Ayotzinapa on the world map of dignity
“The few are few until they meet
and find themselves in others.
Then something miraculous happens.
Those who thought themselves alone and few
discover that we are the majority in every sense.
In truth, it is those from above who are few.”
The parents of the young men from Ayotzinapa
received this solidarity message and
many other greetings from the Zapatistas.
After the big demonstrations in Mexico and around the world at the end of January demanding the return of the students from Ayotzinapa, the Mexican government tried to close the case, giving way to repression of a movement that hasn’t stopped speaking out for even one day since the tragedy occurred. The government insists that the young men are already dead and made into ashes because it wants to leave behind what, according to a great number of newscasters, has been its Waterloo. It doesn’t want the 2015 elections to be blocked by an indefatigable movement. The Zapatistas intervened in a very clear way to undermine the official version, which has attempted to clear the Army of its role in this and other disappearances and thereby get around the evidence that this was a government crime.
“We thank you”The Zapatistas have had very intense and ongoing contact with the Ayotzinapa movement. In mid-November one of the caravans of parents met with them. At that meeting Comandante Tacho told them that the Zapatistas wanted to listen to their pain, anger and anguish. Afterward Sub-comandante Moisés issued a message thanking the parents for having come to the Zapatistas to talk with them directly and for “their duty to not abandon the compañeros disappeared by bad governments, to not sell them out or forget them.”
Here are some of his words: “It is for that duty that you began your struggle, even when they were not paying the least attention to you and the young men who are now disappeared were called hairless newbies, unruly radicals, agitators, future criminals who got what they deserved. That’s what they were called by many who now are joining you with self-righteous anger either to be fashionable or for convenience…. Because of this duty you began to talk, to shout, to explain, to tell your story, to use your words courageously and with dignified anger…. Through this pain, converted into noble and dignified anger, you have made many in Mexico and the world wake up and begin to ask questions…. For this we thank you.
“We want to thank you for what you have taught us and continue to teach us. It is both wonderful and terrible that from poor and humble families, students aspiring to be teachers have become the best teachers this country has seen in recent years.”
“The State of Mexico is a death machine” “We hear, see and read that out in society there is disagreement between the right-wing and the left-wing and that when we get rid of one there is the other. And we forget that the whole political system is rotten. It’s not only that there’s a relationship between the political system and organized crime, drug trafficking, harassment, assaults, rapes, blows, prisons, disappearances and murders but that this is an essential aspect of the political system.
“You can’t talk about the political class and differentiate it from the nightmares that millions suffer in this country. Corruption, impunity, authoritarianism and organized and disorganized crime are already in
the emblems, statutes, declarations of principles and practice of the whole Mexican political class. We don’t care about the agreements or disagreements that those at the top have in order to decide who’s in charge of the destruction and death machine the Mexican State now has become. We care about you.
“The demands are simple and clear: everyone has to come back alive, not just those from Ayotzinapa. There is blame for the guilty in the entire political spectrum at all levels and we must do what’s necessary so that never again is the horror repeated against anyone in this world, whether they are little known or are someone with prestige.
“We hear you tell us in your own words that no one thinks about the poor below. No one—absolutely no one—thinks about us. They only come to see what they can take, grow, gain, charge, do, undo, say and silence.”
“Don’t stop your words” “You’re not alone, brothers and sisters. Look for your voice also in the family members of the children killed in the ABC nursery in Sonora; in the organizations of the disappeared in Coahila; in the relatives of the innocent victims of the war against drugs, a lost cause from the beginning; in the families of the thousands of migrants eliminated throughout Mexican territory. Look among the daily victims in every corner of our country, who know that legal authority is the one that attacks, extorts, kidnaps,annihilates, robs, rapes, imprisons and murders—sometimes disguised as organized crime and sometimes as a legally constituted government. Look for the original peoples who, since the time before time, treasured the knowledge of resistance; there is no one who knows more about pain and anger.
“Millions have seen themselves reflected in your words. Many say this, although the majority stays quiet but makes your protest theirs and repeats your words within themselves…. We don’t want to be more noise. We only want to tell you not to stop your words. Don’t stop your voices, don’t get faint; let your voices grow so they rise above the noise and the lies.”
