Crime & Justice

Students at Mexico’s Ayotzinapa school: Nothing’s the same 8 years later

By Ines Amarelo

Ayotzinapa, Mexico, Sep 23 (EFE).- A young man cuts a fellow student’s hair in a hallway of the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural teachers’ college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

Others paint a mural calling for revolution.

Still others make preparations for a large-scale protest to mark the eight-year anniversary of a notorious night of violence in 2014, when 43 trainee teachers at that institution went missing in the nearby city of Iguala in what was the largest mass disappearance in recent Mexican history.

“Nothing’s the same here,” one of the students, 19-year-old Alexander Salazar, told Efe.

Inside the school, 43 desks sit unoccupied on a sports court in memory of those students who were never able to return to their classrooms.

And the walls of every building contain murals with phrases such as, “I want to study without dying in the process.”

“There’s been a change at the (school) since what happened with the 43. Since that happened, the school is in constant struggle and protest,” Salazar told Efe.

On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa school, an all-male college known for its leftist activism, were attacked in Iguala after they had commandeered buses (a traditional practice) to travel to Mexico City for a protest.

Six people – including three students – were killed in the assault, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and presumably slain later.

Three military officers, including army Gen. Jose Rodriguez Perez, have been detained in connection with those crimes, the Mexican government announced last week.

Those arrests followed the Aug. 18 release of a truth commission report that deemed the mass abduction and murder a “state crime” involving local, state and federal officials.

Mexico’s president, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, appointed that commission.

He also had rejected the findings of predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, which in 2015 blamed the disappearances on a local drug gang, Iguala municipal cops and that city’s corrupt mayor and said the missing students’ bodies had been incinerated at a dump in the nearby town of Cocula (an account later discredited by an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights team).

Even so, a protest last week by parents of the Ayotzinapa victims and a student organization ended with acts of vandalism against military facilities in Chilpancingo, Guerrero’s capital, and in Iguala.

The Ayotzinapa parents and their supporters have been holding events every day since last week, a campaign that will culminate in a major mobilization on Sept. 27 in Iguala.

“There are a lot of people who are somewhat unhappy with the radical actions that were carried out,” Salazar said. “But there’s a reason for these activities. Radical action is taken to exert pressure on the government, and it was done at the battalions because they’re the ones who were involved in the disappearances.”

Erick Martinez, a 20-year-old Ayotzinapa student, added that the protests are aimed at ensuring the case does not slip down the memory hole.

“We’re not going to let this die. The parents are still there and they’ve spent eight years” in this struggle, he said.

Martinez said even though he is from Guerrero he knew little about the case until deciding to study at the teacher’s college because he is from a poor family in the small town of Chilacachapa.

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