Mexico: students wounded as protests continue

Two students were wounded on Nov. 15 at the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in the Coyoacán section of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), when a police agent fired his pistol at a group of youths. Witnesses said the incident started when two men from the DF judicial police and two women from the DF prosecutor's office arrived in a car and began photographing students near the Che Guevara Auditorium; student activists have been meeting in the auditorium to plan actions protesting the killing of six people and the abduction of 43 teachers' college students in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero the night of Sept. 26-27. When a group of students challenged the four officials, one of the two agents responded by assaulting a student and then firing his pistol at the ground. The same agent fired again, several times, as all four officials fled the campus on foot, pursued by a group of students. The shots wounded one student in the foot and grazed another student's knee; a dog was also injured.

Students searched the officials' car, finding an ID for Rodolfo Lizárraga Rivera, the agent they said fired at them. They then smashed the car and set it on fire. In the evening some 300 DF riot police agents entered the campus and blocked off access while crane operators removed the burned vehicle. The DF has been governed since 1997 by the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which was already in trouble with its left-leaning base: José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the former Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the September massacre and abduction, was a PRD politician. (La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 16)

The UNAM attack came the same day as a suggestion by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto that his government may be planning to use more force in dealing with the protests that have followed the Iguala killings. Returning on Nov. 15 from a week attending summits in China and Australia, Peña Nieto warned that the government has the ability to use police action "when other mechanisms to reestablish order have been exhausted." He added that he hoped "that we don't arrive at this extreme of having to use law enforcement." (LJ, Nov. 16)

Demonstrations focused on the massacre have in fact been constant since late September. Marches occurred almost every day in the DF during the week of Peña Nieto's trip abroad, tying up traffic but generally remaining peaceful. Demonstrations in Guerrero, often led by teachers and teachers' college students, were much more militant. On Nov. 10 hundreds of protesters blocked access to Juan N. Álvarez International Airport at the resort city of Acapulco for four hours. "Understand our rage, tourist ladies and gentlemen," the activists chanted; 11 state police agents were injured when they tried to keep the demonstrators from reaching the airport. On Nov. 11 protesters set fire to the state headquarters of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Peña Nieto's party, in Chilpancingo, Guerrero's capital. The next day protesters set fire to the offices of the state legislature and the education secretariat, also in Chilpancingo. (LJ, Nov. 11; Nov. 12, Nov. 13; New Yorker, Nov. 12)

Meanwhile, parents of the missing 43 students, who all attended the traditionally radical Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, set out with in two caravans on Nov. 13 to bring their message to other parts of Mexico. One caravan, composed of three buses and one minibus, headed north toward Chihuahua state, with stops planned along the way in the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco and Michoacán. The second caravan left later in the day for the southeastern state of Chiapas, with the intention of going from there to the states of Oaxaca, Morelos and Tlaxcala. In Chiapas the parents met with leaders of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the autonomous community of Oventic on Nov. 15. "We had a pleasant reception," a participant told reporters. The EZLN commanders "listened to us the whole time, and they said that as always they have to consult with their bases of support on the form in which they can support us going forward." A third caravan was to leave on Nov. 15 or 16 to visit communities in Guerrero. The three caravans plan to converge in Mexico City for a large protest action set for Nov. 20, the holiday commemorating the start of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. (LJ, Nov. 14, Nov. 15)

Although federal authorities say they are certain the 43 missing students were all executed by gang members associated with Iguala's mayor, investigators have yet to identify the remains of any of the students in the various mass graves they have found in different parts of Guerrero. One victim who has been identified, however, was a Catholic priest from Uganda, Father John Ssenyondo, who had been living in Mexico for five years. The authorities used dental records for the identification. Unknown gunmen had blocked a road and forced Ssenyondo into their car on Apr. 30; the reason for the abduction is unknown. His remains were found in a village called Ocotitlán; it is apparently in Zitlala municipality, more than 150 kilometers from Iguala. (BBC News, Nov. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 16.

  1. Ayotzinapa families honored at Zapatista commemoration

    Family members of the missing Ayotzinapa students were at Oventic village in Chiapas to join the Zapatista rebels at celebrations commemorating their 1994 uprising New Year's Day. Some were also on hand for a "Festival of Resistance" hosted by the Zapatistas in December. (TeleSUR, Jan. 1; ROAR Mag, Dec. 21; TeleSUR, Dec. 16)