Thursday, November 30, 2006

Paying for State-Sponsored Crime in Mexico

While it will probably never come to fruition in trials, it's nice to see Vicente Fox finally making good on his promise to try to prosecute Luís Echeverria for his oversight in the massacre of over 700 students in the (appropriately-named) Massacre at Tlatelolco in 1968. For those who don't know, students in Mexico had been demanding democracy under the "one-party dictatorship" of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) from late-July 1968, and the protests were growing (including over half a million people in Mexico City's Zócalo plaza). On October 2, with the Olympics fast approaching in Mexico City, the PRI decided it couldn't afford the "embarassment" of protests against its authority in the presence of the world. The government's solution, with Echeverria as head of what is basically the department of Defense, was to "attend" a peaceful student rally at the Plaza of Three Cultures in Tlatelolco, Mexico City. Shortly after six, military men and police officers surrounded the plaza and opened fire, aided by helicopters hovering above that had men also shooting into the crowd in what amounted to a fish-in-the-barrel scenario. Students panicked and tried to flee, but all legitimate estimations reveal that the military, under President Gustavo Ordaz Diaz and [then-]minister Echeverria (who became president from 1970-76), killed over 700 students in one night.

For years, Echeverria and others have eluded prosecution, but it seems like, at last, they may have to face up to their acts. Is it really genocide? Maybe, maybe not, but such a semantic debate glosses over and ignores the fact that the government killed over 700 of its own citizens in one night. I'm no big fan of Fox, and the fact that he made this promise 6 years ago, and yet didn't really push for it until the last couple of years (the news arrives one day before he leaves office) is troubling, but still, when history judges his administration, hopefully it will bear this feat in mind.