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Mexico: Two Students Killed During Protest in Ayotzinapa

Two students, Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino and Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús, were killed on December 12, 2011, during a protest held by students of the rural school Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Chilpancingo, the capital of the state of Guerrero, Mexico.

The protest blocked the highway “Autopista del Sol” which leads to the tourist area of Acapulco. Contradicting versions of events have been published online, including the version given by the authorities of Guerrero who said this protest was “unusual”, and that “strange agents” not related to the students participated in the mobilization.

La Jornada de Guerrero [es] published a chronicle of the events:

Everything started with a smoke curtain, provoked by the tear gas bombs that came out of the hands of the federal police. [..] After that came the first gust of bullets form the federal police, who were authorized to proceed via radio. The second gust, which was longer, came from different hands: ministerial police opened fire against the students from the right lane (of the highway from north to south) […] It didn't take long for the federal police to aim at the same target. […] On the other side, Ayotzinapa's side, the rural students with a daily budget for food of 3.50 dollars, responded with sticks and stones. The domestic bombs that they had weren't used because they didn't have time to load them with gas from the 2 gas stations on of each side of the highway. Some, trying to defend themselves, had time to light up the bottles they got from the service station. The police then threw some fragmentation grenades at the students, that by then were seeking refuge in the space between the buses and concrete walls that divide the highway. There were five grenades in total and none detonated, but they provoked panic […]. The only ones not moving were two students, both 22 years old

The normalista school involved in the protest has been historically in resistance and belongs to an old tradition of ‘escuelas normalistas rurales’, which are schools that form teachers from very poor and disadvantage communities. The school in question belongs to the Federación de Estudiantes Campesinos Socialistas de México (Federation of Rural Socialist Students of México). Journalist Diego Osorno, who specializes in social conflicts, wrote a story for the blog Nuesta Aparente Rendición about the normalistas conflict in Guerrero [es], specifically the school of Ayotzinapa.

The school issued a communique [es] in which they denied having any weapons and demand justice for the killings, which they labeled as “extrajudicial execution”. The text also explains the repeated cancellations of scheduled meetings with the Minister of Education of Guerrero and demand the governor's resignation

Wall of the Normalistas School “Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa. Foto via @kradprro

On December 13, Justice Authority Alberto López Rosas, during a radio interview with Carmen Aristegui [es], declared that one of the detainees –who is 19-years-old– had an AK-47, but they didn't know if the bullets matched the caliber that killed the two students. However he said the weapon is not the kind used by police, and made it clear that the police's actions did not constitute repression, that they only wanted to bring order. In relation to this,La Jornada [es] published a report about the use of torture to “fabricate” a confession related to the AK-47.

Later that day, López Rosas contradicted [es] his earlier version, saying that the shots might have been fired by the “ministerial police”.

But during the events, Roberto Ramirez (@robertoramirezb), head of information of La Jornada Guerrero, tweeted:

#Ayotzinapa Eso no es enfrentamiento, eso es un crimen

#Ayotzinapa This is not a clash, it is a crime

He also reported via Twitter that a reporter had been detained because he looked like a student, and had been heavily beaten [es] before his release. Ramírez also tweeted that some grenades made in England [es] were found on the scene.

On Twitter, users have been sharing a few, very graphic images of the fallen students ([1] [2]); one of the photos shows a student with signs of torture. Reforma, one of the major media outlets in Mexico, published a video where a person in plain clothes is seen firing a weapon. They also posted a sequence of photographs [es] of one of the students running moments before getting shot.

Meanwhile, El Universal reported [es] that the shots that killed the students were aimed at their heads, and Revista Proceso [es] added that witnesses said the police shot the students. In a press conference held on December 13, students of Ayotzinapa said the police made a call and were given the “green light” to do whatever they wanted –then they started shooting, Contralínea reports [es].

According to La Jornada [es], four people suffered bullet injuries, and student Édgar David Espíritu is in a coma. Twenty-three people were released on December 13 at noon, but 15 are reported missing and reports say one person is still being held by authorities.

Later on December 13, the Secretary and Sub Secretary of Security, together with the Chief Prosecutor of Chilpancingo, were relieved [es] of their duties by the governor of Guerrero.

Twitter users expressed their outrage with the hasthag #Ayotzinapa [es]:

@roblesmaloof: Culpar a quienes son asesinados de sus propias muertes, es tan viejo como las dictaduras y no se los vamos a creer. #Ayotzinapa.

@roblesmaloof: Blaming those who are killed for their own deaths, it is as old as dictatorships and we're not going to believe it. #Ayotzinapa.

@danischmidt: Yo aquí desayunamdome el asesinato de 2 estudiantes normalistas por el abuso de las fuerzas policiacas #Ayotzinapa

@danischmidt: I am having breakfast [and finding out about the] assassination of 2 normalistas because of the abuse of the federal police #Ayotzinapa.

@VinitoPereda: No dudo que la #PF actuó en consecuencia a la psicosis que les ha producido la guerra de Calderón. Eran ESTUDIANTES no Narcos. #Ayotzinapa

@VinitoPereda: I don’t doubt that the #PF (federal police) act in consequence of the psychosis that Calderon's war has produced. They were STUDENTS not narcos #Ayotzinapa.

@Morf0: Primero les matan el derecho a la educación y luego los matan a ellos. #Ayotzinapa

@Morf0: First they killed the right to education then they killed them [the students] #Ayotzinapa

@blanchepetrich: ¿Qué son muy “radicales” los estudiantes campesinos de #Ayotzinapa? Denles razones, argumentos, respuestas ¡no balazos!

@blanchepetrich: So the students from the countryside #Ayotzinapa are too “radical”? Give them reasons, arguments, answers, not bullets!

@roblesmaloof: Qué difícil es para los medios convencionales decir que los estudiantes de #Ayotzinapa fueron asesinados.

@roblesmaloof: It is so hard for conventional media to say that the students of #Ayotzinapa were assassinated.

@Asteris: Is #Mexico now perceived by int'l media as another Iraq? Too much quotidian violence to even bother covering it? #Ayotzinapa #Chilpancingo

Hamlet García Almaguer (@hamletgar) blogged in LetraJoven [es]:

Y ahí está el problema, por que quienes han vivido en Guerrero saben que Guerrero es bronco y que en cualquier momento puede levantarse; y saben que los homicidios desde el poder son intolerables.

That's the problem, those who have lived in Guerrero know than Guerrero is rough and that at any moment [people] can raise up; and they also know that homicides committed by the powerful are intolerable.

Mexico's Human Rights Commission has opened an investigation on the incident.

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