Ayotzinapa and the International Caravans
Luis Hernández Navarro
La Jornada, 28th April, 2015
In an effort to never forget, parents of the 43 missing young people from Ayotzinapa and students from the rural normal school have in recent weeks launched a vigorous and intense international campaign. On March 16 they began a 45-day tour to more than 40 U.S. cities; between April 12 and May 2 they are crossing Canada from west to east, and on April 16 a delegation left for Europe to visit more than 13 countries.
It’s not the first time that parents and teachers college students have left the country to publicize their demand that their children and colleagues be returned alive.
In late January, a delegation went before the UN’s Committee on Enforced Disappearances in Geneva to denounce the absence of justice perpetrated by the State in Iguala and demanded that the military be investigated. On February 18 parents met with members of the EU’s Joint Commission, which is dedicated to analyzing relations with Mexico, asking for support in order to continue with the investigations and that they be opened to hypotheses about what happened that are distinct from the historic truth decreed by the federal government.
One may recall that on January 28, Jesús Murillo Karam, then Mexico’s attorney general, concluded that the 43 missing youths in Igualla were deprived of freedom, murdered and burned and their remains were tossed into a river by members of the organized criminal group Guerreros Unidos [Warriors United]. Murillo described the government’s account of historical truth and tried to sweep the matter under the rug.
Tours in several countries by the parents of the missing 43 and teachers college students make up the last effort in the fight against the official determination and their commitment to its being abolished. By internationalizing the conflict, they have broken the information blockade surrounding their demands for justice within the country and have established alliances with movements, organizations and institutions that are putting pressure on Mexico’s government. Some have made efforts to lobby parliamentarians and government institutions; others, like the current trip to 13 European nations, are explicitly declining to do that.
So far, these actions’ preliminary results have been favorable to the families and painful for Mexico’s government. The presence and testimonies of the families of the 43 in Geneva at the session of the UN’s Committee on Enforced Disappearances were central to the group’s delivering a resounding defeat to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.
Like much that has resulted since Ayotzinapa, the Security Agreement between Germany and Mexico is stalled. Christoph Strässer, the German government’s Commissioner for Human Rights, recommended that the Security Agreement negotiations between Germany and Mexico be suspended until there is a national strategy for the fight against impunity and protection from enforced disappearances.
Strässer apologized to the families of those killed and the enforced disappeared of Ayotzinapa because, during the attacks of September 26-27, 2014, Iguala’s municipal police used weapons of German origin.
On February 28, upon leaving Mexico following an official visit, Commissioner Strässer warned:
"There is a structural absence of the rule of law throughout the country. It begins with poor access to justice and continues with torture in prisons, disappearances and corruption."
Strässer is not the only representative of a foreign government who has expressed concern about the human rights situation in the country. Mexico—according to Tom Malinowksi, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the United States—is under strong international scrutiny.
The tours by the victims have succeeded in getting various parliaments, government commissions and human rights organizations to pronounce for keeping the case open, conducting a full and transparent investigation, and exploring new areas of investigation. Just on April 20, the group of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) in charge of investigating the case demanded continuing the search for the disappeared youth and opening areas of investigation. That means, quite simply, that the experts are suggesting reopening the legal terrain, and that the official version of events isn’t being believed and much less so the "historical truth".
The caravans have drawn the attention of local media outlets that are continuing to cover the tragedy, a news feat given that it’s been seven months since the events. In the United States, journalists and prestigious publications like Amy Goodman from The New Yorker and The Nation have covered the matter extensively. Universities like Pomona [California], Cornell, York (in Canada), Duke and North Carolina (among others) have organized conferences on the subject.
But beyond this impact on institutions, parents and teachers college students have touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. As they have passed through various cities, they have been welcomed by the generous solidarity of many organizations, individuals and resistance groups. For them, the true Mexico is the one being described by the families of the disappeared, not the one being propagated by the embassies.
The clumsy offense of Mexico’s undiplomatic diplomacy in trying to stem damage to Enrique Peña Nieto’s image is floundering at the success of the simple, genuine words of Guerrero’s farmers, students and teachers as they travel the world sharing their pain and hope.
Led by the parents of the victims of Ayotzinapa, these international tours have been an effective tool in the struggle against forgetting what really happened and have provided much-need visibility to the critical human rights situation in the country. Also, they have—according to Roberto González Villareal—named a cursed modality of the State’s repressive technology and recently returned enforced disappeared to the political realm with an unexpected centrality.
Translated by Danielle M. Antonetti