It is a little over three months since the disappearance—on September 26—of the forty-three Mexican student-activists in the state of Guerrero, and Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is visiting Washington. It’s unclear if he was summoned or if he is here supplicating on his own. The agenda is murky, and his meeting with Barack Obama, scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, is sure to get upstaged by the swearing-in of the Republican majority in the House and Senate.
In any case, Peña Nieto is in trouble at home. He was caught golfing on the day of the third-month anniversary of the disappearances, criticized for putting out a promotional video that put a happy face on the crime, “showing images of protests and violence transforming into images of progress and happiness,” and is embroiled in a corruption scandal that threatens to muck up his efforts to privatize Mexico’s oil industry, which in turn is scaring the bond and credit-default markets. “This scandal represents a major risk to the country’s positive trajectory, given how close the allegations are coming to Pena Nieto,” a Eurasia Group analyst says.
And Peña Nieto’s alibi regarding the disappearance of the forty-three seems to be unraveling.
Peña Nieto, mostly through Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, has tried to portray the crime as a consequence of Mexico’s “weak state,” that catch-all excuse borrowed from social science that never sees the problem as an active condition of neoliberalism and empire but rather as a consequence of not enough neoliberalism and empire. In the case of the forty-three, it means pinning the crime on local corrupt politicians, municipal police and regional drug gangs.
But according to an investigation last month by Proceso, federal police were involved in the disappearance. The missing students were actually on their way to Mexico City to attend a protest on October 2 and they were intercepted not by local police but by federal police. Two Berkeley journalism fellows, Steve Fisher and Anabel Hernández (a published investigative reporter from Mexico), helped with the investigation:
In order to reconstruct what happened on that tragic night in September, Fisher and Hernandez obtained documents and cellphone videos shot by students during the attack. The two reporters traveled to Iguala to conduct several interviews. “What we found through thousands of pages of documents that we went through was that the federal police were the ones who followed the students for hours and then took part in the attack,” Fisher said.