“You might end up alone” “Brothers and sisters, we think you probably already know you might end up alone and are prepared. It might be that those who now gather around you to use you for their own benefit will abandon you and run to the other side seeking other movements…. Realize about 100 are now accompanying you in your demands. Of these, 50 might change because of some incident that comes up during the year. Of those 50 who remain, 30 will buy into the oblivion that is offered in installment payments and will say that you no longer exist, that you did nothing, that you were a farce to distract from other things, that you were a government invention to keep some party or political person from advancing in their career. Of the 20 that remain, 19 will run away terrified at the first broken window because the victims of Ayotzinapa, Sonora, Coahila and anywhere else are in the media only a moment and they can choose to not see, hear or read by turning the page, changing the channel or station, but a broken window, on the other hand, forecasts something foreboding in the future. And then from the 100 you will see that only one remains … but this one has discovered him/herself in your words; has opened his/her heart, as we say, and thus the pain and the anger of his/her indignation….
“Because the fact is that the few are few until they find each other and discover themselves in others. Then something miraculous happens. Those who thought themselves alone and few discover we are the majority in every sense. In truth, it is those from above who are few. Then we will have to turn the world upside down because it’s not right that the few rule the many or that there are dominators and dominated.”
“An organized rebellion” “We as Zapatistas think that the really important changes—those that go deep and change history—are those that begin with the few and not the many. We know that you know that even when Ayotzinapa goes out of style, when the tactics and strategies and big plans fail, when the event has passed and other interests and forces are in fashion, when those who jumped on the bandwagon with you—like animals of prey who feed on the pain of others—have gone, even when all this happens, we both know there is pain, anger and commitment like ours in every corner. We know that when different pains meet they don’t germinate in resignation, shame and abandonment but in organized rebellion.
“With our small efforts and with all our heart we have done and will do whatever possible to support you in your just cause. We haven’t said much because we have seen that there’s a lot of interest by the front-running politicians to conveniently use you for their own purposes. We will not join the rapacious stampede of shameless opportunists for whom nothing is important unless it’s something they need and it feeds their ambition. Our silence is a sign of respect because your struggle is so enormous.
“The events that change the world are not born from the regular calendars but rather are created through stubborn daily work by those who choose to organize instead of joining what’s fashionable. True, there will be a deep change, a real transformation in this and other countries of the world in pain. Not just one but many revolutions will have to shake the whole planet. The change, however, will not be one of names or labels where the ones above will continue at the cost of those below.”
“it will not be easy or quick” “Real transformation will not be a change in government but rather in relationship. One in which the people rule and the government obeys, the government is not a business, women are not humiliated, the indigenous are not looked down on, the young are not disappeared, differences are not demonized, childhood doesn’t become a commodity and the elderly are not discarded. A transformation to a world in which terror and death do not reign, there are no kings and subjects, nor bosses and slaves, nor exploiters and exploited nor saviors and saved, strong men and followers, those who order and those who follow orders, pastors and their flocks. We really do know that it will not be easy or quick, nor will it only be a change in names and signs in the system’s criminal offices. But we also know it will happen. And we know that you and others will find your disappeared loved ones, that there will
be justice and that for all those who have suffered and are suffering this sorrow will be relieved through answers to the questions of why, what, who and how, and with these answers you will not only build a case against those responsible but also make sure that never again will being a young person or student or woman or child or migrant or indigenous person or whatever else be the reason to be identified as the executioner’s next victim. Thank you because by knowing you we understand we are looking into the future.”
On the world map of dignityIn mid-December the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) released an important communiqué in which the Zapatistas said they were seeing that the words of the relatives and companions of those killed and disappeared in Ayotzinapa were starting to lag and there was now a discussion about whether the marches and demonstrations belonged to the “well behaved” and about how to “transcend” the movement.
For the Zaptistas, what put Ayotzinapa on the world map was the dignity of the relatives and of the murdered and disappeared young men, their tenacity and uncompromising insistence on seeking justice and the truth. In their voices many around the planet recognized themselves and they had spoken the hurts and anger of others.
Invited to the first festival against capitalism The Zapatistas once again spotlighted for the discussion that capitalism feeds on war and destruction; that in the new hierarchy speculative capital is rife with corruption, impunity and crime. Knowing it was important for the voices of the relatives and friends of the young men from Ayotzinapa to be heard again, they decided to give them their place in the First Worldwide Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism. They asked the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) to dedicate and apply its efforts to this cause. It had been planned that the Zapatista delegation to this gathering would be formed by ten Zapatista men and ten Zapatista women. They asked the relatives and companions of the disappeared from Ayotzinapa to accept the invitation and appoint a similar delegation to participate as guests of honor at the festival.
