In spite of threats from the president. who said he will use force to disperse “violent” demonstrations that “seem to seek to destabilize his administration,” tens of thousands of Mexicans are expected to take to the streets in Mexico City Thursday, to call on authorities to demand justice in the Ayotzinapa case.
This time, a total of three marches will unite in the capital’s main square, the Zocalo, in front of the presidential palace. A national strike has also been called for the same day as the protests.
The first march is scheduled to start at the Angel of Independence monument, located on Mexico City’s main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, where anyone not affiliated with the groups on the other two marches will gather at 5 p.m. before marching to the Zocalo.
Meanwhile, unions and farmers, from all over the country, will gather at the Revolution Monument at 6 p.m. local time before starting their march.
Also at 6 p.m., students and teachers, arguably the most active sector of society with regard to Ayotzinapa protests, will gather at Tlatelolco square before marching down Eje Central avenue towards the focal point in the demonstration: President Peña Nieto’s offices.
Tlatelolco square is highly symbolic for Mexican students. It was the site where students were slaughtered by the army on October 2, 1968.
Students say they might block the four main streets leading to Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. This option was still under discussion by university groups Wednesday night.
The date of the mass rally was chosen deliberately; November 20 marks the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. In its annual celebrations, the president presides over a Zocalo square filled with parades of athletes and soldiers.
This year, however, federal authorities have announced that the ceremonies have been canceled.
Thursday’s march will be staged in spite of Peña Nieto’s hardened stance toward the mass mobilizations of the last 50 days. At first, he took a sympathetic approach to the crimes in Guerrero state by meeting with the parents of the missing students.
However, over the past week Peña Nieto has said he will use force to disperse violent demonstrations. He has also said that protests seem part of a plan to destabilize his administration. He labelled them as sabotaging the reforms his government has been trying to fast-tracked through Congress, since Peña Nieto took office in December, 2012.
Peña Nieto’s hard-line remarks came after masked men –called anarchists by government officials and politicians– disrupted a peaceful demonstration in the Zocalo. The men, totaling no more than 15, burned the door of the presidential palace.
The wave of protests currently rocking Mexico emerged due to the violent incidents that occurred September 26, when the local police of Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero, shot at several buses of students from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college, killing three students and three civilians.
The students, according to authorities and witnesses, were handed to a local gang known as the United Warriors, or Guerreros Unidos, by the police, reinforcing public distrust of authorities and exposing the extent of corruption in Mexico.
The Mexican attorney general said the gang was controlled by the former Igual mayor, Luis Abarca, and his wife, who recently were arrested by the police and charged with six counts of murder. They are also accused of masterminding the violent incidents of September 26, along with the abduction of the 43 students.
Since then, dozens of mass graves have been discovered in the region, but forensic studies concluded none of the remains, so far, belonged to the 43 Ayotzinapa students.
The attorney general recently announced that three detained gang members had confessed to killing the missing students and burning them depositing the remains in plastic bags they say they abandoned in a municipal dump and in a nearby river.
This information increased public outrage and prompted protests throughout the country and around the world. The families, classmates and supporters have insisted on demanding that the 43 missing students be found alive, chanting slogas such as, “You took them alive, we want them back alive.”
Protesters say the federal government is responsible for the crime, repeatedly demanding Peña Nieto’s resignation.