Editor's note: On October 22nd, a massive march of people from every walk of life took to the streets in Mexico City, in a state of grief and outrage. At the same time, in Iguala, masked men broke away from a march and set fire to City Hall. What prompted this outcry?
Almost one month ago, forty-three student teachers-in-training from the Ayotzinapa Normal School disappeared while in Iguala, Guerrero. This was not random. The student teachers were on their way to an “action” organized by their teachers as part of a long tradition of leftist activism. Their lives were taken by gangsters with government affiliations, but many have been directly "disappeared" directly by their own government's paramilitaries as well: "since 2006—when, at the behest of the U.S., President Felipe Calderón, of the right-wing Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), militarized the fight against Mexico’s drug cartels, a policy continued by the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto....
....seventy thousand Mexicans have been killed and some twenty-seven thousand disappeared, effectively turning the whole country into a 'narco grave.' Sixteen thousand Mexicans were killed in the violence of the narco war in 2013."
From OWS Zapatista Solidarity Network:
Some activists have asked us for background information about the massacre of the students from Ayotzinapa School in the Iguala City of Guerrero Mexico. There is little information in English circulating, so here is more in case you want to know:
The Ayotzinapa School is an iconic school for elementary rural teachers (that’s what the word “normalista” means, because they are teachers of “escuela normal” which means “elementary school”). So when we say “students” it’s what they are but they are studying to be teachers. They are mostly Indigenous people and peasants. The school is located in the heart of the mountains (the Sierra), in a very, very, very poor rural area. It is iconic because that is where two important teachers in the 60s and the 70s started a guerrilla movement that truly challenged the system. These important guerrilla leaders were Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas. They were both teachers, and they first organized non-violent civil rights groups demanding social justice but they became guerrilla leaders because they found out that there is absolutely no way for people to learn how to read and count numbers if they cannot eat, and Guerrero is a very poor state where people literally starve to death while rich tourists in Acapulco and Iztapa celebrate Film Festivals and Book Fairs (this is not a metaphor: there was a film festival with James Stewart in Acapulco in the 60s while the guerrilleros were killed in the Sierra and now the Governor of Guerrero wanted to go on with his International Book Fair after the massacre of the students). The governors of Guerrero have been always tyrants linked to anti-guerrilla death squads, Government counter-insurgency “dirty war” and the organized crime. Sadly, this is not the first massacre either (Aguas Blancas 1995). What makes it different is that the Governor of Guerrero and the Mayor of the Iguala City was “selected” by the former Mayor of Mexico City, AMLO, the same man who hired Rudolph Giuliani in Mexico City to apply his “Zero Tolerance” plan against crime and is considered to be a “leftist” and “the hope for the future”. So as you can see, under a capitalist system, these “leftist” leaders who decide to be part of the problem are never part of the solution.
The school has a high level of demand each year, with about 600 people applying, but it only has seats for 140 new students each year because the Government has been always willing to close it. It does not close it because it cannot, since the school has a lot of support from the communities.
Which explains part of what happened: the students were preparing a rally for October 2, the anniversary of another students’ massacre (1968), and they were planning to boycott the Mayor’s wife ceremony (her annual report as head of some activities first ladies are assigned to in Mexico, but in this case the wife is also involved in the organized crime). With the permission of the bus drivers, they “borrowed” two buses which they were going to bring back later, as they usually did. It is illegal indeed, but it was also customary and a non-violent action which does not justify what happened next.
The Mayor got angry when learning they were going to protest at his wife’s official ceremony and ordered the Chief of Police to “take care of them”. The police department of that city is so involved in the organized crime, that they shot some of them without even arresting them (according to the testimony of two students who survived), then they arrested the rest and handed them to the drug-smuggler assassins to torture and murder them. One of them was flayed. The others were tortured. There are non-confirmed testimonies that the rest of the students were also tortured and their bodies burned.
The search for their bodies has also uncovered the existence of many mass graves. The Iguala City, where the massacre occurred, is a bridge city for drug smugglers, the main cartel there being named “Guerreros Unidos” (“United Warriors”). All kinds of drugs are sent from there to Acapulco Harbor mainly but also other harbors. It is also an area of poppy cultivation.
The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity conducted by the caravan of victims of the organized crime, led by poet Javier Sicilia (who came here visiting OWS and actually had an action in HSBC Bank) proposes to end the organized crime by legalizing drugs. They say it is the only way to stop that spiral violence, but their proposal is highly criticized by corporate media, because it challenges the capitalist system.
The Zapatista communities joined the international protest this past October 22 lighting “a candle of dignity for Ayotzinapa” and here is their statement in English: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2014/10/23/joint-declaration-from-the-national-indigenous-congress-and-the-ezln-on-the-crime-in-ayotzinapa-and-for-the-liberation-of-the-yaqui-leaders/
We held a protest in New York this past Sunday and we will decide what’s next regarding Ayotzinapa and also future actions in NYC against the construction of an airport in Atenco.
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We don’t want your money, your vote or your admiration. We are not the only ones organizing Zapatismo in the US and NYC and hopefully not the last ones either. We are just a service of information and mobilization.
(Background information from Malú, Mexican writer who has been supporting the Zapatista movement for 20 years and has been supporting the Occupy movement since September 2011.)
PS. Lucio Cabañas was eventually found, tortured and killed by the head of the anti-guerrilla police at that time, a CIA agent named Nassar Haro.