by Avi Davis
There are certain stories which offer sharp reminders of how truly fortunate we are to be living in a country with the rule of law as well as a profound respect for human liberty.
On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Guerrero State, Mexico. According to official reports, they commandeered several buses and traveled to Iguala that day to hold a protest at a conference led by the mayor’s wife. During the journey local police intercepted them and a confrontation ensued. Details of what happened during and after the clash remain unclear, but the official investigation concluded that once the students were in custody, they were handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) crime syndicate and then slaughtered. Mexican authorities claimed Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, masterminded the abduction.
Both Abarca and Pineda Villa fled after the incident, but were arrested about a month later in Mexico City. Iguala’s police chief, Felipe Flores Velásquez, remains a fugitive. The events caused social unrest in parts of Guerrero and led to attacks on government buildings, and the resignation of the Governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, in the face of statewide protests. The mass kidnapping of the students arguably became the biggest political and public security scandal Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had faced during his administration. .
On November 7, 2014, the Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam gave a press conference in which he announced that several plastic bags containing human remains, possibly those of the missing students, had been found by a river in Cocula, Guerrero. At least 80 suspects have been arrested in the case, of which 44 were police officers. One student was confirmed dead after his remains were identified by the Austria-based University of Innsbruck.
When contemplating this terrifying atrocity one’s mind is drawn back to Mississippi and the night of June 21, 1964 when three American civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and shot at close range by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three had been working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.
But what happened to those three students was an anomaly in modern American history, rarely ever to be repeated. It is difficult to imagine a massacre as what I have just offered above – with police handing whole busloads of students over to gang members in order to eliminate them – occurring today in 21st Century America. Yet sadly we see it occurring every day in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Congo, Sudan and other parts of both Africa and the Middle East.
Yet several centuries ago – during the Thirty Years War – such scenes were not unusual and even expected. Butchery became a hallmark of European wars and invading armies and militias were given to a blood lust which knew few boundaries.
What distinguishes the West today from those brutal times 600 years ago – and from the countries, such as Mexico, where gang dominion leads so often to summary execution of innocents, is not only the rule of law which is dutifully respected by a majority of American citizens, but an abiding respect for the value of human life. Reading the stories and seeing the photographs of the executions of students who were only exercising their peaceful constitutional rights to protest, must not only send a chill down the spine of every American but also remind us of our deep fortunate to be living where we are living and at a time in history when such things are not regarded as ” usual ” or in the normally accepted course of events.