Washington D.C., October 2, 2018—Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the notorious Tlatelolco massacre, when the Mexican government killed dozens of students and bystanders protesting the authoritarian regime in a public plaza at Tlatelolco, Mexico City. Across the country, citizens are commemorating the event with marches and rallies, conferences, exhibitions, and performances.
But even as Mexico acknowledges the legacy of the student movement of 1968 and grieves the long-ago slaughter of its young leaders, the Mexican government has quietly removed, censored, and reclassified thousands of previously accessible archives from that era. The General Archive of the Nation (AGN) defends its actions by citing a 2012 Archives Law and new, stricter requirements to protect personal privacy. But the results are heavy-handed to the point of absurdity, as even the most widely known and published records about Tlatelolco and other flashpoints of the dirty war have now been rendered illegible by censorship.
The AGN’s reclassification project is a retreat to Mexico’s old, tired reflexes of disinformation and denial when it comes to politically threatening histories. It reflects the determination of State power to limit or distort what people understand about the past. And it goes hand-in-hand with five decades of impunity for those who planned and executed the crackdown on student protesters in 1968 and injustice for their victims (…)
(…) Fox did make one decision that dramatically altered what we knew about Tlatelolco. In 2002, the president announced the opening of a special collection in the Mexican national archives dedicated to government records about the dirty war. The gesture was made in the spirit of the political transition that had brought him to power and in response to rising demands from civil society to confront past State repression. A powerful report issued by the National Human Rights Commissionshortly after Fox took office, documenting the forced disappearance of hundreds of Mexicans in the 1970s and early 1980s, was another catalyst.
The historical records ordered declassified by the president came from the political intelligence branch of the Interior Secretariat, the old domestic intelligence agency Dirección Federal de Seguridad(DFS), and the Secretariat of Defense (…)
(…) In the wake of the AGN’s newly restrictive access policies, scholars of Mexico’s dirty war are pushing back. On September 13, a group of academics and researchers held a press conference in Mexico City to announce the launch of an ambitious digitization project aimed at making accessible thousands of records about the 1968 student movement and the years of violent state repression that followed. The transnational collaboration – dubbed “Mexican Intelligence Digital Archives” (MIDAS) in English and Los Archivos del Autoritarismo Mexicanoin Spanish – is made possible by researchers who have spent years collecting and copying the dirty war files during the decade beforethey were withdrawn and re-classified (…)