nieto — this was one of the biggest chants in the streets,” she said.
“Where there are police, there’s violence, and when there aren’t any, there isn’t. There were arbitrary arrests,” she added with regard to the violent incidents in El Zócalo plaza.
Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.