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Feature 100515 Pazos 2

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Student Leader Remembers the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico

By Luis Pazos

The killing of students at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, on October 2, 1968, 47 years ago, is full of myths and unsubstantiated statements, that by being repeated over the years have become "historical truths." I do not have indisputable truth about the facts, but as a student leader at that time I do have a version.

I was then president of the Society of Students at the Escuela Libre de Derecho [a prestigious law school in Mexico City].

A few days before the mass killings, a friend and fellow student from grammar and high schools, who in 1968 was studying political science at UNAM, a member of a Trotskyist cell, asked me to meet.

Are you going to the Tlatelolco rally?, he asked. I don't think so, I replied. Well, don't even think about going, it will be "gross," he warned. 

The government also knew that something was going to happen, but they didn't know what. The rally took place as normal. However, when it finished the speakers and leaders of the movement quietly withdrew from the square. General Toledo [Brig. Gen. Jose Hernandez Toledo], who was in charge of a battalion of paratroopers keeping watch on the rally, with a megaphone in hand, invited those present, many of them young students, to withdraw from the esplanade where the rally had taken place.

Suddenly, from one of the buildings that surround the square, a machine gun opened fire. Among the first to fall wounded was General Toledo. The hail of bullets hit students and soldiers.

The photos and video taken of the massacre show young people, together with soldiers who pointed weapons towards the upper floors of one of the buildings where the shots had come from.

A few days later a group of classmates asked me to call a strike, in protest of the killings at Tlatelolco "by the State." I told them to give me the name of a leader of the movement who had died and we would go on strike. No leader died; they had left [before the shooting started].

Who would the dead have benefitted? The movement was losing strength and the Olympics were scheduled in a few weeks.

The killings were not advantageous to the government, but yes they were to [anti-government] leaders in order to strengthen the movement, revive protests, raise worldwide outrage, and cause the Olympics to be cancelled. The leaders used the strategy of creating victims, now used by leftist radicals in various countries in order to give strength and "honor" to their movements.


Luis Pazos (e-mail:, who heads the Free Enterprise Research Center (CISLE) in Mexico City, holds a master's degree in Public Finance and a doctorate in Law from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).  A prolific writer and forethoughtful analyst, Dr. Pazos' commentaries on Mexican economics, finance and politics have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Americas.  As well, he is the author of numerous books.

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