This afternoon, unidentified police officers snatched a student activist from the street in Mexico City. The student, Sandino Bucio Dovalí, studies Philosophy at Mexico’s National Autonomous University and has been active in the recent protests in Mexico City against the kidnapping of 43 student teachers and the murder of three others in from a rural teaching college in Ayozinapa in the southern state of Guerrero. The 43 student teachers were detained two months ago in confrontation with municipal police from Iguala and Cocula. According to Mexico´s Federal government, they were later handed over to a drug gang. It is believed they were murdered and burnt in a rubbish dump.
Armed agents from Mexico’s Special Investigative Police Department for Organized Crime (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada or SEIDO), detained Bucio Dovalí as he left a busy metro station near the Autonomous University. This detention was captured on video. In the recording, it is clear that the agents –who were not wearing uniform- used excessive force and violence. When on-lookers tried to intervene to prevent what appeared to be a kidnap attempt, police agents threatened them with heavy duty rifles. SEIDO later confirmed the detention of Bucio Dovalí.
Bucio Dovali is not the first student activist to be arrested in the wake of the large demonstrations in Mexico City and a number of other towns and cities in Mexico. Last week, ununiformed elements of Mexico’s Federal Police attempted to arrest Bryan Reyes and Jaqueline Santana as they walked on the street. This attempt was thwarted by uniformed police officers who responded to the students’ cries for help. Federal police have accused Reyes and Santana of stealing 500 pesos (25 UK pounds or 45 US dollars) from its agents. Both students are now in prison awaiting charges.
These detentions appear designed to intimidate students from protesting against the disappearance and murder of the Ayotzinapa student teachers. The news of this event has provoked protests around the world and has severely affected the image of Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. In the two months since the student teachers vanished, there have been on-going protests throughout Mexico. Demonstrators want the Mexican government find the missing students and undertake actions that would put an end to the drug cartel’s violence. There is abundant evidence of collusion between Mexico’s politicians and the cartels, most obviously from the events of Ayotzinapa. As a result, the legitimacy of Peña Nieto’s government is being questioned daily in the press.
Moreover, in recent weeks, President Peña Nieto and his wife, Ángelica Rivera have also been facing allegations of corruption concerning a house built for Rivera by the building contractor who has undertaken many lucrative building projects for the Federal Government during Peña Nieto’s presidency.
In a speech delivered a few days ago, Peña Nieto threatened to use Mexico’s security forces against demonstrators. The detention of Bucio Duvalí and others in the past week suggest that he has resolved to fulfil his promise. Moreover, it appears that these arrests are only the start, as reports indicate that arrest warrants have been issued for many other student activists.
Instead of directing his energies to combatting the murders, kidnapping and people trafficking undertaken by the drug cartels, it appears Peña Nieto has decided to target students who are protesting against his handling of the disappearance of the student teachers from Ayotzinapa. In this context, the fact that the students arrested during last week’s demonstrations have been charged with inciting terrorism and participation in organised crime is chillingly ominous.