From A World to Win News Service:

Mexico: the anniversary of a massacre amid continuing massacres

October 14, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


October, 2012. A World to Win News Service. The Tlatelolco massacre that took place 44 years ago continues to cast its shadow on the political landscape of Mexico.

During the summer of 1968, a movement among secondary school, vocational and university students, linked to the radical upheaval then sweeping the world, had to face the police and the army from the start. In response to the violent attacks on occupied schools, students went to give out leaflets and talk to people on buses, at markets and factory gates, and in rural areas to build a broad social movement that brought the question of revolution to many minds.

On October 2, 1968, shortly before the start of the Olympic Games, tens of thousands of students and local residents gathered for a political rally in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City. The government had spent an enormous amount of money so that it could bask in the prestige of the first Olympic Games to be held in a third world country and was not about to allow its authority and legitimacy to be challenged.

Thousands of troops and hundreds of small tanks surrounded the area. Members of the Olympic Brigade, a secret Special Forces unit of the Presidential Guard, infiltrated the crowd. A helicopter began dropping flares. That was the signal for the Brigade members to open fire. Soldiers, police and plainclothesmen also began shooting. At least one machine gun set up in a 19th-story apartment fired into the plaza below. Olympic Brigade units entered the plaza to arrest student leaders. They went house to house in the nearby apartment buildings throughout the night, searching for students. During that afternoon and through the following night they killed hundreds of people and rounded up thousands more.

As Minister of the Interior, Luis Echeverria was in charge of the Tlatelolco massacre. Three years later, under his presidency on June 10, 1971, an elite U.S.-trained paramilitary unit known as The Hawks assaulted a student demonstration in Mexico City, beating and shooting to death more than 100 people. 

On the 30th anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre, President Vincente Fox of the PAN (National Action Party), whose election put an end to the 70-year reign of the PRI (Institutional Revolution Party), released documents that essentially revealed that the government's version of the event—that the students themselves had started shooting to provoke the soldiers—was a lie. It was impossible for Fox to distance himself from the hated past without that kind of step. In 2006, former president Echeverria was arrested and accused of genocide, but the charges against him were eventually dropped under the pretext that too much time had passed. He is still alive. During this period, secret documents obtained by a U.S. academic research organization revealed that U.S. armed forces provided the Mexican government with military equipment to be used against the people, and the CIA was in continual contact with it during the 1968 "crisis." 

October 2 is now officially a "national day of mourning" and tens of thousands of people marched in the capital on the 40th anniversary of Tlatelolco. But those responsible for the massacre have never been punished. Further, despite the emergence of competing political parties, all three of Mexico's major parties, the PRI (recently elected to head the next Mexican government), the PAN (the current governing party, which paints itself as a champion of "democracy") and the "leftist" PRD, have, in one way or another, continued to be involved in the carrying out of state murders and massacres.

The following article is from Aurora Roja, voice of the Revolutionary Communist Organization (OCR) of Mexico. ( We have added explanations in brackets for non-Mexican readers.


Down with the murderer state!

Arresting people without cause, torturing them, making them disappear, murdering them: these are the normal procedures of the Mexican state. People hope that it can change through reforms or by electing new faces, but the facts demonstrate that won't work.

The 1968 murders remain unpunished because the state hasn't changed

In 1968 youth rebelled against bloody state repression. They shattered the suffocating routine and challenged the social order. Why did the state massacre hundreds of people in Tlatelolco on October 2? Why did it jail 2,000 more? Why did the mainstream media broadcast the official lie that "It was the students who started the shooting," and that only 20 or 30 died? To maintain and reinforce their monopoly of power. They wanted to send a message written in blood to all those who dared question it—the message that, as Rojo Amanecer [a well-known film about the Tlatelolco massacre] put it, "You can't play games with the state."

If, as is said, the state represents "the Mexican people," then why does it repress the people it supposedly represents? The truth is that it only represents a small minority which accumulates wealth and benefits from the current system, the Mexican and foreign big capitalists and landowners. It represses any popular opposition that threatens or even disturbs the functioning of the ruling capitalist order (if that opposition can't be brought to heel by other means).

Now, 44 years after the massacre, and despite the special prosecutor's office that has been "investigating the crimes of the past" for six years, none of those responsible have been punished for the murders of October 2 and the other crimes committed in 1968 and 1971. Despite the reforms and the "democratic transition," in essence we are still facing the same state that defends the same system and represents the same ruling classes.

The state is still massacring people

Experience shows that all the governmental parties and all the heads of state defend the interests of the system.

Acteal—December 1997: Forty-five Tzoztil Indian peasants were killed by paramilitaries trained and armed by the Mexican Army. The government applied the label "inter-community conflict" to a massacre that was part of their strategy for dealing with the Indian uprising and the EZLN [the Zapatistas]. They aim to smash peasant resistance to the capitalist-landlord state that denies autonomy for indigenous peoples and pillages and destroys peasant communities in the service of capitalist projects. Acting on a request by [current President Felipe] Calderon, the U.S. State Department recently recommended that [ex-president Ernesto] Zedillo, the main figure responsible for this horrendous crime, be granted "immunity." The PRI, the PAN, Obama and Hillary Clinton (of the U.S. imperialists' Democratic Party) are granting impunity to the intellectual authors of this massacre. Today the same strategy of using paramilitaries to kill people is being carried out in Chiapas, Michoacan, against the Purechas Indians in Cheran and the Nahuas in Ostula, and in many other parts of the country.

