Mexico City. – This summer, 43 students who were protesting against the educational reform disappeared in Ayotzinapa, México. The government's official version blaming drug cartels for their abduction has been questioned by witness' testimonies about policemen and soldiers taking them and serious "mistakes" in the official investigation of the case were discovered. Since then, thousands of people have been protesting against the government, demanding it to present the 43 students alive. Interview with Mexican student Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo. By Lea Gölnitz.
According to the Washington Post the protests demanding justice for the disappeared students broadened into a "more diverse fury about corrupt politicians and their drug-trafficking cronies, the economic and education reforms pushed by Peña Nieto, and the enrichment of the political class as poverty persists in states such as Guerrero." However, considering the "characteristic apathy and passivity of the Mexican society", Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo doubts the capacity of such solidarity to transcend the actual conjuncture.
Lea Gölnitz: Ximena, you grew up in Mexico City and besides studying political science you follow and are in fact involved in social and political struggles in Mexico for a while now. What are your thoughts on the current events? How is the atmosphere in Mexico?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: "Sadly, it has become common to say that it hurts to talk about Mexico.When I think about it and wonder why the current situation in my country is even possible, I consider the passivity and apathy of the Mexican society as two of the main factors. But at the same time people are frustrated and upset with the government.There is a fine line between hope and desperation. I'm sure that many have already written about it, but it becomes less abstract and more shocking when experienced in person and among loved ones.
It makes me sad that most people and the media seem to have forgotten, ignore or suppress the memory of several peaceful resistance movements, but they do exist and I can think of many examples.
Lea Gölnitz: Can you give some examples?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: There was for example The Other Campaign of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation to expose the lies and corruption of politicians in 2005 and the national movement to request a vote recount under suspicions of an electoral fraud in 2006. And there was the 12 km long protest camp on the country's largest avenue that recorded no violent incident for a month and a half. More recent ones are the prostes against the privatization of the energy sector during 2007 and 2008 and the demonstrations across the country to demand an end to the violence that left more than 90,000 deaths and 26,000 missing people during the presidency of Felipe Calderon, including the demonstration led by parents of missing children that paralyzed Mexico City for a whole Sunday and the Peace Dialogues held in Chapultepec in 2011. Furthermore there was the brief #YoSoy132 student movement against the media manipulation of the electoral campaign in 2012 and the national movement against the energy and educational reforms during 2013. Contrary to the image that the government is trying to promote abroad, of a peaceful, stable and developing country, the violence and social injustice prevailing in Mexico have been triggering a wide repertoire of peaceful resistance movements since the last 10 years.
Lea Gölnitz: What do you think is the prospect of the current protests? Is the Washington Post right, is this a momentum to challenge general failures of Mexican policy?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: I remember many times when the same people who are now outraged and state on social networks that "indifference is complicity," remained indifferent to the injustices and atrocities that have been happening in Mexico since the beginning of the last decade and even refused to get informed about it. Sadly, according to the evidence of how the Mexican authoritarianism and conservative society has shaped their minds, there is a possibility of this solidarity samples happening just because it became trendy to post about it on Facebook and talk about it amongst friends. It worries me that this is just an isolated case where the Mexican State terribly failed to cover up its actions. I hate to think that in four or five years they will return to their characteristic everyday indifference and passivity, because it would be another victory for an authoritarian state that is used to repress and kill with impunity. In that case, I would not know how Mexico could get another opportunity to become a better place.
Lea Gölnitz: What do you think is the problem?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo : The State, in addition to claiming the monopoly of violence and being the main unit of capital accumulation within the global economic system, is also the largest producer of symbolic reality.Which means that it is the political unit with the biggest capacity to shape the perception of reality of individuals, the manner in which they interpret their every day life events and as a result, the way they are able to feel and imagine. The Mexican authoritarianism for many years presented and continues to present any attempt to protest in public spaces and to be politically active as unfounded, unlawful, irrational and dangerous.Most Mexicans, despite their good intentions, are unable to recognize peaceful civil resistance movements if the news do not describe them as such.They are unable to consider suspicions of electoral fraud, despite knowing that the manipulation of votes was and is one of the main features of the political system.They are unable to understand a movement if the news say that their leader is crazy and obsessed with power, despite knowing that most of the media in Mexico is heavily influenced by the State.They are unable to record indigenous or peasant movements, because the colonial past taught them that indigenous people are invisible and the modernizing promise did the same with peasants.They are incapable of listening to students protesting because the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre taught them how protesting students are listened to. They are unable to sympathize with a demonstration because it threatens the belief that "the country is not doing that bad", because they are unable to perceive reality beyond the cognitive limits within they were programmed by an authoritarian State and a conservative society.They cannot grasp much of the reality in which they live in, although they are living in it.
Lea Gölnitz: This is a very negative image of Mexican society, is it actually that bad?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: Well, it explains why in Mexico a president can retire quietly after leaving unresolved a security crisis that caused more than 90,000 deaths and 26,000 disappearances, that is why the next president can conceal a state crime and present the country in international conferences as an emerging economy.That is why the general attorney can say during a press conference that "he got tired" of people who ask him about the matter.That is why Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.Because even the good ones have been stripped of the necessary cognitive tools to realize what is happening in the country and act accordingly, and that is why the work of those who do have them is more difficult and dangerous.Because despite having spent months or even years working to improve the country, there are people who still think that in Mexico "there are no peaceful resistance movements". And if the State decides to "disappear" them some day, there will not be anyone left to record such an event. I really hope that the anger and activism unleashed by the disappearance and suspected murder of the 43 Ayoztinapa students will bring some change.
Lea Gölnitz: How do people express their anger? E.g. on Social media...
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: Besides demonstrating in many cities and massive protests in Mexico City, as well as meetings with the parents of the missing students, a lot of people post a picture with the faces of the students as their profile picture on Facebook and share links to reports or videos related to it. The hashtag #FueElEstado, which means "it was the state" has become very trendy. They also post invitations for joining demonstrations, meetings, discussion groups and meetings.
Lea Gölnitz: Is it dangerous for people to join the protests? Are people afraid of consequences?
Guadalupe Ximena Garcia Hidalgo: We didn't think it would be dangerous. After all, the government and the president do not get tired of saying that Mexico is a democratic state. However, there have been violent acts during some demonstrations carried out by suspicious masked man described by the media as "anarchist groups", but no organization participating in those demonstrations has recognized them. It is probably a strategy of the government to delegitimize the protests. That has always been a classical strategy of the Mexican authoritarianism. Three weeks ago, some "masked man" burned up one of the gates of the National Palace in the main square of Mexico City, but there are pictures that show how police officers allowed them to get that close without arresting them. This week, the police shot at some students in the National University in Mexico City, apparently to avoid a robbery. There are robberies all the time in the University, and the police has never cared before. I think, it is the way the Mexican government is telling us that it is time to stop protesting.