Mexicans protest 'epidemic' of forced disappearances

Demonstrators across the country call on authorities to bring justice for the 15,000 missing young people in Mexico.

    Demonstrators called on Mexican authorities to hold those responsible for the disappearances to account [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]
    Demonstrators called on Mexican authorities to hold those responsible for the disappearances to account [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

    Demonstrators in Mexico City and Guadalajara took to the streets in a march against widespread disappearances in Mexico, which groups say have reached epidemic proportions.

    Carrying signs with slogans like "Where is the justice?", thousands marched in Guadalajara in Mexico's Jalisco state on Thursday, calling attention to the murder of three university students, who has been missing since March 19, by a cartel named the "Jalisco New Generation" (CJNG).

    The Mexican attorney general's office announced on Monday that the three students, identified as Jesus Daniel Diaz, Javier Salomon Aceves and Marco Francisco Avalos, were killed by the cartel, which then dissolved their remains in acid.

    Mexican Attorney General Raul Sanchez Jimenez said the three students were killed for filming at a house tied to one of the leaders of the CJNG. But Salomon's aunt said it was her home and she had given the students permission to film.

    Online, many used #NoSomosTresSomosTodxs ("We aren't three, we're everyone"), to call attention to the increasing number of disappearances throughout the country, especially those of Mexican youth.

    According to statistics from Mexico's Secretariat of the Interior, the whereabouts of 15,516 people aged between 13 and 29 years remain unknown. The number of those younger than 18 is more than 7,000.

    The widespread disappearances and perceived lack of justice have made Mexican activists question authorities' efforts to bring the people responsible - presumed to be members of Mexico's powerful drug cartels - to justice. 

    43 people, 43 months

    Demonstrators in Mexico City also marched to mark the 43 months that have passed since 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College were disappeared.

    In 2014, the 43 students commandeered a bus to attend a protest in Iguala - an annual event that commemorates the 1968 massacre of students and civilians in Mexico City by government forces.

    The students' bus was reportedly intercepted by police.

    "According to federal authorities, members of the Guerrero Unidos drug gang allegedly slaughtered the students, who were delivered to them by the police, or according to other indications, state actors themselves disappeared the students," a report (PDF) by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a global network of pro-democracy and human rights organisations, said.

    While more than 80 suspects, including 44 police officers, were arrested in relation to the forced disappearances, there have been no convictions in the case. 

    Protests over the Ayotzinapa disappearancs have been ongoing since 2014. On April 23, students threw stones at the office of the Mexican attorney general's office, demanding justice.

    Maureen Meyer, a senior associate from WOLA, an organisation that promotes human rights in the Americas, noted in a 2017 statement that over 32,000 people have disappeared in Mexico in the last decade.

    "If the Mexican government is dragging its feet in bringing justice to the Ayotzinapa students … it is heartbreaking to think of how many more of the disappeared will face a similar fate," she said.

    "No family should have to face another year of not knowing what happened to their loved one."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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