Riley Murdock ‘15 – Issues involving organized crime in Mexico hit a fever pitch in early November, following the suspicious disappearance of 43 college students. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, no longer willing to allow organized crime to control their government. As this volatile situation continues to develop and escalate, news of the tragedy continues to spread across the globe, prompting the world to focus on a country constantly shoved to the side.
In mid-September, a group of 43 students from Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College traveled to Iguala, Mexico to protest “discriminatory hiring practices for teachers”, according to BBC News. En route to Iguala, the protesters were confronted by local police; afterwards, the students suddenly disappeared. After being taken into custody, the students were allegedly handed over to the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) crime organization. What became of the students has yet to be confirmed, but the outcome appears to be gruesome: several arrested Guerreros Unidos members have confessed to executing the students and burning their remains in a dump. A bag full of human remains has been recovered in a nearby river, providing an opportunity to possibly identify the victims.
“Most of us have no idea what those parents are going through, losing their children.” Spanish teacher Stacia Ford explains. “There’s an alarming lack of coverage of this situation in the American media. It’s a really somber moment for a lot of people. It’s almost hard to take in.”
A CNN article from November 22th lists the current number of arrested suspects as 75, but the investigation is still ongoing. Among those arrested in connection with the incident are a number of Guerreros Unidos members, a former Iguala police officer, as well as Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, who are accused of masterminding the disappearances. Iguala police chief Felipe Flores Velásquez, who ordered the police actions, is still on the run.
“It’s not just these 43 students who’ve suffered, it’s been thousands of students since 2006,” Adrian Sandoval ‘15 said. “The reason for the missing students goes deep into the roots of Mexico’s corruption. Money talks in places where money is needed. The students, and the rest of Mexico’s lawful citizens, are disgusted by the violence, and only want change.”
Mexican citizens have rallied around the students, occupying government buildings in support of the grieving parents and demanding stricter regulations against corruption in government and law enforcement.
“This goes much farther than those students,” Ford said. “Once people finally realize how corrupt the system is, they become more determined. There’s so much fear they have to overcome, and because the corruption is embedded in the system, there has to be a long term solution.”
While it’s unclear how long this situation will last and how much change Mexico’s citizenry will catalyze in that time, but these protests may prompt sweeping reform across the country. Fully intent from purging corruption and violent crime from their home, the Mexican people are standing up and letting their voices be heard. They’re sending a message: enough is enough.