Mexico: student protesters attacked in Guerrero

Some 800 students from Mexican teachers colleges occupied the state legislature building in Chilpancingo, capital of the southern state of Guerrero, at about 3 PM on Nov. 14. The students—largely young women from 16 teachers colleges, chiefly those in Saucillo, Chihuahua, and Tamazulapan, Oaxaca—held the sit-in to support demands by students and alumni of Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College in Guerrero for 75 teaching positions for alumni and for retention of the degree in primary education, which the state government has decided to abolish. The students said they had tried for months to arrange a meeting with Gov. Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo, of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), to discuss their demands. The president of the legislature’s governing committee, Carlos Reyes Torres, also of the PRD, called for the police to remove the protesters. At about 5 PM some 500 agents of the State Preventive Police (PPE), with air support from a helicopter, marched into the building and tried to remove the protesters. The confrontation lasted about two hours, with police hurling tear gas canisters and clubbing students, while the students hurled firecrackers at the agents.

The Guerrero Autonomous University (UAG) radio station ran live reporting on the events and called on area residents to back the students. Some residents appeared and tried to stop the police, as did some legislators. PRD legislator Ramiro Solorio Almazan, was clubbed, along with photographer Carmelo Gonzalez Guerrero.

Finally about 300 protesters broke out of the building, blocked the Sun Highway and took 20 gas cylinders from a gas delivery truck, threatening to set them off. The police pulled back, and local politicians arranged for all the protesters to leave the area; most went to the UAG campus. Some 10 people had been injured in the operation and one protester was hospitalized with a fractured cranium; another 250 suffered from the effects of the tear gas and broken glass. According to Solorio Almazan, damage to computers and furniture in the police operation added up to some $300,000.

On Nov. 15 about 1,000 students, accompanied by parents and UAG professors, held a silent march to the legislature to demand the impeachment of Gov. Torreblanca and the removal of various officials, including state education secretary Jose Luis Gonzalez de la Vega Otero.

The attack on the students sharply divided the local PRD. Governing committee president Reyes Torres accused Solorio Almazan of fomenting a “lynching of legislators” by the students, while Solorio Almazon in turned filed a criminal complaint against Reyes Torres, Torreblanca and others for injuries and abuse of authority. State PRD director Sebastian de la Rosa Pelaez accused Torreblanca of protecting Education Secretary Gonzalez de la Vega, who he said had been appointed to pay “the bill” from Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the powerful National Education Workers Union (SNTE), which had backed Torreblanca’s election campaign. State party leaders are concerned that a split will hurt them next year, when they have to face municipal and legislative elections. (La Jornada, Nov. 15, 16, 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 18

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle in Guerrero.