For a long time - for too much time - the situation in Mexico has been getting worse without the international community demonstrating signs of concern. Whilst on the shores of Acapulco army tanks patrol because of the high level of homicides, barely a few kilometres away from where a high-level international tennis tournament is held, it's “Business as usual”. The image that Mexico has since sent to the world is of a country with some security problems due to some criminal groups which traffic illegal drugs.
Until a very short time ago – the summer of 2014 – that which most interested the world press about Mexico was whether its GDP had grown sufficiently. The European and American politicians did not stop congratulating Peña Nieto for the good implementation of his neoliberal “reforms”, which are based on the privatization of the national oil business (Pemex) - the third biggest in the world. For the western newspapers, little else happened in Mexico. Whilst the drug dealers did everything possible so that their atrocities appeared in the national media with the aim of having the population terrified and blocked by fear, the Government invested a lot of time - and we suppose money as well - in order to present Mexico as a place on the right track.
The reality could not be more different, in this country of wonders that the Mexican Government talks of. That which began as “the war against drugs” in 2006 developed into a massacre of everyone against everyone, a war without rules, without piety or even mercy for the defenceless. In Mexico the white flag does not exist. 'Ceasefire' does not exist. There is no respect for any person that finds themselves in the way of an armed group. In Mexico they shoot in children’s parades, students are burnt alive, they rape, kidnap and sell many thousands of women as sex slaves. Men hang from bridges in broad daylight, those that surrender, they execute; bodies lie in clandestine communal graves or they dissolve them in acid - and more besides.
Since 2006, more than 10,000 lives have been lost each year. In 2014 they have continued to lose their lives due to this “small problem”. And these are only the victims that they count officially. The real figure is unknown, one can only estimate, but in any case we are talking about thousands more deaths. Of those, many are considered “missing”, and several others - firstly Central American migrants - are not even counted. But are the criminal drug trafficking groups capable of killing so many people? Can they really do this alone? If not, who is helping them?
It is nothing new that the majority of those sent to the army are involved in the activities of drug trafficking groups. Various army generals were detained for that reason at the end of Felipe Calderon’s term of office, but were freed when Peña Nieto assumed the presidency of the country. Following that, he has also worked hard to not allow a perception of the army to develop as a totally corrupt entity from the inside. In January 2014 a military fair was organized in the central square of Mexico City with the slogan “Armed Forces, A passion for serving Mexico”, where, among other aspects of military self-propaganda, they offered children’s games lead by the soldiers. The “turibuses” throughout 2014 bring army propaganda that, like the European armies, conducts a publicity campaign as if it were a humanitarian NGO, and not as an army involved in human rights violations of severe gravity.
For example, recently, evidence emerged that soldiers participated in the execution of 22 people in the locality of Tlatlaya, although directly after the success of the Government attempt to present this massacre as a glorious action of the army against drug dealers. The Attorney General’s Office has accused three servicemen of homicide by participating in the Tlatlaya slaughter, and it will be the first time that any servicemen will be judged in front of a civil court. The cases of kidnap, torture and assassination perpetuated by the military, until now, were considered mere incidents by a large swathe of public opinion.
Human rights defends are subject to a total media blackout through the main channels of communication, including through the two biggest television corporations, Televisa and TV Azteca. Thus the human rights violations committed by some members of the army were concealed with reasonable success. If the Tlatlaya case reaches the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as indicated by some of the biggest international NGOs, maintaining the image of the “Good soldier” could take a great deal more work than it has until now. On the other hand, the public opinion was never positive in respect of the police. Too many cases of corruption and links with the drug traffickers have created a climate of distrust nearly absolutely towards the police from the most local level up to the federal police.
The case of the forced disappearance of the students of the normal rural school of Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero State, is a clear illustration of the transversal metastasis of crime in the body of the state: By orders from the mayor of the city of Iguala, or rather of the wife that officially has no political power, the local police shot at the bus full of rebellious students (contrary to their intentions of replacing her husband in the mayoral position) and some young athletes that were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the young people that survived, the police stopped them and handed them to the criminal group “Guerreros Unidos”, although in reality many local police form a part of this criminal group.