Days of “sharing” On December 21 the EZLN inaugurated the Festival in the state of Mexico, which was attended by organizations from 32 of the states in Mexico and 26 countries. At that opening, they placed 43 empty chairs with photos of the teaching students. The event included the participation of more than 80 organizations that adhere to The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle and members of the Indigenous National Congress, who warned that the government would not be able to quiet their voices even if they disappeared their children and their identities.
The “sharing” of common experiences was held in the Ñahtó community of San Francisco Xochicuautla in the state of Mexico on December 21 and in the Nahua community of Amilcingo in the state of Morelos on December 22 and 23. On December 24-26 the sharing took place in the space of the Francisco Villa Independiente Popular Front in Mexico City; December 28 and 29 in the Monclova community in Campeche; December 31 and January 1 in the Zapatista Caracol of Oventic in Chiapas; and finally January 2 and 3 in CIDECI in San Cristobal de las Casas.
When the parents of the Ayotzinapa students arrived at the festival’s final celebration in the Caracol of Oventic they were received with great affection by the Zapatistas. The parents shared with the Zapatistas the torment they had suffered since the end of September and recalled how the government only made fun of them. They were determined to find their sons even if they lost their own lives doing it.
On January 1, 2015, with the voice of Subcomandante Moisés, the EZLN spoke first to the relatives of the murdered and disappeared students when remembering the 21st anniversary of the beginning of
the war against forgetting. The Zapatistas thanked the parents for honoring them by being present.
The State is The Zapatistas asked the indigenous peoples of the CNI to embrace the relatives from Ayotzinapa and welcome them to their territories. They told the national and international adherents of The Sixth that in the last days of 2014 history had placed before them something that unified them: Ayotizinapa. They would have to organize and fight for the disappeared compañeros and for those taken prisoner. The Zapatistas asked that the delegates help, accompany, fight for, organize, work for and mobilize together with the relatives of the young men since they had been left alone and the “narco-government” was hoping the elections would make people forget about them.
“the common enemy”
The relatives of the Ayotzinapa student teachers asked the 1,300 indigenous delegates for their help in continuing the struggle to find their sons. The CNI agreed to make a public statement calling the State a “common enemy.” CNI’s indigenous members reaffirmed their decision to continue to build autonomy in their communities. And the teaching students proposed making their rural school autonomous entities.
An intense experience The festival the Zapatistas convened turned into two weeks of intense experiences sharing problems, solutions, difficulties and a rich cultural interchange. In all, beside the CNI delegates, people from 42 other countries participated all or part of the time, including delegations from 35 different indigenous peoples. Everyone shared their struggles, pain and anger. CNI reactivated its national indigenous network.
The festival had been planned before the tragedy in Ayotzinapa but this event and movement, which were of national and world importance, was fully represented and became central to the gathering. The Zapatistas once again showed their ability to handle large gatherings. They issued a proclamation: “May death that capitalism imposes die and may life that resistance creates live.”
Inconsistencies in the In February a Zapatista radio station pointed out the inconsistencies in the official government version of the Ayotzinapa case. Here are its questions.
official version of Ayotzinapa
In 2013 the Attorney General’s Office received two charges from the Solidarity Decade Network against Impunity accusing the municipal president pro tem of Iguala [where the Ayotzinapa school is located] of the murder of three people. Why did the Attorney General’s Office not investigate this?
If the Attorney General’s Office knew about the testimonies connecting the municipal president’s wife with Los Guerreros Unidos Cartel, and if she was preparing to succeed her husband as Iguala municipal president—which would mean she would directly head the police—why did it not investigate?
What investigation has the Attorney General’s Office done into the link between former governor Angel Aguirre Rivero and the murders of the teaching students and his close relationship with the wife of Iguala’s then municipal president?
If the Attorney General’s Office has vehemently repeated that “it cannot act based on the words of a third party,” why is the word of a criminal suddenly so valuable?
And the role of the Army? If there are testimonies about the immediate response by elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion to “anonymous” phone calls from two hospitals in Iguala where there were students wounded by police bullets, why is the Attorney General’s Office maintaining that soldiers can only move on orders from a superior?
What are the names of the doctors who would not treat the wounded youth and who, according to this version, knew an emergency Army telephone number they could use to make “anonymous” phone calls? Where are the photographs the military officers took of the students and of a teacher in one of the hospitals and where are the cell phones they stole from the students?
If military personnel deployed in two brigades of seven soldiers each witnessed the work of the forensic experts and patrolled the streets until 3 am on Sept 27, 2014, why does the Attorney General’s Office claim the military did not intervene in any way?
