Ayotzinapa: The Manufacture of Terror

Students from the Normal Rural “Raúl Isidro Burgos” of Ayotzinapa bid farewell to Yanqui Kothan Gómez Peralta with a tribute in Tixtla. (DASSAEV TÉLLEZ ADAME/CUARTOSCURO)

Luis Hernández Navarro

The wind band of the Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos receives and accompanies the coffin of Yanqui Kothan Gómez Peralta. The first chords of 20 women in black sound. Inwardly, hundreds of students bid farewell to their comrade: “I ask that when I die / they don’t cry for me please / that they play for me with the band / and sing me this song.”

But, despite the song’s request, it is impossible not to cry with rage, anger and sadness. Yanqui is the most recent normalista from that house of study to be killed or disappear by police or suspected “accidents”. The list is enormous: 11 murdered (including Kothan) and 43 disappeared in the last few years. Like Jorge Alexis Herrera and Gabriel Echeverría, murdered on December 12, 2011. Like Freddy Vazquez and Eugenio Tamarit, run over in January 2014, by the drunk driver of a trailer. Like Julio César Mondragón, Daniel Solís and Julio César Ramírez, killed on September 26 and 27, 2014. Like the 43 of the tragic night of Iguala.

That is why, in the funeral tribute that the normalistas pay to Kothan in his school, Mrs. Lilia Vianey Gómez, his mother, a simple and humble woman from Tixtla, whom the students affectionately call La Tía de la Cooperativa, warns: “We have to keep fighting so that all this ends and you can have better things. We must not be left behind, nor must we be sold out. The government is always going to talk with its lies. The police will always sell out, because they are the same as the government. That’s why now I’m one more of the 43.”

Yanqui entered Ayotzinapa with the dream of becoming a teacher. He was less than a month shy of his 24th birthday and was in his fourth semester of a degree in elementary education. He encouraged his younger brother to follow in his footsteps. He promoted the dance of the tlacololeros and liked horses. He was a runner in the Guadalupano Tixtla club and exercised regularly in the school gymnasium. On March 7, a bullet to his skull, fired by a state policeman in Chilpancingo, cut his aspirations short.

According to various accounts, three young men from Ayotzinapa went to Chilpancingo to pick up girls from other teacher training colleges to attend the celebration of the 98th anniversary of the Raúl Isidro Burgos school. They stopped at a store in front of the Petatlán motel and one, known as Arenita, got out to buy cigarettes. They were attacked by state police on two motorcycles, who pointed their guns at them, shouted: “Get off, you sons of fucking bitches!” and smashed the windows of the vehicle. The students got scared and wanted to return to Tixtla. The police shot and killed Yanqui. It was no accident. They shot to kill him.

Osiel Faustino Jimón Dircio, also a normalista, was pulled out of the truck, kicked, and accused of carrying a gun and carrying drugs, which they planted in order to frame him. He was in their custody for about 10 hours. Yanqui was taken to the hospital, not in an ambulance but in a car. Arenita hid in a ravine but was detained by a military officer and handed over to the police, who mistreated him for more than two hours. Finally, along with Osiel, the took him to a dark place, removed their handcuffs, uncovered their faces and forced them to declare that they had not been beaten.

The Guerrero authorities spread a false version. The state police completely altered the crime scene, removing the vehicle before the ministerial authorities arrived and planted a .22 caliber pistol and drugs. There was no Arco de Registro Público Vehicular to detect vehicles with a theft report at the scene. No percussion cartridges were found inside the van. The bullets were fired from the outside to the inside by the police officers. According to expert evidence and witnesses, the three normalistas did not shoot at the uniformed officers, nor were they drugged or under the influence of alcohol.

It is impossible to understand the implications of the murder of Yanqui Kothan apart from these five elements: the penetration of the police in the state by organized crime, especially Los Ardillos, in Chilpancingo and Tixtla. The incessant stigmatization of the students and the previous murder of 10. The setback in the clarification of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa and the refusal of the Army to hand over 800 key documents of the case. The unsuccessful 10-day encampment of parents and students of the school in the Zócalo of Mexico City. And the controversial battering of the door (with a truck) at the National Palace, led by young people during the morning, precipitated by the mistreatment of the victims’ relatives when they tried to deliver a letter requesting a meeting with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, after which they were offered a meeting with the president, without his advisors.

Yanqui’s murder was a milestone in the manufacture of hatred against students and parents. It further set fire to the fields of rural normalismo. Doña Lilia Vianey told Sergio Ocampo, correspondent of La Jornada: “This will not go unpunished. I will do everything I can so that it does not go unpunished, because the authorities do nothing. I am going to do it so that my son’s death does not go unpunished”. Mrs. Gómez is already one more of the mothers of the 43.

Last Saturday, after the funeral, with the coffin on their shoulders for two kilometers, his companions went to lay Yanqui in his final resting place in the neighborhood of Santiago, in Tixtla. They were accompanied by the student band to the sound of Cerca del mar: “Cerca del mar / Yo me enamoré / Y como la luna / La brisa y la espuma / También te besé (Close to the sea/ I fell in love/ And like the moon/The breeze and the foam/ I took, kissed you)” Faced with the intention of the state authorities to hide the extrajudicial execution, the prevailing feeling of the community is one of indignation. Their unanimous cry is: justice!

Original text published in La Jornada on March 12, 2024.
Translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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