viernes, 31 de octubre de 2008

Death Squads, Disappearances, and Torture -- from Latin America to Iraq
By Greg Grandin

The world is made up, as Captain Segura in Graham Greene's 1958 novel Our Man in Havana put it, of two classes: the torturable and the untorturable. "There are people," Segura explained, "who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea."

Then -- so Greene thought -- Catholics, particularly Latin American Catholics, were more torturable than Protestants. Now, of course, Muslims hold that distinction, victims of a globalized network of offshore and outsourced imprisonment coordinated by Washington and knitted together by secret flights, concentration camps, and black-site detention centers. The CIA's deployment of Orwellian "Special Removal Units" to kidnap terror suspects in Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and elsewhere and the whisking of these "ghost prisoners" off to Third World countries to be tortured goes, today, by the term "extraordinary rendition," a hauntingly apt phrase. "To render" means not just to hand over, but to extract the essence of a thing, as well as to hand out a verdict and "give in return or retribution" -- good descriptions of what happens during torture sessions.

In the decades after Greene wrote Our Man in Havana, Latin Americans coined an equally resonant word to describe the terror that had come to reign over most of the continent. Throughout the second half of the Cold War, Washington's anti-communist allies killed more than 300,000 civilians, many of whom were simply desaparecido -- "disappeared." The expression was already well known in Latin America when, on accepting his 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature in Sweden, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez reported that the region's "disappeared number nearly one hundred and twenty thousand, which is as if suddenly no one could account for all the inhabitants of Uppsala."

When Latin Americans used the word as a verb, they usually did so in a way considered grammatically incorrect -- in the transitive form and often in the passive voice, as in "she was disappeared." The implied (but absent) actor/subject signaled that everybody knew the government was responsible, even while investing that government with unspeakable, omnipotent power. The disappeared left behind families and friends who spent their energies dealing with labyrinthine bureaucracies, only to be met with silence or told that their missing relative probably went to Cuba, joined the guerrillas, or ran away with a lover. The victims were often not the most politically active, but the most popular, and were generally chosen to ensure that their sudden absence would generate a chilling ripple-effect.

An Unholy Trinity

Like rendition, disappearances can't be carried out without a synchronized, sophisticated, and increasingly transnational infrastructure, which, back in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States was instrumental in creating. In fact, it was in Latin America that the CIA and U.S. military intelligence agents, working closely with local allies, first helped put into place the unholy trinity of government-sponsored terrorism now on display in Iraq and elsewhere: death squads, disappearances, and torture.

Death Squads: Clandestine paramilitary units, nominally independent from established security agencies yet able to draw on the intelligence and logistical capabilities of those agencies, are the building blocks for any effective system of state terror. In Latin America, Washington supported the assassination of suspected Leftists at least as early as 1954, when the CIA successfully carried out a coup in Guatemala, which ousted a democratically elected president. But its first sustained sponsorship of death squads started in 1962 in Colombia, a country which then vied with Vietnam for Washington's attention.

Having just ended a brutal 10-year civil war, its newly consolidated political leadership, facing a still unruly peasantry, turned to the U.S. for help. In 1962, the Kennedy White House sent General William Yarborough, later better known for being the "Father of the Green Berets" (as well as for directing domestic military surveillance of prominent civil-rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr.). Yarborough advised the Colombian government to set up an irregular unit to "execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents" -- as good a description of a death squad as any.

As historian Michael McClintock puts it in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, Yarborough left behind a "virtual blueprint" for creating military-directed death squads. This was, thanks to U.S. aid and training, immediately implemented. The use of such death squads would become part of what the counterinsurgency theorists of the era liked to call "counter-terror" -- a concept hard to define since it so closely mirrored the practices it sought to contest.

Throughout the 1960s, Latin America and Southeast Asia functioned as the two primary laboratories for U.S. counterinsurgents, who moved back and forth between the regions, applying insights and fine-tuning tactics. By the early 1960s, death-squad executions were a standard feature of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Vietnam, soon to be consolidated into the infamous Phoenix Program, which between 1968 and 1972 "neutralized" more than 80,000 Vietnamese -- 26,369 of whom were "permanently eliminated."

