Mexico: mass graves may hold missing students

On Oct. 4 authorities in the southwestern state of Guerrero announced that they had found charred human remains in a group of mass graves in Iguala de La Independencia municipality, at Pueblo Viejo community in the countryside northwest of the city. Guerrero chief prosecutor Iñaky Blanco Cabrera would only say that there were human bones and that specialists would need to use DNA tests to identify the victims. State police agents at the site on Oct. 4 told reporters off the record that there could be anywhere from four to 19 bodies, but on Oct. 5 Blanco Cabrera said the total number was 28. It seemed likely that the remains were of teachers' college students missing since the night of Sept. 26-27, when Iguala police opened fire on three buses carrying students from the militant Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in the town of Ayotzinapa. Originally 25 students were reported missing after the incident, but parents and student leaders later raised the number to 43.

At least six people were killed in three different attacks during the violence on Sept. 26-27: three students from the Ayotzinapa college, including one whose body was mutilated and showed signs of torture; a soccer player and the driver of a bus carrying the player's team; and a woman in a taxi. As of Oct. 4, 30 people had been arrested for the attacks on the students, including 22 Iguala police agents, and Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez had taken leave from office. Federal security officials suggested that two criminal gangs in the area, Los Rojos ("The Reds") and Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors"), were behind the attacks and may have been angry because the students, notorious in the state for their radical protests, had caused problems for businesses the gangs used for laundering drug money. State prosecutor Blanco said there is evidence that "various members of the Iguala municipal police are part of" Guerreros Unidos.

Thousands of students, teachers and parents demonstrated in the state capital, Chilpancingo, on Oct. 2 to demand the return of the missing students and to observe the 46th anniversary of a massacre of at least 44 students and their supporters by the military in the Tlatelolco housing development in Mexico City on Oct. 2, 1968. The protest, whose organizers included the Federation of Socialist Campesino Students of Mexico (FECSM) and the State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG), opened with a four-hour march through the city starting at the Margarita Maza de Juárez park; FECSM activists then led a blockade of the nearby Mexico City-Acapulco highway that lasted six hours, until 9 PM. The protest finally ended when the Guerrero state governance secretary, Jesús Martínez Garnelo, agreed to hold a meeting the next day with the parents of the missing students. (The Guardian, UK, Sept. 30, from correspondent; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 3, Oct. 5, Oct. 5; Houston Chronicle, Oct. 5, from AP)

Thousands of students and others also marched in Mexico City on Oct. 2 to commemorate the Tlatelolco massacre and to demand the return of the missing Ayotzinapa students. Organizers said 30,000 people participated; the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police estimated the crowd at 9,000. The marchers included students from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), a huge and prestigious public technical university where protests began in late September against plans to change curriculum and fees. At the closing rally in Mexico City's massive Zócalo, the protesters heard a recorded message from imprisoned Guerrero community activist Nestora Salgado and a speech by a representative of the Yaqui indigenous group in his native language calling for the release of Mario Luna Romero and Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez, two Yaqui environmental and indigenous rights activists arrested in September by the government of the northern state of Sonora. (LJ, Oct. 3)

Activists held Oct. 2 protests in 10 other states, including Baja California Norte, Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Morelos, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. In the southeastern state of Chiapas organizers said 12,000 students, teachers and social activists marched in the capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, while a total of 900 people marched in two separate demonstrations in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Teachers' unions sponsored demonstrations in Oaxaca City, the capital of the southern state of Oaxaca, and in five other Oaxaca municipalities. (LJ, Oct. 3)

On Oct. 3 federal governance secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced after a meeting with IPN student leaders that the planned changes at the university were being dropped and that IPN general director Yoloxóchitl Bustamante Díez had resigned. Osorio Chang made the announcement at a demonstration attended by an estimated 18,000 youths, according to estimates by the DF police. (CNN México, Oct. 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 5.