Student unrest and strikes at the National Metropolitan Independent University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), government response to such unrest, death squad and judicial police involvement, cases of disappearance of students, 1981-1988 [MEX6689]

Reports on major student strikes in Mexico during the requested timeframe found among the sources currently available to the IRBDC are listed below and attached to this response. These include a report on a strike by several thousand students protesting in February 1983 against the planned closure of a public teacher-training college and the government's economic policies. The students are reported to have been violently dispersed by riot police on motorcycles and firetrucks, resulting in approximately 150 people injured (see Keesing's Record of World Events, p. 33395). Hunger strikes to pressure the government on the cases of hundreds of political prisoners and disappeared reportedly took place in 1983 and 1984, but specific references to students are not included in the available report (Keesing's, p. 33397).

Please find attached an Amnesty International Urgent Action bulletin (listed below) reporting cases of students being arrested in the weeks following demonstrations in Mexico City on Labour Day (1 May) of 1984.

For reports on a strike and demonstration by students of the UNAM in 1987, described as the largest since the 1968 demonstrations which resulted in hundreds of student deaths, please find attached three articles. The student unrest, as described in these articles, started in late-1986 as a result of a reform programme which included higher fees and tougher admission and academic standards. The unrest reportedly included sit-ins, boycotts and occupations before the strike, which is reported to have ended peacefully.

Very few detailed reports on human rights abuses in Mexico can be found among the current IRBDC resources. Americas Watch indicates in its most recent report on that country (Human Rights in Mexico: A Policy of Impunity; Washington, D.C.: Americas Watch, June 1990) that "many obstacles to accurate reporting and adequate investigation of human rights abuses remain [in Mexico]" (p. 4).

Although a recent Americas Watch report on Mexico (Human Rights in Mexico: A Policy of Impunity) states the following:

"[t]he Federal; Judicial Police, and particularly its anti-narcotics trafficking division, are implicated in many of the worst reports of torture and extra-judicial killing",
specific references to judicial police involvement in quelling student unrest and disappearance of students could not be found among the sources currently available to the IRBDC. The quoted Americas Watch report states in page 15 that after the collapse of the Federal District Attorney General's headquarters in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake, many bodies of prisoners showing signs of torture were unearthed, including that of an accounting student from the UNAM.

Various sources, including some of the attached documents, report cases of torture and disappearance in Mexico, but few identify victims. The report Amnesty International's Concerns in Mexico (London: Amnesty International, 1986), indicates that 13 students and teachers disappeared between 1978 and 1982, while in its Amnesty Report 1988 (London, 1988) Amnesty International reported that by the end of 1987 the organization was "working on 52 cases of people who disappeared between 1972 and 1983"
(p. 124). The latter report includes no specific references of students. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1987, (Washington: U.S. Department of State, 1988), as well as the next year's edition, report in their chapters on Mexico that over 500 persons remained "disappeared" in Mexico both in 1987 and 1988. The Country Reports for 1987 (p. 541) quotes a local group's claim that during De La Madrid's administration, up to 1987, the number of disappeared whose whereabouts remained unknown was 24. According to the same group, as quoted in the Country Reports for 1988 (p. 633), by 1988 the number of disappeared with unknown fate during the De La Madrid administration rose to 34. Neither one of the reports indicates whether students were included in those numbers.

Please find attached an article ("Former mexican soldier describes...", listed below") which states that a United Nations group investigating disappearances "listed 194 unexplained disappearances in Mexico as of 1988". The same 1989 article indicates that Amnesty International had last received reports of disappearances in Mexico in 1983 or 1984. The source adds that Amnesty International didn't consider the disappearance and extra-judicial killings in Mexico as the work of a "death squad" named as such, but regarded them as cases of "military acting under higher orders".

Pages 47 and 48 of the abovequoted Americas Watch report state that "[d]isappearances continued on a smaller scale during the de la Madrid presidency (1982-1988)" and add that these "followed a pattern similar to that in other countries of Latin America in the same years". The abductors were reportedly armed forces' personnel or policemen, "including a clandestine police unit known as the Brigada Blanca (White Brigade)" composed of agents from the Federal Security Directorate and the Federal Judicial Police.

The response to your information request 6690 also contains some information regarding cases of disappearance during the De La Madrid administration, with references to students and teachers. Please find attached some pages of the abovequoted Americas Watch report which contain some general information on human rights reporting, disappearance, torture and extra-judicial killing, as well as other abuses by some branches of the police in Mexico. A copy of Amnesty International Reports of recent years should be available through Amnesty International offices. A copy of the complete Americas Watch report on Mexico quoted above is available through Americas Watch (telephone, fax number and address shown in the cover sheet attached) at a cost of approximately US$10.00. The IRBDC cannot provide full copies of documents published by other institutions unless specifically authorized by them.


-Human Rights in Mexico: A Policy of Impunity (Washington, D.C.: Americas Watch, June 1990), pp. 4-5, 14-15, 19, 28, 47-51;
-Keesing's Record of World Events (London, Longman Publishing Group), pp. 35634, 33395 and 33397;
-"Mexican students' strike closes largest university", Los Angeles Times, 30 January 1987, p. 8;
-"Mexico bows to student demands as strike enters third week", Reuters, 11 February 1987;
-"Legal Concern/Fear of Torture", Urgent Action (London, Amnesty International), 7 June 1984;
-"Former Mexican soldier describes executions of political prisoners", The New York Times, 19 February 1989, p. 1.