Mexico: one of missing students confirmed dead

The remains of one of 43 students abducted the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero have been identified by DNA tests, parents of the missing students said on Dec. 6. Technicians in Innsbruck, Austria, established that one of 14 bone fragments sent them by the Mexican government came from the body of Alexander Mora Venancio, a 19-year-old student at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa; gang members and municipal police had detained him along with 42 other Ayotzinapa students in Iguala de la Independencia during attacks which also left three students and three bystanders dead. The bone fragments were found in a dump near Iguala in Cocula municipality after three members of the Guerrero Unidos ("United Warriors") gang told federal authorities they had helped burn and dispose of the bodies there.

The students' parents acknowledged the identification of Mora Venancio after talking with a group of independent forensics experts from Argentina; the parents say they don't trust information from the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A notice was posted in the victim's name on the college's Facebook page. "Compañeros," it read, "to all those who have supported us, I am Alexander Mora Venancio…one of the 43 who fell on Sept. 26 at the hands of the narco-government…. I feel proud of you, who have lifted up my voice, courage and freedom-loving spirit. Don't leave my father alone with his sorrow; for him I mean practically everything—hope, pride, his efforts, his work and his dignity…. I invite you to redouble your struggle. Let my death not be in vain. Make the best decision, but don't forget me. Rectify if it's possible, but don't forgive. This is my message." (La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 7)

The DNA identification seems unlikely to end the widespread anti-government protests that have dominated the two months since the Iguala attacks. On Dec. 2 the federal Chamber of Deputies voted 292-100 to pass a measure that would amend the Constitution's Articles 11 and 73 so that the authorities could limit a demonstration if they judge that it violates citizens' "right of mobility." The Chamber's committee on constitutional matters had returned the measure to the full body for voting on Apr. 23, but the deputies didn't take action until the current crisis. The center-right National Action Party (PAN) proposed the measure, and deputies from President Peña Nieto's centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and a small PRI satellite party, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), joined them to approve it. The small leftist Labor Party (PT) and two center-left parties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens' Movement, opposed the bill, although PRD and Citizens' Movement deputies on the constitutional committee had backed it in April. The PRD has lost popular support—and even party founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano—over the Iguala violence; former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, accused of ordering the attacks, is a PRD politician.

Rights activists promptly denounced the anti-protest measure. "We are concerned that amid the human rights crisis that the country is going through, the response of the Mexican state is send a message to inhibit social protests," Carlos Ventura, of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Center, told a press conference in Mexico City on Dec. 3. The measure was received in the Senate on Dec. 4, but it was unclear how soon the senators would schedule a vote. (LJ, Dec. 3, Dec. 5; TeleSUR English, Dec. 4)

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that at least some of the violence by alleged anarchists at Ayotzinapa protests has involved agents provocateurs. On Dec. 3 the online Mexican publication Animal Político posted two videos showing officials or police agents from the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), which has been governed by the PRD since 1997, in civilian dress among the protesters at a Dec. 1 march along the city's Reforma avenue. In one of the videos, a man later identified as an official in a city agency is seen throwing a metal tube during a confrontation at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest. Two police agents seize the official and begin beating him, but other agents say: "Wait, he's a compañero." Agents then lead the official away and release him. (VICE, Dec. 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 7.