|Photographs of the 43 disappeared students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero sit on school desks placed in a plaza at Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM). Photo: AP Photo/Moises Castillo|
English-speaking readers who are keen to keep up with the news about what has happened in Mexico since the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero in late September would do well to make note of the name John M. Ackerman.
Ackerman, a law professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), editor-in-chief of Mexican Law Review, columnist for Mexican publications La Jornada and Proceso, frequent contributor or interviewee to a number of international media outlets including Foreign Policy and Huffington Post, and prolific tweeter, Ackerman has been a valuable source of information and reporting.
We spoke via Google Hangout about the significance of Ayotzinapa, the subsequent months of protests and what to expect in the coming months.
What makes the situation with Ayotzinapa so different from any other set of disappearances and killings in Mexico, and what makes the reaction to Ayotzinapa so different?
What makes this particularly relevant is the fact that this event interrupted the narratives of power and control that Mexican society has been used to hearing for at least the past 10 years, if not 30 years. That narrative was initiated in terms of the drug war specifically but it goes far beyond the drug war.
The narrative that [former Mexican president] Felipe Calderón always pulled out was that 90 percent of the dead were narco-traffickers; this is what he would say after every massacre. Governors and other authorities would always roll out this explanation that somehow the people who were killed deserved it. This has been a way of covering up a problem that goes much deeper. In the first place, Mexico has no death penalty. Even if there was a death penalty, everyone deserves a fair trial. Even if 90 percent of the dead were involved in the drug trade, this would not justify their deaths. It’s not that this narrative worked, but it sufficiently deflected attention away from the real issue.
What makes Ayotzinapa so different are the particulars of the case itself, which resisted and broke with that narrative of power and control and distraction that the Mexican government, in complicity with the U.S. government, has been holding all along and especially over the past 10 years with the incredible explosion of narco-violence. All of a sudden, this incident broke with that narrative because it so obviously doesn’t fit with any of those explanations. These [the 43 students who were “disappeared”] are students, they are activists who are completely unarmed, they are politically active, and they are obviously innocent. They can’t be seen just as “collateral damage” of a generalized crisis of violence. It’s an attack on the Mexican people by the government and the Mexican government is supported by the U.S. government...