For Immediate Release
October 12, 2015
Ana Robelo, Anakbayan New Jersey
Laura Emily Austria, Anakbayan New Jersey
(470) 309-2265, email@example.com
From Ayotzinapa to Mindanao End State Repression of Indigenous Schools! Anakbayan New Jersey Demands Justice for the 43 Students of Ayotzinapa One Year Later
As we pass the one year anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa on September 26, 2014, Anakbayan New Jersey joins the call for justice and stands with the struggle of the families of the disappeared students. We recognize that this is another manifestation of state repression facilitated by US imperialism.
At the International Tribunal of Conscience for the Movement of Peoples at NYU, our members were fortunate enough to hear the truthful accounts of what happened the night of the disappearances in the words of leading Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez and her partner Steve Fisher. They continue their investigation despite eminent death threats to counter the government’s cover-up. The Mexican government’s story is filled with contradictions and lies further revealing its role in the violence against schools like Ayotzinapa’s Normalista school, it’s students, and the indigenous peoples of Mexico. We know that the Mexican military, federal police, and Guerrero police forces are responsible under orders of President Peña Nieto’s government and that they monitored and hunted the students because of their commitment to education in Mexico’s rural indigenous communities.
As we listened to the findings from Hernandez and Fisher’s journalism in conjunction with testimonials from human rights defenders who have witnessed massacres, abuse, kidnapping, and torture victims at the hands of Mexican authorities and Mexican migrants forced out of their homeland to survive we hear echoes of the Philippines. While Mexico is in the backyard of the U.S. imperialist superpower, the Philippines is under military occupation and heavily monitored even across oceans. With the same human rights and democracy rhetoric that the U.S.-Mexico Plan Merida uses to fight the war on drugs as Oplan Bayanihan uses to fight second front of the U.S. war on terror in Mindanao – in reality millions of U.S. tax dollars invest in militarizing and terrorizing the Mexican and Filipino people with impunity backed by their respective governments. Military and paramilitary groups can roam freely on rural indigenous land forcibly displacing, harassing, and killing. In the Acteal Massacre of 1997, 45 members of Las Abejas, a Mayan-Tzotzil Christian pacifist group, were murdered, for their public support of the EZLN Zapatista army while praying in a church by members of the PRI. Eighteen years later the then President, Ernesto Zedillo, is pardoned by the U.S. Supreme Court and holds the titles of research center director and professor at Yale University. This January Obama hosted current Mexican President Peña Nieto in the white house and congratulated him on “structural reforms” with the intention of fixing the “immigration problem” and ignoring the violence perpetuated by both governments through policies, like NAFTA and Plan Merida, causing migrants to leave Mexico and Central America. 43 years after the declaration of Martial law, the redtagging of activists and human rights defenders continues through Oplan Bayanihan under Aquino. Just four weeks ago three Lumad leaders Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo were murdered in the Lumad school ALCADEV school in Han-ayan, Mindanao by the Philippine army, special forces, and a Lumad paramilitary group. As immigrant youth and youth from immigrant families doing work in the U.S. we know that real change must come with addressing the conditions in our home countries even as we fight imperialism from within belly of the beast. “As an undocumented Mexican-American, I was forced to leave my country and make the United States my new home…Like many say ‘no soy de aqui, ni soy de aya’, ‘I am not from here or from there’, but for me the pain of the 43 students is just as alive and just as frustrating as it is to the people in Mexico…” says Miriam Zamudio of New Jersey Youth for Immigrant Liberation. “As a student I feel the pain of my comrades, I feel a need to fight for justice not only in my country but in a suffering Latin America.”
The Mexican government has tried to frame Normalalista schools — a school to ready high school graduates for the teaching field. Usually two-year programs, normal schools can be traced back to the 16th century. Despite this long history, students of the Escuela Normal of Ayotzinapa are being tagged by the Mexican government as a place where radicals, revolutionaries, and communists study. A similar scenario can be seen in indigenous communities in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. One case is that of the Manobo children in Talaingod. Attending the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Ingkanugon (Unity to Defend our Ancestral Land) School is hard for these children because they are tagged by the Philippine government as schools of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. As a result, paramilitary often invade their lands and schools. These indigenous schools do not follow the curriculum followed by other schools in the cities — they are geared towards their agrarian lifestyle and their position as being vulnerable to the paramilitary. This is apparently reason for the Philippine government to attack the Manobo people and other indigenous groups; these people are deemed as communists, members of the NPA, or terrorists. Anakbayan NJ supports the Save our Schools campaign in the Philippines, which asserts that indigenous people should have the right to educate and empower their communities without fear of military attacks and harassment.
Stephanie Bello, a member of Mexican American Progress Movement, rebukes the way both the Mexican and Philippine governments have been framing schools residing in indigenous communities. “As students and youth searching for justice, democracy, and progress for our communities, we stand in solidarity with the Normalistas, the disappeared students, their parents and communities. It is time for Mexico to heal and progress, and it must do so with its youth front and center,” she stated. “We support the parents, families and comrades of the 43 disappeared students, their vision of a critical education that is accessible to the rural poor, and whatever means they propose for achieving justice and accountability. Indigenous people and rural schools (normalistas) are being attacked by government and militaries not only in Mexico but in other places of the world. In the Philippines 3 leaders at an alternative rural school were murdered by paramilitaries on August 18. This attack further emphasizes government’s’ efforts to limit critical and important education of indigenous people,” Bello asserts.
The world, for many of our comrades in other countries, is in a state of constant war. Ayotzinapa has shown us that in these wars there is no such thing as a non-combatant. The 43 Ayotzinapa students in question were ironically targeted because they were stealing buses in order to attend a demonstration commemorating the Tlatelolco Student Massacre of 1968. The Massacre had taken place on October 2nd — 10 days before the opening of the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. A culmination of political unrest in Mexico, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and the rest of the world came about through student movements, and this was exemplified by the Tlatelolco Student Massacre. Students numbering in the thousands gathered at the Three Cultures Square in the Tlatelolco housing complex so that they could know what the next steps of the movement were. As students we look to the 43 with sorrow, because we see in them our own sorrows, our own struggles, and our own power. In each of them was a capacity for friendship and love no different from our own, a yearning to do what is right in the face of authority, and an opportunity to know what is just. It is in them that we can come to terms with our own weaknesses, our biases and impotency. “As youth and students we often lack the power that older members of our community wield, and the insight that the most oppressed may offer,” Anakbayan NJ member Jonathan Zirkle remarks. “It is in our afterlife that our flaws disappear, and our legacy reaches farther than we ever could while bound by our flesh. We can no longer meet the 43,[…] shake their hands[,] or laugh with them[…] [However,] their power will fuel us until the revolution is won.” For this reason, ABNJ stands and supports the voices of all students being repressed by state governments as we commemorate the 1st Anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa.
AYOTZINAPA VIVE! LA LUCHA SIGUE!
DOWN WITH IMPUNITY! END STATE REPRESSION FROM AYOTZINAPA TO MINDANAO!
SAVE OUR SCHOOLS! STOP KILLING LUMAD!