September is a month of excitement in Canada as students begin a new school year.
In Mexico, September 26 marks four years since police attacked a bus carrying 43 students from a rural college in Ayotzinapa who were studying to become teachers. Police took the students away. They were never seen again.
Their forced disappearance remains the most notorious example of a massive, ongoing epidemic of disappearances in Mexico – more than 37,000 people who were taken away and “vanished” – amidst state corruption and collusion with organized crime. The official investigation has been so deeply flawed as to be accused of covering up the involvement of the military and powerful authorities.
But now there is potential for truth, justice and finding the whereabouts of the students.
In June, a Mexican federal court ordered the government to create a special Truth and Justice investigative commission, involving the students’ parents who have worked for four years to challenge false accusations and try to find their kids. Sadly, government bodies have filed over a hundred legal motions against the court order, showing again a political decision to hide the truth about the fate of the 43 students.
It is vital that the new investigative commission is created and successfully completes its mandate. As long as there is neither truth, nor justice, the families will continue to suffer the torture of not knowing if their children are alive or dead AND perpetrators will be given a green light for more disappearances.
Now is a crucial moment. Why? The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has months left to determine its legacy. The new government of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador will take office in December. During this time of transition it is important to press the outgoing government to stop opposing the special investigative commission and dedicate its resources and efforts instead to commit to complying with the court ruling. It is also important to make visible to the incoming government that the eyes of the world are watching.
Mexico is mindful of its international image. This means action from Canada has the potential for impact and is particularly important to the families of the 43. Hilda Legideño (below), whose son Jorge Antonio is one of the 43 disappeared students, told us that solidarity action from Canada has helped give the families hope and strength. She asked us to continue to support them.
Please take the following actions on or around September 26.
1. LETTER WRITING
Write a short, personal letter to Mexico’s Ambassador in Canada, Dionisio Pérez Jácome, introducing yourself and calling on him to convey to his government in Mexico:
- your feelings (describe them in your own words) about the unacceptable reality that 4 years since the disappearance of 43 students of Ayotzinapa, their whereabouts have still not been determined, and that the truth and justice are also missing
- your feelings (describe them in your own words) about news that government bodies have taken action to block implementation of a special truth and justice investigative commission ordered by a federal court in June 2018
- your call on the government to comply with the court ruling without delay and work with the families to ensure truth, justice and the return of the 43 disappeared students
- your hope as a friend of Mexico for commitments to confront the crisis of disappearances and state collusion with organized crime, rather than denials and cover up.
Your letters can be individual or joint ones. Think of ways to make them eye-catching for maximum impact! For example, incorporate the turtle image that is the symbol of the college in Ayotzinapa. Different versions are found here, here and here. Joint letters will draw greater attention if they are hand written on a huge piece of paper and have lots of signatures below in different colours. Roll up your letter and tie it with red, white and green gift ribbons – the colours of the Mexican flag – and tuck pencils under the ribbons, a symbol of students everywhere.
Please send all your letters – and video messages, if you would prefer to deliver your call on Mexican authorities that way – to the attention of Campaigner Kathy Price, Amnesty International, 1992 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z7. She will organize a delegation to deliver them all in person to Mexico’s Ambassador at the Embassy in Ottawa at the end of October. We will also share copies of your letters with Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to urge Canada to firmly support calls for the Truth and Justice Commission.
PLEASE NOTE: While we are encouraging action around the Ayotzinapa anniversary in September, you can take action in support of the disappeared students and their families through October in order to accomplish our goals.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA
Use social media to make visible your concern, your solidarity with the families of the 43 disappeared students, and your call for creation of the court-ordered Truth and Justice Investigative Commission
Use the hashtags #CanadaMexicoSolidarity #VerdadParaAyotzi (truth for Ayotzi) and #VivosLosQueremos (we want them back alive). Include the handles of President Peña Nieto (@EPN) and the Attorney General (@PGR_mx). If you can, please also include the handles of Canada’s Foreign Minister (@cafreeland) and our Ambassador in Mexico (@AmbPierreAlarie).
Never forgotten! 4 years since 43 students were disappeared in Mexico. In Canada, we stand with families of the 43 to demand court-ordered Truth&Justice Commission @EPN @PGR_mx @AmnestyNow #CanadaMexicoSolidarity #VerdadParaAyotzi #VivosLosQueremos pic.twitter.com/invaIAghUS
— Amnesty Toronto (@AmnestyToronto) September 11, 2018
— Chryslyn Pais (@chryslynp) September 11, 2018
Please be sure to use the hashtag #CanadaMexicoSolidarity so that we can collect and make visible your social media messages on a Stackla page.
3. GET CREATIVE!
Paint the number 43 on a t-shirt, your face, or your hands in order to deliver an instantly recognizable message of concern for the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa.
43 Mexican students who would have become teachers. Made to disappear 4 years ago. WHERE ARE THEY? @EPN @PGR_mx must ensure Truth & Justice Commission ordered by a federal court in June. What have you got to hide? #VivosLosQueremos #CanadaMexicoSolidarity #VerdadParaAyotzi pic.twitter.com/WkoNKG1Vdd
— Kathy Price (@KPriceAmnesty) September 7, 2018
It’s 4 years since Mexican police took 43 teacher-training students away and students like me are still asking: WHERE ARE THEY? We need the truth, we need justice and we need the 43 back @epn @pgr_mx !! I’m counting on you to create the court-ordered special investigation commission. Canadians are watching! #CanadaMexicoSolidarity #VerdadParaAyotzi
4. INVOLVE OTHERS
Consider organizing a public event in your community, even a small one, to gather solidarity photo messages and signatures on a joint letter. You can draw attention with signs or placing 43 empty seats with photos of the disappeared students on them (contact Kathy Price if you want the photos). Reach out to teachers, schools, student associations, universities or colleges in your community – and especially to teacher training programs. Think who else is likely to be sympathetic. Invite them to sign a large letter you have created, to write their own letters and social media messages, or to sign this print petition.
5. TWITTER PARTY ON AND BEFORE SEPTEMBER 26
From September 22 through September 26, create a multiplier effect. Search with the hashtag #CanadaMexicoSolidarity and #VerdadParaAyotzi and retweet messages. Also retweet @AmnestyNow @AmnestyToronto @AmnestyOntario @AmnestyBC @KPriceAmnesty @AIMexico
Got other ideas? We’re anxious to hear them! Please contact Amnesty’s Action Coordinator Ailish Morgan-Welden
Thank you for taking action in solidarity with the 43 and their families on this important anniversary! It matters!!