As in Latin America, so too in Vietnam, the point of death squads was not just to eliminate those thought to be working with the enemy, but to keep potential rebel sympathizers in a state of fear and anxiety. To do so, the U.S. Information Service in Saigon provided thousands of copies of a flyer printed with a ghostly looking eye. The "terror squads" then deposited that eye on the corpses of those they murdered or pinned it "on the doors of houses suspected of occasionally harboring Viet Cong agents." The technique was called "phrasing the threat" -- a way to generate a word-of-mouth terror buzz.

In Guatemala, such a tactic started up at roughly the same time. There, a "white hand" was left on the body of a victim or the door of a potential one.

Disappearances: Next up on the counterinsurgency curriculum was Central America, where, in the 1960s, U.S. advisors helped put into place the infrastructure needed not just to murder but "disappear" large numbers of civilians. In the wake of the Cuban Revolution, Washington had set out to "professionalize" Latin America's security agencies -- much in the way the Bush administration now works to "modernize" the intelligence systems of its allies in the President's "Global War on Terror."

Then, as now, the goal was to turn lethargic, untrained intelligence units of limited range into an international network capable of gathering, analyzing, sharing, and acting on information in a quick and efficient manner. American advisors helped coordinate the work of the competing branches of a country's security forces, urging military men and police officers to overcome differences and cooperate. Washington supplied phones, teletype machines, radios, cars, guns, ammunition, surveillance equipment, explosives, cattle prods, cameras, typewriters, carbon paper, and filing cabinets, while instructing its apprentices in the latest riot control, record keeping, surveillance, and mass-arrest techniques.

In neither El Salvador, nor Guatemala was there even a whiff of serious rural insurrection when the Green Berets, the CIA, and the U.S. Agency for International Development began organizing the first security units that would metastasize into a dense, Central American-wide network of death-squad paramilitaries.

Once created, death squads operated under their own colorful names -- an Eye for an Eye, the Secret Anticommunist Army, the White Hand -- yet were essentially appendages of the very intelligence systems that Washington either helped create or fortified. As in Vietnam, care was taken to make sure that paramilitaries appeared to be unaffiliated with regular forces. To allow for a plausible degree of deniability, the "elimination of the [enemy] agents must be achieved quickly and decisively" -- instructs a classic 1964 textbook Counter-Insurgency Warfare -- "by an organization that must in no way be confused with the counterinsurgent personnel working to win the support of the population." But in Central America, by the end of the 1960s, the bodies were piling so high that even State Department embassy officials, often kept out of the loop on what their counterparts in the CIA and the Pentagon were up to, had to admit to the obvious links between US-backed intelligence services and the death squads.

Washington, of course, publicly denied its support for paramilitarism, but the practice of political disappearances took a great leap forward in Guatemala in 1966 with the birth of a death squad created, and directly supervised, by U.S. security advisors. Throughout the first two months of 1966, a combined black-ops unit made up of police and military officers working under the name "Operation Clean-Up" -- a term US counterinsurgents would recycle elsewhere in Latin America -- carried out a number of extrajudicial executions.

Between March 3rd and 5th of that year, the unit netted its largest catch. More than 30 Leftists were captured, interrogated, tortured, and executed. Their bodies were then placed in sacks and dropped into the Pacific Ocean from U.S.-supplied helicopters. Despite pleas from Guatemala's archbishop and more than 500 petitions of habeas corpus filed by relatives, the Guatemalan government and the American Embassy remained silent on the fate of the executed.

Over the next two and a half decades, U.S.-funded and trained Central American security forces would disappear tens of thousands of citizens and execute hundreds of thousands more. When supporters of the "War on Terror" advocated the exercise of the "Salvador Option," it was this slaughter they were talking about.

