Tlatelolco massacre

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Stele dedicated to the remembrance of massacred students.

The Tlatelolco Massacre, also known as The Night of Tlatelolco (from a book title by the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska), took place during the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City. It happened ten days before the 1968 Summer Olympics celebrations in Mexico City, when the military and armed men shot student demonstrators. The death toll remains controversial: official government estimates place the deathtoll at 30, while some estimates place it in the thousands. Most sources, however, report between 200 and 300 deaths. The exact number of people arrested is also controversial.[citation needed]


[edit] Background

The massacre was preceded by months of political unrest in the Mexican capital, echoing student demonstrations and riots all over the world during 1968. The students wanted to harness the attention focused on Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics. The students demanded:[1]

  1. Repeal of Articles 145 and 145b of the Penal Code (which sanctioned imprisonment of anyone attending meetings of three or more people, deemed to threaten public order).
  2. The abolition of granaderos (the tactical police corps).
  3. Freedom for political prisoners.
  4. The dismissal of the chief of police and his deputy.
  5. The identification of officials responsible for the bloodshed from previous government repressions (July and August meetings).

President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, however, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, he ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country's largest university. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately. Rector Javier Barros Sierra resigned in protest on September 23.

[edit] Events

Student demonstrators were not deterred. The demonstrations grew in size, until, on October 2, after nine weeks of strikes, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City, carrying red carnations to protest the army's occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! ("We don't want Olympic games, we want revolution!"). Rally organizers did not attempt to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.

The massacre began at sunset when police and military forces—equipped with armored cars and tanks—surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protestors but also innocent bystanders. Demonstrators and passersby alike, including children, were hit by bullets and mounds of bodies soon lay on the ground. The killing continued throughout the night, with soldiers operating on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were first removed in ambulances and later military officials came and piled up bodies, not knowing if they were dead or alive, into the military trucks.

The official government explanation of the incident was that armed provocateurs among the demonstrators, stationed in buildings overlooking the crowd, had begun the firefight. Suddenly finding themselves sniper targets, the security forces had simply returned the shooting in self-defense.

A 2001 investigation revealed documents showing that the snipers were members of the Presidential Guard, who were instructed to fire on the military forces in order to provoke them.[2]

[edit] Investigation and response

In October 1997, the Congress of Mexico established a committee to investigate the Tlatelolco massacre. The committee interviewed many political players involved in the massacre, including Luis Echeverría Álvarez, a former President who was Díaz Ordaz's Minister of the Interior at the time of the massacre. Echeverría admitted that the students had been unarmed and also suggested that the military action was planned in advance as a means to destroy the student movement.

In November 2001, President Vicente Fox appointed a "special prosecutor for crimes of the past" to investigate the incident.[2]

In October 2003, the role of the U.S. government in the massacre was publicized when the National Security Archive at George Washington University published a series of records from the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI and the White House which were released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Stele dedicated to the remembrance of massacred students.

The documents detail:

  • That in response to Mexican government concerns over the security of the Olympic Games the Pentagon sent military radios, weapons, ammunition and riot control training material to Mexico before and during the crisis.
  • That the CIA station in Mexico City produced almost daily reports concerning developments within the university community and the Mexican government from July to October. Six days before the massacre at Tlatelolco, both Echeverría and head of Federal Security (DFS) Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios told the CIA that "the situation will be under complete control very shortly".
  • That the Díaz Ordaz government "arranged" to have student leader Sócrates Campos Lemus accuse dissident PRI politicians such as Carlos Madrazo of funding and orchestrating the student movement.

In 1993, in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the events, a stele was dedicated with the names of few of the students and persons who lost their lives during the event.

During June 2006, an ailing, 84-year-old Echeverría was charged with genocide in connection with the massacre. He was placed under house arrest pending trial. In early July of that year, he was cleared of genocide charges, as the judge found that Echeverría could not be put on trial because the statute of limitations had expired.

In December 2008 the Mexican Senate Chambers issued the 2nd of October starting 2009 like National Mourning Day initiative to pass the Deputy Chambers.

[edit] Media portrayals

Rojo amanecer (1989), directed by Jorge Fons, is a Spanish-language film about the event. It focuses on the day of a middle-class family living in one of the apartment buildings surrounding the Plaza de Tlatelolco and is based on testimonials from witnesses and victims. It starred Héctor Bonilla, María Rojo, the Bichir Brothers, Eduardo Palomo and others.

"Taco Teatro", a Spanish-language, University of Melbourne-based theatre company produced the first adaptation of "Rojo Amanecer" on stage in May 2008 depicting the events happened in the Plaza de Tlatelolco at the Guild Theatre in Melbourne, Australia.[citation needed]

Richard Dindo, a documentary film maker, has made Ni olvido, ni perdón (2004)[3], which includes contemporary interviews with witnesses and participants as well as footage from the time.

A new film, Tlatelolco: Mexico 68,[4] currently in production, is due out in 2009. This version focuses on an American journalist in Mexico for the Olympics who gets caught up in the events of October 2, 1968.

Roberto Bolaño, released Amulet (novel) a Spanish-language novel in 1999 (Chris Andrews' English translation published in 2005 by New Directions) [5]recounting the tragedy from the point of view of a woman Auxilio. Auxilio was caught in the university bathroom at the time of the police ambush.

[edit] 40th anniversary march

On October 2, 2008, two marches were held in Mexico City to commemorate the event. One traveled from Escuela Normal Superior de Maestros (Teacher's College) to the Zocalo. The other went from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional to the massacre site of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. According to the "Comité del 68" (68 Committee), one of the organizers of the event, 40,000 marchers were in attendance.[6]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ 1Brewster, Claire. Responding to Crisis in Contemporary Mexico. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2005.
  2. ^ a b Mexico's 1968 Massacre: What Really Happened? All Things Considered, National Public Radio. 1 December 2008. Includes photos, video, and declassified documents.
  3. ^ Tlatelolco massacre at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Tlatelolco massacre at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Multitudinario mitin en el Zócalo por el 2 de octubre" (in Spanish). Mexico City: La Jornada Online. 2008-10-02. Retrieved on 2008-10-06. 

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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