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With a firm pace, due to the conviction of their cause, the crowd fills the streets of the great Mexican metropolis, Mexico City that is the capital of the country. Their faces reflect pain, despair, anguish, but at the same time hope that their voices will be heard at last! They are demanding the return of 43 students kidnapped more than 40 days ago. Many are parents and families of these young, soon to be teachers that on the night of September 26, 2014, disappeared by a coordinated and orderly police action taken by the office of the Mayor of the city of Iguala, Guerrero. This city is the cradle of the Mexican flag and the Plan of Iguala, of February 24, 1824, that consolidated the independence of Mexico. It is located about 100 miles from the famous tourist port of Acapulco and a similar distance from the capital of the nation.
In a report read on 8 November, the Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, says that the students may already be dead, killed by criminal groups. Their bodies were cremated and dumped in bags in a river. But at the same time he cannot guarantee the identity of these human remains. The terrible uncertainty is hurting deeply the families of these young people, and they refuse to accept these statements until the Government has secured the identification of the remains.
This is not an unheard of event, but a sequel repeated for decades in the history of modern Mexico. During the last 25 years this kind of terror and injustice has prevailed in the country climbing to impressive numbers. From the time of the presidency of Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) up to the second year of the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, more than 100,000 people have died violently and those that have disappeared reach more than 30,000.
This figure may be higher because many do not complain due to the terror and the complicity of the authorities. These numbers are worthy of revolutions and even international wars, but not of a nation that prides itself on being a democratic regime emerging into the world arena.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the situation of human rights in Mexico is critical. “The rule in Mexico is impunity and Iguala’s case is extremely serious, but it is a symptom of a deeper crisis that drags Mexico in human rights,” complained José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at HRW.
Protests not only crowd the wide avenues and squares of the former Aztec capital; in most Mexican cities and towns citizens have come to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the way the municipal, state and federal authorities have responded to the violence and corruption. Insecurity permeates everywhere and everything. All this continues despite the orchestrated governmental PR campaigns that have invested large sums of money for months projecting the image of the Mexican Moment, the leap of Mexico to conquer worldwide markets.
Just last March, the TIME magazine international cover showed the young Mexican president, calling him “The Savior of Mexico”. This caused controversy and criticism in Mexico and many voices accused TIME of having sold the cover and the very favorable article that accompanied it. Nine months later, the same magazine in its October issue highlighted in a headline: “The apparent slaughter of dozens of students exposed corruption in the heart of Mexico”. This is a drastic change in its editorial.
The major television networks in the United States have not reported the massive marches of the past two months. For some strange reason, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX still have kept an ominous silence. CNN has published some minor stories and the exception has been The New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, USA Today and a couple of notes in Time. AP, Reuters and other news agencies have reported the news. European newspapers including The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais, published major reports. The European Parliament issued a statement regarding the disappearances and growing violence in Mexico and made “recommendations to the Mexican government”. In Germany, many voices were raised demanding that the government of Angela Merkel review the treaty for business with Mexico to be signed in December and the suspension of arms sales to Mexico.
Internationally renowned figures have joined their voices in protest demanding an immediate answer to the disappearance of the young students and to put an end to violence and insecurity in Mexico, as well as respect for freedom of expression. The murders and disappearances of journalists and advocates for social and environmental causes in Mexico continue to occur every other day, making the country a dangerous place to exercise those freedoms.
During the march of November 5, 2014, in the city of Mexico, Jody Williams, the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, said, “The crisis in Mexico is not only humanitarian but political and economic. It shows in a very painful way, the political corruption”. She reported that the organization, Nobel Women Initiative, created by the women Nobel Laureates of Peace, of which she is a member, would send a letter to President Enrique Peña and international organizations requesting the urgent solution to these problems.
Among the many slogans heard in these democratic protests, one stands out which reflects one of the big problems that Mexico has faced throughout its history, a secular apathy and indifference due mainly to corruption and the lack of an efficient judicial system. “We are not afraid to demonstrate, we only fear that people will continue keeping silent.”
We at NAPF join these protests and raise our voice. We hope the Mexican Government will hear the cries of its citizens and of many other countries calling for a peaceful and effective solution to the serious problems facing the Mexican nation.
Rubén D. Arvizu is Director for Latin America of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Ambassador Global Cities Covenant on Climate and Director to Latin America for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. Tweet @RubenD.Arvizu
For more information on the situation in Mexico, we recommend reading these articles.