Protests are continuing across Mexico after the apparent confession of gang members to the massacre of 43 teacher’s college students in the southern state of Guerrero six weeks ago. On Friday, the Mexican attorney general said suspects in the case admitted to killing the students and incinerating their bodies, leading investigators to the remains. The students disappeared following a police ambush, fueling public anger over government corruption and Mexico’s endemic violence. On Saturday, a breakaway group of protesters set fire to the door of the presidential palace in Mexico City after a march that drew thousands of people. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has drawn criticism for leaving Mexico to attend the APEC summit in China amidst the unrest. We are joined from Mexico by María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, coordinator of the advocacy unit for Tlachinollan, a human rights group working with the families of the 43 missing students.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today in Mexico, where protesters set fire to the presidential palace over the weekend following news that 43 students missing for more than six weeks have been massacred. The students, who were from a rural teachers college, went missing following a police ambush in the southern state of Guerrero in late September. The mayor of the city of Iguala and his wife are suspected of ordering the attack by police, which left six people dead. It’s believed the police then turned the students over to a local drug gang with close ties to the mayor and his wife. More than 70 people have been arrested in the case, many of them police. On Friday, the Mexican attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, said two suspects had led authorities to trash bags believed to contain the remains of the students. He said the detainees confessed to shooting the survivors and incinerating their bodies.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JESÚS MURILLO KARAM: [translated] The detainees pointed out that in this area they took the lives of the survivors, and then they put them under the rubbish dump, where they burned the bodies. They took shifts so that the fire lasted hours, using diesel, petrol, tires, plastic. I reiterate, we are making sure that the group of people the gang members detained, that they transported, that they took to this place, burned them and then threw them into the river, are what happened in the incident that took place in Iguala.
AMY GOODMAN: The announcement brought to a head weeks of outrage, which has brought tens of thousands of people into the streets. In Mexico City, at least 14 people were arrested after a breakaway group of protesters stormed the ceremonial presidential palace, setting fire to the door. In Guerrero state, where the students went missing, protesters set fire to cars and trucks outside the office of the governor, who was recently forced to resign over the crisis.
An offhand remark by the Mexican attorney general has become the rallying cry for the protests. At the end of his address on Friday, Mexican Attorney General Murillo Karam stopped taking questions, saying, quote, "Enough, I’m tired"—that comment, taken up by protesters who say they’re tired of killings, tired of impunity, tired of repression and tired of the federal government’s failure to control the rampant corruption of local authorities. The families of the students say that until the remains are identified as their loved ones, they refuse to believe they’re dead.
GISELA: [translated] We want to say that as parents of the students, that in no way do we accept this declaration that was given, because Attorney General Jesús Murillo, he himself included, has said that he is not sure that it is for certain. With this, we don’t want to say that we’re closed to any results. We want results, but with proof. The moment that we, as parents of the students, as family, are sure of what the attorney general is saying is the truth, only at this moment will we accept it, whatever the result.
AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] of Guerrero, where we’re joined by María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, coordinator of the advocacy unit for Tlachinollan, a human rights group working with the families of the 43 missing students. She’s joining us by Democracy Now! audio stream from Tixtla de Guerrero, where Ayotzinapa, the school which the missing students attended, is located.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what was discovered over the weekend, María?
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: Yes. So, the attorney general went to meet with the students’ parents, and he gave the information that then he gave publicly. And I think the results were basically what we have been saying for a long time, that it’s that no one actually has confidence on the state anymore, so the parents have been very clear that only with concrete proof and also proof that is accompanied by the decision of their independent experts, the forensic independent experts that they brought to the table, the Argentinian group, they will recognize any information that the attorney general gives. And I think it’s also what we have seen from all over the country, that the confidence on the state and on the authorities are very diminished, so now we need to—well, the state needs to build on trust and actually give concrete proof, so then they can recognize where the students are. And in the meantime, the parents demand that they continue to look for them and they continue to look for them alive.
