The forced disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Mexico has catapulted the security crisis that the US’s southern neighbors are living into northern headlines. However, the majority of English-language news accounts have failed to provide a deeper context concerning the failed war on drugs and the use of forced disappearances as a repressive state tactic, and employ language that often criminalizes the disappeared students.
On the night of September 26, approximately 80 students in the southwestern state of Guerrero were travelling through the small city of Iguala in a bus caravan on their way back to their teacher training college in Ayotzinapa. In Iguala they were intercepted by municipal police, who opened fire on their buses in three separate attacks, killing two students from Ayotzinapa, one teenage soccer player and two other bystanders. At least 25 people were injured, including one student who is still in a coma, and the municipal police forced dozens of the students to board their patrol vehicles.
The number of detained students totals 43; no one has heard from them since they were last seen in police custody. The following day, another student was found dead near the scene of the attack with his eyes gouged out and the skin on his face torn off.