By RICARDO CASTILLO
Mexico City’s streets were filled with demonstrations this past week calling for the “appearance, dead or alive” of 43 normal school students who went missing on the “night of Iguala,” Sept. 26-27, 2014, in the southern state of Guerrero.
Four years later, there is one similarity between now and then. In 2014, President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) was in New York living high on the political hog. He became the 10th Mexican president to speak before the United Nations. He was then touting the victory of his political reforms.
This past week, Peña Nieto became the 11th president of Mexico to speak before the United Nations. So the question is: Has anything changed between then and now? Yes, a lot!
The difference is that between the glory of the stardom heaven and the reality of a simmering hell on Earth because nowadays Peña Nieto is getting fried alive after suffering a humiliating political defeat at the polls last July 1 with a humongous rejection of his party by 84 percent of Mexican voters unhappy with his administration. If he ever wanted a majority, he’s got it now!
And it all started back on the night of the Iguala massacre, in which municipal police of the Iguala and Cocula units of the coastal state of Guerrero, in tandem with the heroin trafficking gang Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), gunned down in cold blood, according to the Federal Attorney General’s report back then, over 40 people. In the fracas, 43 students from the nearby Ayotzinapa township normal rural school just “disappeared” and 42 have not been found since. The burnt remains of one of them were detected in the Cocula garbage dump, where the rest of the students were allegedly incinerated.
The crime did not go unnoticed since in Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero, a local radio station received a call from one of the students and went live with them saying “we’re being gunned down” by police.
On Sept. 28, the state judicial police arrested 22 Iguala police department agents, formally charging them for their “alleged responsibility” in the attacks.
Two days later, then-Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre called on Iguala Mayor José Luis Abarca to come out and prove he was clean and had nothing to do with the massacre. Abarca immediately resigned and went on the lam, along with his wife, Angeles Pineda. Gov. Aguirre issued a one-million-peso reward ($74,000 greenbacks back in them days) for info leading to the Abarcas’ arrest, along with the chief of police, Felipe Flores.
The news went viral, and by Oct. 3. the same UN where Peña Nieto had been treated as the darling of all presidents issued a strong condemnation, deeming the shootings as the “most terrible events in recent times.” It was only then that that then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam – now in political oblivion – sent agents to investigate what really happened.
It was not until Oct. 6 that Peña Nieto finally reacted, calling the Iguala events “indignant, painful and unacceptable.”
The next day, the U.S. government said that the disappearance of the 43 students was “worrying” and demanded a “complete and transparent” investigation to bring the culprits to justice. This was a bit hypocritical, because by then, DEA agents, who were monitoring the events all night, had the full scoop on the massacre, but they kept those facts to themselves.
Finally, on Oct. 17, Attorney General Murillo Karam announced the arrest of the United Warriors gang leader Sidronio Casarrubias and charged him with the disappearance of the 43 students, since by then it was clear that the Iguala and Cocula police agents had only arrested the students and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos gangsters – who have since confessed they executed them. But still, the question everyone is asking is: Where are the remains? And that question remains unanswered.
Political turmoil ensued. Over the next few days, Gov. Aguirre resigned as he was being blamed for being part of the heroin trafficking gang and Murillo Karam announced that four more gangsters who allegedly participated in the disappearance of the students had been arrested. His announcement, however, was a morsel fed to hungry lions. The parents, rightly so, wanted their children back.
EPN met personally with the protesting parents on Oct. 29 and promised them that he would re-enforce the search, but the parents left the meeting unhappy and publicly claiming that Peña Nieto’s promises “are not enough.” All they were asking for was to see their sons alive.
On Nov. 4, former Iguala Mayor Abarca and his wife were found hiding in Mexico City. As it turned out, Pineda was one of the Guerreros Unidos leaders. The couple remains accused of masterminding the repression and disappearance of the students. Two facts arose out of the arrest: First, Pineda had a bone to pick with the students because that night they were on their way to heckle one of her meetings. Second, the students hijacked a bus – the kind that carry people to the U.S. border – that was loaded with heroin. The Guerreros Unidos gang is said to have reacted as if the students were members of a competing drug cartel.
The story, now four years old, goes on and on, but still, the public fury it ignited remains very much alive. The parents will not give up on their quest until the Peña Nieto administration comes up either with the students or with a statement that specifies how the students were killed. That has not happened. As of now, the 43 students are still listed as missing. And that is how, it seems, they will remain forever.
About a year after these events and as a result of the insistence of the parents on protesting, which, in the process, has tainted with an indelible ink stain the EPN administration, Peña Nieto came out one day and pleaded almost in tears with the parents to “lay-off” their protests.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the EPN administration remains accused – guilty or not – of a “state crime.”
That, in anyone’s book, is a heavy accusation, particularly for EPN, who still wants to go down in Mexican history as a good president. Perhaps he was, but his nemesis finally got him!