Atenco—May 2006: In a campaign against street vendors of flowers, the local police in Texcoco (a municipality run by the PRD) detained 84 people. Then the Federal Preventative Police (under the government of the PAN's then-president Vicente Fox) and the state of Mexico police (under Enrique Pena Nieto [now the PRI president-elect]) surrounded San Salvador Atenco and arrested 84 people. In Atenco they searched houses, robbed and beat people, and killed two youths. In all they jailed 146 people and raped 26 women in detention, in an attempt to smash just resistance to their monopoly on power. This is another state crime that remains unpunished. Pena Nieto's effort to justify it at the Ibero-American university contributed to the birth of the #YoSoy132 movement [a major ongoing wave of protest that first emerged last spring when students disrupted Pena Pieto's speech. A previous issue of Aurora Roja described it as"the expression in Mexico of a new political awakening now breaking out in major areas of the world reflected in the Arab rebellions, the Occupy movement, the Indignados in Spain, etc."].

Oaxaca—June 2006: The brutal repression of a school teachers' sit-in (ordered by the PRI governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz) was the spark that set off a popular rebellion in Oaxaca. People built street barricades and took over radio stations to broadcast the truth. Hundreds of thousands of people marched. The police, the Army and their death squads murdered at least 26 people. After five months of heroic resistance, President Fox (of the PAN) ordered the Preventative Police to smash the rebellion and assure the "proper functioning" of the system. Oaxaca governor Gabino Cue (nominated as candidate by the PRD, MC [his own party, the Citizens' Movement] and the PAN) are still covering up the crimes of the previous regime and committing new crimes.  

Political assassinations in the capital

In the DF (capital district) the PRD governments covered up the political murders of people's activists. It also viciously repressed the strikers at the national university, protests against the invasion of Iraq and others in support of Atenco, and, among many other crimes, caused the death of youth in the New's Divine [a Mexico City bar where a 2008 police raid led to the death of a dozen people who suffocated when they were crushed against the blocked exits as the crowd tried to escape brutal beatings].

Digna Ochoa, a brave defender of the pro-ecology peasants in Petatlan, Guerrero state, was the victim of a cowardly assassination in her office on October 19, 2001, after repeated threats and attacks. The evidence points to the caciques [political bosses] in that region and the Army as the perpetrators, but the capital district prosecutor closed the case with the absurd claim that she committed suicide.

Pavel Gonzalez, a student at the national university and political activist, disappeared from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters on April 19, 2004. He was tortured and killed five days later, on the fifth anniversary of the student strike in which he had participated. His body was covered with bruises, and the fingerprints of his murderers could be seen on his neck. He was found tied to a cross on a hill called Pico de Aguila in Ajusco. Once again the capital district prosecutor declared this death a suicide.

Carlos Sinhue Cuevas Mejia, a teaching intern at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the national university, was murdered on October 26, 2011. Carlos was also a student striker, and a political activist. During 2009-11 he was defamed and threatened in a series of leaflets signed by a so-called "Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Collective," a phantom group whose only activity was to accuse authentic people's activists of being "infiltrators." These leaflets appeared on campus anonymously, and the authorities made no attempt to hinder their distribution. Carlos participated in the movements to support the SME [striking electrical workers], the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copla and street vendors, and against repression, militarization and many other injustices and crimes committed by the state. The prosecutor's office totally failed to investigate the political harassment that he had suffered. Miguel Mancera, the chief prosecutor at that time, immediately declared that Carlos' death might be a "crime of passion." He is now trying to close the case, covering up this political assassination by claiming that it was linked to petty drug dealing.

Criminalizing the victims to protect the real criminals

With the smoke screen of the "war against drug trafficking" and acting at the behest of the U.S., over the last six years the Mexican state has created a generalized climate of terror against the population in general, particularly youth and the lower classes. Think about the real people behind these statistics: 30,000 disappeared, 250,000 people forcibly displaced, 20,000 orphans. A November 2011 report by Human Rights Watch documents extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions by the armed forces and police, calling them "endemic in the war against drug trafficking in Mexico." The state commits such crimes on a daily basis, not because it seeks to "protect the citizenry" or "wipe out organized crime," but rather to control the drug business, reinforce its repressive machinery, and dominate, degrade and criminalize the oppressed. The aim is to prevent any insurgency that might have revolutionary potential, even before it breaks out.

This state is an accomplice to the kidnapping, extortion and disappearance of thousands of immigrants from Central America. It is in collusion with the feminicides [the still-unresolved murders of hundreds of women] and the disappearance of women who are sold into sexual slavery. It is in collusion with the death squads such as the Matazetas in Veracruz, who rather than killing Zetas [a major drug organization] massacred 35 innocent people. And soldiers and police themselves are killing many people, like the six members of the Reyes Salazar family murdered by the Army in Valle de Guadalupe, Chihuahua, in 2009-11, and the 50 people "disappeared" by the Navy in the corridor between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo in June 2011.

Fight the repression, prepare for revolution

These are only a few examples of the thousands of crimes that demonstrate the murderous nature of this state that ensures and exercises the ruling classes' monopoly on political power, concentrated in their monopoly of so-called "legitimate" armed force. The character and role of this state hasn't changed and cannot change as a result of reforms and changes in the governing political party or president.

This state and this system do not deserve to last, nor is it inevitable that they will. They can be swept away by the revolutionary struggle of the people whom they have so long and so cruelly exploited and oppressed—the great majority of people. The system is full of contradictions that can lead to crises that shake the people awake and force them to act, in one way or another. In order that the people act according to their own interests, right now we need to forge a movement for revolution that fights against repression as part of the struggle to finally smash this state and the system it defends, liberate the country from imperialist domination and create a much better society that struggles to put an end to all exploitation and oppression and for the emancipation of all of humanity in a communist world. Denouncing these crimes and unmasking the state that commits them will contribute to accelerating this revolution—it will contribute to forging the consciousness, fighting capacity and organization that are required to achieve that goal.


A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.


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