Protests and actions supporting the normalistas of Ayotzinapa have not stopped since September 26. News of the forced disappearance of 43 student teachers in Guerrero, Mexico has been reported around the world with a lot of the media focusing blame on Guerreros Unidos and the drug war. While it’s easy to blame Mexican cartels, we cannot help but hear the relentless chants of the people.
Fue El Estado… it was the state.
Animal Político published a report on September 2, 2014 titled “In Mexico, only 1% of reported disappearances are investigated, according to official records.”
Just 24 days before the forced disappearance of 43 students, Mexicans confirmed what they already knew to be true. People disappear and the state does nothing.
“According to government figures, 29,707 cases of forced disappearances were reported between January 2006 and July 2014. Mexican authorities have only initiated preliminary investigations in 291 of these cases, and have failed to sentence a single person for participating in a forced disappearance since 2006.”
In reality these figures could be much higher. Citizens know that reporting disappearances does not lead to arrests so many don’t even bother to report crimes. Most of the cases that get reported are attributed to criminal activity in what may the most chronic case of victim-blaming ever recorded. While some of the victims may have a connection to organized crime, Insight Crime astutely points out:
“Simply saying the victims were themselves guilty is a government tactic that not only indiscriminately criminalizes victims and excuses state inaction, it also covers up something far more troublesome — the involvement of the state in many cases.”
Reports of disappearances are now being reported and tracked by citizens on a crowdsource map in an attempt to visualize the humanitarian crisis in Mexico. #PorTodosLosDesaparecidos is a direct initiative, without intermediaries, which seeks direct contact between the victims themselves, citizens, family and media. So far, the citizen-created map has documented 3666 cases, of which 3382 are under the category of general disappearance; 1274 women and children; four journalists and 150 enforced disappearances, which is when a person is abducted by elements of the state, usually for political reasons and repression of social movements.
Screenshot from Por Todos Los Desaparecidos crowdmap
Ayotzinapa is not an isolated case. Perhaps it will be the straw that breaks the camels back. Iguala has gained global attention in the past month and because of that, Mexican officials have had to step up their game. Despite a terrible track record of only investigating 1% of reported disappearances, Mexican authorities have rounded up an astounding 74 people accused in the Iguala case; three witnesses who have admitted to the killing and the rest have confessed their involvement in the arrest, abduction and transfer of the normalistas on September 26. Mexican officials have even filmed a bizarre reenactment of the murders.
Arrests of municipal police officers, the Iguala mayor and his wife, and the resignation of the Guerrero governor are viewed as feigned attempts of accountability by Mexican officials. Citizens are tired of living in fear.
«I am tired of fear» #YaMeCansé trended worldwide after Mexican PGR announcement on November 7
“I am tired of fear” #YaMeCansé trended worldwide on November 7
A November 1 article by Sin Embargo highlighted that Mexico is a hostile place for activism. During the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, 669 human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained.
“Defenders of human rights are being threatened, harassed because of the work they are doing in Mexico in their fight against mega projects and structural reforms. The state is generating a climate of criminalization, beating, threatening unofficial executions and enforced disappearances,” said Francisco Cerezo, member of the Comité Cerezo México.
According to committee records, people dressed in civilian clothes are making more frequent visits to workplaces to intimidate activists.
“There are death threats via telephone, via email, and verbally to stop the work being done.”
The human rights defender explained that the most dangerous states to be an activist in Mexico are: Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacan and Mexico City.
“What we believe is that it is a state strategy which is more aggressive than during the previous administration.”
While the media reports on drug cartels and Mexican officials attempt to wrap up the Iguala case in a tidy box before Nieto travels to China, it is important to keep in mind that the normalistas in Iguala are social activists.
Regardless of how many people are arrested for the alleged deaths of 43 students, no level of accountability will make up for the glaringly obvious state complicity in human rights abuses. If there is one important fact revealed in the recent horrors we have seen in Guerrero, it’s what that Mexican citizens have known for a long time: The Mexican government works hand-in-hand with organized crime and they cover each others asses.