National Lawyers Guild and International Tribunal of Conscience Demand Independent Investigation of Gang Violence Against Students and Academic Community at Mexico’s National University (UNAM)
Students, professors and researchers, and university workers affiliated with Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) have gone on strike in response to a violent attack by armed gangs on a student march. The protest that was assaulted demanded urgently needed reforms in the university’s administration and budget priorities. The UNAM is the largest public university in Latin America, and one of the highest ranking institutions of its kind in the world, but it has become increasingly marked by Mexico’s widespread inequities. Armed gangs have plagued the university’s outlying campuses in poor neighborhoods, facilitated by the UNAM administration’s longstanding complacency.
The violence on September 3, which left two student protesters in critical condition and many more injured, ironically comes as Mexico prepares for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 student movement. That movement was ultimately crushed by the October 2 Tlatelolco Massacre in which hundreds of protesters were killed. The 1968 movement was initially sparked by the government’s repressive response to student mobilizations against violent gangs manipulated by government agents in complicity with UNAM administrators. Mexico’s current process of democratization would not have been possible without the inspiration and sacrifices of that movement. The UNAM community and its supporters in Mexico and throughout the world will not permit the repetition today of this history of repression and impunity.
The UNAM’s students and workers have gone on strike, initially until Friday, in response to these attacks. Their demands include not only an independent investigation of these events but also the need to raise the salaries of the UNAM’s notoriously underpaid professors, the end of gender violence, and the dismantling of the university’s authoritarian administrative structures. Many of these sectors and demands were represented in hearings at two of the university’s facilities in Mexico City and Acatlán conducted by the National Lawyers Guild and the International Tribunal of Conscience in August.
US-Mexico relations have been reconfigured by the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in the July presidential election, the renegotiation of NAFTA, and the re-emergence for the first time in 20 years of a resurgent student movement. All of these shifts pose difficult challenges to US policy, which has been focused on support for free trade, the militarization of the drug war, and binational efforts to contain and repress migration flows from the Meso-American region.
Human rights must become the defining framework for a new stage in the relationship between the Mexican people and the people of the US. This new focus has been demanded by Mexican civil society organizations, such as the Mexican Association of People’s Lawyers – Guerrero Branch (AMAP), which has played a central role in the joint work of the NLG and the Tribunal in Mexico.
The National Lawyers Guild and the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement join hands with the students in support of their just demands and in commemoration of the 1968 student movement.