Mexico: the state and its organised crimes

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On 26 September students from a rural teacher training college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, went 77 miles to Iguala town to protest against discriminatory hiring practices. Such colleges are already the target of attack as ‘devil’s schools’ by the wealthy, who fear the education it provides to the children of the poor. The Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa has murals with Lenin and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and is known for its radical traditions. The Mayor, Mr Abarca, ordered the police to stop the students heckling a public speech given by his wife. So they killed them.

The police attacked the students, killing a five-year-old and a teenager that night and chasing the demonstrators; 43 were seized and forced into police vehicles. They were never seen again. Uproar followed as parents and friends demonstrated, demanding that the students be found. By 4 October searches had uncovered six graves in the area containing 32 bodies – although not those of the 43 students – revealing a horrific spectre of regular butchery. Next day hundreds of Ayotzinapa’s students blocked the main highway, demanding justice. As pressure grew on the Mayor and local police, Federal police were sent to Iguala to replace the local force.

On 22 October furious student teachers attacked Iguala’s local government offices with Molotov cocktails, ransacking them. Only then, on 22 October, was an arrest warrant issued for Mr Abarca, his wife – not arrested until 4 November in Mexico City – and the town’s police chief, still at large. On 23 October, Guerrero state governor Angel Aguirre resigned. On 29 October President Enrique Pena Nieto met the relatives of the missing students and promised a ‘renewed search plan’.

The government has acknowledged that more than 22,000 Mexicans have gone missing since 2007. A Human Rights Watch report in early 2013 documented 250 disappearances, 149 of them forced – involving state agents – throughout the country. Not one has yet been solved. The last few years have seen incredible levels of violence and abuse and impunity. 2,764 women are known to have been murdered in Mexico in 2012. There were 1,698 reported kidnappings in 2013, up 15% from 2012. About 47,000 migrants have been killed in the past six years while crossing Mexico on their way to the United States due to organised crime. According to the National Commission for Human Rights, at least 70,000 migrants disappeared in Mexico between 2007 and 2012. The situation has reached breaking point.

There was a 600% rise in the number of reported cases of torture at the hands of Mexico’s police or armed forces from 2003 to 2013. Amnesty International reports that more than 1,500 people filed a complaint about torture or ill-treatment by authorities in 2013, including accusations of beatings, death threats, sexual violence, electric shocks and near-asphyxiation. A separate Amnesty survey found that 64% of Mexicans are afraid they would be tortured if they were detained.

Political hirelings confess
On 7 November three alleged gang members confessed to killing the students. The police had contacted their allies in the Guerreros Unidos drug gang who collected the students, loaded them into the back of dumper trucks and took them to a landfill site in Cocula, a nearby town. By then 15 were already dead and the rest were summarily shot. The corpses were burned by the criminals with petrol, tyres, firewood and plastic for 14 hours before being stuffed into bin bags and dumped in the river. The remains of at least 34 have now been located. Now more than 70 people have been arrested in connection with the killings.

On 20 November tens of thousands demonstrated in Mexico City, furious at the government’s behaviour. Fighting broke out with police. The organisers are building a nationwide campaign against criminal-political alliances which will threaten the pretence of neutrality by the ruling class. The next day Cesar Nava Gonzalez, the former deputy director of the Cocula police department who had been on the run since September, was arrested. He was allegedly called to Iguala to help seize the 43 students and hand them over to the drug gang. On 27 November President Nieto announced plans to put the 1,800 local police units under federal state control.

Mexico is ruled by a corrupt ruling class terrified by the revolutionary tradition of the poor. The use of open terror is the only way it knows to hold power, but its methods are now forcing a fightback.

Alvaro Michaels

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015