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Mexico Protests Must Not Be in Vain

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Dec 2, 2014, 8:25 am
The anger over what happened to the Mexican students has to be successfully channeled.
The anger over what happened to the Mexican students has to be successfully channeled. (Wikimedia)

EspañolMexicans from all walks of life have taken to the streets of their troubled country to protest against the monstrous crime committed in Iguala, where 43 students were brutally murdered. Their fury and indignation are understandable: a devastating “war on drugs” has led to the creation of powerful and ruthless cartels, criminal organizations that keep the great Mexican nation in a permanent state of anxiety, often with the complicity of politicians, police, and senior civil servants, as this case has shown.

The protests are certainly necessary: those who control the country have to understand that many citizens have had enough, that the violence and corruption that has been created in recent years cannot be allowed to continue. Correspondingly, those in power should create the necessary conditions for everyone to live in peace and pursue his or her own goals, to be able to work and create wealth without fear.

But in order for the protests to meet with genuine results, they have to be something more than the expression of emotions and simple, loosely defined ideas. They should aim for changes which can be made in practice. I’m certainly not talking about abandoning the protests; I’m talking about converting them into an effective tool which goes to the heart of the problem.

“We want the 43 students back alive,” thousands of people have demanded in cities throughout Mexico, in the face of the reality that these innocent young people have lost their lives. Their demand is understandable: who wouldn’t want to march against the crimes committed and recover the lives of those who have perished amid the senseless butchery?

Nevertheless, aside from a psychological point of view, the sad fact remains that this is an impossible request, that doesn’t oblige the authorities to do anything. It’s worth something as an act of catharsis, but nothing else. If the protests don’t have concrete objectives, if they don’t center on possible changes to their country’s politics, their strength will be lost and diluted, and the opportunity to carry out the many reforms that our countries need will be lost.

In this case, we might call for an end to this absurd war against drug traffickers, for an end to police corruption, for the judgement of those responsible, and for many other measures besides.

The Mexican situation isn’t unique, and it recalls various similar situations that have taken place in Latin-American countries. In 2001 and 2002 Venezuelans took to the streets in their millions, chanting for the Chávez government to go, with the illusion that the despot who governed them would renounce the presidency and leave.

However, without concrete objectives, without a leadership that understood how to end the regime that they were supporting, Hugo Chávez remained in power until his death in 2013. Something similar has happened with the protests that begun at the beginning of this year with thousands of brave and committed students in Venezuela.

Also in 2001, millions of Argentineans went out onto the streets, made desperate by a critical economic situation and absurd government policies, chanting “Que se vayan todos!” Not all of “them” went, obviously, and instead Néstor and Cristina Kirchner appeared, who have clung to power and created another economic crisis that will, perhaps, prove to be even greater than that of the previous decade.

Equally ineffective have been the demonstrations of the indignados in Spain and Greece, and those Brazilians who rose up against the superfluous spending and enormous corruption that rules in their country.

All these cases demonstrate, in my view, that protesting achieves nothing if it doesn’t have a well-defined alternative at hand to improve things, a practicable road-map or route to change the oppressive reality of the present. To achieve this, it’s necessary to have a clear ideas about the causes of contemporary evils and a leadership capable of understanding the present, and the course needed to change it.

Only in this way can the desire for change shared by millions of Latin Americans — who want something better for our countries than violence, corruption, and wasteful state spending — be positively channeled, and made a reality.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324