From A World to Win News Service

Mexico: Rising Protests after the Kidnapping of 43 Students

October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Demonstrators chant slogans during a march to protest the disappearance of 43 students from the Isidro Burgos rural teachers college in Chilpancingo, Mexico, October 8. AP photo.

Demonstrators chant slogans during a march to protest the disappearance of 43 students from the Isidro Burgos rural teachers college in Chilpancingo, Mexico, October 8. AP photo.

October 6, 2014. A World to Win News Service. Protests are building in Ayotzinapa in the State of Guerrero in southwestern Mexico after a police attack on teachers college students there that left six known dead and 43 missing, many of whom may be among 28 charred bodies found near the neighboring industrial city of Iguala on 5 October. Nationwide shutdowns were called for 8 October to demand that the government produce the disappeared. Despite the fact that Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has sent in national security forces, a member of a newly formed Ayotzinapa parents' group declared, “There is no reason to trust the government if the government itself kidnapped them.”

The 500-student Ayotzinapa Normal School, like other rural teacher training institutions, has been known for decades as a hotbed of opposition to the government and the prevailing state of affairs in Mexico. On 26 September, about 150 youths from this mountain city went to Iguala, population 130,000, to agitate for student demands and raise funds to travel to Mexico City for a demonstration to commemorate the infamous 1968 Plaza Tlatelolco massacre when government security forces killed hundreds of students and other demonstrators.

The students left Iguala to return to Ayotzinapa that night. The three buses they were traveling in were met with police gunfire as they left the terminal. A few kilometres farther on, the police and other men attacked the buses again, cutting off the road and firing with assault rifles, forcing the students to get off. Three students seem to have been killed on the spot, although reports have been contradictory. Another 43 have not been seen since. Witnesses said their classmates were grabbed, forced into trucks and driven off into the darkness.

Many youths were able to flee. When some returned to the scene a few hours later with local journalists, they were attacked again by men shooting from unmarked vans.

In another incident that night, masked men shot up a bus carrying a local youth football team, apparently thinking that students were aboard, killing two people and a woman in a passing taxi.

The local authorities tried to claim that the students had “hijacked” the buses and the police were simply trying to halt the stolen vehicles. (A survivor later said the bus drivers had agreed to take them home.) They claimed that the missing students were hiding to avoid arrest. It was left to students and families to compile a list of the missing.

The official "investigation" of the incident was so half-hearted that family members of the disappeared began seeking out possible witnesses. They seized a local radio station to broadcast a request that anyone with information come forward.

On October 3, students and relatives staged a night-time torch-light march in the state capital Chilpancingo to demand that their comrades be brought back alive. They were joined by students from another teachers college in the region. The next day, hundreds protested outside the governor's residence, and clashed with police when they were told they would not be allowed to visit suspected burial sites to identify bodies. On 5 October, when the authorities confirmed that they had found mass graves, about 2,000 students and relatives blocked a major highway in Chilpancingo with a huge banner saying, “They were alive when you took them and we want them back alive." Streets were also blocked in Acapulco, the region's largest city.

State-level authorities announced the discovery of at least 28 burned bodies buried in the hills in the outskirts of Iguala. One journalist was told that the dead were apparently driven to the end of a dirt road, walked up a hillside and shot, and their bodies burned and buried in several pits. But other media people have been told that the mass graves may have been the result of one or more older, unrelated incidents involving drug cartels. Officials have said that it may take weeks or months to identify the corpses. A forensic team has come from Argentina, specialists in identifying bodies of the thousands disappeared during the political repression there in the 1970s and '80s, although at least until now the Mexican armed forces have been keeping the graves under their exclusive control.

So far, 37 relatives have given DNA samples that has had the effect of undermining official attempts to imply that the identities of the dead and other facts may never be understood. In a country racked by unresolved mass murders, with 13,000 people currently on the official disappeared list, the authorities have not found it difficult to sow confusion.

State authorities have begun blaming the local government, saying that many police were in the pay of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, so that "they weren't really policemen." Some 30 police and alleged cartel members have been arrested. Students have told the media that local officials and police enlisted the help of "sicarios" (hired killers) to put down a political challenge.

Federal police and other security forces and the army were sent to take over Iguala, whose mayor and police chief were conveniently lost from view when a warrant was issued for their arrest. Rather than this federal presence being taken as a reassuring sign, many people remember the army massacre of 21 youth last June in Tlatlaya, in the State of Mexico, which borders the State of Guerrero. At that time the national Secretary of Defence, in charge of the armed forces, claimed that the soldiers were defending themselves from a drug-gang attack, but later evidence indicated that the youth, from a very poor area, had surrendered to the army and were then summarily executed.

An opinion column in the national daily La Jornada called the killing and disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students "a state crime" – "repression carried out by a government that has brought organized crime violence into its service."

For all the bluster from the state and the Mexican federal government seeking to confine the blame to local officials and corrupt police, there is much to contradict that claim, including the history of another attack on Ayotzinapa students in December 2011. An article back then in Aurora Roja, the publication and website of the Revolutionary Communist Organization of Mexico (OCR) explained the responsibility of the State of Guerrero governor, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, a representative of the ruling Party of the Democractic Revolution who still runs the state, and the federal government itself.

In that incident, hundreds of students had joined with a peasant organization and a Mixtec group (a native ethnicity) to block a highway demanding that Governor Aguirre meet student demands such as easier entrance requirements, better food facilities and food, and jobs after graduation. Two were killed, shot in the head, and others wounded. Security forces kidnapped a student and forced him to fire an AK-47 to fabricate evidence that armed students had attacked the police. The governor denounced the demonstrators as "pseudo-students" with unreasonable demands. Many people felt that Aguirre was behind the 2011 attack. Still in office, he is now blaming the Iguala police and mayor for this latest crime.

The Aurora Roja article refutes the governor's argument that there is no need for teacher training because there is no need for more teachers. "Teachers are lacking in many rural communities, especially indigenous communities... The government blames demographics when they close schools, but if the population is falling, it is because big capital is driving people from the countryside, grabbing the water, woodlands, gold and farm land, plundering the peasants and leaving them with the choice of immigrating or starving, or simply sending police and paramilitaries to shoot them.

"'No more teachers' is the position taken at all levels of government, not because there are no children who need them but because more teachers are not a priority in the new educational schemes cooked up by imperialist institutions such as the OECD and the World Bank... resulting in a general attack on public education, creating more inequality...

"The government wants to eliminate [the rural teachers colleges in Mexico set up after decades of struggle] for several reasons: Because these institutions are not in the interests of their system, and because of the social activism in these schools, which they label 'seedbeds for guerrillas.'" Several prominent guerrilla leaders of the 1970s came out of Ayotzinapa and similar rural educational institutions, and today's government has often clashed with organized groups of teachers.

In short, now and for years, students in Ayotzinapa and similar schools have been a major political thorn in the side of the Guerrero governor and federal government.

The OCR has joined with others to launch a "National Network of Resistance – Stop the War Against the People" and to organize a "Week of Resistance" from 20-26 October. The call for the week's events denounces "the massacres committed by the armed guards of this capitalist system whose political and military chiefs are in collusion with the chiefs of the narcotics cartels" in a war that is both between different sections of the state and the capitalists and their respective drug lord allies and above all against the people. A war in the service of an exploiting and illegitimate system, armed and under the thumb of the rulers of the U.S., whose government and military is deeply involved in these state and non-state criminal structures. (See, in Spanish)


A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.