On October 2, 1968, with direct assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) the President of Mexico Gustavo Diaz Ordaz of the P.R.I. and the Secretary of Governance Luis Echeverria ordered the massacre of several thousand university students in Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City. This October 2, 2013 during the 45th commemoration of the massacre, the government has reared its ugly face once again with acts of unbridled police brutality.
After October 2nd will things go on as usual?
Every year marches are held in Mexico to demand justice for the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. But this year the march wasn’t just like any other. It took place in the context of a month and a half of intense struggle headed up by the bases of the dissident teachers coordinating group, CNTE, to roll back the so-called educational reforms that do away with free, public, secular education in Mexico. Faced with a mobilization of students who are increasingly determined to combat all neoliberal reforms, the Mexican State showed its true repressive nature during the commemorative march.
In Mexico City, the destination of the march that traditionally sets out from Tlatelolco every October 2nd, is the Zócalo. But this year 1,700 federal riot police and 5,300 of their local counterparts made sure the march would never reach its destination. The military police operation was planned by Manuel Mondragón y Kalb for the governments headed by Enrique Peña Nieto andMiguel Mancera to protect and serve the national and international business class.
Ever since the violent removal of the teachers from the Zocalo last September 13, the country’s most important space for protest has been militarized under a humanitarian pretext. The “cleansing” of the Zócalo, however, has not had the intended effect of leaving the dissident teachers without support. On the contrary, in the commemorative march, huge contingents of teacher-training-school students as well as students from universities, high schools and junior high schools associated with UNAM, IPN, UACM, UPN, UAM and Chapingo, along with other organizations, shouted: “We’ll never forget October 2nd” and “Right here, right now, we’re with the CNTE”. Students also demanded justice for dozens of people who still face charges for exercising their right to protest starting with the inauguration of Peña Nieto last December 1st.
During the last few weeks, many student groups have responded to the teachers’ call to hold one or two-day strikes at their schools, and have gathered supplies for the new teachers’ camp at the Monument to the Revolution. Unprecedented support has also come from parents’ organizations in Tlahuac, Xochimilco, San Gregorio, Milpa Alta and Iztapalapa, who have closed more than a hundred schools, demanding the rollback of education reforms. This kind of support is now also being seen in Veracruz, Chiapas, Zacatecas, Campeche and Morelos.
On a daily basis, CNTE teachers have carried out direct actions and marches, whether large or small, in 20 states, including the third blockade of freeways leading to the International Airport in Mexico City on October 1st. When the Assistant Inspector of the Lightning Group, Álvaro Sánchez Valdez, was wounded in a skirmish that day, the mainstream media spread the false rumor that he was in a coma. Chiapas schoolteacher Jesús Rea Cuello, initially charged with wounding the cop, was released due to lack of evidence, and the Inspector was soon seen walking through the streets. But the damage was done, and the general public was more willing to accept brutal repression perpetrated by “noble policemen” supposedly under attack by “damned trouble-making teachers” and their “followers”, especially the “fearsome anarchist delinquents.”
Early in the morning on October 2nd, schoolteachers from Oaxaca, Michoacan, Chiapas, Guerrero, and Veracruz quietly closed Reforma Avenue in front of the United States Embassy and the Mexican Stock Market. That afternoon, nine young people were arrested between Cinco de Mayo and Isabel la Católica streets on their way to the march; they were held incommunicado and tortured for several hours. A little after 4 o’clock, the peaceful march left Tlatelolco, headed by the ’68 Committee, and soon ran into the wall of federal police blocking the way to the Zocalo along Eje Central, where the first confrontations took place. When a group of young rebels began to push against the police shields and kick down the fence around the Alameda, police fired teargas, provoking confusion and physical damage in some contingents of the demonstration. In the course of the afternoon, there were other clashes, as well, including charges by uniformed city riot cops and attacks by plain-clothes police or paramilitaries. Young people threw cherry bombs, stones and other objects at the police and occasionally charged them. The area around the Caballito Tower was flooded with teargas and, an hour later, there were confrontations around the Colón traffic circle, when many demonstrators tried to free arrested comrades. At the end of the afternoon, 107 people had been arrested and there were reports of around a hundred demonstrators and policemen wounded, as well as extreme police violence against students, reporters, photographers, human rights observers, and both individuals and families who simply happened to be in the conflict zone. Despite several detours and delays due to the repression, all the contingents finally got to the Angel of Independence for a massive closing rally.
Of the 107 people arrested on October 2nd, most have been released due to lack of evidence, but 19 young people are being held in the East city prison and the Santa Martha women’s prison on misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and abuse of authority, and at the North and South prisons on felony charges of a gang conspiracy to disturb the peace. There is no legitimate evidence against any of them, but this is easily fabricated by corrupt authorities.
As of now, bail has been set at $130,000 for each person being held in the East and Santa Martha prisons, all of whom were arrested before the march began. The comrades in the East prison have issued a statement that says, in part: “The terrorist State is blaming us for attacks against the public peace that never happened. . . . October 2nd is a date of collective remembrance, a space to feel once more the essence of rebellious youth, of a conscious people, and we express our grief by shouting out our discontent. More than an injustice and an attack against our right to expression, association, free transit, etc, what happened on October 2nd was a torrent of repression. It was remembering October 2nd while being repressed, threatened, humiliated in the core of our humanity. . .”
Upon aggravating the situation of the nine persons being held in the North city prison by accusing them of being part of a gang conspiracy, thereby converting their charges from a misdemeanor to a felony, Judge Jorge Martínez Arreguín denies them the possibility of being released on bail. From the North prison, these political prisoners who include students, artisans, musicians, technicians, workers, communicators and citizens, have sent out a statement that says all charges against them are absolutely false, illegal and arbitrary, and that they were arrested with no regard for due process and in violation of their constitutional rights. A solidarity march of 3,000 students and teachers that left from CCH Vallejo for the North prison on Saturday, October 5, was blocked by riot cops. A group composed of family members and lawyers of the December 1st League and the CNTE, was finally able to get into the prison. The same night, it was reported that 17 people were encircled by police and that people trying to record the aggression were being beaten.
Section 22 has now decided to go back to their communities in Oaxaca to carry on their resistance, moving out most of their members from the encampment in DF and leaving only a small representative group. Similar groups of teachers from other states will also be present at the camp.
So will everything now get back to “normal”, as often tends to happen? Maybe not. In spite of all the fear generated by increasingly harsh forms of repression, more and more people feel that there’s no turning back. The phase of struggle that culminated in the October 2nd march, widely recorded by various independent media groups, may be giving rise to a situation where it’s harder for authorities to count on a complacent citizenry that accepts its impoverishment, lack of worker rights, school closures, massive firing of teachers, plunder of natural resources, and mass incarceration. If fear is overcome and organization improved, sheer necessity may well foster a widepread people’s rebellion.
There is an urgent request for depositing funds for bail in one of the following accounts:
Banamex Cuenta 28770771
a nombre de José de Jesús Maldonado Alva
Bancomer Cuenta 41 52 31 20 67 16 82 59
a nombre de Ma. Lourdes Mejía Aguilar
This post is also available in: Spanish