It is two years today since the disappearance of 43 students
from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in
Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico with no sign of their whereabouts,
except for the remains of 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio.
International experts have shown the Mexican authorities’
version of events to be impossible, but the government sticks
to its own unbelievable story and refuses to follow leads that
would take them to the door of the army – believed to have been
involved in the crime and to have important information about
what took place – while it continues to protect de
facto economic and political powers that operate with
impunity in Guerrero.
“It was the state,” yelled hundreds of thousands – if not
millions – of Mexicans and people around the world who marched
in the days, months and now years following this tragedy. The
rage and sadness not only at 43 lost, but over 28,000
disappeared and 150,000 murdered in the last ten years
according to official figures alone, where tremendous levels of
violence that ramped up under the administration of Felipe
Calderón have only gotten worse during President Enrique Peña
No Mexican state lives a more bloody daily existence than
Guerrero where the 43 were disappeared by municipal police on
the watch of federal police and soldiers, and where there is
news of more killings and disappearances everyday. Impunity,
the cooptation of state structures by organized crime, and the
collusion of state armed forces – as illustrated by
investigations into the case of the 43 – are all aspects of the
problem. Nonetheless, this is precisely where Canadian mining
investment is growing and where the Canadian state and
companies are revealing their careless and callous disregard
for Mexican lives in their constant efforts to extract enormous
Unsafe for tourists, but safe for mining?
A month ago, Canada reissued its alert to Canadian tourists to
avoid non-essential travel to Acapulco, Guerrero, currently the
most violent city in the country.
The Governor of Guerrero
acknowledged the contradiction to the press: how it
could be that Canadian mining companies are investing many
millions of dollars in Guerrero, and the Canadian government
issues an alert to warn Canadian sunbathers?
In April, Canadian Ambassador Pierre Alarie joined the Governor
the inauguration of Torex Gold’s El Limón-Guajes gold mine
in Cocula, Guerrero (the same Cocula where the Mexican
government alleges – against all scientific plausibility – that
the students from Ayotzinapa were burned in a garbage dump).
It did not seem to matter to the Canadian Embassy that a mine
manager had already been murdered and
workers kidnapped, let alone that communities have been
protesting over broken agreements, contaminated water, and
Nor did it seem to matter, one month after the ribbon-cutting
ceremony, when the same communities complained in the press
about have being
under siege from organized crime and unable to get a
response from the governor to ensure their safety, while the
mine site is reportedly guarded by all levels of state armed
Rather, in keeping with statements from a year ago, the
Canadian Ambassador seems
willing to write off such matters as generalized problems of
insecurity, suggesting that a direct connection cannot be
made with Canadian mining companies.
But this is just as hard to believe as the Mexican government’s
version of what happened to the students from Ayotzinapa.
Canada’s Version Hard to Swallow
When Canadian mining companies are operating in areas known to
be controlled by organized crime acting in collusion with state
forces, where communities and workers are being extorted of
what money they make from mining and other activities, when
extreme violence and massive displacements are occurring with
frequency, it is unbelievable that companies such as Torex Gold, Goldcorp – whose Los Filos mine
is 25 kilometres from where the students from Ayotzinapa were
abducted – and others would not be contributing to – directly
or indirectly -, or profiting from, such horrors.
Having certainty about precisely what is happening is clearly
difficult to come by in the context of such terror.
Nonetheless, in this week’s Proceso magazine, a brave
Mexican journalist, Ezequiel Flores Contreras, lays out
allegations that the leader of an organized crime group ‘La
Familia’ has had business relations with Torex Gold and
other mining companies. Whether or not this ends up to be true,
he observes how mining seems to be doing well, while the rest
of the local economy is collapsing in central Guerrero.
How does mining thrive in territories known to be controlled by
criminal groups without some agreement or relationship with
Absurd – and Self-Interested – Ideas
Torex, whose mine is just months into operation with plans for
expansion, spoke out in August. It echoed the Embassy line that
the security issues are a generalized issue, adding that it’s
the company’s duty to play a part, trusting that the state will
do everything possible to address the problem.
But this could not be more absurd.
“It was the state” that was implicated in the disappearance of
the 43 student teachers and
it is the state that is obstructing justice for 43 families
— and many, many more who have been unfortunate to lose their
loved ones in places like central Guerrero.
In Guerrero, the population, community authorities, and human
rights organizations, such as Tlachinollan – who have been
accompanying the parents of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa –
have been denouncing the relationship between state and
Furthermore, the Mexican government, under pressure from
millions of people in Mexico and around the world, and from
regional and international human rights bodies, has not been
willing to fully investigate and locate 43 young men who were
stolen off the streets by municipal police in Iguala two years
What would possibly convince it to start investigating and
addressing the thousands upon thousands of other disappearances
taking place in Guerrero and around the country?
Certainly not the self-interested pronouncements of a company
willing to invest in the deadliest part of the country despite
constant bloodshed, ripped apart homes, murders and kidnappings
– including of its own employees – not to mention the impacts
on water and health that frequently arise in mining-affected
Sadly, the Canadian Embassy’s principal complaint is that it is
becoming costly for companies to pay for security measures in
Mexico; not whether they should be investing at all.
Were the Canadian government serious about its commitment to
human rights, it would be putting economic and political
relations on the line with Mexico given the gravity of the
violence, the impunity, and the implication of state armed
forces in much of what is taking place.
There is no justification for the Canadian profiteering taking
place and even less so for the level of disregard that the
companies and the Canadian Embassy are demonstrating for the
people whose lives and homes are being destroyed as a result.
Mexico is a graveyard and Canada is quarrying for headstones.