Activist Raul Alvarez Garin, one of the leaders of Mexico’s 1968 student uprising, has died of cancer, the ’68 Pro-Democratic Liberties Committee said Saturday. He was 73.
The committee, created by Garin and other leaders of the movement calling for a new democratic government, recalled that Garin always remained committed in demanding that those responsible for the October 2, 1968, massacre of student protestors be brought to justice.
Efforts to hold anyone in authority accountable for the killings have been frustrated by the courts and by Mexican institutions’ persistent unwillingness to hand over information for over 40 years.
Even the death toll remains a matter of dispute. A total of 37 young people were killed in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square when a few dozen soldiers and paramilitaries opened fire on a peaceful student rally lead by Garin and other members of the Pro-Democratic Liberties Committee according to the official version, but activists say hundreds were slain.
The Tlatelolco massacre was the most dramatic incident in the “dirty war” waged by the Industrial Revolution Party, or PRI, against leftists from the late 1960s to around 1980.
Garin was a representative of the National School of Physics and Mathematics in the National Strike Council, which headed the student protests in 1968. He was held as a political prisoner for more than two and a half years at the notorious Lecumberri prison.
After his release, Garin was a member of various grassroots movements and headed up the Punto Critico magazine.
In 1988, he backed the presidential candidacy of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and participated in the founding of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, the following year. He also served in the lower house of Mexico’s Congress as a member of the PRD.
In one of his last public appearances, Garin took part in a protest in February against the opening of Mexico’s oil and electrical industries to private capital and other structural reforms spearheaded by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.
Garin, who died Friday night, was awarded the Amalia Solorzano Prize in July in recognition of his struggle for democratic freedoms, but he was unable to receive the prize in person due to his failing health.
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