Demonstrations demanding justice for the disappearance of 43 university students from Iguala, Guerrero, have the potential to cause significant disruption to business activity through the remainder of 2014. Violence is possible in some areas, particularly Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Michoacan. Although protest activity could occur at multiple locations across the country, past actions indicate that significant activity will be concentrated in several states or cities, with some primary highway routes potentially affected. Activists could also block entrances to commercial plazas and airports.
Demonstrations could occur in areas with large university student populations or active education worker unions. Major national rallies will probably occur in Mexico City near Los Pinos executive residence, El Zocalo, Angel de la Independencia, and Paseo de la Reforma. Outside of Mexico City, rallies are more likely to occur in Guerrero, Michoacan, and Oaxaca (map). Teacher unions in these states have organized or participated in demonstrations over the student disappearances; university students in Michoacan and Guerrero protest often. Students in locations where large-scale actions are uncommon might also rally.
Crowds at future demonstrations could be large; tens of thousands participated in related protests Oct. 8, Oct. 22-23, Nov. 5, and Nov. 9. Many Mexicans are also using the student disappearance rallies as a platform to voice human rights, insecurity, and corruption grievances. Although students and educators will probably be the main participants, the inclusion of broader social themes could elicit support from a variety of groups. Frustration over the pace of the investigation into the disappearances might also motivate greater participation; according to media reports, perceptions of government inaction or incompetence have generated resentment.
Background and Analysis
The protest movement has a strong base of support from Mexican students and education workers, some of the most vocal and politically active groups in the country. In addition to this strong support base, the rallies have resonated among broader segments of the population who are angry about impunity, corruption, and pervasive crime-related violence. Outrage could escalate following Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam's Nov. 7 statement supporting theories that the missing students were killed by gang members acting under police direction. Considering the size of crowds and violence at some events, highlighted by the ransacking of the Guerrero State government headquarters, even a diminished protest climate could still cause significant commercial disruption.
Some indications that anarchist and anti-social groups have infiltrated the movement exist; the participation of anarchists escalates the potential for violence. Protests on Oct. 25 in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, featured incidents of looting at wholesale and retail stores; on Oct. 26, students attempted to block access to airports in Acapulco and Ixtapa-Zihuatanaejo, along with blocking traffic on Federal Highway 95. On Nov. 9, demonstrators vandalized entrances to the National Palace in Mexico City. Officials have blamed violent unrest on anarchists; although government accounts might be biased, anarchist groups have incited violence during political events, such as May Day rallies, in Mexico City and Oaxaca.
Avoid concentrations of protesters or police if possible, as clashes are more likely to occur in such locations. Allow additional time for travel, particularly near planned rally sites.