The 5th anniversary of Ayotzinapa

November 17, 2019

From the November-December 2019 issue of News & Letters

Mexico City—Lies, evasion, cover-up and assemblies around the events of Ayotzinapa were the only response during the entire time of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s corrupt government. Ten months after Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took office, he has only held meetings with the relatives of the 43 Ayotzinapa disappeared students, giving a “beautiful speech”and taking pictures with them. But what is the result?


For five painful years, with determination and dignity the mothers and fathers of Ayotzinapa have sought their children, the 43 students of the Isidro Burgos normal school. The students were disappeared from the streets of Ayotzinapa. Their parents demanded justice, including the imprisonment of all involved in this horrendous crime and its cover-up.


Protesters outside the Attorney General’s office in Mexico City demanding the safe return of the students, November 2014. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

The students’ relatives and the normalists—young men and women from several normal schools who have often accompanied them—have touched all in Mexico with their demand: “Live they took them, we want them back alive!” Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in solidarity. They know that the disappearance of the 43 youth was not only an horrific act by drug traffickers, but it was carried out with the full support of the government.

There has been a growing awareness of the rot, impunity, corruption and criminality that has characterized Mexican society for decades and made the disappearance of the 43 students—and dozens (or hundreds?) of others possible. The rejection in the last election of the Institutional Revolutionary/National Action parties shows that a good part of Mexico is saying “Enough is enough!” And yet, only weeks before this fifth anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students, a judge released 24 police officers from prison who were implicated in their kidnappings! This occurred after El Gil, a narco leader suspected of being involved in the kidnappings, was also released.

During these five years, local, state and the federal government, have poorly investigated, with dozens of arrests often accompanied by torture to obtain “confessions.” Earlier, Peña Nieto’s administration blocked the work of a group of experts from Argentina, who had made valuable contributions to an authentic investigation.

How can we know the truth when judges, the attorney general, the army, prosecutors and state and local officials—perhaps all of them “friends” of drug trafficking gangs—are bogging down the investigation? The deputy secretary of Human Rights, Population and Migration of the Ministry of the Interior, Alejandro Encinas, made a strong statement attacking the “misery” of justice here in Mexico. But he has no real power to transform the situation.


Can the fight against the “corruption” of AMLO change anything fundamental? The disease in Mexico is more serious than the “misery” of justice, or what political elections can cure. A more fundamental transformation of society is needed. The answer is not in any “political solution,” or even in new arrests.

An emancipatory solution must begin with the awareness of what the mothers and fathers of Ayotzinapa have taught us. Their refusal to be “bought,” their insistence on continuing the search for their children, demanding truth and obtaining justice is what points us in the direction of the required change: a profound social transformation.

Implicit in the demands of the fathers and mothers for the return of their children is a challenge of achieving a social transformation that ends impunity, corruption and rot. Implicit in its permanent mobilization is the search for a new human beginning in Mexico. Can we make explicit what has been implicit in the demands of the 43 Ayotzinapa students’ parents, their demands for answers and justice; the concrete need for a permanent revolution that throws away the old society and begins the construction of a new one on truly human principles? This is the challenge we have before us.

—Editorial, translated from Praxis en América Latina


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