Mexico is off the beat for this place, and I can’t offer much beyond linking to a couple of worthwhile pieces, but what’s happening in the south Mexican city of Iguala is so utterly shocking that it merits some attention anyway. In September, 43 students of a teachers college in the nearby village of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala after participating in a protest against discriminatory hiring practices by the Mexican government. In addition to the 43 missing students, 6 people were killed and 25 injured during the protest after local cops apparently went over the edge and started firing on the protesters. Witnesses reported that the students were taken into custody by local police, but the longer they were missing the more it seemed like foul play was involved in their disappearances, which you would hope (assume?) ruled the police out.
Or maybe not. Members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang have apparently confessed to killing the students, burning their bodies, then dumping their remains into a river, but only after they’d been handed over to the gang by the police, who may also have fed the gang a phony story about who the students were in order to ensure that they would be murdered. This revelation came after 28 bodies had been found in an unmarked grave outside Iguala that turned out not to be the bodies of any of the students, but that were probably dumped there by the same gang. Burned human remains have been fished out of the river, but they’re so mutilated that more advanced DNA testing has to be done before their identities can be confirmed, and until then the families of the missing students are naturally still holding out hope that their loved ones are still alive.
As you might imagine, people in Mexico are pretty mortified that something like this could happen with the apparently direct involvement of law enforcement. This Quartz photo essay is an excellent visual summary of what’s been happening. Also contributing to the popular unrest? Mexico’s attorney general, Jesús Murillo, held a press conference on Friday to discuss the investigation and then cut off questions by telling reporters ya me cansé, which either means “I’m tired” or “I’ve had enough.” Now, I don’t understand the nuances of the Spanish language or its Mexican idioms, but this seems like not the smartest way for a government official to publicly respond to the police-orchestrated murder of 43 young students, yes? The phrase has become something of a rallying cry for a new and much larger wave of protests that has spread nationwide, because if anybody has had enough, surely it’s the Mexican people who have to live under constant fear of drug gangs, with a government that’s either too incompetent or too corrupt to do much about them. They justifiably have some questions, like why federal police didn’t intervene in Iguala when the local cops started shooting at protesters, and why the mayor of Iguala is allowed to continue roaming freely despite the fact that he’s been working closely with Guerreros Unidos since he took office.
I wish I knew more about the dynamics of the Mexican drug trade to draw some larger conclusion from this horror about the power of the drug gangs and the effect of America’s wreck of a drug policy on the situation in Mexico. There’s evidence that even the fairly minimal amount of legalization that we’ve seen here has significantly impacted the gangs’ bottom lines, but at least in the near term it also seems to have pushed the gangs into potentially more dangerous areas like the heroin trade and kidnapping. I’m pro-legal pot, but the argument that legalization here is going to benefit Mexico seems empty unless there’s also a fundamental change in the Mexican government and its relationship to organized crime.