Following U.S.-backed coups in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, death squads not only became institutionalized in South America, they became transnational. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the CIA supported Operation Condor -- an intelligence consortium established by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet that synchronized the activities of many of the continent's security agencies and orchestrated an international campaign of terror and murder.

According to Washington's ambassador to Paraguay, the heads of these agencies kept "in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which covers all of Latin America." This allowed them to "co-ordinate intelligence information among the southern cone countries." Just this month, Pinochet's security chief General Manuel Contreras, who is serving a 240-year prison term in Chile for a wide-range of human rights violations, gave a TV interview in which he confirmed that the CIA's then-Deputy Director, General Vernon Walters (who served under director George H.W. Bush), was fully informed of the "international activities" of Condor.

Torture: Torture is the animating spirit of this triad, the unholiest of this unholy trinity. In Chile, Pinochet's henchmen killed or disappeared thousands -- but they tortured tens of thousands. In Uruguay and Brazil, the state only disappeared a few hundred, but fear of torture and rape became a way of life, particularly for the politically engaged. Torture, even more than the disappearances, was meant not so much to get one person to talk as to get everybody else to shut up.

At this point, Washington can no longer deny that its agents in Latin America facilitated, condoned, and practiced torture. Defectors from death squads have described the instruction given by their U.S. tutors, and survivors have testified to the presence of Americans in their torture sessions. One Pentagon "torture manual" distributed in at least five Latin American countries described at length "coercive" procedures designed to "destroy [the] capacity to resist."

As Naomi Klein and Alfred McCoy have documented in their recent books, these field manuals were compiled using information gathered from CIA-commissioned mind control and electric-shock experiments conducted in the 1950s. Just as the "torture memos" of today's war on terror parse the difference between "pain" and "severe pain," "psychological harm" and "lasting psychological harm," these manuals went to great lengths to regulate the application of suffering. "The threat to inflict pain can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain," one handbook read.

"Before all else, you must be efficient," said U.S. police advisor Dan Mitrione, assassinated by Uruguay's revolutionary Tupamaros in 1970 for training security forces in the finer points of torture. "You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more." Mitrione taught by demonstration, reportedly torturing to death a number of homeless people kidnapped off the streets of Montevideo. "We must control our tempers in any case," he said. "You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist."

Florencio Caballero, having escaped from Honduras's notorious Battalion 316 into exile in Canada in 1986, testified that U.S. instructors urged him to inflict psychological, not "physical," pain "to study the fears and weakness of a prisoner." Force the victim to "stand up," the Americans taught Caballero, "don't let him sleep, keep him naked and in isolation, put rats and cockroaches in his cell, give him bad food, serve him dead animals, throw cold water on him, change the temperature." Sound familiar?

Yet, as Abu Ghraib demonstrated so clearly and the destroyed CIA interrogation videos would undoubtedly have made no less clear, maintaining a distinction between psychological and physical torture is not always possible. As one manual conceded, if a suspect does not respond, then the threat of direct pain "must be carried out." One of Caballero's victims, Inés Murillo, testified that her captors, including at least one CIA agent -- his involvement was confirmed in Senate testimony by the CIA's deputy director -- hung her from the ceiling naked, forced her to eat dead birds and rats raw, made her stand for hours without sleep and without being allowed to urinate, poured freezing water over her at regular intervals for extended periods, beat her bloody, and applied electric shocks to her body, including her genitals.

Anything Goes

Inés Murillo was definitely a member of Greene's torturable class. Yet Greene was writing in a more genteel time, when to torture the wrong person would be, as he put it, as cheeky as a "chauffeur" sleeping with a "peeress." Today, when it comes to torture, anything goes.

Ideologues in the war on terror, like Berkeley law professor John Yoo, have worked mightily to narrow the definition of what torture is, thereby expanding possibilities for its application. They have worked no less hard to increase the number of people throughout the world who could be subjected to torture -- by defining anyone they cared to choose as a stateless "enemy combatant," and therefore not protected by national and international laws banning cruel and inhumane treatment. Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft has declared himself potentially torturable, telling a University of Colorado audience recently that he would be willing to submit to waterboarding "if it were necessary."

