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Molotov Cocktails Fly as Violent Protests Over Missing Students Rage in Mexico

Protesters on Thursday clashed with police and threw Molotov cocktails in response to the Mexican government's handling of the apparent massacre of 43 students.

by Payton Guion
Nov 21 2014, 5:00pm

Photo via AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Protests across Mexico turned violent on Thursday as crowds clashed with police, throwing Molotov cocktails and burning an effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto in opposition to his government's handling of the apparent massacre of 43 students from Guerrero state.

Protests in Mexico City erupted near the Zocalo, a large public square located outside of the National Palace, the doorway of which was burned in riots two weeks ago. 

Watch The Missing 43: Mexico's Missing Students (Part 1) here.

The protests were peaceful at first but chaos broke out once the march reached the Zocalo and the protesters were met by riot police. Another 300 protesters fought with police near the near Mexico City's airport. Several marches were held across the country, demanding answers in the case of the missing students.

One video, taken at a protest in Hermosillo, shows a large crowd chanting "Fue el estado!" — "It was the state!" — blaming the government for the disappearance of the students.

The 43 students have been missing since September 26, when they were abducted as they were on their way to a rally. Iguala police are suspected to have kidnapped the students on orders of Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who wanted to prevent the students from protesting.

Corrupt police allegedly handed the students over to the Guerreros Unidos cartel, who claimed to have killed the students before dismembering and burning their bodies, according to gang members who are in police custody.

Earlier this month, Mexican authorities found black trash bags full of charred human remains near Iguala. They are believed to be the remains of the students, though the remains are too burnt to be identified by DNA testing.

The remains support an account given by three suspects who are in custody, according to Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam. The suspects told authorities that they loaded the students onto the back of two cargo trucks before killing them, burning and chopping up the bodies, and stuffing them in trash bags.

After the kidnapping of the students gained worldwide attention, Mayor Abarca and his wife fled and were on the lam until they were caught earlier this month in a working class suburb of Mexico City.

Despite no indication that Iguala's corruption rose above the municipal level, protesters haven't relented in their criticism of the state for its response to the apparent massacre. Adding fuel to that fire are corruption allegations involving a $6.3 million house that Mexico's first lady — Angelica Rivera, a famous telenovela star — was in the process of buying.

The Mexico City mansion, which has been dubbed "The White House," is owned by a construction firm that has won government contracts, causing many Mexicans to cry foul. President Peña Nieto and Rivera claim that they keep their finances separate and that Rivera was paying for the house with her own money. She has since said that she will sell the house in order to distance herself and her husband from the corruption allegations.

Some protesters came to Mexico City on Thursday with other grievances to air. Gustavo Garrido, 47, told VICE News that he was protesting in support of his two sons and scores of other Mexicans who have disappeared in recent years. Garrido said his sons, aged 17 and 23, were kidnapped from his house on July 17, 2009.

"The day my sons disappeared, I reported it to different authorities, I told them that a van stopped in front of my house, where two armed men got out, threatened my children and took them by force. Everyone laughed at me, I wanted to beat them."

"From that moment I understood that the government doesn't care about our people, they aren't their family members." Garrido, who grows corn during the day, and by night sells straw hats.

"It is not just 43, there are thousands who are affected. The 43 families of the normalistas are opening up a chasm that we should open up more. We should join together against this corrupt government to find out if our family members are still alive or if they are dead," Garrido said. 

Daniel Hernandez reported live for VICE News from Thursday's protests in Mexico City.

Melissa del Pozo contributed to this story.

Follow Payton Guion on Twitter: @PaytonGuion