Government Account of Disappearance of 43 Rejected

A year after the disappearance of 43 teacher’s college students at the historically radical Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa in Guerrero, Mexico, sparked waves of protests throughout the country, a panel of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rejected the government’s official account of events. In January, Mexico’s Attorney General tried to squash the students’ families’ calls for an independent investigation by declaring the missing students dead. The state then claimed Iguala’s mayor had ordered the students be arrested and handed over to a local gang, Guerreros Unidos, who then allegedly murdered them and dumped the missing students’ bodies. The report states that there is no physical evidence supporting the government’s story.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government stands discredited, all signs pointing to a government cover-up of the murders. The panel reports that local, state, and federal police all participated in attacking the students and that military intelligence was present at some of the attacks and did nothing. The federal government also destroyed key evidence, such as video footage showing the attacks as well as one of the buses carrying the students.

The report’s findings could set off another wave of protests by workers and youth. The fate of Ayotzinapa’s 43 Disappeared quickly became a national symbol of the cartel violence and state repression that many of Mexico’s workers and poor people face every day, calling into question the government’s legitimacy. At the mercy of a corrupt political system serving the interests of the rich and corporate organizations like COPARMEX, Mexico’s working class is dealing with the pressures of declining wages, a disastrous and bloody war on drugs, generally weakened labor unions, and heavy state repression of people’s movements.

Alongside the 43 movement, teachers in Oaxaca and other southern states are leading a militant fight against the state’s attacks on Mexico’s teacher’s union and on public education. Although the resistance is led by the National Coordinating Committee, a left-wing section within Mexico’s National Union of Education Workers, they are struggling against the state’s political stranglehold on unions. Historically, the state controls the unions in Mexico, and since the 1950s – when the ruling party used the police to install their own party loyalists in union leadership positions – the unions have mostly acted as an extension of the state, crushing rank-and-file dissidents and ensuring that wages stay low. In the middle of the ongoing war on drugs, the state has reacted with more and more brute force to break strikes and independent labor organizing.

Mexican people need to form their own independent unions and break from the corrupt political parties to begin to form a mass workers party fighting for their everyday needs, including the right to defend themselves against the brutal drug cartels and government repression. The striking teachers and the movement for the 43 can be the tipping point that pushes the working class of Mexico, after years of setbacks and defeats, to mount an effective mass resistance against the austerity and repression dealt by their government.

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