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The Latin American Disappeared and Repeating History in Mexico

As of yet, none of the 19 mass graves discovered in the state of Guerrero around Iguala have contained remains of the missing students.

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On October 15, activists rallied outside Mexican embassies across Latin America demanding the return of the 43 students of Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, commonly referred to as normalistas, who were abducted by police and organized crime from the Mexican state of Guerrero for their political activism. The college students’ disappearance is yet another episode in the long history of disappearing those critical of Latin American governments during the Cold War and dirty wars in Latin America.

In Guatemala City, activists from HIJOS Guatemala, an organization that advocates for the investigation of those who were disappeared during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict, organized a demonstration outside the Mexican Embassy. Photos of the disappeared students were displayed, and a banner declaring, “The anger and indignation exceeds borders,” was taped below the Mexican crest.

“This is a historic moment for Latin America and it is important for the people who were affected by the Cold War and the dirty war to demonstrate in solidarity with the normalistas in Mexico,” said Paco, a HIJOS member from Guatemala. “We are repeating history. The conservative forces are making alliances with the mafias and cartels. They are using the disappearances to advance their interests of market liberation.”

Guatemalans know all too well the terror and fear created by disappearances. According to Uruguayan journalist and author Eduardo Galeano, Guatemala was the “first Latin American laboratory in which the dirty war was carried out.” During the internal armed conflict, 40,000 people were disappeared by the right-wing military dictatorships. Nearly 20 years after the end of the war, families still demand to know what happened to their loved ones.