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“They have names, faces, dreams” Mexican students strike in support of the missing Iguali students

October 22, 2014

They have names, faces, dreams“. So reads one of the banners at the University of Guanajuato.

Today, as has been my routine for almost a month, I arrive at the University of Guanajauto, books in hand, ready for my classes in Spanish. But today, two students huddled at the doorway in the dark and cold inform me that the University is in “paro”. A student strike in support of the students missing in Iguala, in the State of Guerrero, will last 48 hours.

Today, my lessons take me to the street.

The next University entrance is blocked by a large placard bearing the photos of the missing, all so young. Candles flicker in votives in the dark. Further along the street is the main entrance to the impressive, neoclassical building that houses the main campus of the University. Here more students are gathered, signs are everywhere. As time goes on, onlookers gather, quiet, watchful. The students start to chant…. “Guerrero aguanta, Guanajauto levanta… [roughly translated: Guerrero is bearing the pain, Guanajauto take action]

The students are demanding freedom of expression without fear of reprisal. They are demanding justice for the missing and their families. They want the University of Guanajauto and other universities, to be leaders in the fight for freedom and human rights. They want an end to the fear and corruption in Mexico. They want an end to the cult of impunity that allows government leaders, police, and others in power to escape justice for their wrongdoing. They want basic human rights.

One placard reads: “These are not the only ones.”

Mexico has a repressive history when it comes to human rights.  The Iguala students were killed just days before the 45 year commemoration of a night known as the Tlatelolco Massacre, when the Mexican army surrounded the Plaza of Las Tres Culturas where students had gathered in peaceful protest. Tanks and a helicopter opened fire on them. Over 300 people were believed to be killed but the exact number was never known as the Mexican authorities hid the bodies. According to “Reporters without Borders“, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters as in the last decade, more than 80 have been killed and 17 have disappeared. A 2011 UN Report deliniates numerous issues regarding freedom of expression, including the high concentration of ownership of the press in the hands of a few. A Telecom law passed this July allows Mexican authorities to, among other things, block access to internet sites that it does not consider appropriate.

First light

First light

I ask some of the students if they think these protests will result in any change. While some of them say they are hopeful, generally they don’t believe that anything will change. They don’t believe the government is doing enough to save the students and sadly none of them believe the students are alive.

There is a sense of desperation with the conditions here. A submission even, because the problem is so great. Mexico is emerging as a potent economic power but its record of human rights is truly third world.

I attach some photos, as well as the words of some of the placards because they are very powerful. 

There are not enough gags to quiet us all, nor jails to lock us into, nor bullets to kill us. How many graves do you need to make us all disappear?

There are not enough gags to quiet us all, nor jails to lock us into, nor bullets to kill us. How many graves do you need to make us all disappear?

They have taken away so much that they have ended our fear

They have taken away so much that they have ended our fear

Defiant

Defiant

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