From the disappearance of 43 students to the escape of El Chapo, it has been a terrible past 12 months for Mexico.
They arrived in buses, just as their children had a year ago. They carried photos of their missing sons and daughters. And they listened as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, a handsome man hardly older looking than their abducted children, promised them that the investigation into the horrific crime had not been closed.
But the parents of the “Ayotzinapa 43″ — students kidnapped and presumed killed on Sept. 26 of last year — were not placated. They were, after all, literally starving for answers.
On Thursday, family members of the disappeared students met with Peña Nieto in Mexico City to present him with a list of their demands. In the middle of a two-day hunger strike, they accused the Mexican government of telling them a “historic lie” about the incident almost a year ago. And they reiterated their plans to protest in the city’s historic center on Saturday — the one-year anniversary of the suspected massacre — and beyond.
“We won’t rest,” Maria de Jesus Tlatempa, the mother of one disappeared student, told AFP. “We will be a pebble in his shoes. We won’t go home.”
The meeting marked a grisly anniversary for Mexico, a country long plagued by drug violence and mysterious, often unresolved mass killings.
Even by Mexican standards, however, the past 12 months have been unusually miserable. First, the students went missing in bizarre circumstances. Then the efforts to find them, or their bodies, only unearthed other mass graves. Faith in Peña Nieto and his government plummeted, particularly after a series of political scandals.
And then there was El Chapo’s July 11 prison escape — an unthinkable twist to an already terrible year.
All the while, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tried to turn the country into his personal political punching bag, falsely painting Mexico as a land of drug traffickers and rapists and blaming it for America’s ills.
As the anniversary of the Ayotzinapa students’ disappearance looms, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Mexico’s pain and America’s anguish are, indeed, connected — just not in the way Trump claims.
America is in the midst of a deadly heroin epidemic, and the drug is increasingly coming from Mexico. At the same time, American demand for the drug continues to fuel violence in Mexico.
Bodies are piling up on both sides of the border, but so, too, is the blame.
In the case of Ayotzinapa students, Mexico’s misery may be even more directly linked to its northern neighbor. A recently released report suggests that incident, and its alleged government coverup, probably stemmed from a secret drug shipment hidden inside a bus bound for the United States.
In other words, Saturday’s Ayotzinapa anniversary will likely mean little to most Americans — but it should mean the world.