Iguala was rocked by another day of violence and anarchy on Wednesday, as different groups of protesters set fire to town hall and looted a shopping mall on the outskirts of town.
The southern Mexico city has been making world headlines since municipal policemen attacked a group of student protesters from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college last month. Cops allegedly handed over the students to drug traffickers to do their dirty work. Forty-three students are still missing.
On Wednesday, students and teachers marched through central Iguala in a loud but peaceful protest to demand information about their missing colleagues.
The mood changed when the crowd passed city hall, where some protesters stopped to shatter the building's windows with rocks and clubs.
Workers had evacuated the building earlier that day in anticipation of violent protests.
“This is a wake-up call for the government,” Anibal Navarro, a spokesman for the CETEG teachers union, told Fusion. “Students and parents [of the disappeared] are very upset right now about how the case has gone. More than twenty days have passed and we haven’t seen any results.”
The Mexican government has arrested more than 20 of Iguala’s policemen for their alleged roles in the crime. But the missing students' whereabouts remain unknown.
In the search for clues, local prosecutors have found several clandestine graves around Iguala, including one site that contained 28 bodies. DNA tests determined that the bodies belonged to different victims of Mexico's spiraling violence.
As the days and weeks pass without news of the missing students, protests are mushrooming.
Wednesday’s revolt in Iguala was part of a Global Day of Action called for the missing students. It included marches and picketings of Mexican consulates as far away as Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro.
In Mexico City, thousands of students from 29 universities participated in a candle-lit march, which was conducted with minimal police supervision and no acts of violence.
The mood was different in Iguala, where city hall was torched and looted while a second group attacked a nearby shopping center.
Students and teachers also burnt a giant poster of Maria Pineda, aka "Lady Iguala," the wife of Iguala’s fugitive mayor Jose Luis Abarca. The mayor and his wife are the primary suspects in the crime. They've been on the run for two weeks.
Popular anger at the mayor apparently extends to his family, and their holdings. Following yesterday's attack on city hall, a mob of residents from Iguala’s poorest neighborhoods ransacked a nearby shopping mall that was built by one of the major’s relatives, according to Mexican magazine Proceso.
A mob of 50 people looted a department store, hauling off TVs, cellphones, and computers. Smaller kiosques in the center of the mall were destroyed, their glass cases shattered and the items in them taken.
“This was my own business, which I built with lots of effort,” said a tearful kiosk owner who did not want to be named fearing reprisals from criminals. “I am part of the people, why do they do this to me?”
The CETEG teachers union said the teachers and students were not involved in the looting of the shopping mall.
“We were not responsible for those acts,” union leader Navarro said. “We are in favor of the people and against government corruption.”
In a press conference last week, Mexico’s Attorney General said that 700 Federal Police officers have arrived in Iguala since Sept. 26, to ensure security and look for the missing students.
None of those cops were present to stop the burning of Iguala’s city hall, or the looting of the Tamarindo shopping mall. Police arrived on the scene after the looting, and made a handful of token arrests.
“The best cops in the country are supposed to be here, the Federal Police, the Gendarmerie” said a shop owner who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But look what’s happened to our city now. Our town hall is destroyed and burning. Who is going to guarantee our security now?“
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.