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The runaway truck was brought to a halt when it collided with a food stand. The runaway truck was brought to a halt when it collided with a food stand.

It was the semi’s fault: mayor says students not to blame in assault on Guard

Acapulco's Abelina Lopéz said violence is in the character of people from Guerrero

The mayor of Acapulco has defended protesting students who pushed a semi-trailer toward National Guardsmen on Friday, but her defense is a novel one: there was nobody driving the vehicle and it was in neutral.

The students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college — the school attended by the 43 young men who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014 — set the vehicle’s transmission in neutral and pushed it toward Guardsmen at the Palo Blanco toll plaza on the Autopista del Sol.

Traveling on a downhill slope, the truck steadily picked up speed, flew through a toll booth lane and crashed into a food stand. No one was injured.

At least 15 Guardsmen and 17 police were wounded in adjacent clashes at a toll plaza near Chilpancingo on the same highway, which runs between Mexico City and Acapulco.

Acapulco Mayor Abelina López said the defense of the students was legally sound.

“In strictly legal terms, the trailer was driving in neutral without a driver. There is no one to accuse because there is no evidence of who caused it … if an individual had been behind the wheel and that individual had been arrested, he could now be charged with attempted murder,” she said.

López added that the protesters should be shown leniency and justified their animosity toward authorities. “While various sectors and political actors call for … repression against the social movement, I believe in the right to protest and I ask for dialogue as the only solution … They are not criminals; there is a cause, there is pain … They must be listened to before being shouted at.”

She added that violence was part of the character of people from Guerrero. “We can not forget … our origins. To be from Guerrero is not to be just anyone,” she said.

The students have been occupying toll plazas at least twice a week for six years, the newspaper El Financiero reported. Security forces stopped them from doing so for the first time on Friday after the Senate passed a law that punishes the occupation of toll plazas with up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Mayor López has been criticized by the business community in Acapulco for high rates of extortion in the tourist city and the murders of workers most exposed to it.

López has shown some inventive thinking in her efforts to get a grip on a wave of violence: she suggested that journalists shouldn’t write about violence and blamed bad eating habits and hot weather as other factors that cause people to act with aggression.

Student protesters face off with Guardsmen in riot gear at the Palo Blanco toll plaza on Friday morning. Screen capture

With reports from Reforma

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