Mexico: Peña pledges to resolve Ayotzinapa crisis

In a Nov. 27 address Mexican president Peña Nieto announced that he was sending the Congress a series of proposed constitutional amendments he said were intended to resolve a crisis brought on by the killing of six people and the abduction of 43 students the night of Sept. 26-27 in the southwestern state of Guerrero. According to federal prosecutors, corruption in the municipal government and police in the city of Iguala de la Independencia were behind the violence; the police and the mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, were reportedly linked to the local drug gang Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors"). Peña Nieto's amendments would end the independence of the police in Mexican municipalities and bring them under the control of state police departments. The president also proposed strengthening laws for the protection of victims. In his presentation Peña Nieto tried to associate himself with popular demands for the return of the 43 missing students by using a slogan repeated throughout the many national and international protests since the attacks: "We are all Ayotzinapa." The missing students and three of the six people known dead attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. (La Jornada, Nov. 28, Nov. 28)

Peña Nieto's government sent mixed signals about its sympathy for the protesters, however. On Nov. 29 the authorities released 11 detainees who had faced serious federal charges stemming from a Nov. 20 protest in Mexico City; federal judge Juan Carlos Ramírez had ordered the release due to lack of evidence. The detainees' relatives held a press conference on Nov. 29 at the capital's Bellas Artes cultural center to insist that the arrests had been arbitrary and to call for the resignation of federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who they said had promised to step down if the cases didn't come to trial. (LJ, Nov. 30)

Protesters said government harassment was continuing. Sandino Bucio Doval, a student activist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), reported that plainclothes federal police agents apprehended him on the university's campus in the capital's Coyoacán section the afternoon of Nov. 28, forcing him into their vehicle and then driving him around the city for several hours. At a press conference on the campus the next day, Bucio Doval charged that the agents beat him, questioned him on his role in the student movement, and threatened to rape him and to damage his family. They then cleaned him up, the student said, and took him to federal prosecutors, claiming they'd seen him put a bomb in his backpack. He was released six hours after his arrest. In Bucio Doval's opinion the incident was intended to intimidate him and other student activists. (LJ, Nov. 30)

The center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) continued to suffer fallout from the violence in Iguala; Mayor Abarca was a party member. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a three-time presidential candidate for center-left coalitions and one of the PRD's founders in 1989, resigned "in an irrevocable manner" on Nov. 25, a few hours after a meeting with PRD president Carlos Navarrete. In his resignation letter Cárdenas said he didn't want to "run the risk of sharing responsibility for decisions taken through myopia, opportunism or self-complacency." (LJ, Nov. 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 30.