Mexico has been plagued with gang-related violence for decades, and the recent disappearance and alleged slaying of 43 student protesters proves that the bloodshed is far from over. In the Mexican city of Iguala, part of the southern Guerrero municipality, a white van carrying at least 49 student teachers from the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College was found shattered and empty.
Six victims were found dead on the scene with gruesome, mutilatory injuries, and another 43 (with estimates as high as 57) are still missing. Immediately following the slayings, the mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, and his wife and successor to the mayoral seat, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, went into hiding.
Students from the famously liberal Ayotzinapa School were on their way to Mexico City for a rally mourning the Tlateloco Massacre, an eerily similar event in which government-organized security forces murdered 300 protesters during the 1968 Olympics. The students planned to convene in the famously corrupt state of Igualu before making their way north to the country’s capital.
Catching wind of this possible disruption to one of her campaign rallies, soon-to-be-mayor Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa allegedly ordered security forces to “teach them a lesson”. Local police sprang into action, opening fire on the students’ van before turning the responsibility over to members of the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”), a narcotrafficking gang with ties to larger cartels all across Mexico. This is nothing new in Mexico–the police cooperate with, and in some cases answer to, the narcotrafficking cartels who outnumber and outgun them.
There is much hearsay regarding these brutal and mysterious circumstances. Numerous third parties have claimed that Ms. Pineda Villa was involved in the killings, that she has ties to the Sinaloa cartel– some going as far to say the politician received campaign funds garnered from narcotics and murder.
Reports from news sources all around Mexico claim that the “Queen of Iguala” orchestrated this mass execution. More recently, a fresh grave of some 28 bodies was found in the forests encircling the city, but DNA analysis of the remains indicates that none of the bodies match the 43 missing. There are many mass graves in Mexico, a testament to the absolute brutality of los narcos and the ongoing corruption at all levels of Mexican politics.
The conflict rages on, with swaths of angry rioters burning down Iguala’s city hall last week. An interim governor has been put into place, and Mexican President Peña Nieto has vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
Catholic priest and internationally renowned refugee activist Rev. Alejandro Solalinde claims that the students were abducted, shot, doused in gasoline, and set ablaze in a similar mass grave, with some of the victims still alive. How Solalinde knows so much about the students’ disappearance remains to be seen, but it is likely that the few survivors of the massacre are corroborating what little information they have to the pastor, one of the few that they feel they can trust.
Perhaps there is still hope for Mexico. This most recent massacre of innocent, peace-loving students has sparked waves of protest all across the country.
On November 5th, universities will close and thousands will take to the streets of Mexico City. The victims of the Iguala Massacre were protesting the very same fate that would befall them, but in this tragedy there is a glimmer of promise: the movements will not be stopped by any amount of violence or oppression. Mexico, despite its blood-soaked history, is filled with peace loving people who will take to the streets for love of country at any cost.