Stu­dents’ dis­ap­pear­ance marked

SundayXtra - - WORLD - By Mark Steven­son

MEXICO CITY — Thou­sands of peo­ple marked the one-year an­niver­sary of the dis­ap­pear­ance of 43 stu­dents by march­ing down Mexico City’s premier av­enue in an at­mos­phere of de­fi­ant hope Satur­day.

Ac­tivists said the move­ment might bring jus­tice for Mexico’s dis­ap­peared, though only two of the stu­dents’ re­mains have been iden­ti­fied by DNA anal­y­sis of charred bone frag­ments.

While the march was smaller than past demon­stra­tions, the case has helped pub­li­cize the thou­sands who have gone miss­ing since Mexico’s drug war started in 2006.

Peace and anti-crime ac­tivist Maria Guadalupe Vi­cen­cio wore a skirt made of a Mex­i­can flag splat­tered with fake blood. The names of three dis­ap­peared ac­tivists from her vi­o­lence-plagued home state of Ta­mauli­pas were writ­ten across her shirt.

Vi­cen­cio said the stu­dents’ move­ment “sets an ex­am­ple for all Mex­i­cans to wake up, and not be silent.”

In a meet­ing with the par­ents of the 43 miss­ing stu­dents ear­lier this week, Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto promised to cre­ate a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors’ of­fice to in­ves­ti­gate all of Mexico’s dis­ap­pear­ances.

More than 25,000 peo­ple dis­ap­peared in Mexico be­tween 2007 and July 31, 2015, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment. Uniden­ti­fied bod­ies of­ten turn up in clan­des­tine graves of the kind used by drug gangs to dis­pose of vic­tims. But most peo­ple dis­ap­pear with­out a trace.

The 43 stu­dents from a rad­i­cal teach­ers col­lege dis­ap­peared on Sept. 26, 2014, af­ter a clash with po­lice in Iguala, a city in the south­ern state of Guer­rero. Six other peo­ple were killed at the hands of the po­lice dur­ing the dis­tur­bances.

Ac­cord­ing to Mexico’s for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, lo­cal po­lice il­le­gally de­tained the stu­dents and then turned them over to the lo­cal drug gang Guer­reros Unidos, which then al­legedly killed them and in­cin­er­ated their re­mains.

A group of in­de­pen­dent ex­perts as­sem­bled by the In­ter-Amer­i­can Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights took apart that ver­sion ear­lier this month, say­ing the fu­neral pyre sim­ply couldn’t have hap­pened at the small area of a garbage dump where pros­e­cu­tors say it did.

“For me, the par­ents of the stu­dents have taught us a les­son, about keep­ing hope for change alive,” said Car­los Martel, a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive who at­tended Satur­day’s march with his wife.

The par­ents of the miss­ing stu­dents — many of them barely lit­er­ate farm­ers — marched silently at the head of the demon­stra­tion. They have re­fused to ac­cept the gov­ern­ment’s ver­sion that their sons are dead and have called for a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der in­ter­na­tional su­per­vi­sion. They sto­ically de­cline to con­cede the chance their sons will be found grows ever more re­mote. And they refuse to give up. “If they are bet­ting on us get­ting tired, they’re wrong,” said Mario Ce­sar Gon­za­lez, the fa­ther of a miss­ing stu­dent.

While the gov­ern­ment has agreed to re-eval­u­ate the fu­neral-pyre the­ory, the par­ents’ move­ment is at a cross­roads. Stu­dents and rel­a­tives of the miss­ing young men blocked traf­fic on the main high­way from Mexico City to the Pa­cific coast re­sort of Aca­pulco on Satur­day, but author­i­ties are in­creas­ingly less will­ing to tol­er­ate such dis­rup­tions.

Many other Mex­i­can so­cial move­ments based on out­rage, like the 2011 crime vic­tims’ car­a­vans, have later lost steam.

“You have to protest,” said univer­sity pro­fes­sor Fran­cisco de la Isla, who at­tended the demon­stra­tion with his two young sons.

“But it’s not enough just to hold marches. You can hold two or three marches, but with five, peo­ple get tired.”

ED­UARDO VERDUGO / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A woman wear­ing a Lady Jus­tice cos­tume at a march mark­ing the dis­ap­pear­ances.

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