AMY GOODMAN: María Luisa, for people who are not familiar with the story, although, to say the least, it has consumed Mexico, explain what’s believed to have happened.
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: Well, the students went to do some fundraising in Iguala, which is like—I think like two hours away from where they are based. And they were taking some buses. And then they were followed by some police, who started using lethal force against them without any warning. There were at least four different events where they were violent and where police, municipality police, was involved, but also some other plainclothes people who are believed to be related with organized crime. We need to remember that Guerrero is one of the states with the highest violence rates in Mexico. And then, the students were—well, six people died during the events, three of them students, out of lethal force from the—either from the police or the plainclothes persons. But also 43 students went disappeared. This was more than 44 days ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned both the apparent massacre and the protests that took place over the weekend.
PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO: [translated] The government, for its part, shares with the Mexican people the sense of pain, as well with Ayotzinapa. And it must be said this is a call for justice, a call for peace, unity, and not violence nor confrontation. It’s unacceptable that someone should try to use this tragedy to justify violence. You can’t demand justice while acting with violence.
AMY GOODMAN: María Luisa, can you respond to that and the response to the president leaving for China amidst this massive unrest in Mexico?
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: Yes. So, I think the parents are very concerned that the state is not putting the attention that this crisis needs, so—which is represented in the fact that the state—well, the president left for this visit. And also, our biggest concern is that they basically had to move forward to give any kind of information which is related to the events, that the witness gave some information to that. But so, what it will seem to be—the state to be done is that they have to close the case very quick, so then they can stop with the manifestations and the demonstrations, and also to give just—you know, like to pass the page. And what we have seen is that this case is a turning point. I mean, we cannot go back to what every day was happening in Mexico. We have at least 22,000 people that have been recognized by the state that they are disappeared. I mean, Ayotzinapa is just an emblematic case of what the crisis is, but it’s not an isolated case.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the Mexican attorney general saying at the end of his news conference, "Ya me cansé," or "I’ve had enough," and what that has become?
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: Yeah, well, I mean, I’m sure he’s tired, but the parents are more tired than him. And the people in Mexico are like really tired of impunity and lack of trust in our institutions. So, I think it’s also the reflection of what happens here. I mean, they have political will in this case because of the pressure that they are feeling from the international community and inside of Mexico. But even though—even with all this political will, Mexico does not have the capacity to look for the 43 students and does not have the capacity to look for 22,000 people that are disappeared. So, we have to start looking about what we are lacking and to recognize the magnitude of the crisis.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, María Luisa, what this means for Mexico right now? Some people are saying the government could fall. People are calling, of course, for the resignation of the attorney general. What is happening overall?
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: I think what is happening since that, this was like the trigger for everybody to recognize once again this crisis in which we are. It’s a humanitarian crisis. It’s a human rights crisis. We are talking about thousands, tens of thousands of people who are disappeared, but also tens of thousands of people who have been killed in so much of a violence that it’s like generalized. And it’s—but something needs to be done. I mean, it’s not only about how to react to this case, but also how to react to all the situation and how to build trust in authorities and also to regain our social tissue that is all decomposed.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re joining us from Tixtla de Guerrero, which has a history of activism. As we wrap up, can you describe that history and what is happening there now?
MARÍA LUISA AGUILAR RODRÍGUEZ: Yeah, well, Tixtla is where the school is based. The school has a long history of activism and also of education for the students, among the students, of highly politicized education. And, I mean, this is a school for poor people, for people who doesn’t have any other opportunity to access to education or to access to higher education, but also with a perspective that they need to go back to the communities and bring some tools and political tools to the communities, so then they can start, you know, like reflecting on social justice and some other things that really we don’t see in the regular educational system.
AMY GOODMAN: María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, I thank you for being with us, coordinator of the advocacy unit for Tlachinollan, a human rights group working with the families of the 43 missing students, joining us from Tixtla in the southern state of Guerrera in Mexico.
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