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Show your selfie for the 43 Mexican students who went missing

BBC News

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43 kidnapped students

On September 26th, forty-three Mexican students went missing after they were attacked by the municipal police of Iguala -- a small city in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The police opened fire on buses transporting the students, killing six unarmed civilians and wounding 25 people.

One month has passed, and these forty-three students are still missing.

The police that abducted the young men, students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college, turned them over to the regional crime group Guerreros Unidos. In the past month, it has come to light that the police received orders from the mayor’s wife, Ms. Pineda Villa. Both Ms. Villa and her husband the mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, are on the run from the national authorities.

Why would students from a rural school be targeted by an organized drug cartel in league with the local government? The students were planning demonstrations to protest discrimination against teachers from rural backgrounds. Certainly, their right to free speech and demonstration should allow them to march peacefully without being victims of violence.

Yet, the close relationship between the authorities and the drug cartels is at the heart of violence and impunity in Guerrero.

Government action

On October 7th, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto publicly addressed the country, calling these kidnappings “shocking, painful, and unacceptable”-- pledging to punish all parties responsible.

The Governor of the state, Angel Aguirre, has been highly criticized for doing little to stop the unchecked violence in the region. He has recently stepped down as Governor. So far, 56 people have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping. That’s 56 people who have been found to be in cahoots with the drug gang. Among these people have been police officers and local officials.

Meanwhile, the search for the students continues. Mexican authorities are currently investigating a mass grave suspected to contain the remains of the young men. The state government has also created a website with the pictures of the students, using the hashtag #HastaEncontrarlos (until we find them).

The world marches in solidarity

The disappearance has shocked and infuriated Mexico, leading to demonstrations on October 15th and 22nd in Mexico City and all over the country calling for the safe return of the students.

The protester’s hand, painted in red, to signify the 43 students that were brutally kidnapped.

AP/Press Association Images

Men and women marching in the streets of Mexico City hold up pictures of the missing students.


Tens of thousands of people gather in Mexico City’s main plaza, El Zocalo


The world has also listened. There have been peaceful protests demanding action in countries all over the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Norway, Peru, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Although the abduction of these students has been a horrific and tragic event, the risk of violence that young people face is truly a global problem. Adolescents face multiple risks during armed conflict and may be targeted for violence, abuse and exploitation. They are the age group most often recruited by armed forces or groups for use as child soldiers, and they are most likely to be sexually trafficked.

If you believe in a world where no young man or woman should be at-risk for violence just because of his or her age, call on world leaders today to take action at the national and global level.

Submit your visual petition, your “selfie,” on so that young people’s rights and needs are prioritized and the perpetrators of violence are not free from punishment.


Leticia Pfeffer