Mexico at a new moment of revolt

November 21, 2014

From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters

Mexico City—Massive protests have swept across Mexico in response to the brutal state-instigated attack against students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. On Sept. 26 six people had been murdered outright, and 43 students were “disappeared” and likely assassinated, incinerated and buried in clandestine graves.

October and November have been months of rage, led by hundreds of thousands of students. The state of Guerrero has been in permanent revolt with marches, road blockages, and attacks against government offices, as well as the forced resignation of the Governor. In almost every Mexican state there have been protests demanding the return of the students alive. “Living they were taken, alive we want them back!”


The number 43 has been painted in countless public places in Mexico. Photo by Mario Acosta Garcia.

The number 43 has been painted in countless public places in Mexico. Photo by Mario Acosta Garcia.

According to Ayotzinapa students, on Sept. 26 some normalistas (students from the Normal school) commandeered public buses, as they have on other occasions, planning to go to a highway and solicit funds from motorists so they could afford to bring students to Mexico City for the annual Oct. 2 student protest march that commemorates the government massacre of hundreds of students in 1968. Arriving in the city of Iguala, the students became the focal point of murderous attacks. The mayor and others had arranged for over a dozen city police to attack the students, and for a narco-traffic gang, Guerreros Unidos, to kidnap the 43 young normalistas who survived the initial police shootings.

This horrendous act was more than a local aberration by a murderous mayor in collaboration with his police and a powerful narco-traffic gang. First, the local government (and who knows what other levels of government: the State of Guerrero? the army, which was nowhere to be found during the several hours of attack?) thought that they could get away with this barbarism. After all, in December 2011, when 500 students from Ayotzinapa had blockaded a highway demanding to meet with the governor to protest cuts to their already insufficient school budget, they were met by some 300 various police agencies and the army, who launched tear gas and, when the students resisted, gunfire. Three students were killed, many beaten and wounded, some 50 or more arrested. To this day no one has been held responsible for these deaths.

Second, the police action in Iguala is part of the criminalization of social protest throughout Mexico, particularly against the rebellious young. While the local officials and drug gangs in the narco-state of Guerrero may have been the ones to initiate this despicable act against the Ayotzinapa students, the deeper truth is that all of Mexico has become a criminal state.


A march for Ayotzinapa. Photo by Jazbeck.

A march for Ayotzinapa. Photo by Jazbeck.

The horror of Ayotzinapa has given birth to a new moment in Mexico. Outrage has been felt by every section of the population, but most especially among the young, the students of all the Normal rural schools. The normalistas have been joined by students and social activists from throughout Mexico.

In Mexico City, students from all the universities and many preparatory schools covered the city with protests. Besides three mega-marches, there have been hundreds of protests, large and small, in which youth from one school or another have taken to the streets to leaflet motorists and to the subways to talk to riders, and have demonstrated in front of government offices with their demands. Student assemblies have been held in dozens of departments in a multitude of schools to plan activities, to arrange for marches and student strikes lasting from 24 to 72 hours, hours in which teach-ins and protest activities took place.


The demands have grown in important ways. The protests, which always demand the return of the Normal students, have developed other demands. Where the government points the finger at narco-traffic gangs, the students insist that the state is responsible. Where the government claims they have locked up those responsible for the barbarous acts, students in Mexico City and protesters in Guerrero proclaim, “Out with Peña Nieto,” the President of Mexico.

Calls of “down with the entire political structure” are being heard; the need for a Constituent Assembly, not of parties, but of popular assemblies, to write a new Constitution has been raised, as well as calls for a national work stoppage and for a general strike of workers-peasants-students. At this moment these calls are by a minority and much fuller development of social protest is needed. But voices are being raised, and a rebellious process is in incubation.

—Eugene Walker, Nov. 10, 2014

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