Things are so freewheeling that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz -- who, at his perch at Harvard would undoubtedly be outraged if he were to be tortured -- thinks that the practice needs to be regulated, as if it were a routine medical act. He has suggested empowering judges to issue "warrants" that would allow interrogators to insert "sterile needles" underneath finger nails to "to cause excruciating pain without endangering life."

Pinochet, who didn't shy away from justifying his actions in the name of Western Civilization, would never have dreamed of defending torture as brazenly as has Dick Cheney, backed up by legal theorists like Yoo. At the same time, revisionist historians, like Max Boot, and pundits, like the Atlantic Monthly's Robert Kaplan, rewrite history, claiming that operations like the Phoenix Program in Vietnam or the death squads in El Salvador were effective, morally acceptable tactics and should be emulated in fighting today's "War on Terror."

But this kind of promiscuity has its risks. In Latin America, the word "disappeared" came to denote not just victimization but moral repudiation, as the mothers and children of the disappeared led a continental movement to restore the rule of law. They provide hope that one day the world-wide network of repression assembled by the Bush administration will be as discredited as Operation Condor is today in Latin America. As Greene wrote half a century ago, on the eve of the fall of another famous torturer, Cuba's Fulgencio Batista, "it is a real danger for everyone when what is shocking changes."

Greg Grandin is the author of a number of books, most recently Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. He teaches history at NYU.

martes, 21 de octubre de 2008

César Germán Yáñez Muñoz

De no haber tenido la pretensión de emular a Ernesto "Che" Guevara, el próximo 23 de octubre, un hombre desconocido pero sin duda grande, estaría cumpliendo sesenta y seis años de edad.

Cazado como animal, después de haber esquivado durante dos meses la persecución de dos Batallones de Infantería del Heroico Ejército Mexicano, el revolucionario César Yáñez Muñoz cifró con su muerte una leyenda que aun es transmitida por los habitantes de las cañadas de la selva lacandona. Su cadáver nunca fue localizado, por lo que su familia lo considera un desaparecido político y todavía demanda su presentación.

De forma autónoma, yo me uní a su búsqueda, sin resultados positivos. De cuantas fabulaciones y recuerdos difusos recogí, el más interesante me parece el alusivo al presunto diario de campaña de César. Las dificultades inherentes a una investigación de campo en una zona militarizada me impidieron darle seguimiento a la pista, pero ojalá alguien con más suerte que yo dé algún día con el cuadernillo, si es que existe.

A continuación, ofrezco una breve semblanza biográfica sobre la vida y muerte del joven César Germán. A partir de esta entrega intentaré subir tantas biografías de desaparecidos mexicanos como me sea posible, preferentemente en la fecha de su nacimiento. Dedico este esfuerzo investigativo y divulgativo a todos los desaparecidos políticos del mundo, por todo lo que les seguimos debiendo...


