The ’43’: Mexico’s human rights disaster

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November 20th is the date when the start of the Mexican Revolution is celebrated. Back in 1910, that day marked the beginning of a 10 year struggle for justice and equality that transformed Mexican society. Despite important achievements obtained during the twentieth century, inequality remained extremely high and corruption was not only not rooted out of the political system, but it eventually grew as the government privileged the capitalist development of the country and private and public interests became intertwined.

Historical social injustices, aggrDSC_0276avated in recent decades by neoliberal reforms that have stagnated economic growth and triggered a rise in rates of poverty and inequality, represent the background to the wave of crime and violence that has spread throughout Mexico since 2006. Indeed, these internal factors and the corruption of the political and judicial systems have coalesced with external ones, like the unlimited supply of weapons and demand for drugs from the United States, to trigger a surge in levels of crime and violence that have generated an unprecedented human rights crisis in Mexico’s recent history.

Crime and violence always hurt the most vulnerable. Rural and indigenous communities, groups of Central American migrants crossing the country on their way to the United States and poor urban neighbourhoods have suffered the most. This disproportionate suffering is to a large extent due to their marginalisation and social invisibility within a system of institutionalised inequality and corruption. In fact, the kind of transgressions to which they are subjected to, are not only those infringed by criminal gangs and drug cartels, but also from political institutions and state authorities themselves.

On September 26th, a group of students from a rural teacher-training college from a town called Ayotzinapa who were collecting funds for a trip were attacked by the police for apparently disrupting a political event of the mayor’s wife in the neighbouring town of Iguala in the State of Guerrero. Six people were killed by the police during the attack and 43 students were ‘disappeared’, presumably after being handed out to local drug bosses, with whom the mayor and his wife had strong ties.

The government has embarked on a search for the 43 missing students but according to Amnesty International the response “has been biased and incomplete, failing to challenge the entrenched collusion between the state and the organised crime which underlies these grave human rights violations”. The same could be argued for the government’s actions to fight crime and violence since the crisis began almost one decade ago.

The wave of crime and violence caught Mexican society by surprise. It seems that the brutal events of recent weeks have finally awoken it. Demonstrations have multiplied throughout the country and in many cities of the world. To demand an end to violence, crime and corruption, a Global Action Day in support of Mexico took place on the same day that the Mexican Revolution is commemorated.  In this context, the Mexican community of the University of Bath and its friends expressed their solidarity with Mexico and their belief that as it was imagined more than a century ago, only the construction of a more just and equal country will bring the peace that the Mexican people want and deserve. For this reason, we firmly believe that raising awareness and inciting public discussion about these issues, both within the country and with the international community, are fundamental for such end.

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About Author

Ricardo Velazquez Leyer is PhD researcher in Social & Policy Sciences. He is a member of the University of Bath’s Mexican community and advocate for human rights issues.

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