On Saturday— the one year anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero—thousands of protesters filled the streets of Mexico City.
The march, led by parents of the missing students, made its way from the presidential residence Los Pinos to the Zócalo, the capital’s massive central square. Protests were also held in Iguala, where the 43 students from a teachers’ college in nearby Ayotzinapa were abducted one year ago.
Many carried mass-produced placards that read, “Ni un desaparecio más, Ni un muerto más—¡¡Fuera Peña Nieto,” which translates to “Not one more disappearance, not one more death—Out with Peña Nieto!”
The administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is under growing pressure in the case, and there have now been 110 arrests of members of the Guerreros Unidos narco-gang, which has been named by the government as responsible in the mass abduction. However, there have been no convictions, and survivors, activists and rights observers say the official story doesn’t hold water.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, wrote on the occassion of the anniversary that the Ayotzinapa disappearances are “Peña Nieto’s ultimate test… The tragedy has revealed a human rights crisis of epic proportions with nearly 30,000 men, women and children disappeared or missing in the last few years alone. But more than that, it has peeled the mask off the Mexican government opening a Pandora’s Box of crime, negligence and a political cover-up that seems to run up to the highest levels of power.”
Peña Nieto took the occasion to announce that he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Ayotzinapa disappearances.
The move came days after he met with the missing students’ families. After the meeting, Peña Nieto tweeted: “We are on the same side, we want the same thing: to know what happened to each of their children.”
He also met with a group of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to hear their recommendations in the case.
The grim anniversary comes one week after the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued a statement urging countries to increase efforts to search for disappeared persons—singling out Mexico. In February, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances published a report detailing a pattern of disappearances in Mexico and broached an international investigation, finding that the Mexican government is actually complicit in many cases.
Peña Nieto, despite his recent activity in the case, seems intent on placing all of the blame on the local narco-gang and treating Ayotzinapa as an isolated case rather than one particularly ghastly manifestation of a systemic human rights crisis in Mexico.