University students in several parts of Mexico are protesting on Wednesday as part of a continuing push for the safe return of 43 young adults missing for more than a month.
At least one hundred protesters have taken control of several highways of access Mexico City today and have allowed motorists to avoid paying at the tollbooths. The demonstrators reportedly include pupils from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) and are calling for support of the students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state who have disappeared since September 26th.
In addition, students from the IPN and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) plan to take control of the radio stations to their respective schools and provide messages of support for the families of those missing. Meanwhile, both teachers and students at one of the campuses of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) have suspended classes today as part of their own protest.
Today’s events are part of three days of action planned by several universities with the aim of calling to justice those responsible for the missing students, defend public education and criticize state-sponsored violence. Students, teachers and other demonstrators plan to march in Mexico City on Friday, for example.
On September 26th, were riding local buses back to their school in Ayotzinapa following a protest over job discrimination in Iguala. That evening, armed men from the town of Iguala fired upon the buses and killed three passengers while others fled in terror. Eyewitnesses claimed that local police shot at some of the escaping students while others were caught and bundled into police vehicles.
Prosecutors believe that the Iguala police were working for the Guerreros Unidos drug gang though their orders to attack may have come from the town’s now-fugitive police chief. (He, along with Iguala’s mayor and his wife, are all on the lam since the September 26th incident and are wanted by authorities).
While investigators continue the search for the disappeared students, members of their families are expected to hold a closed-door meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to an activist accompanying the family members, they will seek an “intensification of the search, to look for them alive and not to focus the investigation on mass graves” and also criticize perceived media bias against them.
Update: Peña Nieto said after the meeting that took several hours that he promised a "renewed search plan" to bring the perpetrators to justice. Nevertheless, several family members expressed their anger at the government's response to the missing students.
"The results will be significant when they return our children to us alive," exclaimed the father of one of the disappeared.
Rogelio Ortega, the former head of the Autonomous University of Guerrero, became interim governor of Guerrero last week and pledged to create “a more favorable political climate to bring about the solution to the crisis.” Yet a spokesman for the families of the missing, Felipe de Jesús de la Cruz, criticized Ortega:
De la Cruz also pointed out that Guerrero’s surrogate Governor, Rogelio Ortega, is not welcomed at the meeting because since he became Governor last week he hasn’t met or spoken with the parents committee.
He said “Rogelio Ortega has not even had the decency of even saying ‘Hello, I’m the governor.' "“Obviously the reports about this situation are worrying,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday regarding the missing students while the State Department earlier this month called for Mexican authorities to conduct a “complete and transparent” investigation.
Peña Nieto declared three weeks ago that there would be “no impunity” in the case of the 43 missing students yet he has come under heavy criticism. He has come under fire for planning an official visit of China and Australia next month despite not having traveled to Iguala.
Mexico’s president hasn’t been the only major politician under scrutiny over the disappeared students. Ex-presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been forced to defend himself after photos emerged of him posed with the fugitive mayor of Iguala two years ago.
Video Source – AFP via YouTube
Online Sources - Excelsior; teleSUR English; El Universal; Milenio; Televisa; The Latin Americanist; BBC News