What is the Attorney General’s Office referring to when it points out that it’s good the Army did not intervene because it would have been worse? Wasn’t what happened the worst? What kind of unimaginable atrocities could the Mexican Army commit that the Attorney General’s Office knows about and ordinary citizens do not?
More questions The questioning asked who murdered each one of the students known to have been killed. It asks about who kidnapped the student whose face and eyes were ripped off and who wounded the student who was in a coma. It refers to the other wounded students and their health status at the current time.
It wants to know the ballistics reports on the 228 police weapons (131 handguns and 97 rifles) used against unarmed citizens. How many cartridges were used against Iguala’s students and inhabitants on September 26, 2014, the day of the tragedy?
Another question refers to what the Attorney General’s Office did to prevent Los Guerreros Unidos from accumulating 55,000 usable cartridges? It asks for the name and current whereabouts of Iguala’s public prosecutor, who received 15 arrested youth the night of September 26 and let the Cocula police take them. It questions those who work in the Iguala police department who were ordered to print stickers with false license plate numbers 500, 501 and 502,which were given to the police doing the kidnappings so they could cover the real plates of their patrol cars.
It refers to the video in which the Attorney General’s Office establishes its “true story.” What stands out is that in minute 7 the hit men maintain that while traveling in a small Nissan truck, they run into a large 3.5- ton Ford truck carrying all the students. In minute 16 another hit man states that he was carrying three students in his Nissan truck and also threw them into the Ford truck. Why, then, in minute 8 do these same hit men state that they dropped all the students off at the Cocula dump in their small Nissan truck when not all the students were in the Nissan truck? At what point did a 3.5 ton truck vanish?
The role of “El Cepillo” Why does the narrator of the video state that 15 students arrived lifeless at Cocula while the ministerial declaration by “El Cepillo” states the contrary, that “only from 15 to 18 students” arrived alive?
Why, in “reconstructing the events,” does the interrogator of the Attorney General’s Office offer data to the hit man to direct him in his response about the defamatory accusation against one of the students? If “El Cepillo” is responsible for the massacre, why did he enter the SEIDO facilities on January 16, 2015, with a bottle of water in his hands and badly faking that he was hand-cuffed? And if “El Cepillo” planned the whole thing, who is “El Fercho,” who “El Cepillo” says told him to tell the hit men to throw the remains of the students into the Río San Juan? Why did the Attorney General’s Office female interrogator not think it necessary to ask who “El Fercho” is when in this logic he would be higher up the chain of command?
And the genetic evidence? If the Genetics Laboratory at the University of Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, only identified the nuclear DNA of one of the students, Alexander Mora, and there are no results from the mitochondrial DNA and no massive parallel sequencing studies, why does the Attorney General’s Office insist that it has scientific evidence of what happened to the other 42 young men? Why does it deal with an unsubstantiated hypothesis as if it were a fact?
The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team declared that it was not present at the time the divers and Attorney General’s Office experts recovered the plastic bag with the remains of Alexander in the Río San Juan and could not claim with certainty that it came from Cocula. Why, therefore, does the Attorney General’s Office lie by assuring that its experts worked at all times with the Argentine Forensic Team?
And the other graves If the investigation is not completed, as is evident and as the Attorney General’s Office confirms under pressure, why has the President opened a micro website on the Internet with the title “Final Report on the Ayotzinapa Case”? Why would it do this several days before the intervention by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights? Why does the name of the still-at-large ex-secretary of public security in Iguala, who is also the cousin of President Abarca, disappear from the Attorney General’s Office “final report,” when he was a “key piece”? Who prepared, wrote and subtitled this “final report” and why have these people not been fired?
filled with cadavers?
How many secret gravesites with human remains have turned up in the wake of the events in Iguala and how many people were buried there? Who are these people, who murdered and buried them, when and why? How many of these “historical truths” about forced disappearances of Central American nationals and migrants is the Attorney General’s Office really investigating?
How long can we bear this?” The Zapatistas ask how long we have to bear the Attorney General’s body language in a television interview, lounging comfortably in a chair, his left arm on the back of the chair and his right resting on the table, his fingers tapping to indicate his feeling of annoyance, his tie lying on a more-than-satisfied stomach, his legs calmly crossed—the posture of someone discussing something of no importance when he is in fact presenting a version of the facts that describes the possible destruction by fire in an open-air garbage dump of dozens of young students at the hands of the police in collusion with drug-trafficking groups, directed by the city authorities in a context that could involve the federal Army?
Why will the National Human Rights Commission never send a recommendation to the Attorney General’s Office for the psychological torture the students’ relatives and friends have been subjected to for more than four months?
