Between gendarmerie and bureaucrats, Iguala remains as the horror capital city of Guerrero

Translation by Katia Valenzuela & Andalucía Knoll

Predictable: The Members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) do not know how to handle their own shit. They do not know what to do when any signal of the mess that they are comes to light. Today, in an express visit, the new party’s national leader Carlos Navarrete apologized «because they were not aware that this external element [the fugitive Mayor Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez] diverted resources and became corrupted, failing to serve people.» Then he pontificated classic words from the state discourse that this country has heard for decades: «We are here to investigate until the final consequences; we are not going to allow more violations to the rule of law; we demand that federal and state institutions of justice use all necessary resources; we are shocked by this injustice.” A hollow speech accompanied by the presence of René Bejarano and a police escort left much food for thought

For a long time this political party has shown that it employs the same strategies as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in their so called “leftist” way. If our memory fails us, Mr. Berenjano who previously shocked the country by keeping millions of dollars in plastic bags and his own coat, is now protected by the federal police, as the second in command within the PRD in charge of responding to the terrible situation experienced in Iguala and throughout the state of Guerrero.

Years before, the PRD itself rejected and abandoned this officer. The only difference with the fugitive Jose Luis Abarca Velázquez is that Bejarano did not go on the run and he was imprisoned. Today, Abarca is even being accused by his mother in law, who allegedly appeared in a video in which; somehow, she fulfils the mandate of Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors Cartel) and starts sharing information about politicians involved in organized crime.

Many people from this town waited for Carlos Navarrete to fulfil his promise to talk with the people. Of course he did not comply and instead left someone in charge of responding to «those people» while he rushed off to a closed meeting with the governor of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre. In the meantime, since the afternoon of October 6th, the federal gendarmerie police arrived in Iguala and took control of public security while the federal police and the army continued guarding the entrances and exit points of the city.

Gendarmerie police remained in the streets of Iguala; they took pictures with children, and some posed for the local press’s cameras. Among their virtues as guarantors of order, they are good models and they seem to enjoy carrying high calibre weapons which combine well with their new uniforms. Grim reality in the theater of war.

Regarding the Attorney Jesús Murillo Karam, nobody knew anything about him and no one could ask him what had happened with the missing students or if there is any progress in the investigation.

Farmers in Iguala.


The capital city of horror

Our stay in Iguala has revealed the subtle horrors of a population dominated by an organized crime group, Guerreros Unidos. This situation reminds us Michoacan over the last year; indeed, this city could be seen as Apatzingán (stronghold of the Knights Templar cartel) of Guerrero, with a huge deployment of police of all types and range, surrounded by parties and all those who wants to be here chasing the latest news; from state agencies to a fleeting Human Rights brigade of the United Nations (UN). Taco stands and bars in the epicentre of this tragedy are full of national and international press correspondents. However, the families of the missing students are still in pain but they keep their firmness: «If the local police took the students, they are the institution that must bring them back alive.”

Thanks to the help of other journalists we were able to arrive at the area where the mass graves were found. The place is located close enough to Iguala to appreciate a panoramic view of the city but far enough to penetrate into the thick forest and leave no trace. On the road we met a first group of state police who did not let us pass arguing that we would find later two more checkpoints with both state and local police. From the distance we saw Cerro Gordo, “Fat Hill” where the mass graves lie.

Where the mass graves were found.

We spoke with some colleagues who managed to visit this grim place, and all agreed that the discovery of these mass graves is very mysterious. On the one hand, there is clothing tossed around the graves which includes women’s garments, although the 43 missing students are men. Additionally, those who have seen the graves with their own eyes, state that there is no evidence which could suggest any kind of recent fire, the vegetation is intact and there are no signs of burning or abrasive substances. To make matters worse, many of the bodies taken to the Forensic Medical Service of Chilpancingo show grown or long hair, while the missing students have shaved hair.

The graves have become a myth, the myth of the discovery and closure of the case. The state government wants this crisis to end as soon as possible and only with minor culprits. Along with the myth of the graves, there is the myth of Governor Angel Aguirre’s resignation, as if his departure would mean the breakdown of local cartels and the elimination of rivalries between these groups fighting for the control of riches and turf. The myth of his resignation is certainly a placebo that does not ensure the decrease in violence and, of course, it does not explain the thousands of crimes committed for which no one has been brought to justice including the confirmed murderers of the normalista students in 2011. The myth of the Governor’s resignation does not give any peacefulness to the families of the missing students; indeed, they will only have peace when the students return alive and those responsible for these atrocities to be punished.

The presence of community police

Later in the afternoon, an owner of a local restaurant spoke to us about how calm Iguala is and how this situation only happens with the presence of the “Ayotzinapos,” the derogatory term given to the students. We waited for the arrival of a convoy of members of the Protection and Community Justice System of the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), who announced in advance that they would join the search operation. It is worth noting that their quick response is due to the fact that at least two of the missing students are sons of civic policemen and others come from Tecuanapa, a town where UPOEG has a strong presence.

We were told that they will be coming soon so we moved towards a mixed checkpoint with both federal police and military personnel manning it just at the entrance-exit of the city of Chilpancingo. This point is well known as a place where local police working for organized crime groups stop passerbys to extort or disappear them. Both the local press and curious onlookers say the same thing: «Here the local police disappeared many people, we are glad that they were arrested so that things may start to change”.

The community police members arrived in a well-organized caravan dressed in plain clothes. Some of them were accompanied by their wives and relatives. They brought luggage and pots with them; apparently with the attention to stay for a while. They came to search for the missing students and are organized into brigades They will scour the hillsides and with their machetes pave paths and trails from the early morning in search of them. It’s important to note that both military and police personnel made all the community police members get out of their trucks, while they searched their luggage and bags looking for weapons. Mind you, these volunteers’ peasants and workers are not coming to fight; they are coming to help the searching of the 43 students missing.

The community police members arrived in a well-organized caravan dressed in plain clothes.

On the eve of…

Students protested outside the General Attorney building in Chilpancingo in a visible and animated way: they plastered walls and cars with posters emblazoned with the faces of their missing classmates along with banners with the slogan: “we want them back alive». This action is just a taste of what is is come and is predicted to one of the largest demonstrations at national level during the recent years. Thousands of students from most of the teachers’ colleges of the country are expected to be part of this nationwide demonstration. In Michoacán and Oaxaca there will be temporary strikes and members of the Mexican Teachers’ Union will protest too. A large demonstration is also planned for Mexico City. Similarly, in a statement released on the 7th October, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced a silent march in support of the students and families of Ayotzinapa, mobilization as a gesture of pain and outrage over the current situation. Internationally there will also be demonstrations and solidarity gatherings in front of various Mexican Embassies.

It seems that what wanted to be hidden in the silence of public officials is overflowing everywhere. Shit stinks and it is difficult to hide.