Outrage at government massacre of student activists erupts throughout Mexico

Share with your friends

Este artículo en español

There is a terrible permanence of repression in Mexico. On Oct. 2, 1968, federal police opened fire on student demonstrators in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City. They killed an unknown number — between 300 and thousands — injured many more, and arrested over 1,300. This year, students of the rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa, in the state of Guerrero, were organizing on September 26 to attend the yearly commemoration of the 1968 massacre, when they were stopped in the city of Iguala and fired on by police in multiple attacks. The assault left six known dead, 25 wounded, and 43 kidnapped and “disappeared.”

In 1968, a compliant media endorsed the government lie that the students shot first, and many believed it.

This time, things were different. The entire country erupted in protests that continued into November as the FS went to press. Mexicans have suffered an estimated 70,000 killings and 22,000 disappearances — by the government’s own less-than-reliable reports — since the start of the U.S.-funded “War on Drugs.”

Politicians’ utterly corrupt collusion with mega-corporations and drug cartels has been unmasked. Their immunity from prosecution proves the bankruptcy of the Mexican state and its three ruling parties. Now people are grappling with how to enforce meaningful change.

Neoliberalism and the drug trade. Cartel-fueled violence gets most of the media attention, but it is only part of the story. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted in 1994, Mexico’s elite has been privatizing resources such as oil and electricity, trying to take land from indigenous communities for mining companies and large-scale construction projects like La Parota Dam, and cutting education funds.

Against this backdrop came Mexico’s “War on Drugs” — the U.S.-funded Merida Initiative. Its $2.4 billion program has actually been used by the military and federal and local police to make war on youth, indigenous and poor people who protest intolerable conditions. This is the Mexican face of capitalism today.

Communities have been forced to organize in self defense. Many states have formed either indigenous community police forces, enshrined in the federal constitution, or autodefensas, similar bodies in non-indigenous areas. The latter are equally necessary but not approved by law. Federal and state governments have viciously attacked both civilian defense groups, while protecting drug cartels and corporations.

Nestora Salgado was arrested in August 2013 during mass arrests of community police and self-defense forces. In June 2014, Dr. José Mireles Valverde and some two hundred supporters were arrested to block their fight against the Knights Templar cartel that has taken over the port of Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacán. Marco Antonio Suástegui Muñoz, leader of the successful fight to stop construction of La Parota Dam, was jailed the same month. On June 30, federal soldiers shot 22 unarmed youths firing squad-style in Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico. The unspeakable crime in Iguala was the last straw.

Explosive protests. Over the last year, national and international support for Nestora Salgado and some 400 other political prisoners has been growing. The Socialist Workers Party (POS) in Mexico and Freedom Socialist Party in the U.S., with support from allied parties in the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR), have led the formation of united front efforts in the U.S., Mexico, and other countries.

Upon the disappearance of the students, protests of tens of thousands broke out across the country and the world. The October 2 demonstration in Mexico City commemorating the 1968 massacre and protesting the Iguala disappearances drew 25,000 people. There were rallies in at least 25 Mexican states, and in 10 cities in Guerrero, including one of 50,000 in the state capital on October 8. International protests were held in more than 15 countries. Universities and rural colleges across Mexico mounted three-day strikes.

In Guerrero, students and members of the National Union of Education Workers have taken over at least 28 city governments, including in Nestora Salgado’s home town of Olinalá, where the mayor was behind her arrest. The insurgents pledge to set up popular governments throughout the state. The governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, was forced to take an “indefinite leave.”

Protests continue against the complicity of President Peña Nieto and the newly appointed governor of Guerrero, Salvador Rogelio Ortega in covering up what happened.

Mexico’s ruling parties. Three parties run the country, allied against the people. The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) dominated for 71 years from 1929 until 2000, becoming ever more corrupt and conservative. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, represents the PRI. He has focused his term on further privatization of resources and cuts to education.

The conservative PAN (National Action Party) is backed by business interests and the Catholic Church. The PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) was founded in 1989 by a collection of former PRI members and leftists dedicated to reform, not revolution, including the Mexican Communist Party. Both the governor of Guerrero and the mayor of Iguala are PRD, proving it to be as corrupt as the PRI. Some PRD members call for the release of Salgado and justice for the students. But as the Trotskyist POS has warned, if those members do not break with the PRD, they only serve to camouflage the party’s role in upholding the status quo.

U.S. complicit. The lack of any serious objections from the U.S. government demonstrates that it endorses Mexico’s brutality toward activists and left-wing political groups. Its “drug war” aid is being used just as the USA intends — for repression.

That is why working people north of the border need to support the life-and-death battle raging in Mexico. To the south, corruption and massacres clearly demonstrate that the profit system cannot deliver even the most basic security or survival to Mexico’s people.

Contact the author at FSnews@socialism.com.

“Continue studying and preparing yourselves because we all know that the government wants us to remain ignorant and backward. That is why they promote and protect the criminals. … They want to keep los muchachos drugged and powerless.” — Nestora Salgado

Read the rest of Salgado’s solidarity statement at freenestora.org

To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.

Share with your friends