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Iberoamerikanischer Gipfel in Veracruz Kongressgebäude 04.12.2014
Image: picture-alliance/epa/U. R. Basurto

Iguala massacre

Astrid Prange / bk
December 9, 2014

The massacre of Iguala has overshadowed the Ibero-American Summit in Veracruz, Mexico. The pressure on President Enrique Pena Nieto is mounting after one of the victims was identified.


The seat of government was in flames. Just one month ago, angry students set fire to the governor's palace in the city of Chilpancingo, capital of the Mexican state of Guerrero. Their demand: evidence that the 43 students who had disappeared in the city of Iguala were still alive.

That hope finally faded on December 7. Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo confirmed to the domestic press that one of the victims of Iguala had been identified following DNA tests on the remains of bones.

"The scientific evidence confirms that the remains that have been found support our previous investigations," said Murillo. He believes that further identifications will confirm the theory that it was indeed a massacre. "We will continue the investigations, until all those responsible have been arrested," he promised.

Mexico the pariah

Mexico has been in a de facto state of emergency since the Iguala massacre on September 26. The execution of poor students from the interior of the country has shocked the Mexican population and the international community, and lifted the veil on the horrors in the country.

President Nieto opened the 24th Ibero-American Summit, which began on December 8 in Veracruz, with an unusual gesture. At a business forum, he publicly expressed his condolences to the relatives of the victims who had been identified. As host, he thanked the other Latin American heads of state for their solidarity.

Demonstration anlässlich der Ermordung der 43 Studenten in Mexiko Stadt
Mexico has been in a state of emergency since the Iguala massacre in SeptemberImage: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

But in reality, this much-claimed solidarity from other countries is somewhat fragile. The leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua all canceled their participation in the summit. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her Argentinean counterpart Cristina Kirchner both stayed home as well.

Uruguay's departing President José Mujica recently even called Mexico a "failed state," though he took up an opposing view ahead of the summit: "The drug trade is a problem for the whole of Latin America," he said during a visit to the University of Guadalajara. "All the countries have problems, only Mexico is bigger and closer to the USA."

Fighting 'bad headlines'

The anger over the negative coverage of the situation in Mexico seems to be so prevalent that illegal methods have been used against critical articles or broadcasts about corruption and violence in the country. The Mexican press has come increasingly under attack.

According to the journalists organization "Article 19," 87 representatives of the press were attacked in the period April 1 to June 30 alone. Physical injuries were recorded in 39 of those cases. The rest of those attacks comprised intimidations, arbitrary arrests, threats, censorship and trials.

A new tactic in the fight against negative headlines is so-called "media cloning," meaning critical reports are deliberately rewritten to be positive, where the original layout of a publication is kept but the contents digitally altered. The altered publication is then linked to the Internet or even printed and sold in kiosks.

Mexiko - Präsident Enrique Pena Nieto
Nieto has come under increasing pressure at home and abroadImage: Getty Images/A. Estrella

The Acapulco magazine "Luces del Siglo" has suffered such attacks several times. In its edition 546, for example, the original headline "Saving on construction, splurging on shows," was replaced with "Important construction projects consolidate the development of Quintana Roo." The magazine was illustrated with a picture of Roberto Borge, governor of the state of Quintana Roo.

Press freedom threatened?

"The chronic attacks on the press are alarming," Article 19 said in a statement. "For us there is no doubt that the Mexican state is not following its duty to mount criminal investigations into these attacks on the press. This violation of duty is threatening press freedom in Mexico."

Governor Borge has since been asked by the Mexican judiciary to comment on the accusations that he is responsible for the changes to Luces del Siglo. While in the state of Guerrero, where flames shot out of the windows of the seat of government a month ago, Governor Angel Aguirre has already stepped down.

But the pressure on President Nieto is not abating. "The government has a strategic vision and wants to change the country," wrote Mexican writer Hector Aguilar Camin in the El Pais newspaper. But the problem was implementation. "The government is good at creating concepts for the future, but not at dealing with the present."

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