Written by Jacki Moreira, SSDP’s Latin American Policy Intern
September 26th, 2016 will mark 2 years since 43 students of la Escuela Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos, or the Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa, disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero. The Normal de Ayotzinapa is a college where Campesinos lived and studied to become teachers serving in their own rural communities. Rural normal colleges are a legacy of the revolution with a history of activism, defense against the privatization of education and human rights, and criticism of the state.
On September 26th, 2014, five buses of Ayotzinapa students were attacked in and around the city of Iguala, Guerrero. That night, 6 people were killed, and 43 students were taken and put into police cars. To this day, the truth of the events of that night and the fate of the 43 are unknown. Unfortunately, Ayotzinapa is not the first or only case of forced disappearances where the government is involved. This is a call to action to not only support the families of Ayotzinapa but to end to all state-sponsored repression.
At an April talk with Anabel Hernandez at UC Berkeley, a Mexican journalist that has uncovered discrepancies and cover-ups in the government’s official account, she posed the question, what made Ayotzinapa different? Since 2006, there have been an estimated 150,000 deaths and over 20,000 disappearances as a result of Mexico’s War on Drugs. The pattern of impunity meant the first defense was to criminalize the victims. However, the normal schools are known for their fight for resources, social justice, serving their pueblos and educating their youth. Their only threat was their unwillingness to give up their education, ideology, or activism. What made Ayotzinapa different was that the government couldn’t succeed in criminalizing a group of rural normalistas.
They were commandeering buses that night in order to travel to the capital and commemorate another state assault of students. On October 2nd, 1968 there was a massacre of university students who had gathered and were demonstrating in la Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Why were a group of students on their way to a commemoration under so much surveillance, from the time they left their school? Why did none of the officials in the C-4 surveillance center or in communication with them do anything while the unarmed students on buses were being shot at, killed, and kidnapped?
On July 31st, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights approved the Mecanismo de Seguimiento, one of the demands of the families of Ayotzinapa, to continue an independent investigation into the case.
The previous independent international investigative body was the Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes (GIEI). Their investigation was stopped and they were essentially kicked out by the Mexican government. In their second report, “Informe Ayotzinapa II,” the GEIE writes that their expulsion only strengthens the lack of confidence in the institutions of the federal government. They argue that if the federal government can, in the presence of an internationally supervised body, still act with such levels of impunity, omission, and intentional interference and delay, it is indispensable to continue with a mechanism of international oversight until justice and truth are reached.
Another international body, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, has been involved in the case of Ayotzinapa. While searching for the disappeared students, 60 mass graves were uncovered. Of the remains identified, none belonged to the 43. The case of Ayotzinapa, the work of these international teams, and the continued resilience of the families has uncovered and publicized the larger human rights crisis in Mexico.
In one month it will be 2 years since their disappearances. We need to demand an end to U.S. funding of a corrupt state apparatus that kills and represses its people. We, in the U.S., are the market of the drug trade that has caused so much violence, and the source of money, weapons, training, and infrastructure that alleges to fight a war against these same drugs. If the families from the rural regions of Guerrero can continue to pressure their government and international institutions for an investigation of truth and justice, what are we doing? We need to continue organizing and denouncing the U.S. indifference towards the 43 of Ayotzinapa and all disappearances across Latin America. We need to demand an end to the Mérida Initiative, the Central American Regional Security Initiative, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. The families have asked for the international community to continue their solidarity and to continue denouncing the corruption of their own government and ours. What if it had been your child, sibling, cousin, friend? Our silence is complicity.
SSDP is calling on all of our chapters to participate in a global day of action and solidarity on September 26, 2016, to mark the 2 year anniversary of Ayotzinapa. For more information on ways you can take action this September 26th, check out this organizing guide:
A student from Escuela Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos and a mother of the 43 will also be coming to the U.S. as apart of la Caravana Contra la Represión en México this October, visiting cities across the U.S. For updates on the Caravan see: http://www.contrarepresionmex.org/