Eight weeks after the disappearance of 43 students kidnapped by corrupt police officers in the state of Guerrero (southwest), an insurrection wind threatens the legitimacy of the government accused of passivity in the face of infiltration of institutions by organized crime.
A human tide swept over central Mexico City on Thursday, the day of the 104th anniversary of the Revolution. “Neither one nor three, we want to be alive 43!” This slogan punctuated the Fourth National Support Day in support of parents of missing student-teachers in Iguala on September 26, after a bloody crackdown. Ordered by the mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, linked to a regional drug cartel, this attack by municipal police aroused indignation which now extends beyond the borders of the city. According to the survey, the missing were handed over to drug traffickers who allegedly killed them, burned their bodies for fourteen hours, and threw their remnants into a river. Found by the authorities, they are in a state of degradation which makes their identification difficult.
This information is refuted as a whole by families. “The government lies to us, criticizes Mario Caesar, father of one of the missing. The official version does not hold, because it was raining that day, preventing complete calcining of bodies. Without proof, we consider our children alive.” A view shared by 74% of Mexicans, according to a survey released on 19 November by the newspaper El Universal. The majority of respondents considered that the authorities are “responsible” for his disappearance and that the research was “inadequate”.
“Great social movement”
Brandishing portraits of their children, the parents of the missing have taken on Thursday the head of three processions converged on the main square of the capital. “One, two, three… justice for 43!” The protesters of all ages and backgrounds, proceeded to tally the number of missing and set fire to a puppet representing Peña Nieto. “The government is unable to find our comrades, as well as other victims of the state and the drug traffickers,” growls Omar Garcia, a student of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa where the missing were studying.
Families have called on civil society to create a “great social movement” to denounce a wave of violence that has left more than 80,000 dead and 22,000 disappearances since 2006. At the end of the event, masked youths threw stones and Molotov cocktails at riot police who dispersed them with tear gas and water jets. Clashes that echo the previous clashes, especially in Guerrero, where the seats of the local Congress and the government party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD, left), were burned.
“Our movement is peaceful, but it is difficult to speak of peace when 43 young people remain missing,” says Felipe de la Cruz, spokesman for the parents of the victims. Hover doubts about the identity of the masked youths. “They could be agitators to discredit a mobilization that catalyzes the anger accumulated by the Mexicans, says Virgilio Bravo, a political scientist at the Technological Institute of Monterrey. For years, impunity prevails because of a weak judicial system that considers only 1% of offenses. “Especially as the collusion between local authorities and organized crime is not limited to Iguala.” The absence of the state in several regions fostered political corruption and created narcomunicipalities” says Mr. Bravo.
On the opposite side, Enrique Peña Nieto is facing the worst crisis of his term (2012-2018). The president had upstaged insecurity in favor of the promotion of reforms to boost the economy. According to Bravo, “he is even more discredited today. But for the people, all the political leaders are responsible, at least by omission. “The arrest on 4 November, of the former mayor of Iguala and his wife shook the PRD. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the founder, has called for the resignation of the president of the party, in the middle of a crossfire of accusations about political protection enjoyed by the mafia couple.
On Friday, Mr. Peña Nieto pledged to act firmly against vandalism while respecting the right of Mexicans protest. Three days earlier, the president denounced the attempts “to destabilize the social order to undermine the national project”. To restore calm, the government accepted the intervention of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to assess the investigation and attention paid to victims.
How far will go the revolt of the Mexicans?
According to Edgardo Buscaglia, president of the Institute of Citizen Action, “the case of Iguala awakened awareness within the population.” “But the social movement is too fragmented, with no concrete proposal to impose policy makers with the necessary reforms to eradicate corruption in the institutions.” This specialist on organized crime advocates the creation of a “truth commission” made up of representatives of civil society and UN experts. “And not those of the IACHR, which only make recommendations to the States,” he said. The PRD and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in power) promised greater vigilance on the selection of candidates for the parliamentary elections in 2015. “Without a reform of the electoral law, raising the opacity on the choice of candidates by the parties, the initiative will have no effect,” warns Dr. Buscaglia.
In Mexico, the state wants to take control of the local police
Faced with the serious crisis that exploded after the disappearance of 43 students, presumably abducted and killed by corrupt police, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, announced on Thursday 27 November a plan to regain control of the municipal police and attempt to break the political inertia which he is accused of.
With a series of constitutional reforms that will be formalized on Monday before the Parliament, he proposed that these local police authorities be replaced by unique police commands in each state. The first experiments will take place in Michoacán, in Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Guerrero, four strongholds of drug traffickers.
The federal government will retain the right to dissolve “when there are sufficient indications that the local authority is involved in organized crime.” The idea is how to go from “more than 1,800 small municipal police forces, which can easily be corrupted by criminals, to 32 corporations of solid regional security,” he explained. In his eyes, “Mexico cannot continue like this.”
“The tragedy of Iguala combined unacceptable conditions of institutional weakness that we cannot ignore: a criminal group that controlled the territory of several municipalities, municipal authorities who were part of the criminal organization structure, police officers who actually were criminals under the orders of offenders.”
“This is your garbage”
Since the launching of a war against drug traffickers in December 2006 under the presidency of Felipe Calderon, Mexico has registered more than 80,000 deaths related to violence of drug traffickers and over 20,000 disappearances. Hundreds of clandestine graves were discovered during this period, containing an unknown number of corpses.
A few hours before the president’s announcement, a new grave was discovered near Chilapa, in the state of Guerrero, about forty kilometers from the place where students have been removed.
Its announcements aimed at restoring security in the country come alongside with yet another macabre discovery made the same morning. Bodies of at least eleven persons of twenty years, decapitated and with burns and bullet holes were found. A message left next to the bodies sent to crime group Las Ardillas (“Squirrels”) stated: “This is your garbage,” said the source on condition of anonymity.