MEXICO CITY — Students from the Escuela Normal de Especializacion began occupying metro stations in this bustling city Thursday as part of ongoing efforts to pressure Mexican authorities to find 43 missing students in the state of Guerrero.
The students, who attended one of the 16 Escuelas Normales in the country that train poor and rural teachers, disappeared Sept. 26, following a confrontation with local police.
"We want them to find our schoolmates," said Raymundo, a spokesman for a group of 95 students who briefly occupied the Estacion Metro Merced, which services of one the city's largest markets.
Investigations into the disappearance has lead to not one but nineteen mass graves. None so far have contained the remains of the students, though the most recent is still undergoing forensic tests. Investigators currently believe that after firing on the students — who had commandeered several buses to take them to a protest — the police delivered missing students to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, telling them that the students were members of a rival drug gang.
Two cartel hit men admitted to killing at least some of the students and dumping them in a pit -- although their bodies have not yet been recovered, the Financial Times reported earlier this month. So far, 56 people have been arrested in connection to the disappearance.
The incident has sparked mass protests across Mexico, including here in the capital where college and high school students have engaged in marches and temporary occupations for weeks, and student activists are organizing a general strike that could start November 5th.
Blocking turnstiles so that passengers could enter the subway system for free, the students on Thursday chanted classic protest slogans like "The People United, Will Never Be Defeated," as well as specific chants to the disappearances, including "I Think Therefore I Disappear" and counting and clapping to 43. After several minutes, the protesters left and planned on rolling demonstrations throughout the subway system.
Of the five Escuelas Normales schools in Mexico City, three have been closed by students and faculty to protest the disappearances. All five schools are engaging in rolling protests: on Wednesday evening, students occupied three of the main highways entering Mexico City, blocking toll booths so that drivers could pass for free.
Guerrero, the state where the 43 students disappeared, is an extremely poor area in Mexico, and drug cartels for years have operated in the open the state, and state and local officials have been accused of working with the cartels. In the wake of the disappearances, Guerrero's Governor Angel Aguirre stepped down last week, and on Wednesday Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto met with families of the disappeared students.
Students from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, the country's largest university, were also planning a demonstration in downtown Mexico City for Friday, according to activists.