Mexico: Guerrero governor goes, crisis remains

Protests against Mexican local governments and federal president Enrique Peña Nieto showed no signs of letting up the week of Oct. 20, nearly one month after the Sept. 26-27 killing of six people and the abduction of 43 teachers' college students in Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Students held a two-day national strike on Oct. 22-23 to demand the return of the missing students, who were all from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. Tens of thousands of students and teachers marched in a total of 18 Mexican states on the first day of the strike. The protest in Mexico City was reportedly one of the capital's largest demonstrations in recent years. The Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police estimated the crowd at 50,000, while the Los Angeles Times reported that at one point the march stretched along the broad Paseo de la Reforma from the Angel of Independence to the central Zócalo, a distance of more than four kilometers.

The protesters' disgust with Mexico's political class and the three major political parties was obvious. "PRI, PAN, PRD=narco-government" was a popular slogan on Oct. 22, in reference to President Peña Nieto's centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The marchers targeted the federal government for its tolerance of political corruption and organized crime under Peña and under his two predecessors, Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012), both from the PAN. "Peña out!" was a popular slogan at the demonstrations. But the greatest anger may be at the PRD, the party of Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre Rivero, Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, María de los Angeles Pineda Villa. Now in hiding, Abarca and Pineda are thought to have ordered the attack on the students by municipal police and members of the Guerreros Unidos gang, while Aguirre's government seemed to do nothing to stop the killings of leftist activists over the past several years, including the police shooting of two Ayotzinapa students in December 2011.

On Oct. 21 some 500 teachers in the militant State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) left a sit-in the group had been holding since Oct. 8 in the main plaza of Chilpancingo, the state capital, to march on the PRD's Guerrero headquarters and demand Aguirre's resignation. They overturned a vehicle outside the building and then invaded the office, setting fire to computers, furniture and files. Two days later, on Oct. 23, the governor finally resigned. The PRD national leadership had been resisting efforts to remove Aguirre, but apparently they changed course on Oct. 22. PRD president Carlos Navarrete reportedly presented the governor with a dossier the federal government had prepared on him. "Angel, it could turn out to be more costly for you," Navarrete said, according to several PRD politicians. Aguirre responded by offering to resign; he asked the PRD to negotiate immunity for him and for state finance secretary Jorge Salgado.

Observers said the governor's resignation wasn't likely to end the crisis. As for the PRD, party officials estimated off the record that the group's voter approval rating had fallen by 3-4% as a result of the events in Guerrero. The PRD only governs three of Mexico's 31 states, although it has headed the government in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) since 1997. (La Jornada, (Mexico) Oct. 22, Oct. 23, Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 25; Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, from correspondent)

The North American solidarity organization Rights Action is handling donations for the Ayotzinapa students' financial committee to help parents and teachers carry on their work for the missing students. More information is available here.

On Oct. 21, in the midst of the Guerrero crisis, the federal government's semi-autonomous National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) released its Recommendation 51/2014 concerning the killing of 22 suspected gang members by the military on June 30 in Tlatlaya municipality, México state. The soldiers and the state attorney general's office claimed that the suspects died in a shootout. After investigating the case the CNDH concluded that 15 of the victims were executed by seven soldiers, who beat four of the victims before killing them. The bodies were then rearranged to support the story of a shootout, and state authorities imprisoned, threatened and otherwise mistreated two of the three surviving witnesses in effort to get them to back the cover-up; the two witness are still incarcerated at the Tepic, Nayarit federal women's prison. The military, state prosecutors and the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) all came in for criticism in the CNDH's recommendation. (Excélsior Mexico, Oct. 22; Jurist, Oct. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 26.