Nació en la ciudad de Monterrey, N. L. el 23 de octubre de 1942. Era hijo del doctor Margil Yáñez Martínez y de la señora Beatriz Muñoz. Cursó el bachillerato en la Preparatoria No. 1 de la Universidad de Nuevo León y estudió leyes en la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales de la misma.
En 1960 ingresó a la Asociación de Jóvenes Esperanza de la Fraternidad (AJEF) y comenzó a participar activamente en el movimiento estudiantil. En 1963 fue electo presidente de la Sociedad de Alumnos de la Facultad de Derecho y el mismo año intervino en la conformación del comité neoleonés del Movimiento de Liberación Nacional, del que se separó en 1965.
Yáñez y sus amigos más cercanos se dedicaron a asesorar movimientos campesinos y obreros y editaron el periódico Pueblo y Revolución. Debido a sus actividades, César pisó la cárcel por lo menos tres veces, pero salió de inmediato debido a que la presión popular impedía que hubiera presos políticos en el estado. Por aquel entonces, el grupo de César, integrado por simpatizantes fervorosos de la revolución cubana, promovió la creación de la Unión Revolucionaria Socialista (URS), la cual tomó las riendas del Instituto Mexicano-Cubano de Relaciones Culturales sección Monterrey, N.L. (IMCRC).
A través de Carlos Vives, Yáñez contactó a Mario Menéndez en la Ciudad de México y éste invitó a la URS a formar parte del Ejército Insurgente Mexicano (EIM) que se gestaba en la selva lacandona. De este modo, el joven César abandonó definitivamente a su esposa y a sus dos hijos y se dedicó de tiempo completo a la lucha revolucionaria.
Cuando el EIM se disolvió, algunos de sus miembros tomaron la decisión de conformar las Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN), en cuya asamblea fundacional Yáñez fue elegido como primer responsable, un 6 de agosto de 1969. En 1972 impulsó la formación del Núcleo Guerrillero Emiliano Zapata (NGEZ), del que fue comandante en jefe y, en 1974, cuando dio inicio la primera operación contrainsurgente en las cañadas, conocida como Operación Diamante, "Manuel" dirigió el repliegue táctico del grupo en la selva lacandona, pero fue descubierto y asesinado por el ejército en Cintalapa, mpo. de Ocosingo, el 16 de abril de 1974. Su cuerpo nunca fue encontrado y su familia denunció su desaparición por razones políticas. La Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) acreditó el delito de desaparición forzada contra su persona en el año 2001.[1] El Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional le ha extendido un reconocimiento especial en algunos comunicados.[2]

[1] 172-U, Caso del señor Yáñez Muñoz César Germán, Exp. CNDH/PDS/91/CHIS/S00036.000 en
[2] “Carta de Marcos a familiares de desaparecidos políticos”, La Jornada, 18 de abril de 2000, México, versión electrónica en:; Comunicado leído por el Subcomandante Marcos en la Casa Museo del Dr. Margil en el 23 aniversario del EZLN, 17 de noviembre de 2006 en:

miércoles, 8 de octubre de 2008

Invitación a actividades conmemorativas del M-68

La Delegación Coyoacán ha organizado una serie de actividades para conmemorar el Movimiento Estudiantil de 1968. El programa completo se puede consultar en:
Este 9 de octubre habrá una mesa intitulada: "Del 68 al clandestinaje. La vía armada", que tendrá como ponentes a: Marco Antonio Rascón Córdova, Clemente Ávila Godoy, Margarita Muñoz Conde, Alberto Jorge Abaroa y Corona y la organización “Nacidos en la Tempestad”.
Sede: Foro "Ana María Hernández", Pacífico No. 181 Barrio de la Concepción, Coyoacán.
Hora: 19:00 hrs.
Los esperamos.

miércoles, 1 de octubre de 2008

“’Here’s a farewell present for you.’ And they started hitting us as though they were breaking piñatas.”

- Anonymous eyewitness of the student massacre, Mexico 1968

“I don’t know how many days I’m going to be here...let me talk to my son. I want to hear his voice.”

- Testimony of a Mexican soldier after participating in the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre

In an expressive letter marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Tlatelolco Massacre—addressed to the Generation of Dignity of 1968, Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) note that:

The movement of 1968 has definitely marked this country’s (Mexico) history. Then, two countries confronted one another the basis of authoritarianism, intolerance, repression, and the most brutal exploitation; and the other that wants to build itself on democracy, inclusion, liberty, and justice.

The student movement began in the summer of 1968. It indisputably is the medium that forged a selection of politically motivated upheavals that acutely decried the state’s legitimacy and ineptitude. Students rose high above their stereotypic image as self-righteous bookworms out to better their own lives. Although portions of the student body might have fit these characteristics the other half of the student population yielded their personal interests in lieu of the welfare of its fellow compatriots. Nor was the student movement exclusive. The radical panoply of the 1968 Mexican Student Movement represents years of frustration, distress, and inconformity by the Mexican popular classes. Some may argue that the student rebellion began in the summer of 1968 but the conflict between students and the state began decades ago attributed, by first, the lack of university autonomy.

