Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Marchers Rally for Missing Mexican Students

A series of marches are taking place today in several cities to repudiate the disappearance of forty-three students in Mexico’s Guerrero state.

With the theme of “Por Ayotzinapa, tod@s a la calle” (“Everyone take to the streets for Ayotzinapa”) a coalition of civil organizations behind the rallies urged protesters to carry candles and dress in black as signs of solidarity with the recent victims  of violence in Guerrero.

An estimated 20,000 marchers have shut down one of the main highways in Guerrero as they make their way to the governor’s residence in the state capital city of Chilpancingo.  The protesters include students from the region, professors and family members of the forty-three students from a teacher training college that have been missing since the evening of September 26th. 

Scores of marchers are gathering near Mexico City’s iconic Angel of Independence monument as part of their peaceful protest today.

Other rallies took place around the world including Barcelona where some 100 people demonstrated while wore masks of the disappeared students and held signs calling for an end to perceived impunity in the investigation.  Demonstrates in Los Angeles presented a letter to the Mexican consul in that city urging officials to punish those responsible for the killings in Guerrero two weeks ago.

On September 26th, armed men from the town of Iguala fired upon some 120 students while they were riding local buses back to their school in Ayotzinapa.  Local police chased those students who were able to escape the attack and are believed to have fired at them.

“They were hitting the students as they took them. People were also scared about being shot so they gave themselves up. They thought they would just be arrested. But something else awaited them,” said Eusebio, one of the survivors of the attack in Iguala.  

Eusebio claimed that police officers and men in plainclothes with rifles ambushed them while none of the students were armed. The next day, he alleged to have encountered the faceless corpse of one of the students who was allegedly detained by the attacking mob.

Shortly after the initial attack, six people were killed when armed men opened fire on four buses including one containing members of a lower division soccer team.

Little information has been known about the whereabouts of the missing students though some of the suspects arrested following the attack informed investigators of six shallow graves containing the remains of at least twenty-eight people.  In addition, security camera footage taken near Iguala apparently shows police vehicles carrying individuals that may have been some of the missing students.

It’s also unknown exactly what motivated the Iguala police to fire on the students yet prosecutors believe that the officers were working for the Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) local drug gang. Federal authorities have taken over local police duties while the mayor and the police chief of Iguala have fled after being subpoenaed in the case.

On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto pledged to “make sure the law is applied to those responsible for these outrageous, painful and unacceptable acts.”  Yet according to Human Rights Watch, the Mexican government has done a woeful job in investigating cases of people missing due to violence:
“The disappearances are a human rights crisis of major proportions for Mexico,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But the Peña Nieto administration has fallen woefully short of its commitment to find out what happened to these thousands of missing people, and is now even slashing the budget of the special prosecutors’ unit it created to handle these cases”…

“Rather than clarify the problem, the Peña Nieto administration has issued a series of contradictory statements that have raised more questions than they’ve answered,” Vivanco said. “The administration claims that 30,000 missing people have turned up, but it has not revealed who these people are or what happened to them.”   
In the meantime, international scrutiny over the incidents in Iguala could force Mexican officials to thoroughly investigate and find answers regarding the disappeared students.  “The perpetrators must be brought to justice,” declared U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki while Organization of American States chief José Miguel Insulza called on countries in the region to “fight against the powers of narcotrafficking.”

Video Source – Reuters via YouTube (“As Mexican authorities investigate mass graves that may contain the remains of some four dozen students missing following a recent rash of violence, activists take to the street to demand justice”).

Online Sources – Reuters; Al Jazeera; El Universal; NBC News; Milenio; El Informador; Human Rights Watch; La Jornada

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