The ferocious political repression unleashed by the Mexican government during the 1960s and 1970s, and continued on different levels for many years, remains an open wound in society and clarifying what occurred and punishing those responsible has been a major demand by the country’s left-wing parties, social movements, and human rights organizations. The current MORENA administration, beginning with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself, has played an active role in attempting to deal with this issue in coordination with organizations of the victims’ families. Yesterday’s announcement of the establishment of a Truth Commission is a major step forward.
La Jornada editorial:
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced yesterday that a special truth commission will be established to shed light on the crimes committed by those in power during the 1970s and 1980s, in what was known as the dirty war, as well as to procure justice, provide compensation for damages suffered, enshrine memory, and guarantee that these atrocities will not be repeated.
Following the bloody repression of the 1968 student movement, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz’s successors, Luis Echeverría Álvarez, and José López Portillo unleashed a ferocious persecution against the rural and urban guerrilla organizations that were created in the early 1970s as a result of the regime’s stubborn refusal to accept change. This persecution is known in the history of our country as the dirty war since it was illegal, clandestine, and in violation of the guarantees established in the Constitution, and because the authorities acted arbitrarily and discretionally and committed crimes against humanity.
The government repression, implemented behind the scenes by means of semi-secret organizations such as the infamous White Brigade, was not only aimed at neutralizing armed movements, but was also directed against peasant and trade union leaders and activists, political opponents, and even people who were not members of any groups or were in any way active.
During those years, inhabitants of states such as Guerrero experienced first-hand the worst practices of the counterinsurgency manuals. Torture, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions were the fate of hundreds or thousands of citizens imprisoned -or kidnapped- by police and military bodies. Mexico experienced the horrible incongruity of a government that diplomatically distanced itself from the military dictatorships of Central and South America, but domestically carried out many of their criminal practices, such as the so-called death flights. During Vicente Fox’s presidential administration, the Mexican government raised the need to air details of this atrocious recent past, through the establishment of a Special Prosecutor’s Office for Social and Political Movements of the Past, created in 2002. However, the initiative was soon reduced to an exercise in simulation, and the only important defendant was Echeverría Álvarez, who was eventually acquitted. Meanwhile, the agency was dissolved in 2007, during the Calderón administration. But despite the time that has transpired, the wounds of the dirty war are still alive and in order to close them it is essential to know the truth about the crimes of the past, to provide justice to the extent that it is possible to do so, to compensate for the damages inflicted, and to guarantee that abuses such as those perpetrated by the government authorities do not occur again.
At the end of the day, the impunity enjoyed by the those in power during that period preceded and facilitated the generalized impunity of the neoliberal presidential administrations, both in relation to the very serious human rights violations perpetrated during the Salinas, Zedillo, Calderón, and Peña Nieto governments, as well as in terms of the massive looting of public resources. The work of the body announced yesterday is, therefore, a necessary step toward effectively overcoming the past and toward a true national reconciliation.
La Jornada, Tuesday, August 31, 2021