By Ben Robinson
Two days before the national elections were held in Mexico on June 4, a group of normalistas (students who attend rural teachers’ colleges) set fire to a National Electoral Institute (INE, Instituto Nacional Electoral) building in Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Chiapas in demand for the freedom of 17 imprisoned normalistas. The 17 normalistas were arrested last month after seizing buses and occupying a highway on May 18 as part of protests against online exams.
Following the arrests last month, normalistas and activists targeted a state official building, promising to prevent the national elections in the state of Chiapas if the students weren’t released.
In the most recent action, the INE building was set ablaze with an incendiary device which caused damage to furniture and computers. The slogan, “Free the normalistas” was spray painted on the wall of the building.
The normalistas had originally rallied on May 18 to demand that admission exams be taken in person, as many do not have internet access in rural areas. At this protest, 74 women and 19 men were arrested; of the 93 arrested 17 remain in prison. Two indigenous protesters were disappeared after the protest.
The burning of the INE is the most recent combative action demanding the freedom of the students; previous actions involved blocking highways and targeting official government buildings. The normalistas have made it clear that their demands will not be satisfied through the ballot box, and that their resistance will continue to grow.