Mexico: anger grows over Iguala massacre

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Mexico and internationally on Oct. 8 to protest the killing of six people and the wounding of at least 20 more the night of Sept. 26-27 by municipal police and people in civilian dress in the city of Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The demonstrators demanded the return of 43 students who have been missing since that night; all are from the militant Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa. "They were taken alive, we want them back alive" and "We are all Ayotzinapa" were among the slogans protesters chanted in at least 25 Mexican states and 60 cities, including many in other countries, along with calls for the Guerrero state government and Mexico’s federal government to "go away.”

Parents of some of the missing students led the Oct. 8 protest in Mexico City, along with students from Ayotzinapa, marching from the Angel of Independence to a closing rally in the central Zócalo. The Federal District (DF, Mexico City) government estimated the crowd at 15,000, but media reports suggested a larger demonstration, since the marchers filled the streets in the city’s Historic District. One of the largest protests took place in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southeastern state of Chiapas, where some 20,000 members of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) held a silent march "as a sign of sorrow and courage" and to demand "real justice." About 10,000 people marched in Chilpancingo, the Guerrero state capital, including parents of the missing students, while 300 people protested in the state’s resort city of Acapulco. Another 4,000 people marched in Tlapa de Comonfort, in Guerrero’s mountain region; at the conclusion about 50 youths charged into city hall, setting furniture and papers on fire. There were also protests in Aguascalientes, Campeche, Chihuahua, Colima, Durango, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México state, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.

Argentine protesters demonstrated at Mexico’s Buenos Aires embassy, while Spanish protesters rallied in Madrid and in Barcelona. Chicago, San Francisco and New York were among the US cities with protests. Some 50 people, including Mexican students and US activists, participated in the New York demonstration, which #YoSoy132 Nueva York and the Internationalist Group sponsored in front of the Mexican consulate in midtown Manhattan. In addition to New York police officers in a patrol car, several men in suits monitored the protest from just outside the consulate; reporters on the scene said at least one of the men was from the US State Department. (Univision, Oct. 8; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 9, Oct. 9; report from Update editor Oct. 8)

The joint investigation into the Iguala killings by federal and state authorities seems mired in confusion. On Oct. 9 officials announced that four more mass graves had been found outside the city of Iguala near a group of mass graves first reported on Oct. 4 and suspected of holding the bodies of the 43 missing students. On Oct. 11 Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero announced that some of the bodies found in the mass graves appeared not to belong to the missing students, raising hopes that the students might be alive. But federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam said he didn’t know what Aguirre based his claim on; officially none of the charred bodies have been identified. (LJ, Oct. 12)

The Iguala violence has led to growing anger with two of the three main Mexican parties: the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which has replaced the PRI as the dominant party in Guerrero. Both Gov. Aguirre and Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez are members of the PRD and of its New Left faction (commonly known as "Los Chuchos”). Through an old friend and former Iguala mayor, Dr. Lázaro Mazón, Mayor Abarca is also connected to the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a new center-left party founded by 2006 presidential candidate and former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Abarca, who took a leave of absence after the Sept. 26 killings, is now in hiding with a warrant out for his arrest; his police chief is also being sought. Abarca’s wife, María de los Angeles Pineda Villa, also a PRD politician, is said to be the sister of leaders of the Guerreros Unidos ("Warriors United”) gang, which is suspected of carrying out the abduction of the missing students in collaboration with the municipal police. In June 2013 Abarca himself was accused of ordering and participating in the murder of three Guerrero activists and fellow PRD members: Arturo Hernández Cardona, the leader of the Popular Union (UP) in Iguala, and Félix Rafael Bandera Román and Ángel Román Ramírez. María Soledad Hernández, Hernández Cardona’s daughter, said her father had warned that Abarca was likely to have him killed. The family tried unsuccessfully to get federal prosecutors to charge Abarca after the murders. "The events that occurred on Sept. 26 could have been avoided if anyone had listened to us," Sofía Lorena Mendoza Martínez, Hernández Cardona's widow, told a US reporter. (LJ, Oct. 7; The Daily Beast, Oct. 8)

Elected governor by a center-left coalition in 2011, Aguirre is a former PRI politician who served as interim governor from 1996 to 1999; he was the handpicked successor of the PRI’s Rubén Figueroa Alcocer, who had to resign after a June 1995 massacre by state police of 17 unarmed members of the leftist South Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS) at Aguas Blancas near Acapulco. Guerrero has maintained its reputation for political violence during Aguirre’s current administration. Sept. 26 wasn’t the first time Ayotzinapa students became victims of police violence; two were killed during a demonstration in December 2011. Community activists have also been targeted. In addition to Hernández Cardona and his two friends, 2013 brought the murders of Raymundo Velázquez Flores, director of the Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Agrarian League, and two colleagues on Aug. 5 in the outskirts of Coyuca de Benítez, and the assassination of OCSS director Rocío Mesino Mesino on Oct. 19.

Other Guerrero activists have been harassed and imprisoned. Olinalá community police leader Nestora Salgado has been in prison since August 2013, and in the midst of the uproar over the Iguala killings, on Oct. 10 Salgado’s daughter, Saira Rodríguez Salgado, charged that she had been threatened with death and required to pay a bribe to prevent the murder of some members of the local community police. (LJ, Oct. 11)

Calls for Aguirre’s resignation are mounting. The PRD’s New Left faction is reportedly negotiating with the PRI to keep him in office in exchange for not demanding the resignation of México state governor Eruviel Avila Villegas, a PRI member, over his government’s handling of an investigation into the killing of 22 people by soldiers on June 30 in Tlatlaya municipality. The state found no wrongdoing in the incident, but the federal government is now carrying out its own inquiry, in response to an international outcry. (La Opinión, Los Angeles, Oct. 9)

Anger at politicians has reached such a point that PRD founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, once a revered figure for much of the left, was attacked by about 30 protesters when he attended the Oct. 8 demonstration in Mexico City. Shouting "coward," "traitor" and "murderer," the protesters threw water, rocks and a large plastic container at Cárdenas, a former Michoacán governor and Mexico City mayor who ran for president three times as a center-left coalition candidate but has now distanced himself from politics. Friends and supporters protected Cárdenas, but he had to flee the Zócalo; the writer and historian Adolfo Gilly was hit by an object and was slightly injured. Afterwards Cárdenas played the incident down, blaming it on "sectarianism" and adding: "The important thing is for the 43 disappeared people to be brought back alive." (LJ, Oct. 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 12.