Mexico: Ayotzinapa Normalistas Burn State Building, Demand Answers

By Nélida Tello

On July 17, Ayotzinapa normalistas set fire to the Guerreo State Legislative Building along with a guard post on the premises during an action condemning President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) attempt to use the case of the 43 disappeared normalistas as a ‘smoke screen’ for COVID-19.

More than 300 normalistas, students who attend rural teachers’ colleges, traveled from Ayotzinapa to Chilpancingo, Guerrero, seizing six buses to travel to the state capital, a common tactic used by normalistas as recourse for their lack of funding.

A large banner with the names and faces of the 43 disappeared students served as a backdrop to a normalista giving a speech before a crowd of masked students. “As Ayotzinapa normalistas we are ready to give our lives if necessary. They have taken everything from us, even our fear […] from this place Ayotzinapa stands and states that if the government does not resolve things, Ayotzinapa is going to be forced to take to the streets and demonstrate with actions and violence that as a school we will not be silent,” one student stated.

This September will mark six years since the forced disappearance of 43 normalistas from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, commonly referred to as Ayotzinapa. In 2014, 100 normalistas from Ayotzinapa were preparing to travel to Mexico City to join the annual October 2 march in commemoration of the Tlatelolco Massacre. Tasked with capturing buses to travel to Mexico City, they were ambushed by police forces and 43 students were forcefully disappeared.

Earlier this month, human remains in Cocula, Guerrero were identified as Christian Alfonso Rodriguez Telumbre by the University of Innsbruck in Austria. AMLO issued 46 arrest warrants for government officials. The normalistas repudiated AMLO’s action, declaring that they would not stop fighting for the return of the 43 alive and further stated that the president attempted to pacify the families of the 43 and the other normalistas.

Students forced their way past security onto state building grounds, where incendiary devices were launched at the building and gasoline soaked mattresses were lit on fire and placed at the entrance of the building as well as on windows. One guard post went up in flames with graffiti reading “fighting gives us what the law denies us.”

The Congress’s Permanent Commission assembly was suspended for the day, the governor’s coronavirus press conference was interrupted, and the building was closed for the rest of the day.