There was also a second attack on the survivors that had escaped. Meanwhile, the army - its base barely 5km from the place of the incident - did not respond to the calls for help from some of the students that managed to escape and told them that they had themselves searched for this place interfering with people with whom they should not be getting involved with: politicians/drug dealers/police. The state tries to blame the drug dealers for everything, in order to show that the drug dealers are one thing and the state itself is another entity. In fact, the ties between the two are very strong, and in some cases they are one of the same. In many mexican states (Mexico is a federation like the USA) narco IS the state.
When the disappearance began to create too much noise, as much at a national level as at the international level, the Guerrero State Government tried to bribe the families of the missing students, offering 100,000 pesos (some 6000 euros) to each family for keeping quiet.
As a result of the search for the students of Ayotzinapa, only in the nearby localities of the city of Iguala they have discovered so far more than 10 communal graves where the drug-police buried their victims. Similarly, the drainage of some waters in the municipalities of Ecatepec, which form part of the urban zone stuck to the Federal District, revealed in broad day light between 20 and 40 bodies that were lying in the marshes. The idea that all of Mexico is a massive communal grave is empowering the minds of the people.
Interfering with politicians is costly to the indigenous activists. Mario Luna, spokesman of the Yaqui community that fights against the “Independence” aqueduct in the State of Sonora in the North of Mexico, was detained by a group of people in civilian clothes that carried him inside an unofficial vehicle to an unknown destination. Shortly afterwards, the community was informed that Mario Luna was detained for kidnapping - together with another colleague - a member of the Yaqui community for two days. The person that was “kidnapped” by the traditional Yaqui authorities, who - according to the Mexican constitution - have the right to do so, had tried to knock down various people that blocked a road in protest against the aqueduct.
The traditional authorities wrote a letter to the state authorities explaining that they had the right to make a judgement on a member of its community and that, furthermore, Mario Luna was not present when this person was detained, let alone the one that ordered his detention. Nevertheless, Mario remains in jail. Among many other cases, one must mention the recent case in the communities of Xochicuautla and Hutzilizapan, barely an hour away from Mexico City, where hundreds of armed police entered to fight the resistance of the indigenous Otomi town against the highway that will pass right through the middle of their sacred forest. On 3rd November 2014, the police detained 8 people who had passively resisted the destruction of the forest and that furthermore relied on judiciary protection in support of their cause. The word and the orders of the Governor of the State of Mexico, however, weighed more for the police than the judicial decisions in favour of the town of Otomi.
The forced disappearances of the Ayotzinapa students, unlike many other cases (some even more bloody in terms of the number of the victims), were made known internationally, thanks to the massive mobilization throughout Mexico and in more than 100 cities overseas. This case has caused universities to stop, converted the Movie Awards Ceremony into a more politicized cultural act that was transmitted live via television, and has caused more than 50,000 people to practically self-organise and demonstrate in the streets of Mexico City without any political party behind them. It appears to be, in this moment, the point of change of awareness.
Can we ask ourselves then, does the Mexican state really exist? Or is it now dead? - as says a sign in the marches in support of Ayotzinapa. Perhaps, Mexico is simply a government territory and controlled by an assortment of criminals of different profiles, strategies and modes of operation, in positions inside the political, judicial, structure, of “defence” and “protection”. Although this can well be applied to many other countries as well, for Mexico to recognise this fact it would be a significant step forward and the essential condition for the future reconstruction of its social fabric.
The protesters at numerous marches in support of the missing students are clear about who the culprit of the disappearances was and say it in a loud voice: IT WAS THE STATE. To those that still have hope, in the case of Ayotzinapa they see the straw that could break the camel’s back. However, the demonstrations for the liberty of Mario Luna had just started to gain strength when Ayotzinapa occurred. Will something else happen if the mobilizations for Ayotzinapa come to a critical moment for the authorities? Ultimately, one is left with the feeling that the Mexican glass has no bottom and that the water that goes through the top exits through the bottom, so that the glass is never full. We hope that this is not the case.
Translation from the Spanish by Grace Brown