Letters Home: Parents of 43 Ayotizinapa disappeared speak out (video)

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Protesters march for 43 Ayotzinapa disapeared in Xalapa on Nov. 20.
Protesters marched in Xalapa, Mexico Nov. 20, demanding justice for 43 teaching students disappeared from Ayotzinapa in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Mexican police and narcos have been implicated in the disappearance. Photo courtesy of Montecruz Foto.

By Eric Eberman

In the last twelve years in Mexico there have been somewhere around 150,000 deaths and 25,000 disappeared people connected to the spurious and corrupt war on drugs. In the states of Guerrero and Michoacan it has gotten so bad that civilians have taken up arms in “Self Defense Forces” that are directly at odds with Mexican State and Federal police who are accused of being in collusion with the Narcos. There is simply a state of lawlessness that most people in the USA would find impossible to understand. It is in that environment that the tragedy of Ayotzinapa has taken place.

Throughout Mexico there is a type of college level education institution known as “Normales.” These are colleges for teachers and are frequently located in rural areas and are training future teachers who will then work in rural areas. Sometimes these schools are hotbeds of leftist ideologies and activism. Student teachers who attend are often exceptionally impoverished and even though they are entitled to a bed and a small stipend, about $3.50 a day, physical conditions in many of the schools is dismal and these deprivations tend to encourage rebellious thinking. This has been the situation for decades and is considered status quo acceptable, generally speaking.

One of the things that distinguishes the current crime is that several of the missing (and presumed dead) students come from families of well known radicals such as 1970's “Party of the Poor” leader, Lucio Cabanas who led a rebel army and was finally killed in action by the Mexican Army.

Last month a caravan of “Parents of the Disappeared” arrived here in San Cristobal de las Casas with the intention of holding meetings with the leadership of the EZLN, Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional, who themselves rose up in arms against the Mexican government on January 1st, 1994. The meetings took place in Oventik, at Zapatista headquarters, on Saturday and were followed by a press conference at the Fray Bartolome Center for Human Rights, which I attended. What follows is my view of events, both factual and emotional, of the comments made by the parents, as well as the march that followed in the state capitol, Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Upon arrival at the FRAYBA I was excited to see that there was a line to enter the center. Professional and independent journalists and concerned citizens were all anxiously waiting to hear what the parents of the #43 would have to say after their visit with the EZLN. If the purpose of the event was not so morbid it would have been festive, but, all conversations were muted with the cloud of the missing #43 and the incredible stress and anxiety the parents had endured for the last fifty plus days.

Finally the parents were led into the room and took center stage. The silence in the audience was impressive as it seemed no one wanted to do anything to make the environment more stressful or damage its dignity.

One by one the parents gave their accounts of the events since the disappearances, as well as commentary about the experience of meeting with the EZLN leadership. Even though they appeared calm the exhaustion and stress each of the parents was enduring was clearly evident in the redness of their eyes and the cold matter of fact gazing into the unknown distance on each of their faces. I found tears welling in my eyes as each parent presented their case. It took all my effort to hold my breath and all my will to contain the rage I felt for their unneeded and unjust suffering.

As the press conference progressed, and different details about the process of “discovery” with the government were revealed, I started to feel a degree of shock at the incompetence, or worse, probable deliberate obfuscation the Mexican government is guilty of. Incompetence is bad enough, but there are too many discrepancies, some of which keep repeating, to believe that it is simply incompetence.

For example... since nearly the beginning there have been repeated “discoveries” of clandestine mass graves and pronouncements from the government that the #43 corpses have been found. Each time the claims have been disproved. What has been discovered in fact are a series of mass graves revealing hundreds of OTHER disappeared persons, without identities. But the missing students have yet to be found. The latest round of this charade was proclaimed with confidence by government investigators with the help of the three Narco assassins that are in custody. This story led to the discovery of charred and calcified remains near the garbage dump on the outskirts of town. Because of the past discrepancies with the government the families hired independent Argentine forensic experts who quickly determined that the remains WERE NOT those of the #43 missing students!

Then, it was explained, the families had discovered, via independent research, that the three so called confessed Narco assassins had actually been arrested by state and municipal police forces about two weeks before the students disappeared and that all three assassins showed signs of torture. This led to the conclusion that the assassins had in fact been tortured and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. This level of conspiracy and abuse provide substance for the more pessimistic and heinous conclusions that follow.

The mayor of Iguala and his wife, who were holding a political rally when they were informed that a group of “Normalistas” was headed in their direction, ordered municipal police to “do whatever is required to make sure the political rally was not interrupted.” It is likely that police forces took the comments to mean detain, or injure, or kill with impunity. So, in the initial conflict some students were in fact killed when police forces fired upon the buses the students were traveling in, and the others were taken hostage.

Then, I suppose, a day or two later, when the actual identities of the students was learned by their captors, someone unknown at this point, gave the order to kill the students knowing that this generation of descendents of known revolutionaries could present a serious problem for the corrupt narco government currently ruling the State and Nation.

The EZLN expressed support, understanding, compassion and solidarity with the parents of the 43 missing students who visited Oventik. All around Mexico students are taking to the streets and demanding an end to “business as usual” until justice is served. The day after the press conference I attended a march in Tuxtla Gutierrez organized by “Normalistas” in solidarity with Ayotzinapa and was impressed and honestly a little shocked at what I saw. There were the typical and expected spray paint brigades, tagging their slogans on every available wall space. But, the thing that shocked me that I had never seen before in the last twenty nine years of attending marches and occupations in Mexico is that many of the marchers were armed with crude weapons such as sticks, metal rods, sling shots and even a few machetes. The students were ready to defend themselves if attacked by police.

Also strange was the absolute lack of police presence at the march and the rally that followed. There were three motorcycle cops at the front of the march and that was it. At the rally not even one police officer was visible. I am completely unclear if this meant the police in Chiapas were in solidarity with the students, very doubtful, or, more likely the police chose to take the low profile to avoid the risk of provoking a violent confrontation. Whatever the reason was, it was noticeable and very unusual as I can not remember even one occasion of a march in Mexico in which there was not a very heavy presence of riot police.

What will follow next in Mexico is unknown.

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