By Ricardo Lezama
The Mexican government is undertaking radical reforms favoring private investors at a blitzkrieg pace. Dismantling public institutions in this manner has a destabilizing effect on the Mexican public’s ability to sustain themselves, diminishes our quality of life and has led to our mass economic migration to Western countries. Like the ongoing privatization of PEMEX and recent attempt to narrow curriculum at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, the attack on Ayoztinapa students intended to cripple their abilityto fulfill fundamental educational and social needs in rural Mexico. Perhaps the thinking was that once the students were placed into a more precarious position, the Mexican State could advance a ‘solution’ in the form of technocratic educational reforms. Therefore, we believe that the attacks in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26, 2014, were motivated by the federal government’s desire to advance radical economic and educational reforms without opposition.
The Mexican government’s attack against Ayotzinapa students was an extremely flagrant human rights violation. In fact, the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico has enough evidence to call it a ‘forced disappearance.’ The Ayotzinapa case ranks high in depravity even when comparing its details to other well documented state crimes. In recent memory, attacks against Mexican social activists, students and other civilians have risen in frequency and sophistication, involving coordination between multiple state actors. Along with these acts of state sponsored terrorism, there exist media narratives that serve to justify or absolve state complicity in these violent acts.
Initially, the attack on the Ayotzinapa students was justified in the name of law and order by some local media outlets The attacks against the Ayotzinapa students were first presented as simply heavy handed acts by the police on unruly students. Fortunately, the students had documented the violence and had anticipated omissions and defamation (see timeline). This is partly why the students were able to strongly declare that they were targets and victims of state repression, a point now well understood globally.
Another important point is the fact that despite being less than two miles away from the scene, the Mexican military never intervened in defense of the students. Contrary to English-speaking media accounts, narco-traffickers were not the main perpetrators of the attacks in Iguala, Guerrero that night. If mentioned at all, the presence of the Mexican military has only been glossed over by the U.S. English speaking media.
Shortly after the second attack, at around 11:30 pm, the Mexican army is confirmed to be present around the perimeter of the bus terminal where the students were attacked. The soldiers intercepeted Omar Garcia and a wounded Edgar Andres Vargas as they tried to coordinate ambulances. Garcia asked the soldiers for help. Instead, the soldiers chose to beat the students while they were in an Iguala hospital. As they struck them with their rifles, the soldiers yelled “you asked for it … for doing what you do” (se lo buscaron por lo que hacen). The statement is quite revealing because it indicates the soldiers were aware of the attacks occurring in Iguala.
The soldiers interrogated and held the students against their will for several hours. During the interrogation, they obtained personal information from the students and told them “you will never be seen again” if they did not cooperate and provide true details. Today, the entire world knows that another group of unidentified assailants made good on their intent to disappear 43 students. In other words, those were not empty threats that the soldiers issued against the students. Furthermore, the Mexican military has a long history of repressing active sectors of the Mexican population. Since the 1960’s, the Mexican military has been implicated in the disappearance and murder of civil activists, students, and opposition politicians. In other words, those were not empty threats that the military made against the students.
Mexican government forces used a methodology honed during the ‘counter-insurgency’ operations executed against Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vázquez. These two activists were graduates of the Ayotzinapa Normal and established various civic organizations in Guerrero in addition to resorting to armed struggle after exhausting peaceful political activity. Those disappeared Ayotzinapa students reflected the marginalized society they sought to empower through education. They were primarily poor and agrarian. Instead of teaching agrarian techniques and social activism, the government wanted Normales like Ayotzinapa to teach English and technical skills oriented towards an urban service sector economy. In a post-NAFTA world, that technocratic requirement on Normalista education is a way to make Mexico a cheap supplier of outsourcing services.
Much has been said about the lack of a federal and state police response during the attacks. In all likelihood, those judicial elements missing in action were coordinating the attack from afar. Recall that students were told by media outlets that they were forbidden from reporting on the events by state officials. Under that premise, we can see how the Mexican government had an incentive to slow down the investigation as much as possible. Nearly 4 hours after the first attack, reporters finally observed an 8-man military squad arrive to the first crime scene. No forensic team is in sight and it begins to rain heavily in Iguala. The evidence is now visibly washed away. These reporters feel the soldiers have a strange sense of hostility and disinterest in the crime. What is quite telling is that the time of the arrival of forensic experts, federal and state police is extremely delayed. They arrive at 4:00 am the next day, at almost exactly the same time in which Murillo Karam says the presumed assailants disposed of bodies believed to belong to the Ayotzinapa students.
The hypocrisy of the Mexican government regarding the Ayotzinapa case is extremely transparent – their own statements give their cynicism away. Murillo Karam, Mexico’s Attorney General, declared that it was a good thing military personnel did not intervene in the shootings. Karam reasoned that if the Mexican soldiers intervened in the Iguala shootings, then they would have done so only in favor of the police. However, the fact of the matter is that the Mexican army did intervene in favor of the municipal police and we are left to wonder how and why.
Karam’s statement regarding their presence indicates that the Mexican government is pre-emptively justifying the fact that the Mexican military was present in Iguala during the shootings. Since that is the case, the Mexican People are left with one solution: a bottom-up series of protests and expressions of discontent that demands changes in government from the top down. The protests of November 20th were just the opening salvo to a popular firestorm of change.