Mexico: students’ parents storm army base

At least seven were injured, some seriously, on Jan. 12 when dozens of protesters tried to enter a Mexican military post in Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero state, saying they were looking for students who were abducted in the area the night of Sept. 26-27. The missing students had attended the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the town of Ayotzinapa, and the protesters were other students from the school and parents and relatives of the missing youths. The military post, staffed by the 47th Infantry Battalion, is near the sites where local police and other—possibly including soldiers and federal police—gunned down six people and abducted 43 students in the September violence. So far authorities have only identified the remains of one of the missing students, leaving 42 unaccounted for.

"[Y]ou too were complicit in the violent acts that happened in Iguala," one of the parents told the soldiers, addressing them over a megaphone. "Today we've come to demand that you give us our children, because you know where they are…. Today we're telling these cowardly and murderous soldiers that they aren't good for anything but killing students, not for confronting organized crime, which they're scared of." Unable to get into the installation, a group of students commandeered a Coca-Cola delivery truck and knocked down one side of a gate. Inside the post the protesters were outnumbered by some 300 military and state police agents, who used tear gas and fire extinguishers in an attempt to disperse them. The protesters responded with rocks, which the agents hurled back. The injured included four parents, two students and one reporter from the Venezuela-based television network TeleSUR. Two demonstrators were detained and held for about one hour.

After being driven from the post, the protesters joined with members of the militant State Organizing Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) to march to the Iguala-Chilpancingo highway, where they set three trucks on fire. (La Jornada, Jan. 13)

The Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) insists that the September attack was the work of municipal police from Iguala and nearby Cocula and the members of a local gang, Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors"). In the official version, the gang members took the 43 students and executed them, incinerating the bodies at a dump in Cocula. The government has arrested 97 people in the case, and is pressing charges against former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa. Federal officials say the investigation has been completed, although they claim to be continuing the search for the 42 students who are still missing.

Insisting they had nothing to hide, on the evening of Jan. 13 federal authorities said they would make arrangements for the parents of the missing students to visit military installations. Federal governance secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong announced on Jan. 14 that the military would also invite the government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to inspect the Iguala post, although he denied any involvement by the military in the September events. (LJ, Jan. 14, Jan. 14, Jan. 15)

According to an investigative report published on Dec. 13 by the Mexican weekly Proceso, both the military and the federal police monitored the movements of the Ayotzinapa students the evening of Sept. 26 and were probably involved in the violence. Two researchers—Jorge Antonio Montemayor Aldrete from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Pablo Ugalde Vélez from Mexico City's Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM)—have questioned the PGR's conclusion that the missing students were killed and then incinerated at the Cocula dump. The researchers say it would be impossible to build a fire at the site that would be hot enough for the sort of full incineration the government claims. The military has its own modern crematoria, and the researchers have asked to see records of their use in late September. (LJ, Jan. 4) The researchers also charge that vegetation shown in photos of the dump in November couldn't have grown back so quickly after the intense heat from the supposed fire, and that if some students had been killed there, blood and other organic material would have left enough DNA in the soil for investigators to make positive identifications of the victims. (LJ, Jan. 14)

In other news, a leader of the Triqui indigenous group, Julián González Domínguez, was kidnapped by 10 armed men from his home in Santiago Juxtlahuaca municipality, in Oaxaca near the Guerrero border, and was found dead at a nearby highway on Jan. 12, according to the Oaxaca International Indigenous Network (RIIO). González was a leader for many years in the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT); more recently, he was one of the founders of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a new center-left party started by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The Triqui zone has been the scene of violent conflicts between the MULT, the rival Independent Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULTI) and the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui Region (UBISORT); the last organization is said to be a paramilitary group linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). González's community also had a longstanding agrarian dispute with a nearby community directed by the PRI-affiliated National Campesino Confederation (CNC). RIIO said that González had been receiving threats and that another member of his community was kidnapped and murdered in December. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR, or CIDH by its initials in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), had issued "cautionary measures" calling on the Mexican authorities to protect the Triqui leader's life. (Sputnik News, Jan. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 18.