A citizenry still reeling from two months of bloody internecine fighting between powerful cartels has been dealt another crushing blow their morale: the abduction in Tonala of three film students, scooped up off the streets after shooting a project for the Universidad de Medios Audiovisuales (CAAV).
The kidnapping Tuesday of Javier Salomon Aceves Gastelum, 25, Marco Avalos, 20, and Daniel Diaz, 20, is yet another in a string of assaults against students in Guadalajara occurring with nauseating regularity in recent years. In particular, young academics from the University of Guadalajara – of which CAAV is a satellite – have often seen themselves targeted by criminals, who perpetrate against this vulnerable sector of society a variety of crimes, from muggings to homicides and rapes.
The abduction occurred at 8 p.m. when six students, traveling in two separate cars, were returning from a film shoot in the Colinas de Tonala neighborhood of the eponymous municipality. One of those not taken by the kidnappers was a cousin of abductee Javier Salomon, Alejandra, who was in the forward car shortly before the attack.
“We had been driving for about five minutes when my car overheated,” Alejandra recalled. “Javier came up behind and parked behind us to lend a hand.”
While the students were dealing with the overheated vehicle, two pickup trucks suddenly pulled up, surrounding the two parked cars. Between six and eight armed men jumped out, brandishing their weapons at the students.
“They told us they were state police and to get on the ground,” continued Alejandra. “When I finally lifted my head, the trucks [and the three kidnapees] were gone.”
The following Thursday, hundreds of outraged protestors flocked to the Niños Heroes Glorieta and along Avenida Chapultepec to demand something be done about the disappearances. The crowd was made up primarily of teachers and students from CAAV, as well as family and friends of the disappeared.
Among the chants emanating from the crowd of enraged citizens was “Narco, militar y Fiscalia, la misma porqueria” (Narco, military and state police: the same bullshit).
During the protests, university students and faculty, in addition to family members, announced their intention to organize a march on the offices of the State Attorney General later in the week.
The state’s top law enforcement agency, led by Raul Sanchez, is still dealing with another triple abduction: late last January, three Italian citizens were snatched off of a highway near Tecalitlan. Local police, likely following cartel orders, were quickly implicated in the kidnapping. The men’s whereabouts remain unknown.
“We’re investigating [the Tonala kidnapping] and all the other cases of disappearances in Jalisco. They’re all top priorities,” said Sanchez. “We’re also investigating whether [the abductors] were police or not.”
The Jalisco Human Rights Commission (CEDHJ) has also opened an investigation into the incident. In line with the department’s modus operandi when responding to disappearances, deployed along with investigators were professionals whose job it is to provide psychological and legal assistance to the missing persons’ relatives.
While a motive has yet to be ascribed to Monday’s kidnapping, a CAAV professor opined that actions such as these – on the face of it seemingly senseless and random – are carried out in order to censor free expression through the creation and maintenance of a climate of fear among students and society in general.