Mexico News and Analysis, September 29 – October 5, 2008

State and federal police killed five members of the Miguel Hidalgo ejido and one member of a neighboring community, and left at least ten people with gunshot wounds during an invasion of an archeological site on Saturday.  Despite initial reports by authorities, there were no injuries suffered by police.  Four of the dead were murdered when police intercepted a pickup truck carrying the injured to a local hospital.  The driver of the truck, who was a neighbor from a nearby community, and three gravely wounded survivors of the police invasion were assassinated at close range. 

Police expelled hundreds of ejido members from the Chincultik archeological ruins, located on the lands of the Miguel Hidalgo ejido, in an operation that included at least 300 officers.  Ejido members occupied the ruins last month, complaining that the National Institute of Archeology and History (INAH) had left the ruins without maintenance while colleting excessive entrance fees.  Some found the police action consistent with the unstated but implicit INAH policy over the years to “protect indigenous culture while killing all the Indians.”  Ejido members lowered the entrance fee from 35 to 20 pesos, generating income for the community of about 4,000 pesos per week.  The day before the police invasion, the 7,000-member ejido was engaged in ongoing negotiations with State authorities over the future of the ruins, which made the attack even more surprising.  One ejido leader wondered, “We ask President Calderon and Governor Juan Sabines: ‘Why did you send police to kill us when the day before we were engaged in dialogue with authorities to resolve the problem?’”

Ejido members initially disarmed about 70 police who arrived in the first contingent to arrest community members occupying the ruins.  The situation appeared calm until an additional several hundred police arrived late in the afternoon, firing indiscriminately into houses and using teargas to disperse residents.  Officials in Tuxtla Gutierrez ordered all police who participated in the action to present themselves for ballistics tests to determine who fired shots.

Teachers protesting the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), signed by President Calderon and union “President for life” Elba Esther Gordillo, broadened this week.  Mexico City teachers from Section 10 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) demanded an end to the controversial ACE and called for 30,000 new teaching positions in secondary schools throughout the capitol.  Dissident teachers in Guerrero affiliated with the State Coordinator of Guerrero Education Workers (CETEG) joined members of the SNTE in marches and highway blockades after State officials tried to change negotiation sites for ongoing talks over the ACE.  In Zacatecas, members of the dissident Teacher’s Democratic Movement participated in a 72 hour strike that closed 1,600 schools.  And in Morelos, the center of anti-ACE organizing, negotiations between striking teachers and federal authorities were canceled.  The Secretary of Education announced distribution of thousands of free textbooks this week in an effort to pressure teachers to end their seven-week strike, but teachers appeared united.  At least 20,000 of the state’s 25,000 teachers are participating in the strike.  The ACE would concentrate new authority in the hands of the increasingly unpopular union President Gordillo.

Two examples of Mexico’s growing security State unfolded this week in the most unlikely of circumstances.  In the first, a high school student was taken into custody by President Calderon’s personal body guards after he shouted “espurio” (a word best translated as illegitimate and commonly used to refer to Caleron’s fraudulent election in 2006) during an academic awards ceremony.  Leonardo Gomez, an eighteen-year-old math genius, was forcibly taken into custody as an embarrassed Calderon commented, “Today in Mexico, as you have just seen, there are spaces for freedom of expression and tolerance that were previously unimaginable.”  Moments later, 24-year-old university student Mario Jimenez shouted “There is no freedom in this country.”  He was also quickly subdued by the President’s body guards.

On Saturday, families of disappeared and assassinated political prisoners led by the Comite Eurka and HIJOS held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Supreme Court calling for the appearance of their loved ones.  Apparently Mexican security forces have taken lessons from their US counterparts, as demonstrators were herded into fenced corrals constructed along the sidewalk.  Mexican protestors are not used to this kind of treatment and responded creatively by using the corrals to hang posters.  Unlike similar US gatherings, protestors moved freely outside the corrals to distribute fliers and lead chants.

President Calderon presented legislation this week that would decriminalize drug use and possession of small quantities of narcotics for personal use.  Drug users would be subject to rehabilitation instead of imprisonment.  A similar proposal died quickly during the Fox administration after US officials objected.  The Catholic Church immediately criticized the initiative.

Forty years after government forces murdered hundreds of protesting students in the infamous Tlalteloco massacre, no one has been prosecuted for the crimes.  On October 2, 1968, and only six weeks before the Olympic games were scheduled to arrive in Mexico City, students gathered to protest repression by the government of President Gustavo Diaz.  Police and paramilitaries opened fire on hundreds of students and families gathered in the Plaza of Three Cultures.  Forty years later, tens of thousands of protestors gathered in Mexico City demanding justice.  Forty years ago PRI Deputies and Senators gave President Diaz a standing ovation shortly after the massacre, which was virtually erased from history books and many newspapers.  Today, the clamor for justice remains strong, though many government officials are calling for “reconciliation” rather than prosecutions of the guilty.

Already this year, Ciudad Juarez registered at least 75 cases of “femicides” (women killed simply because they are women), the worst year in recent memory.    This week two new victims turned up.  The body of 25-year-old maquiladora worker Guadalupe Diaz was discovered in a vacant lot two weeks after her disappearance.  A second victim was discovered in her home with at least ten gunshot wounds.  At least 544 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez since 1993, with eleven victims discovered in August of this year alone.