Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the Iguala tragedy, marked by the “Tenth Global Action for Ayotzinapa” in Mexico City. Despite the ambitious name (Ayotzinapa is the Guerrero town where the disappeared students’ teachers college is located), the event consisted of a short march by a few thousand teachers, students and assorted activists, led by a contingent of the victims’ parents.
The protesters had planned to stage a rally at the Zócalo — the huge central square in the heart of the Historic Center — but it was occupied. The crew of “Spectre,” the next James Bond movie, had long ago received permission to film in the plaza for much of this month, so the protesters had to be content to gather at the Monument to the Revolution, a few kilometers away.
The papers, of course, had fun with that. “James Bond ‘prevents’ marches to the capital’s Zócalo” announced El Universal at the bottom of its front page.
The protesters did manage to get their message out. El Universal quoted a priest in the movement who described the half year since the tragedy as “six months of impunity, six months of pretending to execute justice, six months of packing the PGR and the Supreme Court so that it won’t get to the truth.”
This last references appear to be to the installation of former PRI Senator Aracely Gómez as the new head the Federal Attorney General’s Office and of Eduardo Medina Mora, a former attorney general, on the Supreme Court.
But the reporter also coaxed a little harsh reality out of a protester from the teachers college in Ayotzinapa, who said that “even though our forces are depleted, we’re still here.”
That same protester issued a call to “citizens” to join the cause: “You’re our support,” he said. “You give us the spirit.”
Except that they haven't been doing that. The movement that grew out of the Iguala tragedy and the federal government’s weak response has indeed been depleted. For good reason.
It started with public sympathy, especially as it dovetailed with the existing public disgust at what’s widely seen as a failed system of government and hopelessly corrupted public institutions.
But it never gained the public participation it might have. It almost seemed like its leaders were actively discouraging such a thing. How else to explain one action after another guaranteed to turn off most would-be supporters?
Perhaps the protesters are, as they claim, unfairly vilified in the media. Perhaps they need to do the things they do.
But this is what typical “citizens” — good people trying to make something out of their lives under difficult circumstances, and without much money — see in the movement leaders from Guerrero:
People who claim to promote democracy while doing all they can to prevent elections form taking place.
People who bemoan intimidation of the press while they hold hostage journalists whose reporting isn’t to their liking.
People who say they support the rule of law while they kidnap elected officials and force them to resign.
People who chose to be teachers and then abandon the classrooms of poor children.
People who rail against impunity while expecting to be able to extort at will money from innocent drivers at toll booths.
People who say they are trying to help the country while they burn its public buildings and deface its monuments.
People who say they oppose violence while they attack government personnel with rocks and sticks and Molotov cocktails, and steal trucks to ram their way into government installations.
People who campaign against special privilege for the few while claiming the right for themselves to demobilize the capital and block highways.
Unfair depiction? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s what people see. And it’s why the movement, such as it is, has lost steam instead of gaining support.
Protest leaders could verify all this if they would listen to somebody besides each other. And in so doing, they might re-energize. They might build a more inclusive organization.
Not much chance of that happening, though. What might have been a transformative national movement is trapped in the hands of a few activists who seem to have the same mindset so often ascribed to the current administration: “We know what’s best and we’re going to impose it. We don’t care what anybody else thinks.”