Standing with Ayotzinapa north of the border

January 13, 2015

Protests are taking place across the country to support the movement for the missing students in Mexico--and to pressure the U.S. government, writes Denise Romero.

ON JANUARY 6, protesters stood outside the White House in freezing temperatures and falling snow, as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto met with Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

The demonstrators were demanding that Obama and Peña Nieto address the case of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, as well as the general increase in violence witnessed in Mexico as a result of the ongoing U.S. "War on Drugs."

The Ayotzinapa students were from Raul Isidro Burgos rural teacher's school in the state of Guerrero. The disappearance of the "normalistas" is widely known to be the result of their abduction by members of a local drug cartel and the police, under the jurisdiction of the mayor of the nearby town of Iguala and his wife.

The Mexican newspaper La Jornada reports that investigators now point to the possibility that the students were ultimately taken and cremated in a high security military facility and private crematories--not in a garbage dump site as claimed by Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam in an infamous November press conference that ended abruptly when he declared, "Ya me canse" ("I am tired.")

Protesters endure the winter weather outside the White House during Enrique Peña Nieto's visit
Protesters endure the winter weather outside the White House during Enrique Peña Nieto's visit (Nansi Swankeeper)

Karam's indifference to the suffering of the 43 families caused indignation as deepening mistrust and anger towards the state boiled over. Massive demonstrations broke out around the slogan Ya Me Canse, with people expressing frustration with the incompetence of the state in investigating and prosecuting corrupt politicians and narcos.

In the search for the 43 students, fozas (mass graves) of civilians have been found in Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and many other states where information points to police involvement. Many protesters and organizations have rejected the state's version of accounts and instead are demanding the return of the students and the resignation of Peña Nieto of the ruling Partido Institucional de Revolucion (PRI).


FOLLOWING ALL of these events, protests and rallies have been organized in the U.S., mainly by Mexican and Latin American immigrant communities in New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere, in front of Mexican consulates, in universities and in neighborhoods.

These actions have been mostly coordinated by the #USTired2 campaign (as in "the U.S. is tired, too"), a nationwide effort involving students, local Mexican and Latino communities, immigrant rights activists, religious organizations and scholars, alongside groups like School of the Americas Watch, Frente Ayotzinapa USA, Yo Soy 132 NY, Somos los Otros and others.

Organizers say that the violence stems from deep corruption in Mexico and collaboration between the local narcos (drug cartels) and the police and military forces, which the U.S largely funds with taxpayer money.

This violence is one of the root causes for migration to U.S., as we have seen from the unprecedented number of children and families fleeing violence in Central America.

Roberto Lovato, a writer and co-founder of Presente.org, says that advocates are "contemplating what is happening in the U.S. and Mexico in regards to militarization of police forces, police brutality and immunity. Folks are focusing on Peña Nieto and the [Mexican] consulates, which we need to. At the same time, we are in the U.S.--the primary banker, trade partner and funder of the death apparatus that Pena Nieto is running in Mexico with our taxpayer money. We need to focus on the role of the U.S. in this [violence], which has been in the dark and hidden for so long."

The U.S. is one of the main architects and funders of the "war on drugs"--in Mexico, as well as Colombia, El Salvador and other Latin American countries.

Under the Merida Initiative--now dubbed by political pundits, critics and advocates as Plan Mexico for its resemblance to other foreign security aid packets such as Plan Colombia--the U.S. government has spent close to $3 billion of taxpayers money since 2007 in aid, training, and military resources for the Mexican military and security forces.

While this aid is supposedly devoted to fighting drug cartels and criminal gangs like Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, Business Insider has reported that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has collaborated with Sinaloa for years, allowing the cartel to smuggle billions of dollars worth of drugs into the U.S.--including over 80 percent of drugs in the Chicago area--in exchange for collaborating with the agency against rival gangs.

By partnering up with drug cartels, U.S. officials are following the lead of their Mexican counterparts. Narcos have infiltrated the Mexican government at every level, from local police departments to high ranking national officials.

But instead of proceeding cautiously, the U.S. is plunging even more deeply into the drug war mess. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that U.S. agents regularly carry out operations inside Mexico disguised in the uniforms of the Mexican military.


AT THE protest outside the White House, there were family members of the missing students and other victims of the drug war--including Nansi Cisneros, who came from California to stand for her brother, who was abducted by men in unidentifiable security gear shortly after he was deported to Mexico from the U.S.

"The protests across the street in Lafayette Park were so boisterous," according to the Associated Press, that "they could be heard by people in the Oval Office during the presidents' meeting." The Oval Office is on the other side of the White House from the protesters in Lafayette Park."

However, Obama only mentioned the case of the students as a "tragic event" and reaffirmed collaboration with Pena Nieto to "eliminate the scourge of violence and the drug cartels."

In addition to the rally, protesters and family members lobbied their local representatives, urging them to hold public hearings to review whether funding for Plan Mexico violates the "Leahy Amendment," a human rights law written by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy that bars funding to the armed forces of other countries that the "Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights."

The ongoing violence is not only a root cause of the ongoing migration to the U.S. It also severely affects immigrants on their journey north as well as immigrants who are being deported back to their home country. These migrants are at higher risk of kidnapping and murder.

Since the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students, there have been solidarity actions organized across the U.S. In New York City, Chicago and California, these protests have linked up with actions demanding justice for Eric Garner, Mike Brown and other victims of police violence.

These issues are linked by the disastrous effects of the war on drugs, which in the U.S. has been the justification for racist housing and policing practices and mass incarceration of working class people, especially people of color and immigrants.

Ayotzinapa solidarity protesters have also been inspired by the Black Lives Matters protests, and have been influenced by its calls for solidarity with others fighting police and government repression, including trans people and others in the LGBT community.

Like these other fights, the mobilizations demanding justice for the students have struck a chord around larger issues of police brutality, militarization, and state incompetence and impunity.

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