All these questions raised by the Zapatistas against the official version make clear the contradictions in it.
This is a time bombAyotzinapa has shown how widespread the discontent is in the whole country and among all sectors. In an interview with La Jornada de Oriente, Fernando Fernández Font, the Jesuit priest and rector of the Ibero-American University in Puebla, spoke in these terms: “I hold a very concerned outlook with many reservations about what is happening in this the country. It seems to me that we are now building a time bomb that could explode at any moment. Unfortunately, those who will capitalize on this bomb will be the far-right groups—that is my great fear. It might be the Army, the most reactionary forces, the big business magnates who are able to make alliances beyond any specific party in order to maintain a peace that suits them. Not the peace of the people, not a peace with justice or dignity but order for order’s sake. This is what worries me.
“The institutions are broken. Nowadays who can believe in a political party, the congressional representatives or senators? Who can believe in the exercise of authority? Where is the rule of law? A great polarization is occurring, with large accumulations of capital in the hands of a few and the great majority of people with increasingly less. And the drug-traffickers capitalize on all this. They are an ever greater force and the government seems to need to lie and conceal the great problems saying ‘nothing’s happening here.’ There is a loss of credibility in people who are in the forefront of the government and when people stop believing in the authorities any possibility of harmonious development is lost. Yes, I am worried—very worried—by the situation.”
“I don’t see a way out” Here are other quotes from the interview with Rector Fernando Fernandez Font. “Unfortunately I don’t see any way out. Unfortunately I see that the avenues are closed in many directions. Ideally I could easily propose something but would it be realistic? I say that one of the pending agendas of this society is a fair distribution of wealth. Mexico is a rich country, with a lot of money, many possibilities, many conditions and resources but ultimately this is accumulated in few hands. It seems to me that the main work at this time is this: while there is no equitable distribution of wealth there is going to be no way out.”
“A social economy with solidarity” “Next is the challenge of employment. A while ago we were discussing how all this very impressive technological development—which poses that even cars can be automated—shows us that with automation of all processes the companies are going to need less and less people. What does this mean?
“It means there is going to be less need for manual labor and more need for people with education. When people say education is the solution for Mexico I agree but only if it is accompanied by sources of work. Brain drain has been going on for years. What good is it for people to graduate with undergraduate or graduate university degrees if they end up working as taxi drivers? I have run into taxi drivers who graduated from prestigious universities. I think education should be a major response to our problem but it has to be in combination with the rule of law and with economic possibilities.
“In the universities we are increasingly taking a stance in the arena of social economy and solidarity, which has a lot to do with entrepreneurship. But it goes beyond that, because entrepreneurship doesn’t go past a group of friends who want to solve the problem but within the neoliberal model of capitalist production. Social economy and solidarity goes beyond that: it’s how we as a country can be solidary with small producers so they can live throughout the whole region with what is most basic—dignity.
“It doesn’t seem realistic to me that people with privilege will give up their privileges. It doesn’t seem realistic that the country will be able to generate new job posts, restructure the State and all the institutions in the short run. But if we push for a fairer minimum wage and organizational processes that are linked with the social economy it seems to me we can move forward.”
How can we make sure there “Basically the problem is one of economics and survival but there is an urgent national demand for security and justice. How can we make sure there are never any more Ayotzinapas or Coculas or Chalchihuapans?
are never any more Ayotzinapas?
“All these are related as part of one structural reality. The security problem is not isolated from the economic, educational, family or social problem. While families continue to fall apart due to problems of divorce and both women and men having to go to work just to make ends meet, these abandoned children are the ones who become the large army of ‘ni-nis’ (neither/nors), neither working nor studying. Interviewed by Carmen Aristegui, the great Uruguayan researcher Eduardo Buscaglia said ‘As long as the drug lord remains the country’s main employer we are not going to be able to fight drugs. And if we don’t fight drugs, there will be no security. If there is no security the groups that have the power are going to become more radical to defend themselves or to put the state institutions at their own service. In this situation we can only aspire to apparent security and peace processes but this is not going to solve the problem.’”
Former Autonomous National University of Mexico rector Pablo González Casanova, in a presentation he made at the last Zapatista “sharing,” states that even under the most difficult conditions one cannot abandon the study and analysis of reality since practice and theory aren’t separated and there’s not one path but many, even though the end is the same: liberty.
Both the Zapatistas and the Ayotzinapa movement are intensifying their building of liberty from below.
Jorge Alonso is a CIESAS West researcher and the envío correspondent in Mexico.