Two students from the “Isidro Burgos” rural teaching academy in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were shot dead during a protest in southern Mexico yesterday. Around 500 students from the school blocked part of the Autopista del Sol highway to demand a meeting with the Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero. By the time police took control of the highway, two students were lying dead on the asphalt.
The victims were identified as 20 year-old Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús and 21 year-old Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino. The student organization behind the protests stated a third student, Edgar David Espíritu, died Monday night. However, at the time of this writing, Espíritu is reportedly alive but in a coma.
State authorities initially denied police shot at protesters, but a video released by Milenio TV shows a man in plainclothes firing a high caliber rifle from a police line in the direction of the protests. The police in video made no attempt to stop or apprehend the gunman.
La Jornada published a photo today showing plainclothes police with high caliber rifles at the scene of protest in Chilpancingo. El Universal also published video of plain clothes police armed with rifles.
Students mobilized on Monday to pressure the governor to appear at a budget negotiation meeting that had been cancelled and postponed for months.
In addition to the killings, at least 20 people were arrested. At least one has been released with serious facial bruising. The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, which is providing legal counsel to some of the detained, stated a 19 year-old claimed he was tortured into making a false confession about firing a rifle during the protest.
Tuesday afternoon, Guerrero’s governor announced the dismissals of the state attorney general and the state police chief and his deputy.
Mexico’s system of rural academies (the Normales Rurales) was set up to train children of marginalized small farmers to become teachers in rural communities. The schools have been hard hit by budget cuts and reduced enrolment opportunities over the past 10 years.