Things That Matter

5 Years After They Went Missing, The Case Of The 43 Missing Ayotzinapa Students Is Nowhere Near Answered

There is new information out of Mexico pertaining to the kidnapping of 43 teachers college students who disappeared in Southern Mexico in 2014. According to the AP, Gilberto López Astudillo, one of the main suspects in the case has been acquitted leaving many wondering if justice will ever be served for the families of lost ones.

Santiago Aguirre, the lawyer for victims’ relatives, said the judge acquitted López Astudillo due to “insufficient evidence.” He was then released from custody Saturday with no other charges pending against him. López Astudillo, also known as “El Gil”, was one of the main perpetrators that prosecutors had targeted behind the kidnapping and suspected massacre of the 43 students. 

The case has haunted many on the country where homicide rates and kidnappings have reached record highs in the last five years.

Credit: @nbclatino / Twitter

Mexico hasn’t been able to move on from the disappearance of the 43 men from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the southern state of Guerrero. The story behind the case has yet to be conclusively established as many accounts have had various endings and perpetrators behind the kidnappings. Authorities said that the 43 students were detained by corrupt police on the night of September 26, 2014, and were then allegedly handed over to gang members who massacred them by burning their bodies. 

López Astudillo quickly became the focus of the kidnapping and the main suspect in the case. He was identified as a member of the Guerreros Unidos, an organized crime group. Prosecutors charged him with giving orders to kill the students, allegedly mistaking them for members of another rival gang. The case quickly became a stain on the Enrique Peña Nieto government (2012-2018) who many accused of fumbling the investigation from the start.

Lopez Astudillo becomes the highest-profile suspect from the case to be released. According to prosecutors, the five-year investigation has been stained by allegations of official incompetence or even corruption. As of now, more than 40 suspects have been released because of procedural mistakes by investigators which includes the use of torture to get confessions. 

Aguirre told the AP that there has been “sleaziness, human rights violations and irregularities in the investigation.” He says even though there is a new administration leading the investigation, nothing much has changed from previous leadership. During the trial, there were more than 100 elements of evidence in López Astudillo’s case, according to Aguirre. But much of that evidence became useless as 62 of them were ruled inadmissible due to the way they were obtained. 

With this latest turn in the case, many now are looking for answers and are questioning if the Mexico government might know something we don’t. 

Credit: @guardianworld / Twitter 

With news of one of the main suspects in the case being released, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a news conference that he will investigate the potentially botched case vowing to shed light on the crime. López Obrador created a truth and justice commission to investigate the case back in January, shortly after taking office. The commission has not yet uncovered any further information about what happened to the students or the people behind it. 

“It’s a very serious justice issue and because of that we’re going to formally file a complaint with the attorney general’s office and the judiciary in this case,” López Obrador said. 

With so many inconsistencies in the case and now the main suspect being released, families of the victims are now looking for answers and pointing blame on the government for botching the investigation. Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the families of the kidnapped students, echoed this sentiment when he told a local news outlet that López Astudillo was released because of malpractice. 

 “It is regrettable that people have to go free because of negligence,” de la Cruz told Milenio TV.

“What we have now are a series of trials, which are falling apart,” said María Luisa Aguilar, an international affairs director for the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre, which has worked with the students’ families, told The Guardian. “The impression the families have is that the investigators tried to shelve the investigation,” she added. “They didn’t do a proper investigation into what happened or the students’ whereabouts – which is what the families care about most.”

READ: ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Wants To Give Back His Giant Drug Fortune To Indigenous Mexicans

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Things That Matter

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Celia Lucero

For years, conservative minded people in Mexico have defended the full frontal war that then president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa waged against the drug cartels from 2006 to 2012. This war continues today and has seen almost half a million people killed, countless abuses, displacement of whole populations and a diminished image of Mexico locally and abroad. Those who align with the supposedly incorruptible stance that Calderón took against organized crime claim that he was just doing a job that previous presidents had failed to do.

During this period government forces fought mainly Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, as well as new organizations in the state of Michoacan such as La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios. Strangely, the Sinaloa Cartel was left largely untouched and even expanded its operations during the Calderón presidency.

A recent high profile arrest could shed some light on why the war against the cartels has developed in a way that up until recently seemed to benefit the powerful organization built by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and his compadre Mayo Zambada. As The Guardian reports: “A 2010 analysis of crime figures by NPR found that only 12% of people arrested, prosecuted or sentenced for drug, organised crime and weapons offences had ties to the Sinaloa cartel”. This is peculiar, to say the least. 

Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s security chief, was arrested in the United States.

The charges emanated from the recent trial in which El Chapo Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison. The authority  claims that García Luna, who was infamous for the many human rights abuses that the State’s forces committed under his command, received generous bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel to warranty that their operations would not be threatened.

If true, this would be corruption at the highest levels of government and would justify fears that Mexico has become a Narco-State in which global trafficking networks are the de facto decision makers. He led Mexico’s federal investigation agency from 2001 to 2005. From 2006 to 2012 he served under Calderón as secretary of public security. So yes, cannot get more powerful than that! 

García Luna was the architect of the federal police, a force which coordinated with the Army and the Navy to fight the cartels.

If the allegations are true, it could mean that the whole State apparatus was created with a hidden agenda in mind, which would put the legitimacy of the institutional framework of Mexico during the FCH presidency on serious scrutiny. After the former security chief was arrested,  US attorney Richard P Donoghue said: “García Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico. Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes.”

Of course, Calderón was quick to say he wasn’t aware of this happening

Former president Calderón, who is attempting to create his own political party alongside his wife Margarita Zavala, took to Twitter to say he was unaware of García Luna’s dishonest ways.

If this is the case then it would amount to the worst kind of incompetence on Calderón’s part. If he was indeed aware, however, well it would spell political and possibly legal disaster for him. Either way, this arrest could probably mean the end of Calderón’s political life.

By the way, he once said that nothing happens without the president knowing about it. The accusations are damning.

As summarized by The Guardian: “According to the indictment, cartel bagmen twice delivered briefcases containing millions of dollars to García Luna. In 2018, former cartel member Jesús Zambada testified at the trial of the Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that he personally made at least $6m in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. In exchange for the bribes, the Sinaloa cartel obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, inside details of police investigations, and information about rival drug cartels, the indictment said.”

We wonder how many heads will fall as the ugly truths revealed during El Chapo’s trial keep resurfacing. 

Remember the Netflix show El Chapo? Well, it sort of showed these acts of corruption in an eerily similar way.

Credit: Netflix

As more information surfaces after the now legendary El Chapo trial, we stand in awe at how accurate the Netflix-Telemundo show was. In it, Calderón’s government strikes a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel through a shady political operative who had García Luna’s exact same job? Coincidence or was it un secreto a voces?