The disappearance of 43 students in Mexico shows the Mexican state is in crisis, Javier Sicilia, Mexican writer and peace activist, said at a talk on campus Monday.
At the event, sponsored by the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, Sicilia spoke on the failures of the Mexican state to protect its citizens and to control widespread violence, referencing the recent abduction and suspected murder of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico.
Sicilia, formerly a poet, founded Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity in 2011, after his son was murdered by gang-related violence in Mexico. Sicilia and other members of the group traveled by bus, advocating for the legalization of drugs as a way to reduce cartel violence in Mexico.
According to the Mexican Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, the mayor of Iguala and his wife allegedly ordered Iguala police to kidnap the students and deliver them to a local gang.
This alleged act of collusion between authorities and organized crime demonstrates a problem that has existed in Mexico for years, according to Sicilia. During the search for the 43 missing students, local authorities found nine graves containing 20 bodies in the outskirts of Iguala. Early DNA tests show the bodies do not belong to the missing students.
“The Mexican state is in crisis, but we don’t want to accept it,” Sicilia said through a translator. ”This is a corrupt state that is showing what will happen if we do not reform.”
Sicilia said this crisis stems from the state’s economic priorities and the U.S.-sponsored war on drugs. Sicilia said he believes that legalizing drugs in the U.S. would reduce violence in Mexico. He contrasted the threat of drugs with guns, which he said were more harmful.
A panel followed Sicilia’s talk, in which Hector Dominguez-Ruvalcaba, a panelist and associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, said he believes the first step to ending the violence and corruption in Mexico is to jail corrupt politicians. Dominguez-Ruvalcaba said Mexicans should work toward an end to impunity rather than burning down the presidential palace in Mexico City, as protesters attempted to do last week.
Panelist Yoalli Rodriguez Aguilera, a Latin American studies graduate student, said she believes Mexicans should dismantle the state and create a new form of organization. Rodriguez Aguilera said Mexicans should follow the example of the Zapatistas, who started an autonomous movement in the 1990s.
“We need to imagine another way of organizing,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.