UNITE international officer Clare Baker presented a letter to the Mexican ambassador today, highlighting the union’s “deepest concern” over 43 students missing — presumed murdered — since September 2014.
The letter from Unite leader Len McCluskey notes “human rights violations carried out by law enforcement authorities” in the past, “often” in working in conjunction with “large mining corporations … with connections to the ruling party” and urges President Enrique Pena Nieto to prioritise a proper investigation before he leaves office next year.
The student teachers, who attended Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College, were on their way to a Mexico City march to commemorate the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre when they were stopped by police. An official report found that they were then handed over to the United Warriors crime syndicate and killed.
“We liaise closely with our brother and sister unions across the globe and, along with the United Steelworkers in the US and Canada, have a deep and long-standing relationship with Mexican unions and civil society groups,” Mr McCluskey writes.
“We are deeply troubled that, in spite of public statements by the Mexican government that the tragedy of Ayotzinapa will be fully investigated and that the true perpetrators will be prosecuted, we do not see anything more concrete actually happening on the ground.”
Receiving the letter in person, ambassador Julian Ventura Valero said he shared Unite’s concerns and that the Mexican government was keen to engage with civil society and independent campaigners to pursue all lines of enquiry to get justice for the students’ families.
An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights team cast doubt on the official investigation’s conclusion, holding that the students could not have been killed and their bodies disposed of in the way it claimed, and independent investigators allege army involvement.
A spokeswoman for Justice Mexico Now said international pressure on Mexico was key as authorities had refused to follow lines of enquiry which pointed to complicity by the armed forces.
“It is important that the international community shows concern because the Mexican government has not even been responding to pressure from justice campaigners,” she told the Morning Star.
“Mexico is a member of the Organisation of American States, of which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an autonomous organ. It is not fair that the government should get the commercial and political benefits of OAS membership while failing to live up to the required standards.”
There was “clear evidence” of federal and military involvement in the murders, she alleged.
Disappearances are not unusual in Mexico, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimating in August that 30,942 people have been disappeared in the last nine years. Independent investigators say the real figure is likely to be more than three times that.