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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Protests may spur ‘Mexican Spring’

    The protests rocking Mexico these past weeks have drawn attention to the recent disappearance of 43 students from the southern state of Guerrero.

    The students, who were training to be teachers, had travelled to the nearby town of Iguala for a protest. The local police confronted them and began shooting at the students’ vehicles. The police then passed the survivors on to a well-known gang, Guerreros Unidos, which is now understood to have substantial ties to local politicians.

    It is thought that members from Guerreros Unidos murdered the students placed in their custody, burned their bodies and dumped the corpses in a lake, though the ashes that were discovered have not yet been forensically confirmed. The alleged politically arranged murders in southern Mexico ignited protests around the country, expanding to encompass more general dissatisfaction with the current government.

    The uproar in Guerrero over the blatant disrespect for human rights is reminiscent of the beginning of the Arab Spring nearly four years ago — it is pushing communities to their tolerance threshold. Four mass graves were unearthed in the search for the remaining bodies of the students. Mexicans are claiming governmental foul play; protestors across the country are calling for the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to resign; and an effigy of him was burned in the streets of Mexico City.

    These 43 lives are just the tip of the iceberg.

    “I don’t think it is going to fizzle out with some concessions — the [43] students are just like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Cintli Rodriguez, an assistant professor in the department of Mexican-American studies. “People see it differently because [students] are the future of the nation and teachers are highly prized — they are seen as a second parent. They’re venerated.”

    When I travelled to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, last month, the entire city was talking about the lost students. At an Hermosillo high school, students passionately debated the situation and what it meant for the future of Mexico. Indignation over the disappearances in Iguala is not isolated but rather represents a larger response in Mexico. Citizens, from elderly protestors in large cities to young students in Hermosillo, are not letting the government sweep the issue under the rug as it has with other human rights abuse cases.

    The less talked about 2011 Arab Spring movement in Morocco looks similar to the situation Mexico is currently facing. The citizenry was fed up with the government and began to protest, such as in Libya and Egypt. Unlike those countries, however, the government adapted to the unrest by making constitutional reforms, which gave minorities additional rights. These shifts diffused the momentum of the masses.

    As Rodriguez put it, “This won’t go away tomorrow.” The countries in the Arab world that avoided major uprisings made concessions. Those that did not were plunged into turmoil, some of which lies unresolved to this day. In the weeks to come, the Mexican government will also have to give a little or risk further instability.

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    Julianna Renzi is a sophomore studying environmental science and economics. Follow her on Twitter.

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