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Massive university peace march masks political intrigue

May 27, 2012

Political undertones bubbled beneath the surface of a downtown peace march organized by the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) on Wednesday, May 23.

With the university accused of supporting the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) this week, those leading the march sought to emphasize that this was a non-partisan event.

“We’re not votes, we’re human beings!” cried Marco Nuñez Becerra, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU), in an impassioned address after leading a minute’s silence in remembrance of student victims of organized crime.

Around 30,000 students from the UdeG and its affiliated preparatorias took part in the silent march which culminated in a demonstration in the Plaza de Armas beneath the blistering midday sun.

All dressed in white, carrying placards and waving flags, the protesters demanded justice and full investigations into the cases of 11 UdeG students murdered over the past year. Cries of “justice” and “we want peace” repeatedly rang out.

Speakers included UdeG Rector  Marco Antonio Cortes Guardado, representatives of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity and three mothers whose children have disappeared or been killed.

The most recent victims include Itzel Adilene Rodriguez Garcia, an 18-year-old student from Preparatoria 10, who was kidnapped and later found dead in Zapopan earlier this month. There were also four UdeG students among the 18 who were massacred and dumped beside the Chapala highway in Ixtlahuacan a fortnight ago.

UdeG protests are a curious phenomenon. Organized from above by the university rector and student union leaders, these are not the spontaneous grass-roots demonstrations that more commonly spring up in other educational institutions.

Not everyone in attendance agreed with the politics of those behind the march. A group of six students carried banners stating, “I am marching for peace, not for the political interests of my university.”

One of these students, Jacob Olvesa, lamented the partisan nature of the UdeG hierarchy, explaining, “everyone knows the Jalisco PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) controls the university.” He described it as “an enormous contradiction that the university leads peace marches” given the rumors of gangsterism that plague the history of the UdeG and its affiliated unions. All six affirmed that they would be voting for  Enrique Alfaro of the Citizen’s Movement, not the PRD or PRI candidates.

These were not the only students speaking out against the university hierarchy this week. On the eve of the protest, 100 FEU members quit the organization.

They accuse the FEU and UdeG leadership of supporting Jorge Aristoteles Sandoval Diaz, the PRI candidate for governor of Jalisco, and persecuting supporters of Alfaro.

UdeG kingpin Raul Padilla is strongly opposed to Alfaro’s candidacy, having waged a bitter feud with the former Tlajomulco mayor in recent years. Padilla is a highly influential figure within the Jalisco PRD, with whom Alfaro split less than a month into his campaign.

However the PRD lags way behind all other parties in the gubernatorial race and many believe Padilla favors a PRI victory.

“They told us if we were not with the PRI then we should go to hell,” said former FEU member Victor Vazquez at a press conference on Tuesday, revealing that some of those who resigned from the union had been beaten and threatened via email and telephone.

“We were intimidated for being in favor of the candidacy of Enrique Alfaro. The Federation itself has been preventing Alfaro entry to universities,” Vazquez said.

After Wednesday’s peace demonstration, the FEU president told the Reporter there was no truth in the allegations.

“This is part of what’s called a ‘dirty war’ and when they do not have proof this ends up being laundry-room gossip,” said Nuñez. “The FEU is a non-partisan organization. They cannot say that I have criticized them for being in favor of a certain candidate.”

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