Op-Ed by Perseo Quiroz Rendón and Monica Oehler Toca —The Mark News—
In the fall, 43 teacher’s college students went missing on their way to hold a protest at a press conference in the city of Iguala, located in the southwestern part of Mexico. What followed was extreme social unrest across the region demanding information about the mass kidnapping. The mayor and his wife have been charged in connection to the case and today parents of the missing students were allowed entry into army bases to search for missing children. This article provides a Mexican perspective of the protests and the culture of impunity that prevails in the country.
Mexico is in the midst of a human rights crisis. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government, however, isfocusing almost exclusively on its economic and political agenda and leaving human rights aside.
Reports of torture and ill-treatmenthave increased by 600 percent in the last decade, and enforced disappearancescontinue to occur widely. In August 2014, the government acknowledged that there are around 22,000 missing persons.
On September 26, a group ofstudents from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapawent missing in the city of Iguala after police opened fire on them without warning. Six students were killed in the confrontation, and another 43 were taken into custody and never seen again.
In the search for the missing 43 students, unrelated mass graves have been discovered in the state of Guerrero, and the government’s complicity with organized crime has been in the spotlight.
This is far from an isolated issue.Other gross human rights violations includethe murders of 17 peasants in AguasBlancas (1995), 45 indigenous townspeople in Acteal (1997), 72 immigrants in San Fernando (2010), hundreds of women and girls in Ciudad Juárez (since 1993), and 22 civilians in Tlatlaya (2014).
Outraged by these human rights violations and the country’s 98 percent impunity rate, and mobilized by the mass kidnapping in Iguala, people from diverse groups in all regions of Mexicoare raising their voices in protest.
People are demanding justice for the victims and their families, chanting “You took them alive.We want them back alive.” The protests have beenmainly pacific, creating an environment of indignation and union against impunity.
The Mexican government has responded to the protests with more human rights violations, trying to inhibit the social protestby threatening to use force.
In November, Mexican authorities placed 11 people in maximum-security prisons for participating in a demonstration.Those 11 protesters were released without charges, but the investigation into whether they were mistreated by police officers (as witnesses have claimed) is still pending.
The message of the government is quite clear: Social protest is not welcome.
States like Puebla, Mexico City, Quintana Roo, and Chiapas have enacted laws that interfere withthe right to protest. A new lawallowing policeto use firearms to break up demonstrations in Pueblaresulted in the death of a 13-year-old boy during a protest in July.
Protest is a way of taking action. The big challenge we have is finding a wayto transform all of this solidarity and discontent into actions that can make a real difference.
Perseo Quiroz Rendón is currently the Executive Director of Amnesty International Mexico and a widely-sought consultant on security and human rights. Mónica Oehler Toca is a Legal Strategist at Amnesty International Mexico.