Dec. 4, 2012 -- Sixty-nine people have been sent to jail in Mexico City, for allegedly destroying businesses and public property during protests held on Saturday against Mexico's new president.
These detainees, who were in temporary detention centers until Monday, have been charged with "rioting," and "disturbing the public peace," and if convicted could face five to 30 years in jail.
But the charges brought against these 69 individuals have been vehemently rejected by social movements who participated in Saturday's protests against Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. These groups are accusing police of using excessive force on Saturday and of imprisoning the 69 protesters as an intimidation tactic.
On Monday afternoon, members of the YoSoy132 Student Movement, the Communist Party and a half dozen more political groups held a rally at Mexico City's Independence Monument to call for the liberation of these detainees.
"They weren't doing anything but voicing their opposition against an imposed president who is bad for the country," said Aura Sorita, holding a poster with the pictures of two university students. Sorita's friends, Mary Montezuma and Obed Palgod, were detained during Saturday's protests and are now being held in separate Mexico City penitentiaries.
"The only thing they were doing was trying to help another compañero who'd fallen to the floor. That was enough motive for the police to hit them, and detain them too," Sorita claimed. "They've been accused of attacking a bus that was destroyed at the same time as they were arrested in another part [of the city]."
Several critics of the Mexican president have accused police of using excessive force on Saturday, and even of randomly arresting people who were not involved in the protests. Videos like this one have also indignated critics of the new president.
But there is also plenty of video and pictures from Saturday of masked protesters attacking police with stones, molotov cocktails and metal beams. In downtown Mexico City at least four hotels were randomly attacked by masked protesters; store windows were broken, shops were raided and a local Starbucks was destroyed.
Student movement YoSoy132, claimed in a statement that violence was provoked by police. A subgroup of the YoSoy132 movement, called Acampada Revolución 132, or Revolution Camp 132, said in another statement that several organizations with "different forms of struggle," attended Saturday's protests, and that the "anger" unleashed by police repression was channeled in "different forms, that the media labeled as violent."
The group acknowledges that acts of vandalism occurred on Saturday, but says that they "cannot be compared to the violence that the state exercises and has resulted in the death of more than 90,000 people, [due to drug violence]… in the extreme poverty that millions of Mexican citizens live in, and in the thousands of youth who are denied educational opportunities each year."
On Monday, analysts in Mexican media attempted to explain the wave of violence that washed over Mexico City on Saturday.
"This could be an angry expression from a [political] minority, that is very frustrated and sees no other way to channel their discontent other than, direct violence," reasoned political scientist Lorenzo Meyer, on MVS radio. "Or it could be something prepared by the other side," to discredit groups that peacefully protested against Peña Nieto, Meyer said.
Meyer mentioned that in the past, governments from Enrique Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had funded violent groups that infiltrated peaceful student protests, and carried out acts of vandalism to discredit the PRI's opposition. He said there was not enough evidence to tell if this is what happened on Saturday, but added that historical precedents meant that it would be "naïve" to discard the hypothesis that the PRI or another group that wanted to discredit the Mexican opposition, had paid agitators to ruin Saturday's protests.
An article published on Monday by Mexico's Reforma newspaper meanwhile, claimed that eight detained members of a local anarchist group had admitted to police, that they had each been paid 300 pesos ($25) to riot and provoke violence on Saturday. The Reforma article, however, provides no indications as to who would've paid the anarchists to riot on Saturday, or why they would do such a thing.
As officials investigate Saturday's incidents, four protesters who were seriously injured that day recover from their wounds in hospital. Twenty-two-year-old Jose Uriel Diaz lost his left eye, apparently because he was hit with a tear gas canister. Another protester, 67-year-old Juan Francisco Koytenal, suffered a fractured skull and is recovering from a complex surgery.