An “American Spring”?

Mexico City demonstrations

Protests outside of the mayor’s office in Mexico City, from the Guardian via EPA

Thousands of demonstrators arrived in Mexico City, on Thursday Nov. 20, with a charge for the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, following several weeks of protests of the disappearance of 43 students from Iguala, Mexico.

State-ordered Massacre

This protest was the largest in recent demonstrations and potentially “ominous” for the current Mexican administration. Protesters are enraged with the recent massacre of the students, killings that involved the cooperation of local gang members and the police under orders from the mayor. Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife were accused of ordering the murders because the students had plans to protest during the Mayor’s wife’s speech in the center of town. The local drug gang, los Guerreros Unidos, were charged with the disappearances as well as the 6 civilian murders that initiated the events.

Political Stasis

Karla Zabludovsky of Al Jazeera refers to the protests as a hallmark of Mexican politics that amounts to little more than the “pagaentry of revolution.” She comments that this wave of protest holds little promise for change, as evidenced by the last 20 years of ongoing, unmitigated violence in Mexico. Zabludovsky reminds us that citizen protests and outrage don’t easily effect in political change, and that the case of disappearing citizens has not seen a demonstrable decline, pointing to the 146 disappearances documented by the Human Rights Watch between 2006-2012.

Director of the Latin American Affairs Program at CNA Corporation Ralph Espach is also skeptical that these events will spark the type of political change that will address cartel-related violence and prevent state corruption. He describes the protests as reflective of general distrust between citizens and state officials regarding organized crime, but criticizes the protests, charging them with a lack of stated aims and leaders. Despite the lack of direction, Espach recommends that the government respond by capitalizing on the protests to enable the passage of judicial and police reforms in congress. He also calls for a hastier implementation of the National Code of Penal Procedure, which will institutionalize a national judicial and penal code.

Legislation to Come?

Given the uncovering of multiple mass graves during searches for the students, suggesting evidence of undocumented atrocities, the call for an enactment of new legislation is certainly in order. This past Thursday, President Peña Nieto outlined a 10-point plan to “address the violence, corruption and impunity” from the municipal to state levels. While he pledged to transfer some powers from the municipal to state level authorities, the argument is made that the greater issue is the cooperation between police forces and drug cartel. While the focus is on local corruption and problems, how can we ensure that state officials don’t similarly cooperate in corrupt activities? Protesters are suspicious, some claiming the corruption has indeed reached national government activity and calling for President Peña Nieto’s resignation. Furthermore, stories involving corruption, cartel, and unmarked graves are part and parcel to discourses of Mexican politics. What, then, is necessary to incite necessary change?

ayotzinapa

Ferguson protesters find common ground with Iguala Protesters via NYTimes

Refrains against state violence have been heard internationally this week, especially around recent events in Ferguson, putting local police corruption on the international stage. We must not forget that the victims were students, and that atrocities in both Iguala and Ferguson marked the ends of students’ lives, one student bound for college and the others bound for careers in teaching. We must consider how, although education is often cited as a means to a better life, especially within contexts of development and conflict, that a confluence of certain social markers and certain types of education negate the potential for social good education may bring. One has to wonder at the perpetuation of systems that enable events like these to continually take place until local protests, marked by anguish and anger, garner international attention. One has to consider how these systems can change to facilitate students whose persons or ideologies may conflict with the powers that be.

References

Archibold, R. (2014, November 4). Investigators in Mexico Detain Mayor and His Wife Over Missing Students. Retrieved November 26, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/world/americas/Iguala-mayor-wife-missing-students-mexico.html?_r=0

Carasik, L. (2014, November 24). US policies in Mexico have made bad situation worse. Retrieved November 29, 2014, from http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/mexico-ayotzinapastudentsdrugwar.html

Espach, R. (2014, November 23). March on Mexico. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142385/ralph-h-espach/march-on-mexico

More Mass Graves in Mexican Search for Missing Students. (2014, November 23). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/More-Mass-Graves-in-Mexican-Search-for-Missing-Students-20141123-0026.html

Tuckman, J. (2014, November 27). Mexican president tackles corruption after ‘the tragedy in Iguala. Retrieved November 29, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/27/mexican-president-enrique-pena-nieto-1guala

Zabludovsky, K. (2014, November 22). Don’t expect an Aztec Spring with Mexico protests, analysts warn. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/22/don-t-expect-an-aztecspringwithmexicoprotestsanalystswarn.html

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