Justice for the cold-blooded police murders of Jorge Alexis Herrera del Pino and Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús of the Rural Teacher Training school at Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, was what motivated three thousand students and activists to march in Mexico City on December 22.
Ever since policemen trained in joint military operations like “Safe and Secure Guerrero” opened fire on a group of students peacefully blocking the Autopista del Sol (a toll highway from Mexico City to Acapulco) last December 12, not a single day has gone by that Ayotzinapa students and solidarity groups haven’t demonstrated against impunity in the case, chanting ¡Ayotzi vive, la lucha sigue! (Ayotzi lives, the struggle continues!)
In Mexico City, students from other teacher training schools marched with the Ayotzinapa students, as did a number of other groups, including a large contingent organized by the Anarchist Student Coordinating Group, and a contingent from San Salvador Atenco who came in chanting, “Why? Why? Why are they killing off the future of Latin America?”
In an interview, Diego Castro Domínguez explained that the students belonging to the Federation of Socialist Campesino Students of Mexico (FECSM) were marching from the Angel of Independence to the Department of the Interior to demand that department head Alejandro Poiré “initiate a political trial against Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero and punish both masterminds and perpetrators of the extra-judicial executions of the fallen comrades.”
On December 12, the students had blocked the highway to demand that Aguirre keep his promise of meeting with them to resolve their outstanding demands: the right to continue their schooling during the 2012-2013 school year, the allotment of more funds to be used in improving school conditions, and a guarantee of jobs for graduates. The students also demanded the live presentation of the campesino ecologists Eva Alarcón and Marcial Bautista, who were kidnapped and disappeared last December 6 in the Sierra de Petatlán, Guerrero.
Diego explained that, in view of the confusion created in the corporate media, the students think it is important to inform the society about what really happened on the Autopista del Sol. “We were there and could see that the shots came from the ministerial and federal police. It’s plain to see that they were the ones who started shooting. All we did was defend ourselves with our words, our hands, and rocks that we were able to pick up.”
Ángel Aguirre Rivero’s responsibility for the murders is clear. “The governor ordered me to clean up the highway and the highway is clean,” said the Assistant Director of the State Police, General Ramón Arriola, who headed up the operation. [El Sur, December 13, 2011.] Since then, the circulation of the blatant images of unwarranted violence has created enough pressure to bring the resignations of Arriola and two other members of the Guerrero State Security Cabinet: Attorney General Alberto López Rosas and Director of Public Safety Ramón Almonte Borja.
In order to “clean up the highway,” the state and federal police first shot tear gas against the students. Then, almost immediately, federal and ministerial police open fired, leaving two students dead, four with bullet wounds in the chest and stomach; 24 students beaten and arrested; and at least one student, Gerardo Torres Pérez, tortured. Agents forced him to make a false confession that he was carrying an AK 47 assault rifle. Diego Castro Domínguez says that two of the wounded comrades are feeling better and have been released form the hospital, but another, Edgar Espíritu, remains in serious condition and that the ministerial police are pressuring him heavily. They’re threatening to prosecute him for setting fire to the gas station so that he’ll give them information about other comrades. “The police want these two comrades to tell the press that the Ayotzinapa students were the ones who started the violence.”
For years, Ayotzinapa students have fought government plans to wipe out the rural teacher training schools. “The government wants to turn the schools into a business that generates profits. It has no interest in creating educated people who will try to do something with their lives. We know that in our country and in the world, there are many low-income people who need these schools. But the governments are trying to find a way to close them down, like they did in the cases of El Mexe Hidalgo and El Mactumacza Chiapas. Now Ayotzinapa is the hotspot in the state of Guerrero for Ángel Aguirre. He wants to do away with it.”
The response to videos of the shootings from Aguirre Rivero ––known as the official responsible for covering up the Aguas Blancas massacre and for perpetrating the El Charco massacre when he was governor in Guerrero between 1996 and 1999–– has been a tragicomedy of lies and evasions.
According to Diego Castro, Aguirre champions Felipe Calderón’s federal-state operations “Safe and Secure Guerrero”, but that these should really be called “Killer Guerrero” because “the facts together with the Aguirre Rivero’s past history show that he’s at the head of a government that kills people, a government that represses people. What will he do in the year to come? Kill off all the social organizations? Kill everybody? What’s in store for us tomorrow under his government?…We don’t want to be ruled by a murderer, by a governor who’s done so much harm to society. And he keeps right on trying to trick people. He’s a first-rate demagogue.”
In response to a question about the role of the United States in the repression, Diego answered: “That’s an important point to clear up. Our country is ruled by the United States. There’s heavy intervention. When Lucio Cabañas was massacred, people from outside the country initiated it. Many Mexican police and military personnel have received training from the United States. They’re being prepared to eliminate all the social organizations, to eliminate everyone who speaks out.”
And it’s important to remember that it was Mario Acosta Chaparro ––trained in counterinsurgency at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning in the United States, and Director of the Guerrero State Police between 1975 and 1981 during the most notorious phase of Mexico’s dirty war–– who conducted the police operations to capture and/or kill Lucio Cabañas and other guerrillas, and furthermore, established the kind of repressive policing in Guerrero that still exists today.
At the end of the day on Thursday, the federal government offered to open up a space for dialogue with the Ayotzinapa students, but Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré had already given his true response a few hours earlier. Against the will of José María Morelos y Pavón (who is surely turning over in his grave), Poiré cynically used the ceremony in Ecatepec marking the 196th anniversary of his execution by firing squad to ask for more funding for the supposed war on drugs.
To be perfectly clear, the dirty war against the people of Mexico, which has resulted in more than 60,000 deaths and 10,000 disappearances in recent years and is increasingly targeting social activists like Pedro Leyva and Trinidad de la Cruz in Xayakalan, UNAM student Carlos Cuevas in Mexico City, Norma Andrade in Ciudad Juárez, Eva Alarcón and Marcial Bautista in the Sierra of Petatlán and the Ayotzinapa students Alexis Herrera and Gabriel Echevarría themselves, will not only continue but will be stepped up. What else can we expect in an election year when politicians in all the parties are falling all over themselves to come off as “tougher on crime” than their rivals?
But that’s only half the story. Even in today’s threatening scenario, the Ayotzinapa students have two important things in their favor: social consciousness and organization. They’ve vowed to organize all the activities necessary to bring down Ángel Aguirre Rivero and achieve justice for their two slain comrades.
They also have some powerful ancestors at their side: the guerrilla commanders Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vásquez Rojas, who were both students at the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training School. Diego tells us that “We’re clear on their ideas. We study them in depth so that we’ll be able to analyze each and every situation in our country and the world. At our school in Ayotzinapa, we want all the students to learn to think critically and analytically and to reflect on the issues at hand. All the young people who have studied here are known for standing up for their rights, and for defending the rights of the society as a whole and all the people in it. They share ideas of collectivity, mutual aid, and helping other people. In all these aspects, Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vásquez Rojas have left us clear examples to follow.”