11/16/2011- Ernesto Méndez Salinas, a professor of Biotechnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) was killed while driving in his truck on Tuesday, November 8. At about 8pm, Méndez was driving past a signal when he was accosted and shot multiple times. Targeting violence towards academics is an example of the permeating effects of organized crime. This violence against professors is not a new event for the UNAM community, as over the past year the university has seen three of its professors killed. Although many believe the motive for Méndez Salinas particular killing could be robbery, the investigation is still underway.
In the professor’s honor, fellow scholars marched with their children through the streets of Mexico City while carrying paper doves made by university students, crosses in their hands, and some with banners with “JUSTICE” scrawled in red block letters. The demonstrators marched and stopped for moments of silence at major governmental departments including the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado) as they demanded that the government intervention to stop the violence. When the thousand strong individuals arrived at city hall, university officials and students called for state governor Marco Antionio Adame Castillo of Morelos to bring security for all and a quick and thorough investigation into the assassinations of Dr. Ernesto Mendez Salinas and Dr. Yadira Davila. Fellow professor and researcher Yadira Davila Martínez, also of the Institute of Biotechnology, was killed on August 10, 2011. Regardless of the University’s students and administration’s pleas for a speedy investigation, her murder remains unsolved. On the heels of the two faculties’ murders this year, the President of UNAM called Méndez’s death, another “victim of the climate of violence and social erosion in our country.”
El Universal quoted Professor Agustin Lopez Munguia, fellow researcher of Biotechnology and National Award of Science recipient, who worked closely with both Méndez and Martínez, saying “this climate of insecurity affects not only scholars and students..”, suggesting that the insecurity destroys the community’s trust in government. “It is absurd that we do not realize that our judicial apparatus is invaded by the power of drug trafficking and economic power. How long, how many more victims?”
Many professors have left their positions at the university citing fears of violence. “The circumstances in which our nation is sunk conditions are derived from the prevailing corruption, violence and impunity, leaving a feeling of anger, vulnerability and powerlessness,” said UNAM in a statement released to the press. On August 8, 2011, UNAM professors released the document “Elements for the construction of a state policy for security and justice in a democracy”, with 36 policy points made by 88 experts to address the security crisis in Mexico.
“Asesinado investigador de la UNAM en Cuernavaca.” Univision. November 10, 2011.
“Marchan universitarios en Morelos; exigen esclarecer asesinatos de investigadores.” La Crónica de Hoy. November 12, 2011.
“Piden en Morelos aclarar homicidios de académicos.” El Universal. November 12, 2011.