On a dark humid September night, 43 students went missing after a confrontation with local police in the town of Iguala, just 80 miles southwest of Mexico City. The young men were part of a protest against new education laws when according to eye witness accounts, officers and civilian gunmen started shooting, killing three students.
The last time anyone saw the missing youth they were being shoved into police vans. Three other people were killed in related shootings. Since the students' disappearance on Sept. 26, a dozen mass graves have been found around the area with remains of burned and dismembered bodies. Authorities say none belonged to the missing 43, but fail to identify the corpses. A gruesome testimony of the violence that continues in Mexico.
Federal officials were quick to denounce the abduction as the work of local drug gangs and municipal police. Blaming narcos has become the best excuse not to investigate and take a deeper look at corruption within Mexico's institutions. The real problem is not a handful of gunslingers, the massacre of six young men and the kidnapping of 43 of their colleagues signals the problem is systemic.
For most of the past two years, Enrique Peña Nieto’s government has been successful at keeping violence off the radar of national and international media. His advisers mounted impressive public relations campaign that not long ago landed Peña on the cover of Time magazine under the headline: “Saving Mexico.” The truth is, the only way to save Mexico, is by reinstating rule of law and ending the widespread culture of impunity, something this government has miserably failed at.
Around 26,000 people have gone missing in the last eight years in Mexico, according to a list compiled by the previous administration. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said the country's efforts to address the large numbers of disappearances and abductions has been marred by inexplicable delays and contradictory public statements.
Not only has this government proven incapable of upholding justice, it also seems unwilling to provide people with their right to accurate information. Forty-three students have disappeared, and thousands remain missing. The strategy needs to change. If there is one thing this massacre reveals, it is the lines between institutions, politicians and narcos are not blurry, but clear as the September sky over the mountains of Guerrero.