In the sixties, political oppression elevated students’ political awareness. The regulation against “social dissolution” and also “criminal association and sedition” facilitated the growth of a radical youth that was ready to take-on the government. Democratic avenues for political change were being close.

We must discontinue believing that the student movement was a student rebellion and nothing else. In the event of sounding paradoxical—the fact of the matter is that this detail is neither accurate nor erroneous. Former participants would never claim that the movement’s intentions and objectives were plainly meant to reform the education system or were only snobbishly intended to persuade the government to allocate massive quantities of funds to education in exchange for providing subsidized programs intended for indigent communities. There has been conclusive evidence from ex-participants, scholars, witnesses, and formally aligned organizations of the rebellion, which suggests that the 1968 rebellion was a “popular” revolt composed of various social groups from diverse socio-economic environments. Second, students made up a segment of the popular classes because hypothetically they fit into that particular social category because of their family background. Granted many students were from upper class families, but with time they evolved into student-proletariats, a term they appropriated through their interpretation of Marxism. What once may have been a firm relationship between the ruling party and the bourgeoisie; it was now jeopardized by the radical student or petty-bourgeoisie who initiated a new process to eliminate absolutism and hegemony—prompted by the lack of democracy.
According to a statement made by Gilberto Guevara Niebla, “I am convinced that the future of this country lies in the hand of the young people of my generation.: To demonstrate that they were capable of being leaders and understood politics, students from various universities in Mexico City took on tasks that involved rallying sectors of the proletariat and middle-classes. Plus, in the university students were exposed to an array of ideas and interpretations that convince them of many things relation to the social conditions of Mexicans. Through rigorous investigations and by learning scientific methods of approaching problems they were able to come up with innovative solutions. Their professional upbringing taught them how to approach social and political problems and to locate the solution to these issues through intense research and action. By learning these traits once they integrate themselves into society they are already prepared to tackle any projects.

Tomorrow Mexico City will commemorate 40 years since that disgraceful day when people's lives were changed forever. Family members of lost students, children, fathers, brothers, and sisters will march throughout Mexico City as a gesture of solidarity for those lost in the massacre, but most importantly prevent this malicious act from being forgotten. Mexican society continues to denounce the repressive measures taken by the state to impede the democratic opening of Mexico's. Please join us in solidarity.

