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article imageMexico marks 50 years since student massacre

By AFP     Oct 2, 2018 in World

Mexico marked the 50th anniversary Tuesday of the day when army troops massacred hundreds of student demonstrators just days before the 1968 Olympics -- one of the darkest episodes in a year of global turbulence.

Five decades on, it remains unclear exactly how many people were killed when army snipers opened fire on a rally of about 8,000 students in the Plaza of Three Cultures, in central Mexico City's Tlatelolco neighborhood.

The authoritarian government at the time put the death toll at 20, claiming "terrorists" had fired on army troops.

Independent reports say anywhere from 300 to 500 people were killed.

The government's failure to bring those responsible to justice or explain what happened that day has become a rallying cry for the Mexican left and provokes annual protests that often turn violent.

Veterans of the 1968 student movement and younger generations of activists were due to march later in the capital, where police had already set up metal barriers around the city center.

President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- whose party, Morena, won a landslide in Mexico's July elections, in a first for the Mexican left -- paid tribute to the victims of October 2, 1968, and promised to bring change.

Tres Culturas Square in Mexico City where government troops killed hundreds of students in the massa...
Tres Culturas Square in Mexico City where government troops killed hundreds of students in the massacre of Tlatelolco, for which no one has ever been sentenced
RONALDO SCHEMIDT, AFP

"This ceremony is above all an offering to the students who lost their lives, to their families, and to those who survived and kept up the struggle," he said at a memorial in the plaza where the massacre occurred.

"In this new era... we will honor the memory of the young victims of 1968. And the best way to do that is with humanism, without repression, struggling every day to make Mexico a just country."

However, Lopez Obrador, who takes office on December 1, declined to say whether he would reappoint a special prosecutor to investigate the killings or open the government's archives, as protesters demand.

The massacre took place 10 days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which were being hosted for the first time by a Latin American country.

In a year when explosive protests had already swept the globe, from the United States to Europe and beyond, Mexico -- then ruled as a single-party state by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) -- decided to take no chances.

The authorities all but extinguished the student movement in one horrific bloodbath.

No one has ever been sentenced over the massacre.

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