Thousands of Mexicans demonstrated Monday demanding justice on the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students after investigators branded the atrocity a “state crime” involving the military and other institutions.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on protesters to gather peacefully to commemorate the victims of a tragedy that shook the nation and sparked international outrage.
Relatives, students and other protesters advanced through the heart of Mexico City shouting slogans such as “They took them alive, we want them alive!”.
Some carried signs that read, “It was the army.”
“We demand that the military be investigated, that they be punished,” said Blanca Nava, the mother of one of the students.
Lopez Obrador’s appeal came after several dozen members of the security forces were injured in clashes with protesters who threw stones and improvised explosive devices at a Mexican military base on Friday.
“The only thing is to avoid violence,” Lopez Obrador told reporters, declaring Monday a day of national mourning.
“It’s not about throwing stones or Molotov cocktails. It’s about protesting peacefully,” he said.
Monday’s march appeared to be largely peaceful, with only the occasional skirmish between protesters and police.
– Unsolved Crime –
The 43 student teachers had seized buses in the southern state of Guerrero to go to a demonstration in Mexico City before disappearing.
Investigators say they were arrested by corrupt police and handed over to a drug cartel who mistook them for members of a rival gang, but what exactly happened to them is disputed.
Last month, a truth commission appointed by Lopez Obrador’s government to investigate the atrocity declared the case a “state crime” involving agents from various institutions.
Military personnel, either directly or negligently, bear “clear responsibility”.
Arrest warrants have been issued for more than 80 suspects, including military personnel, police officers and cartel members.
But a lawyer for the victims’ families, Vidulfo Rosales, told reporters that prosecutors had withdrawn at least 20 of the warrants.
“Therefore there have been vigorous calls for answers,” he said, referring to Friday’s protest violence, which took place despite a string of high-profile arrests in the case.
Former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who led a controversial investigation into the mass disappearances, was arrested last month on charges of enforced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice.
An army general and two other military personnel were also arrested that month.
According to an official report presented in 2015 by the government of then-President Enrique Pena Nieto, cartel members killed the students and cremated their remains in a garbage dump.
These conclusions have been contradicted by relatives, independent experts and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
So far, the remains of only three victims have been identified.