The facts of the massacre are basically in.
On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. The went to protest what they believed were discriminatory hiring and funding practices by the Mexican Government.
The mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velázquez did not want his wife who was going to be giving a speech that day, to be embarrassed by a group of students, known throughout Mexico as “Normalistas”. It looks as if the mayor and his wife gave a green light to the local police chief, Felipe Flores Velásquez to take care of the situation.
What we have learned since is horrific. A mass grave was found on November 7th in Cocula, Guerrero containing what are believed to be the remains of the students.
In the urgency to find the students, other mass graves near Iguala were found containing scores of other bodies.
Today, the mayor, his wife, the police chief and more than 70 members of the local police force and the Guerreros Unidos, essentially the local mafia, are all in jail.
I was working regularly in Baja California when Donaldo Colosio was shot and killed, some say, by his own party for advocating for reforms. I was in Guadalajara shortly after Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo was assassinated at the airport and witnessed an earlier version of an ongoing planton in the Plaza de las Armas.
I’ve walked the plaza in Tlatelolco where untold numbers of students were killed in 1968 and I was in Oaxaca for weeks during the teachers strikes and ensuing violence that engulfed that city in 2006 and when APPO was formed.
I have seen the reality of which many of the Normalistas, teachers, activists and community leaders speak. Substandard schools, villages with no access to water, let alone clean drinkable water. I have seen government medical clinics that exist only to say that this, or that village has a clinic, never mind that the clinic seldom has a doctor and never has any medicine.
I have seen lice infested government shelters, people with no resources with which to buy food and homes made from cardboard covered pallets.
I have also seen the incredible resiliency of the Mexican people. In the face of tragedy, through years of neglect and the realization that the government will never work for a great majority of them, the inner strength of the Mexican people has always amazed me.
Today though, something seems different. It does not feel to me like Mexico is going to continue living in a mood of “Ni modo”. People are fed up and in the words of Howard Beale in the movie Network, are not going to take it anymore. In many protest clashes with the government, I can see two sides to the arguments. But in this case, at least from my vantage point, there is no other side.
Plain and simple, the students of Guerrero were killed under orders of local government officials, their bodies burned for hours and then buried in a mass grave. Whether or not you agreed with their point of view, violence and killing is not a response of a civilized government. Worse, the track record of the Mexican government in addressing issues like this and bringing people to judgement is, to put it mildly, weak.
Across Mexico today, people are wearing black to express unity with the students who lost their lives. We join them and pray that President Enrique Peña Nieto will join us. But I also ask the president to aggressively seek out and deal with not only those involved in this horrific incident, but those in government across the country who support and benefit from a view that they are the government and not the people, because it is this view that is at the heart of the Ayotzinapa massacre.
While the incidents took place in Guerrero, any solution that will truly matter, will have to come from Mexico City. President Peña Nieto, it’s your move, what are you going to do?
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