A nod makes you just as guilty

“Who will ask them to bring back our students? Please listen with your hearts: we want justice!”

By Bart Braun

Last year, 43 students from the Mexican town of Iguala disappeared. Last Monday, their families and their fellow students visited Leiden. “The Mexican government uses the cártel violence as a cover for getting rid of political opponents.”

(Het originele Nederlandse artikel staat hier)
Last year, on 26 September, about 100 students from the Mexican Ayotzinapa teacher –training college took three buses and drove to the town of Iguala. On the way, they were stopped by the local police, who went off with 43 of the students. Most of the students are still missing. One was discovered the next day, without any skin on his skull – brutality is the trademark of the drugs cártels that rule supreme in Mexico. A collection of body parts was found a few weeks later. One of those bodies has been identified as one of the missing students.
About eighty people have been arrested in connection with the case, including the mayor of Iguala and his wife, the local chief of police, around forty police officers and members of Guerreros Unidos, the local cártel. As far as the government is concerned, the case is closed.
However, the surviving students and the relatives of the missing 43 students are not satisfied: the justice department has declared that the entire group is dead, on the basis of a statement made by one Guerrero after his arrest. Normally, bloodthirsty gangsters are not reliable witnesses. Besides, the confession followed torture – increasingly common in Mexico. Are the remaining 41 students really dead? Have all the guilty parties been arrested?
“If you nod along with the official version, you are just as guilty”, Ayotzinapa student Omar Garcia recently told a packed audience in Leiden’s Academiegebouw. Garcia escaped by sheer luck: he was in one of the three buses but the police vans were too full to take him too. Amnesty International invited him and other Ayotzinapa-survivors to tour Europe. They hope that the Netherlands, an important trading partner and the host of the International Criminal Court, can urge Mexico to improve human rights in general and more specifically, enforce the conclusion of law in Iguala.
However, a much larger problem is that this kind of incident is not very incidental. The search for the students was hampered by the fact that several mass graves were discovered in the environs of Iguala. Something far more frightening is going on besides gang violence, explained José Carlos Aguiar from Latin American Studies. “The Mexican authorities use cártel violence as a cover to get rid of political opponents.”
The Ayotzinapa students are indígenas: descendents of Mexico’s original inhabitants. They were expressing support for their own tier of government for their community.
“There have been several bloodbaths against indígenas activists in the last decade, instigated by the local mayor, the army or the police. The federal government can’t or won’t intervene. The popularity of President Peña Nieto has never been so low and the violence, corruption and impunity are spiralling out of control. Mexico doesn’t have a legitimate government anymore,” Aguiar added.
“Who will ask them to bring back our students? Please listen with your hearts,” Garcia begged the audience: “We want justice.” Supporters in the audience responded by sticking their fists in the air: “Justicia!

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