On September 26, 2014, at approximately 9:30 pm (CST), more than 100 students from Ayotzinapa Normal School traveled from their municipality to Iguala, Guerrero. They held a protest over what they consider to be discriminatory hiring and funding practices from the Mexican government.
Students in this school were trained to become teachers in the state’s poorest rural areas. They ranged in age from their late teens to early 20s and tended to come from poor, campesino families.
The students claimed that the government’s funding programs favored urban student-colleges above the rural ones and preferentially hired teachers from inner-city areas.
According to police reports, the students hijacked three buses and were subsequently chased by the police and a clash soon ensued. Opening fire, policemen and men in black masks (as declarations state) killed two students in one of the buses, while others fled to the surrounding hills.
The next day, the corpse of a student, whose eyes were gouged out and skin flayed to a bare skull, was found in the vicinity of the incident. Forty-three students were missing.
In the subsequent months, the case of the missing 43 has been the object of many conspiracy theories, cautionary tales on government corruption or savage demonstration of the narcos’ remorselessness.
Whether they were kidnapped or killed was a question enshrouded in mystery and as government officials waited for the incident to become old news, it only gathered more momentum.
Thousands of protesters raised their banners, all across the country. The plight of the kidnapped students’ families was becoming the plight of a whole nation.
The perspectives, opinions and beliefs of the populace regarding what really happened started as a ridiculous plea and soon turned into something that can’t be quite ignored.
The Mexican people are asking for their president’s resignation on the grounds of political corruption and the inability to react efficiently before the violence that afflicts Mexico. But, one has to stop and wonder: is this really the best solution?
I am inclined to say no. I don’t believe that asking for Enrique Peña Nieto’s resignation is the answer. My heart goes out to the families of the missing students, but we cannot push the country to a full halt because of it.
The war against crime in Mexico has been raging for decades and this is not the first mass kidnapping to occur. Sadly, chances are strong that it may not be the last. Where, then, are the flowers and banners for these nameless victims?
Organized crime that is rooted as deeply as it is in Mexico, along with a cultural and historical tendency toward political corruption, are not two evils easily vanquished.
To add even more to the mix, the protests and general unhappiness that is spreading like wildfire could easily be categorized as the beginnings of social and economic destabilization. It’s a scenario from which other political parties could benefit, but from which Mexicans in general will not.
We want someone to blame and we want someone to get the ax. We are angry, afraid and desperate, and we have every right to be so. We want an outlet for these emotions and we want it now.
The resignation of the president, however, would not provide wholesome satisfaction. Why edge Mexico further to the brink? Why waste more time, more resources and more efforts when they could be better used? Substituting the president will not make the narco problem disappear magically.
I say we endure. Throughout its tumultuous existence, Mexico has endured much, and can handle few rounds more. The case of the missing 43 is a grim reminder of all the violations the country has suffered; one that should not be forgotten, but that should not be obsessed over, either.