The forced disappearance of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa reveals the direct involvement of the police force in the crime. Social movements are breaking the narco-narrative, instead defining the case as political oppression.
On the 26 September 2014, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School were forcibly disappeared by the Guerrero State police.
The event took place in Iguala, where the students had stopped to hire more buses to go to an upcoming demonstration in Mexico City.
The official theory fostered by the government maintains that corrupt members of the police force kidnapped the 43 students so as to leave them in the hands of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel.
This version has been defined as an “historic truth” by the then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, who resigned after strong criticism of how investigations were carried out. However, as explained in the report “Treated with indolence” by Amnesty International in 2016, there seems to be little evidence supporting the “official version” of the massacre.
This case of forced disappearance got great attention at a national and international level because of the evident implication of state bodies in the crimes committed.
The 43 who disappeared were political opponents of the Mexican government as they were being trained to become rural teachers for marginalised indigenous communities.
State institutions have increasingly eroded Normal Schools in Mexico by undermining their power of decision-making and by constraining their budget.
The 43 trainee-teachers were members of the Federación de Estudiantes Campesinos Socialistas de México (FECSM), andwere engaging with protests to get more rights for an alternative education, aimed to protect marginalised indigenous communities.
The media occupy a crucial position in regard to the government. Within this scenario, the government expressed indignation about the events, declaring solidarity with the families and promising to investigate the case and ensure that justice was done.
While President Peña Nieto blames the presence of criminal groups operating in the country for the crime, the report from GIEI (Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos independientes) highlights that the investigations carried out by the Office of the General Prosecutor presented serious flaws.
The case of Ayotzinapa also caused a major reaction from social movements, as more than 130 groups emerged in response to the forced disappearance of the students under the motto “Ayotzinapa Nunca Más!” (Ayotzinapa-Never-Again).
The movements demanded the reappearance of the students alive, as well as making a direct critique of the government, and the way that the liberal economic model was becoming more established in Mexico. This, and the rise of violence related to the War on Drugs.
These social movements clear the political identity of the students, evidencing their struggle to overcome the discrimination against Normal Schools, and the need to defend indigenous rights.
The action by social movements takes a more critical standpoint than the information offered by the major newspapers, who usually define the students as victims, providing little information about their political activism.
Moreover, the movements pointed out the responsibility of the police force in disappearing the students, thus breaking the War on Drugs narrative.
Additionally, such social movements drew a connection between Ayotzinapa and the genocide that took place on the 2 October 1968, because the students were going to a protest to commemorate that day of state violence.
Once again, social movements instead of mass media have demonstrated that the violations taking place in Mexico are cases of political repression, rather than instances of narco-violence. This goes against the version offered by the government, which is minimising the abuses committed by the navy, the military and the police force.