Interview in Spanish:[audio https://ia801509.us.archive.org/9/items/AyotzinapaEntrevistaMontrealFINAL/Ayotzinapa%20Entrevista%20Montreal%20FINAL%20.mp3]
On September 26th 2014, police forces in the State of Guerrero, Mexico, attacked a busload of students from a rural teacher training school in Ayotzinapa. This attack resulted in the death of six people, and the forced disappearance of 43 students. On April 20th 2015, a caravan from Ayotzinapa travelled to Montreal. In this interview, Hilda Legideño Vargas, the mother of one of the disappeared students, and Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a student from the teacher training school, explain why they have travelled to Canada in their struggle to find the 43 students. Brought to you by Simone Lucas from CKUT’s News Collective.
ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW
Simone Lucas: Thank you so much for meeting me and for doing this interview. Could you introduce yourself and tell me why you have travelled to Montreal in this Caravane?
Hilda Legideño Vargas: My name is Hilda Lehideño Vargas, mother of Jorge Antonio Tizapa, a disappeared student. Our goal in coming to Canada is to inform the public about the human rights violations that the Mexican government is committing against its people.
Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena: My name is Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena and I am a student of the teacher training rural school Raul Isidro Burgos, in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. I am in the third year [of the program] and a friend of the boys who are not with us at this time.
SL: What do you think happened to the 43 students?
HLV: The Mexican government has told us that our sons are dead. But we do not believe this version. Based on the government’s past actions, we believe that they could be held in clandestine prisons or in high security areas. So we do not accept the government’s version and we are going to continue searching for them.
SL: Hilda, I would like for you to tell me a little about your son, Jorge Antonio.
HLV: My son is 20 years old, Jorge Antonio Tizapa. He has a daughter who is 1 and a half years old, going on two. He works and studies to be able to maintain his daughter. He is very joyful, he likes to drive. He is a good boy, a good son.I miss him a lot, I miss him a lot. Its been a long time and I want to see him. And I miss his way of being. When he goes to work and he comes back. He is a little over the top. When he is a block away he comes whistling, he comes singing. He is very joyful, very celebratory. And well, I miss him a lot.
SL: I have some questions for Jorge Luis. Can you talk to me about your school, the normal rural school, Raul Isidro Burgos.
JL: It is a teacher training school with a boarding system for young people who want to be educators. It has a four year program. There are 140 new students annually, for each of the two programs that it has, which is primary education, and primary education with intercultural languages. Intercultural refers to the maternal languages that are spoken within the state. The other program is to train to be a primary teacher, but only in one language. Historically, we have had a life of struggle. It has been a school of struggle since its creation, because it has characterized itself by providing political trainings, towards the defense of public education. Helping those that most need help is what characterizes the school. It is also a teacher training school in which we do a lot of farming and we work the land. We have animals and we are responsible for caring for them. We have land where we grow crops, and that is what we do there.
SL: And why are students in Mexico, and from this school, persecuted by the state?
JL: In Mexico, being a social activist is a crime, according to many people. In Mexico the state or the government tries to suppress the voice of all the people who fight in whichever way they can, without caring about what they do to suppress the voice of the people. There have been a number of assassinations in my institution, just as a consequence of defending the rights that belong to us. We are politically active in many causes within the state and this is not convenient for them. The state does not like that the students are very awake and that is why we have been persecuted and harassed.
SL: How have you organized yourselves? How have you continued to organise with so much violent repression from the state?
JL: We have understood that if we do not do anything no one will. If we allow this situation to continue its going to get worse everyday. And that’s why we have done everything we could to continue organizing. We have people who are very aware, from the parents to the students, and students from other schools and teachers who are supporting us. If our organization has survived for so long its because we have taken care of it.
SL: Before the 26th of September, you also experienced repression. It wasn’t something totally new.
JL: Yes. They came everyday to harass us. It was very typical that in every activity that we organized, the police would come, the riot police, with the federal police, and even the military tried to beat us up. This was already an everyday occurrence for us, because in Mexico we have a government that is so so repressive and that does not engage in dialogue. and it was very typical that they would try to beat us up.
