Mexican protesters call for President Enrique Peña Nieto to resign

MEXICO CITY, Sept. 16 (UPI) — Protesters in Mexico called for President Enrique Peña Nieto‘s resignation a day before the country’s Independence Day.

Before Peña Nieto rang a bell in the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City to commence the long weekend, thousands of protesters took to the streets Thursday — many of whom were young and chanting “Peña out” — to call for Peña Nieto to vacate his post amid a weakening economy and a number of scandals, El Universal reported.

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump‘s recent visit to Mexico is among those incidents causing an uproar. Trump is an unpopular figure in Mexico, particularly over comments made when he first announced his candidacy when he said Mexico is sending drugs and rapists to the United States.

“I am sick of this government, of this disastrous president,” Alicia Mercado, 66, who joined the march in a wheelchair, told The New York Times. “With Trump’s visit, he couldn’t or didn’t even want to defend his own people.”

Protesters were also angry over the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping in which 43 college students disappeared. The investigation into the kidnapping has generated mass criticism for Peña Nieto’s administration. Peña Nieto took office in December 2012.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last year detailed a report that said that in September 2014, 43 students from Ayotzinapa traveled to the town of Iguala in Mexico’s Guerrero state and clashed with police, who opened fire. Police then handed the students over to drug gangs. Soldiers were at the scene of the clash and relatives of the missing students believe the soldiers played a role in the disappearances by failing to act.

Further investigation into the incident revealed that the police force was infiltrated by drug gangs. The three suspects in the case, Patricio Reyes, Jhonatan Osorio and Agustin Garcia, confessed to killing the students and burning the bodies, alleging they were told the students were rival drug gang members.

Only one burnt body of the 43 missing student has been identified.

After the chief investigator of the students’ disappearance resigned on Wednesday partially due to criticism he received over handling the case, Peña Nieto hired him hours later to serve as the technical secretary for Mexico’s National Security Council.

“It’s making a mockery not only of the 43 and their families, it’s making a mockery of all Mexicans,” Mario González, a father of one of the missing students, told The New York Times.

La Reforma reported Peña Nieto’s approval rating has recently sunk to 23 percent.

Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from a Mexican prison last year also has shrouded Peña Nieto’s administration in controversy.

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