By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada
Her name is Hilda. Like me she is a mother filled with pride and love for her children. Nothing was more evident as she told me about her son Jorge Antonio and how he was studying to be a teacher in the rural community of Ayotzinapa.
I can only imagine how Hilda is feeling now.
September 26 marks a terrible anniversary for Hilda and her family. It was on that fateful day one year ago, that Jorge Antonio and dozens of other teacher-training students from Ayotzinapa were on their way to a demonstration when they were fired on by Mexican police.
Three students were killed and others seriously wounded. Eyewitnesses saw the police taking away 43 students. They were never seen again. Jorge Antonio was never seen again.
I met Hilda last April during the Ayotzinapa to Ottawa Caravan, a grassroots initiative co-sponsored by Amnesty International. I accompanied her as she met with a senior advisor to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister and appealed for pressure on Mexican authorities to properly investigate and find the disappeared students.
I was moved beyond words as Hilda and surviving student Jorge Luis Balbuena courageously testified to Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights about the lethargic pace of investigators, the indifference of Mexican authorities and the dangerous threats against those speaking out.
Hilda, Jorge Luis and all the families and classmates of the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa deserve both our admiration and our active support. Since last September 26 they have done everything possible to find their loved ones.
Yet one year later, they are still asking: “Where are the 43?”
There is no doubt that the official investigation has been nothing short of a white-wash, a cover-up orchestrated by the highest levels of government. Key forensic evidence was handled without care or never processed at all. Important lines of investigation were never pursued. Official “conclusions” shared with the press were based on the testimony of witnesses who later claimed they were tortured into confessing to abducting the students.
Efforts by top government officials to convince the world that the students were killed by a drug gang and their remains burned in a dumpster have been exposed by experts as lacking in evidence and credibility. Indeed in a report on September 6, a group of independent experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded it was scientifically impossible for that number of bodies to have been burned in a dumpster in the conditions claimed by the authorities.
Meanwhile, Mexican authorities barred the independent experts from interviewing soldiers of the 27th infantry battalion based in the town where the students were attacked and taken away – begging the question: what is it that the authorities are trying to hide?
Shockingly, what happened to the students of Ayotzinapa is no isolated case. More than 26,000 people are reported disappeared or missing in Mexico, almost half of them during the current government of President Peña Nieto.
Authorities do little if anything to investigate, sending a message that these crimes are tolerated amidst widespread collusion between state security forces and organized crime. The few victims of disappearances and abductions whose remains have been found have displayed evidence of torture. Indeed, torture is out of control with a 600% rise in reported cases in the past decade.
As I write, Hilda and the families of the 43 missing students are on a hunger strike in Mexico’s capital. They want a real investigation, they want justice but most of all they want their kids back.
We can help!
Please sign this petition action without delay. Share it with others. Together we can show Mexico’s government that Canadians – a huge source of tourism income in Mexico – have not forgotten the missing students of Ayotzinapa and we expect action.
Then light a candle for Hilda, for Jorge Antonio, for his classmates, for their families and know you are part of a global movement that will not give up.