Thursday, October 9, 2014

They Took Them Alive; We Want Them Back Alive

I hope that new sources in Canada are reporting—and lots—on the killing of six people in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, less than two weeks ago—on September 26—and the disappearance of 43 young men—teenagers, really—who are students at a rural teachers college in the town of Ayotzinapa (located on the highway between the state capital of Chilpancingo and Tlapa).
A poster with photos of some of the 43 missing youth from the teachers college in Ayotzinapa

These 43 students were last seen being loaded into police cars in Iguala on September 26. A few days later a mass grave with 28 dismembered and burnt bodies was found in the hillside outside the city. Are these some of the students? No one is sure yet.
The headline on this poster reads: "Help Us to Find Them"

The government is “suggesting” that the disappearance of the students—and their possible execution—was carried out by members of organized crime. Many people don’t believe it. Yes, organized crime has infiltrated many levels of government and police agencies in Mexico. But there is no doubt that the students were last seen in police cars.
The young woman (in yellow) in this solidarity march with Ayotzinapa is Edith, an indigenous teacher
who at one time received a bursary through Mission Mexico

In a society with so much deception and injustice, it is difficult to know the truth. The parents of the missing youth have requested that the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain (a group supported by Mission Mexico for many years) help to represent them in this painful time. Abel Barrera, the director of Tlachinollan, and his team have earned the trust and respect of the impoverished peoples of the State of Guerrero, and they are doing their best to discover the truth in this case.
Mike MacDonald and Abel Barrera talking outside the entrance to the teachers college

“Truth” is not a strongpoint of Mexican authorities, and more than anything, it has been international pressure that has forced Mexico’s federal government to act in this case. This solidarity offers hope that the truth surrounding the killings and the disappearances will eventually emerge. Such truth, even if painful, will help Mexico advance on the path of democracy and justice.
An altar set up inside the teachers college at Ayotzinapa; parents are waiting here
in the hope of learning news about the whereabouts of their sons

And, of course, the hope of the families and friends of these young men is that they be found alive and well. The slogan most heard in marches and protests here is “Vivos los llevaron; vivos los queremos”: “They took them alive; we want them back alive.”
Grieving family members of two of the disappeared students

The upcoming days and weeks are going to be difficult ones here in the mountain, no matter the results of the investigations. I want to express my gratitude and admiration to the incredible team at the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center for their support for the families of the 43 students. And thanks to the supporters of  Mission Mexico for helping this team in their work over the years; it is that history of commitment and solidarity that has earned them the respect and trust of the people here.

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