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News > Latin America

Mexico: UNAM Students March Against 'Mercenary' Shock Groups

  • Students protests against violent groups sponsored by politicians and university authorities at UNAM. Mexico City, Mexico. September 5, 2018

    Students protests against violent groups sponsored by politicians and university authorities at UNAM. Mexico City, Mexico. September 5, 2018 | Photo: EFE

Published 5 September 2018

The 'shock' groups known as 'porros,' paid by politicians and university authorities, have been breaking up protests since decades.

Thousands of students marched today at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the country’s most prestigious higher education institution, to hold an assembly and demand the authorities dissolve the ‘porros,’ mercenary shock groups associated with internal political organizations that are used to violently break up protests.


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The students called for a strike on Wednesday earlier on the week and most of the faculties and schools were paralyzed after one of these groups showed up to beat a group of high school students from the CCH Azcapotzalco -which depends on UNAM- protesting in front of the university’s main administrative building on Monday, demanding better safety conditions just after Miranda Mendoza, a young female student, was kidnapped and killed after school. Mariela Vanessa, also a student, is still missing.

The attack on Monday left about 14 students hurt and at least one will require surgery due to a serious kidney injury by a firecracker. Others were even stabbed and one lost an ear.

The aggression sparked outrage from student communities all over the city and neighboring areas, and the discontent transformed into a political organization and massive demonstrations to end violence within educational institutions.

The university temporarily suspended its internal transportation systems due to the protest, but that didn’t prevent students from different education centers such as the Metropolitan Autonomous University, the College of Mexico, the National Polytechnical Institute, and others to march in solidarity with UNAM’s students.

They established security committees and protocols to avoid being infiltrated by mercenary groups, while chanting slogans against them. The students began marching at 1 p.m. local time from the Political and Social Sciences Faculty all the way to the main administrative building, crossing most of one of the biggest universities in Latin America.

"After the September 19 earthquakes, young people took the country in their hands. It's the generation that has brought us from the ruins that we are. Let's not leave them alone. Public, secular and free education without violence! Take Porros out of the UNAM!" 
Once there, students started an assembly to decide on future actions against violence. On Monday, high school students from the CCH Azcapotzalco were protesting at UNAM when a group of young people started throwing rocks, firecrackers, Molotov cocktails and sticks at them.
The mayor of Mexico City, Jose Ramon Amieva Galvez, announced the attorney’s office had started the corresponding investigation and confirmed the groups arrived at the university in buses coming from the State of Mexico, outside the city itself, and then came back to the same place, suggesting previous organization.

Tens of high schools, and now higher education institutions, have been on strike since Monday in response to the attacks and have issued a series of demands to improve security measures in their establishments and fight these mercenary groups.

Where do Porros come from?

The students identified them as the groups ‘32’ from their own school, ‘3 de marzo’ from CCH Vallejo and ‘FEN’ from Naucalpan, which was confirmed by UNAM’s director Enrique Graue, and they managed to put names on them thanks to photographs shared on social media and collective action.

On Wednesday, just as the students marched, the UNAM published a list of 18 students expelled from its dependent high schools due to violence, matching some of the names identified by the own students and even more coming from the university’s faculties of engineering, literature and philosophy, and other campuses.

Students said that UNAM’s security officers didn’t bother to stop the attacks on Monday, and they even claim that Teofilo Licona, a directive at the university's emergency unit, was coordinating the groups. The students also pointed out at Pablo ‘Escorpio’ Cubas, supposedly an employee from the Gustavo A. Madero city hall in Mexico City and relative of high-level politicians, as one of the main attackers.


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Their involvement in the attacks has not been fully confirmed by official investigations, but pictures shared on social media show them at the place and time of the attacks, interacting with the groups and wearing jerseys (called yercos by ‘porros’) in the style of (American) Football teams but portraying the names of the organizations they come from, representing a distinctive uniform for them.

The Porros have been an important reactionary force in the student movements since the late 1930s and played a key role at the height of the 1968 uprising that was met with heavy repression from legal and paralegal state forces.

They originated from the synergy of student gangs, conservative groups, university authorities, (American) football teams and their supporters in student federations modeled after decaying union organizations that were aligning with the government, according to Imanol Ordorika, a researcher from UNAM that has written extensively on the topic.

When the student federations disappeared during the 1968 uprisings, only the shock groups (and their political connections) were left and remain until now.

They still call themselves ‘student organizations’ and act on behalf of politicians, institutions or high-level authorities on payment and with political objectives.

Perhaps the most known and important aggression was registered on June 10, 1971, when a group of porros known as ‘Los Halcones’ (The Hawks) attacked a protesting group of students, leaving several dead and others seriously injured.

The group was accused of being financed by then president Luis Echeverria and the tragedy became known as ‘Corpus Thursday.’

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