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17 Nov, 2014 15:14

Protests over 43 missing students sweeping to a head in Mexico

Protests over 43 missing students sweeping to a head in Mexico

The disappearance of 43 students near the town of Iguala over 6 weeks ago continues to fuel outrage across Mexico. While public anger is growing over the government's handling of the case, protesters are blocking roads and demanding justice.

Over a thousand student protested in Mexico City on Sunday, blocking a busy avenue with rubbish bins. The demonstration was called after two students were shot and injured by police at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) on Saturday.

The student march, which began at Copilco metro station, made its way to Rectoria, the heart of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

After the peacful demosntraion ended, a group of around 20 masked students set oil containers on fire and threw rocks smashing windows of a bank and a petrol station in a business area located outside of the university.

On Sunday, during the G20 Summit in Australia, attended by Mexican President Pena Nieto among others, demonstrators demanded justice in the Ayotzinapa case. A group of protesters carrying Australian and Mexican flags emblazoned with the number 43 gathered in Brisbane. They also had banners saying: "You are not welcome in Australia," and demanded the Mexican president's resignation. Last month, Enrique Pena Nieto met with the relatives of the missing students and promised them a "renewed search plan."

The national strike is set to take place on November 20 in protest at the presumed killing of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers training college. They were detained on September 26, following a protest where a group of students clashed with police. They have been missing ever since. Their classmates blamed their "disappearance" on a corrupt government and police with alleged close ties to drug cartels. Mass graves were discovered in the area in early October, but initial tests suggested they were not those of the students. More bodies have been found since then, and now the accuracy of the initial tests is under question.

People hold posters and placards during a march for the 43 missing trainee teachers in Mexico City November 16, 2014. Criticism of the government has intensified in Mexico since Attorney General Jesus Murillo said last week that evidence suggests 43 missing trainee teachers were murdered by gunmen and drug gangs in collaboration with corrupt police and local politicians.(Reuters / Bernardo Montoya)

Earlier this month, police in Mexico arrested the fugitive mayor of the town of Iguala, where the students went missing. Local officials have accused Luis Abarca of ordering police to confront the students on the day of their disappearance.

Last month the governor of Guerrero state, Angel Aguirre, resigned.

Last week, protesters attacked the regional headquarters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) building in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero state. In another incident, protesters blocked Acapulco airport’s entrance for three hours. Three days before demonstrators had attempted to storm the National Palace in Mexico City, setting the doors on fire after failing to get inside.

The public outrage was reignited by allegations from Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam that three members of the Guerros Unidos gang had confessed to killing the students. It is alleged they were handed over to the gang by the police. Their bodies were subsequently burned.

On Saturday, the Mexican President told a press conference that the state will use force, "when all other mechanisms to restore order have been exhausted."

Pena Nieto condemned the violent protests of recent weeks, saying "what we want is justice and the perpetrators to pay, and the law to be fully applied, it can’t be done through violent actions and vandalism."