A permanent reminder of the “disappeared” 43 in Reforma Avenue.
For all Mexico’s wonderful attributes the power of the drug cartels and the way their tentacles have infiltrated the political process are a frightening reality. Sadly, apart from the misery that the drugs inflict worldwide, it’s the Mexican people themselves who are the biggest losers as collateral damage in this deadly war. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the distressing disappearance in 2014 of 43 student teachers in Guerreros State, just south of Mexico City, ironically the home of the famous international beachside holiday destination of Acapulco.
The students were said to be on their way to a protest rally when their bus was stopped by allegedly corrupt local police. An early official story had suggested that the police abducted the students and handed them over to a drug gang who then killed and burned them at a nearby dump. However, no real evidence of what happened has surfaced while rumours circulate of the involvement of Federal Police and collusion between local officials and the cartels. International calls for a more thorough investigation have not yet reaped results.
Empty seats and sad tree “decorations” demand a better Government response.
In the meantime the families and friends of the students are maintaining constant pressure to unearth the truth. In the historic old quarter of Mexico City we came across a moving tribute to the disappeared of 43 empty seats, each bearing a photograph to commemorate a student, under a tree festooned with hanging name cards, like a sad Christmas tree. In the centre dividing strip of the city’s main avenue, Reforma, large red figures 4 and 3 provide a permanent and prominent reminder of the mysterious disappearance. And just weeks ago a large demonstration of torch-bearing protesters marched down Reforma demanding answers from the Government. Australians were given a small taste of the lawless nature of parts of Mexico late last year when the bodies of two holidaying surfers were found in their burned-out van in the northern state of Sinaloa, infamous as the home of the drug cartel which bears its name, although the deaths were attributed to a robbery and not to the ruthless gang.