A Mexican government institution has for the first time admitted a state crime was committed during the repression against the student movement of 1968, especially regarding the Oct. 2 Tlatelolco massacre in which security forces shot at a peaceful protest killing hundreds.
“The Tlatelolco massacre, which took place on the afternoon of Oct. 2, 1968… represents a historical chapter in which the Mexican state showed its most authoritarian face by silencing the voices of the citizen’s movement,” said Jaime Rochin, chief of the Executive Commission for Victims' Assistance in Mexico (CEAV), a subsidiary of the Department of the Interior, in a statement published on Monday.
The statement was read at the Tlatelolco University Cultural Center (CCUT) during a cycle of conferences on the 1968 student movement in Mexico. Rochin explained the commission’s resolution was taken with the advice of survivors of the massacre.
“The use of sniper fire was a state crime, aimed at creating chaos, terror and an official narrative to criminalize the protest. It was a state crime that continued beyond Oct. 2 with arbitrary arrests and tortures,” continued Rochin.
The CEAV aims to recognize the victims and set the foundations so that something like this doesn’t happen against. “The human rights violations are irrefutable and there is plenty of evidence that shows that state institutions were used for this objective, representing a state crime.”
But the commission explained that this collective resolution doesn’t interfere with the right of victims for individual restitution and the right for society to know the truth about the movement and its repression.
On the afternoon of Oct. 2, students gathered at the Three Cultures’ Square in Tlatelolco, in central Mexico City, to hold an post-march political meeting. It was the height of the student movement that year, in the context of the 1968 social unrest, which was asking for a more just society, better educational conditions and an end to the repressive regime of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and his right hand Luis Echeverria.
All of a sudden, the students saw flares in the sky and heard shots. The official death toll sits around 30, but hundreds didn’t make it home.
A special prosecutor was appointed in 2002, who even filed charges against former President Echeverria, who at the time of the massacre was serving as secretary of the interior, but the case was dismissed by a tribunal in 2007. Not even the special prosecutor was able to set a more accurate number of victim mortality, but an accepted figure among activists sets the number at 400.
The statement issued by the CEAV represents “the first collective reparation that recognizes one of the most tragic chapters of Mexico’s recent history,” according to Rincon.
The 1968 movement is a “watershed” in the history of defense and protection of human rights, and its collective reparation “aims to spark off the processes of truth, justice and memory,” said Rochin.
The CEAV aims to “recognize the victims and work in a process that defends their struggle and dignity,” he continued.
Even though the document was prepared to take into account the recommendations of survivors and relatives of the victims, none of them were present at the event.
Rochin said one of their main demands is a public apology by the state, but that would be a matter of the federal government.
Diaz Ordaz, president at the time of the massacre, accepted “full responsibility” for “last year’s events” in 1969, but didn’t say anything specific about the massacre nor did he ask for an apology.
The new statement will give victims new tools for access to justice and truth.