By RICARDO CASTILLO
There’s fear in the air in Mexico with the advent of the 51st anniversary march of what is known as the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, in which the Mexican Army gunned down over 200 communist students protesting at the time in the streets of Mexico City.
The fear is not of the commemorating march itself, which will definitely be a peaceful memorial, but of a group of masked vandals called Anarcos, short for anarchists. According to the National Intelligence Center (Cisen), there are 17 Anarco groups clearly identified in the nation.
The groups attacked just last week during two demonstrations, one on Thursday, Sept. 26, during a peaceful march held by the parents of the Ayotzinapa 43 missing students – disappeared in 2013 – and the second one on Saturday, Sept. 28, during a protest by mostly women to demand nationwide abortion legalization.
In the parents’ demonstration, the masked Anarcos rampaged outside of the National Palace, tagging it with lots of graffiti. They tossed Molotov cocktails and definitely dominated the news, outshining the just cause of the parents of the 43 missing students.
On Saturday, during the pro-abortion demonstration, things went further. The Anarcos were individuals with their heads covered to protect them from being identified. But the difference between this group and the previous one is that they were women – they have usually been men – and they even proved to be more imaginative. They did not carry rudimentary Molotov cocktails, but when they arrived at the main carved wood door of the Mexico City Chamber of Commerce, they pulled out what looked like water guns and shot the chamber’s door. Then in a flash, the door was on fire. The liquid inside the water guns was gasoline. Of course, that yielded marvelous footage for the Mexican alarmist press.
It must be made clear, and this is the bottom source of social fear today, that police did not intervene at all in either case. And mind you, there were a few thousand riot trained agents “standing guard” near the demonstrations.
In between these two acts of vandalism, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said on Friday, Sept. 27, that the perpetrators were “conservatives,” hinting they were backed by minority parties trying to make noise through vandalism, now that they are unable to have a political impact.
Nevertheless, the Anarcos are nothing new and definitely they represent an ideological group that’s been brewing through foreign influence, starting with the advent of the Spaniard anarchists who fled the Civil War back in 1939 – I personally made friends with one of them, Ricardo Mestre, who claimed that no government at all is better than the existing ones.
More recently, the influence has come from South America, Argentina specifically, which has sent many anarchists north Mexico way.
And, of course, let’s not discard either the highly popular anarchist writings of Noam Chomsky, which have had over the years a deep penetration among Mexican ideology intellectuals.
So for AMLO to claim they are “conservatives” does not hold water. What does hold water is the attitude AMLO has taken towards not just the Anarcos, but any type of dissidence, of letting them be for the sake of freedom of speech. Remember the destructive railroad blockade of the Michoacán coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) last January, who held the railroad tracks coming out of Lazaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo ports hostage for 24 consecutive days until their demands were met.
Nowadays, what worries people is AMLO’s reluctance to use force to stop these outright illegal acts only because they remind him of his days as a political rebel. Back in the seventies, he did pretty much this type of protest, in his case, taking over Pemex oil wells in his native state of Tabasco, and getting away with it.
But back to today. Mexico City’s Citizens’ Security Secretary Jesús Orta has claimed that the police are ready with thousands of riot trained police men and women, who are expecting for the Anarcos to show up during the Oct. 2 march and who will form a “Fence for Peace” along the path of the demonstration.
Orta told reporters on Monday, Sept. 30, that during last week’s rampages, “there were some persons that participated that have been identified” and guards will be vigilant of their behavior. Also, he said, “we are in touch with march organizers and we know that beforehand they condemn the Anarco participation and they demarcate themselves from them.”
But just in case – as the march will start at 4 p.m. at the Three Cultures Plaza in Tlatelolco and will move south on the main thoroughfare Lázaro Cárdenas (Eje Central) and then turn left on Madero Street to move on toward the Zócalo and the National Palace.
Years of witnessing this commemoration has taught merchants along the path that their best option – given the threat of the Anarcos, not the peaceful marchers – is to shut down for the day and go home, which helps to prevent vandalism and potential looting.
Yet the word from AMLO and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is that repression of vandals is out of the question, “because that’s exactly what they are looking for and it’s not going to happen.”
Of course, to regular onlookers not acting is just a show of weakness on the part of authorities since, in the end, the question remains as to who really are the Anarcos, and, as one pundit put it, “who’s rocking their cradle?”
Welcome to just another day in Mexico City.