It has been nine years and we still don’t know the full truth about what happened in Iguala, Mexico on the night of Sept 26th, 2014 when police disappeared 43 students from the rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa.
Recently, a blockbuster article in the New York Times detailed the complicity and involvement of the Mexican Army and police in cartel activity as well as the disappearance of the 43 students and the murder of 6 people that night. The students had gone to Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico to commandeer buses to travel to Mexico City to participate in protests.
Since 2014, the families of the disappeared, as well as civil society organizations both within Mexico, the United States and beyond, have demanded answers and accountability.
The first, sham investigation from the Peña Nieto administration tried to fool the parents by pointing to a site where the government planted false evidence. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) committed to finding the students and the truth and bringing the perpetrators to justice. And though his administration took early steps to fulfill his promise, it has since shut down the investigation. There is significant evidence that the Army was monitoring everything, was in telephone communication with police and cartel members, and was present as the students were being disappeared.
Independent investigators under-covered the existence of military documents that could further illuminate the full truth of what happened that night. Both the Army and AMLO deny those documents exist. The families are demanding the information be turned over.
The AMLO administration wants to move on, to achieve only a partial truth that papers over the degree of military complicity, and fails to bring all those responsible to justice.
But the families of the disappeared will not give up, and neither will we. To mark the nine year anniversary of the disappearance, civil society organizations throughout the United States and Mexico are taking action to put pressure on the AMLO government to come clean and pursue justice.
Last summer 53 migrants died locked inside an insulated semi-truck just beyond the U.S.-Mexico border. They experienced death from heat stroke, which starts with muscle cramping, heart-pounding, terrible headaches and dizziness before delirium and convulsions set in. This may have been the deadliest human smuggling case in U.S. history, but sadly, these horrific border incidents are happening more often. President Joe Biden blamed this particular case on the “multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry”. But the real question is: Why would innocent families be willing to risk their lives and those of their children in the first place?
For nearly three decades, politicians have been responding to the immigration crisis by ramping up border security with militarized policing and criminalizing migrants. But for families forced to leave their homes to survive, not even this is a deterrent. We need more compassionate policies that support migrants with pathways to claim asylum and move across the region with human rights; but, until we address some of the underlying issues of why people are leaving their homes in the first place, such as gun violence and climate change, we will never solve this crisis.
We urge North American leaders to take concrete measures to end U.S. gun exports and trafficking to Mexico, including banning assault weapons across the region, increasing restrictions for sales and canceling transfers to corrupt police and military units. This would be a meaningful start to helping families feel safe at home.
Another issue driving forced migration across North America is climate change. From Guatemala to the Artic Circle, the increasing frequency and severity of forest fires, droughts, storms, and floods are displacing entire communities, threatening livelihoods and traditional ways of life. People of color, low-income communities, women, and Indigenous Peoples are impacted most severely.
To mitigate the impacts of climate change, there must be a regional plan to dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions, help communities prepare and mitigate climate-related disasters, and create a new green economy to generate jobs while protecting the environment. And we must show deference to the practices of Indigenous Peoples, who have proven to be the best protectors of the environment, and allow these communities to maintain control of their ancestral territories so that they can stay safe and thrive in their own homes.
Biden, ALMO, and Trudeau will soon have an opportunity to broaden their agendas to include the underlying factors of immigration. I’ve joined the leaders of dozens of organizations in signing a letter addressed to the three leaders, urging action on guns, climate, and immigration, including all of the ways these issues intersect and compound each other.
Many of the signatories will be gathering for a Peace Summit in Mexico City next month to mobilize a multinational political action agenda in the lead-up to the 2024 elections in both the U.S. and Mexico. There, we hope to discuss the solutions put forward by the “Tres Amigos.”
Marco Castillo is the co-executive director of Global Exchange, a nonprofit promoting human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice around the world. He is spearheading the alliance of more than 100 grassroots organizations in the lead-up to a Peace Summit in Mexico City on Feb. 23-24, 2023.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.