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Montrealers gather in show of solidarity with missing Mexican students

Protesters speak out against corruption, inaction of Mexican government

On October 8, around eighty people gathered in the early evening outside of Montreal’s Mexican consulate to express solidarity with ongoing protests in Mexico over the disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero.

The students, who attended a rural teaching school known for its revolutionary politics, disappeared after being attacked in September by local police suspected to be affiliated with criminal networks. The attack left six dead and 43 missing; a motive for the attack remains undetermined. Last weekend, a mass grave was discovered with at least 28 badly disfigured bodies, feared to be the missing students.

The tragedy has sparked nationwide and global protests. Many have pointed to the incident as evidence of endemic corruption, lawlessness, and the Mexican state’s failure to protect its citizens.

“I think it’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s a small sample of what is happening in Mexico,” Dagoberto Acevedo Hernandez, a Mexican studying in Montreal, told The Daily in French.

“The situation in Mexico is impossible… it’s truly terrorism,” Leticia Vera, a Mexican attendee at the vigil who has been living in Montreal for eight years, told The Daily in French. “Everything is out of control… it’s just organized crime and narco-politique.”

The crowd formed a circle outside of the entrance of the consulate, chanting, singing, and listening to speakers, who mostly spoke in Spanish. The mood was sombre, but angry. Later in the event, attendees joined hands in a moment of silence to commemorate the missing students, some holding Mexican flags and others handwritten signs.

“We will not forget,” a woman standing toward the side of the crowd called to the others in Spanish. Attendees later chanted together, remembering the victims and calling for justice.

Tealights and candles lined the outside wall of the building alongside photo printouts of the missing students. A banner hung overhead, reading “stop the terrorism of the Mexican state,” in French.

“It’s very obvious that there’s no longer any rights, that justice is no longer respected in Mexico,” Patricia Vejar, a Mexican student at the Université de Montréal who helped organize the event, told The Daily in Spanish.

Approximately 70,000 Mexicans have died over the past few years in the drug wars, according to estimates. The Mexican government has been ineffective in the combat against the cartels and criminal networks terrorizing the country. State agents – such as the army and municipal police forces – are plagued by corruption and often complicit in the violence.

Vejar called for action, not only on the part of the Mexican government, but also other states, particularly Canada and the U.S.. “Why won’t they help Mexico?” she asked. “They go there to exploit natural resources, but they won’t help people.”

She also spoke to the importance of seeking justice for the missing students and protesting the Mexican government, even from afar. “I love my country, I love my homeland,” she said. “Even though I’m here, I’m still thinking of my homeland – I’m still Mexican.”

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