Fernando Calderón

2 de octubre de 1968, nunca lo olvidaremos

Sobre los acontecimientos ignominiosos que hace cuarenta años desgarraron a la sociedad mexicana, ensayé una explicación en mi trabajo El fuego y el silencio. Historia de las Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional Mexicanas (1969-1974). No creo haber aportado elementos novedosos en cuanto a la reconstrucción fáctica del contexto nacional e internacional, ni tampoco en la reflexión sobre la sinrazón de la razón de Estado, la paranoia institucional en torno a la imaginaria conjura comunista internacional o la espontaneidad y la frescura con la que una generación escasamente politizada conquistó el espacio público para protagonizar uno de los movimientos de masas más trascendentes de la historia de México. Sin embargo, por lo que concierne al 2 de octubre, a diferencia de trabajos que se embrollan en complejas explicaciones sobre la posición de los distintos cuerpos policiacos y militares y los francotiradores del Estado Mayor Presidencial y del Batallón Olimpia en la plaza de las Tres Culturas, yo sólo pongo énfasis en que, de las 25 autopsias conocidas, quince revelaban que los civiles fueron asesinados por armas punzocortantes (bayonetas), disparos horizontales o en trayectoria ascendente, de abajo a arriba. Así, la hipótesis que sugiero es que la misión central de los francotiradores no era disparar contra la población, sino provocar a la tropa para que ésta se lanzara a un ataque indiscriminado contra los manifestantes. El presunto disparo que recibió el criminal de guerra, Gral. José Hernández Toledo, fue el pretexto ideal para desbordar a los militares, predispuestos de antemano a combatir con todo a los "subversivos".
El número de muertos el 2 de octubre es todavía uno de los secretos más grandes y mejor guardados del Estado mexicano. Se ha identificado tan sólo a cuarenta víctimas, pero el primer reporte del Consejo Nacional de Huelga reportaba ciento cincuenta bajas. Me parece que, si nos atenemos a la tendencia de que por un caso conocido hay dos no reportados, esta cifra es la más verosímil, aunque la que suscitó consenso entre la prensa oscila entre 300 y 400 decesos.
Durante la "guerra sucia" de los setenta serían asesinados muchísimos civiles más, al igual que durante la lucha por la democracia electoral, en la década de los ochenta. Las organizaciones más importantes, político-militares o civiles, cuentan a sus caídos por centenas. Como ejemplos más notables están el Partido de los Pobres (PdlP), con más de seiscientas bajas y el Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), con un tanto igual o superior. Pese a todos estas ausencias, 1968 sigue siendo considerado el gran parteaguas de la historia reciente, el acontecimiento fundacional de la democracia, el hito de la verdadera modernidad política mexicana. Cosa extraña, si tomamos en cuenta que la reforma política de 1977 fue motivada principalmente por el movimiento armado, y que la existencia actual de un sistema pluripartidista (mediocre, excluyente, como sea) es en parte obra del PRD. Más rara aún si consideramos el papel que ocupa la necrofilia política en el imaginario colectivo. Los asesinados por razones políticas frecuentemente son utilizados como estandartes, escudos, escaleras y pretextos para fundar organizaciones y vivir de ellas, o bien, como fuentes de discursos para promover o imponer determinadas líneas y acciones políticas.
Mi duda central se mantiene intacta, pero espero que alguien me ayude a despejar ¿cómo es que el movimiento estudiantil de 1968 ha sido ponderado al punto de ser cobijado institucionalmente, mientras que sobre otros procesos históricos de alcance igual o superior permanece un velo de olvido y silencio?
No tengo una explicación general, pero sí una anécdota personal. Cuando yo era niña nunca se me habló de la cristiada (pese a que mi bisabuelo fue desaparecido en aquella guerra de marras), mucho menos de las guerrillas todavía actuantes el año de mi nacimiento. Sí se me habló en cambio de la revolución mexicana (por algo me llamo Adela) y, curiosamente, del movimiento estudiantil de 1968. Por supuesto, no se podía hablar más que a susurros, con miedo, con tristeza y con el peso de la historia clandestina a cuestas. Historia que explicaba por qué en mi casa había, embodegados, libros de Mao Tsetung, revistas de Los Agachados y retratos del Che Guevara.
Sin duda, en México han ocurrido cosas más importantes que un movimiento de masas de dos meses de duración, pero muy pocas han penetrado en la memoria colectiva tan exitosamente como nuestro '68. La causa del recuerdo profundo reside, más allá del trauma colectivo que generó, en el hecho de que le pasó a la gente ordinaria y, aunque no todos los defeños estaban metidos en el movimiento, me atrevería a afirmar que casi todos conocían a alguien que sí lo estaba... Así, más allá de las mentiras y manipulaciones oficiales, todos supieron, todos se aterrorizaron, nadie salió indemne, o no del todo. Y si a esto sumamos la aplastante tradición de centralismo político, entenderemos por qué la intelligentsia mexicana grita a coro que 1968 es lo más importante que ha pasado en México hasta antes de la alternancia partidista del 2000.
A mí, que me conmueven todos los muertos por igual, me sigue impactando especialmente la visita a la Plaza de las Tres Culturas, los relatos cínicos de los militares que intervinieron aquella tarde, matando civiles y cargando sus cuerpos, las autopsias de niños y jóvenes despedazados por las bayonetas y, sobre todo, el profundísimo dolor que se mantiene como una herida abierta en el presente. Eso me ha generado un compromiso muy fuerte para denunciar el terror de Estado. Y por eso también, estaré presente este dos de octubre en nuestro duelo colectivo.