Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The dead students in Guerrero

It seems prudent to withhold judgment on who is to blame for what happened in Guerrero two days ago. What is abundantly clear is that it should never have happened in the first place: Two students dead and more than a dozen wounded following a highway protest.

It was hardly the first time students from the Ayotzinapa teacher school in Guerrerohave been blocking the Autopista del Sol, the highway running from Mexico City to Acapulco, Guerrero. Yet it is the first time it turned deadly: "Someone" - state police, federal police, provocateurs - fired upon students and graduates of Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos who were demanding reuctions in tuition as well as guaranteed teaching jobs after graduation.

Dramatic videos have been released by the Guerrero state government, eager to put the blame on federal police, that also clearly seems to show the students torching a PEMEX gas station.

Yet the federal police have responded forcefully, claiming rather that the shots were fired by Guerrero state police in civilian clothing.

Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero fired his attorney general, Alberto López Rosas, as it became clear that it contrary to his early claims, video recordings showed that the state police was fully armed. Aguirre also fired the secretary and sub secretary of public security, Ramón Almonte Borja and general Ramón Arreolaos respectively, to "facilitate the investigation."

Students who torch a gas station can hardly be expected to treated with kid gloves. I would never defend what appears to be, from the video images released, the beating and kicking of captured students, though it should also be pretty clear that if you block a highway and then torch a gas station with Molotov cocktails, the encounter with the police is not likely to be pretty.

But gunning down students - firing your guns at a civilian crowd that in no case appears to be a physical threat to the safety of the officers - is a criminal act for which the guilty parties, whoever they are, must be made to pay. This should never have had to come to this.

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