HLV: In 2011 the government of Guerrero assassinated two boys. They were demonstrating on the road…on the highway Del Sol. They were attacked and two boys died. The governor at time, Angel Aguirre Rivero gave the order, and until now there has not been any investigation.
SL: I have a technical question: where were the students going on the 26th of September?
JL: On the 26th of September there was an activity where we needed to bring buses from Iguala, to commemorate another year passing after the massacre that occurred in 1968. That is the activity that we were organizing and that’s where we were intercepted by the municipal police forces and they started shooting at the buses.
SL: How has the mass media portrayed the case of Ayotzinapa?
JL: When it happened, it was something important that had been talked about in the media, across borders. In many places they had disseminated the voice of Ayotzinapa because there was a lot of coverage in the media. But with the days passing by, as many media outlets are totally corrupt, or are owned by giant monopolies and companies, they have stopped sharing information. And if they do cover the issue, for instance big television stations like Televisa or Tele Azteca, its only for a few minutes and they say the case has been resolved. There are independent media and community radio stations that have continued to cover the issue. But the problem is that these independent media and community radios don’t have a wide reach. There are community radio stations that can’t be picked up by radios that are more than 20 km away. Or independent media that are not that well known. That’s why the coverage of this issues has not been enough. That’s why in Guerrero we have carried out information campaigns for the people and why we are travelling to different countries to disseminate the information in person.
SL: Canada has strong economic relationships with Mexico and considers it to be a safe country. How do you think that Canada is complicit in the violence in Mexico?
JL: Canada is totally involved with Mexico because Canada has gold, silver and copper mines within Mexico. It has big hotels and restaurants on the coasts. It would not be convenient for Canada to consider Mexico an unsafe country. Because it has very profitable business with the Mexican government through which we are being exploited. For instance, the mines are trying to expel native people in the places they might find gold or silver. And of course, governments are always the same, they always give priority to capitalism, to big companies, while neglecting the people. Canada is as complicit as the people who participated in the actions that took place on September 26th and 27th. Because governments prefer to assassinate us rather than accuse a foreigner, than take away all the rights they have given them. They prefer to support foreigners than their own people.
SL: I believe that in this week in Canada you have met some indigenous people, and you may have heard of the 1186 known cases of murdered and missing indigenous women. Do you think that violence against indigenous people in Canada and Mexico are related?
JL: Yes, its the same situation. We never imagined that in Canada, a country that presents itself as being fair and just, that we would find these kinds of cases. Actually, we didn’t even know there were indigenous people here, or am I wrong?
JL: They don’t recognise indigenous people [in Canada] as they do in Mexico. Looking critically at Mexico, there is more repression of indigenous people, but here they are not even known. We visited them and we realized that the government increasingly wants to displace them and take away their land. And to do what they feel like with them, including taking away their culture. Its seems illogical to us because they are the owners of this land; they are the ones who should be given much more recognition. But they are doing the same with them. The situation is no different, not for students nor for indigenous people, here or there, its the same.
SL: So what is your message to the Canadian government and the Canadian people?
HLV: We are asking the Canadian government to send a delegation to Mexico to investigate the cases of forced disappearances by the Mexican government. We are asking [the Canadian] people to share our message. So that this is not forgotten. That when we take action, that people here too, simultaneously raise their voice. Because if we work together, we can achieve great things. If we are left to struggle alone against our government, we will do it. We won’t be able to do much, but as parents we are not going to stop.
SL: Do you want to add something?
JL: Only that, if today we don’t act, tomorrow the conditions will be different. If today we are fighting against forced disappearances and assassinations, tomorrow we won’t have the right to organize or to defend the rights we are entitled to.
HLV: We have another demand to the government, to remove Mexico from the list of safe countries, because Mexico is not safe. There are many disappearances so I can’t understand how Mexico can be on this list. It affects all the Mexican people as well as the foreigners who visit us.
SL: To finish, is there a concrete action that people who are listening to this interview can do to support your cause?
HLv: As I said before, to raise your voices, to share information, that when we take action in Mexico to pronounce yourself in support of Ayotzinapa, so that we can raise our voice and be many and show the government that we are not alone.
SL: Would you like to add something?
HLV: We thank you for the invitation. And we hope all this information can be shared; that is very important for us.
SL: Thank you for sharing this with us.