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That went well.. not! Meeting the victims

1 November 2014

I seldom translate news articles any more not only because I have too much to do, but because Mexico Voices more often than not picks up the same stories I would have translated, and generally does a much better job.  And, is able to get them posted much sooner than I could.

Jane Brundage translated Blanche Petrich’s report that appeared in yesterday’s Jornada on the meeting between the parents of the disappeared Ayotzinada students, the widow of the student killed (and skinned), and a few other victims of state-tolerated (or perhaps state-sanctioned) terrorism.  What appears from the article is that while the adminstration attempted to spin this as an “message: we care” moment, bringing in those survivors and victims are a tougher lot than was anticipated.

There was not a single moment of relaxation during Wednesday’s (October 29) meeting at Los Pinos. Not one smile, not a single “thank you, sir.” The gap was not bridged between President Enrique Peña Nieto and about a hundred Guerrero parents, siblings, some grandparents, including a young widow, of youth killed, wounded and kidnapped on September 26 in Iguala.

… The exchange lasted five tight, tense hours. Abel Barrera, director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, described the encounter:

“They spoke without asking permission, without sticking to formalities, without an agenda. Quavering voices were heard but, above all, they rebuked power.”

It was probably one of the most difficult meetings in the career of the politician from Atlacomulco.

They may be humble, salt-of-the-earth uneducated country-people, but they’re not going to put up with bullshit who are not at all awed by the presence of official power.  While Peña Nieto waited for his audience to stand in his presence, the campesinos were more anxious to tell the President exactly what they thought and what they wanted than they were to defer to protocol.

Photo:  Presidencial de la Republia

Photo: Presidencial de la Republia

Nor, canny peasants that they are, are they fools.  The administration was thrown into a bit of disarray when the outraged and still dissatisfied campesinos not only wanted the minutes of the meeting published, they demanded Peña Nieto sign those minutes.

The signing of the minutes was a step on the agenda not foreseen by staff of the President’s office. Never before had the signature of commitments been demanded. But when the meeting was about to end, family members asked for it.

To the complete and utter confusion of his advisers, Peña gave way. It was agreed that a committee to draft the minutes would consist of the two Human Rights Centers: Tlachinollan and Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez. Then the draft minutes were submitted to a thorough review by the President’s advisers and, after some “minor” changes, photocopies were made. It was about 8:00 p.m.

At that hour, members of the Ayotzinapa delegation knew that Peña Nieto would deliver a message on national television. Then came a new demand: that he not do it [appear on television] before signing the bill. The transmission of the presidential message was scheduled for 9:00 p.m., and the hour was approaching. Some parents came to believe that Peña Nieto would not return to the meeting. Their nervousness grew.

Finally, at 8:30 p.m., the door opened again. Peña Nieto, Murillo Karam and Osorio Chong entered and put their signatures on each page of the minutes, together with those of Melitón Ortega and Felipe de la Cruz, on behalf of the others. Relatives of the Ayotzinapa Normal School students had managed to set a precedent in Los Pinos.

Will there be change?

With a few handshakes, and without expressing gratitude for anything, because they achieved nothing, they left the Presidential residence in time to hear the message while they were on the way to the San Rafael neighborhood, where a hundred journalists were waiting for them to give a delayed press conference.

While Peña Nieto faces criticism from everyone from the Pope to Barack Obama over the way he and his administration have handled these revelations, what those outside the country have to say really doesn’t matter. What the elites in Mexico say does, and the elites in turn are discovering it is those salt-of-the-earth underlings are no longer willing to defer to their “betters” and that ordinary people are no longer in any mood to accept promises or to defer to power. How much longer they will tolerate non-action is anyone’s guess.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 November 2014 10:56 am

    Very important post. Well done!

  2. 3 November 2014 6:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Cultural Detective Blog and commented:
    So happy that the families are exercising their voices, and their indignation. I applaud their success in getting Mexico’s President to, for the first time ever, put his official signature on a document of this type. I pray that my adopted country (Mexico) can find its way toward equity and justice. Remember that egalitarianism is one of the core values of Blended Culture people, for precisely this reason. Every life is valuable, we all have contributions to share, without each of them the puzzle will not fit together. Intercultural competence demands we fight corruption and power imbalances.

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