How Jesús Piedra Ibarra's Case Exposed Mexico's Dirty War

Mexico's Dirty War claimed Jesús Piedra Ibarra, a student activist. His mother, Rosario, refused silence and sparked a movement (Comité Eureka) fighting disappearances. Hunger strikes and public pressure led to amnesty laws, but not Jesús' return.

How Jesús Piedra Ibarra's Case Exposed Mexico's Dirty War
On the left is Jesús Piedra Ibarra. Photo presented by DFS. Credit: AGN

Jesús Piedra de Ibarra was born on February 17, 1954, son of activist Rosario Ibarra de Piedra and Dr. Jesús Piedra Rosales. He studied medicine at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, where he showed interest in leftist thought. He actively participated in several student organizations before joining La Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre, where he was known as “Rafa” or “Rafita”. Within this organization, he participated in various armed confrontations between the league and the Nuevo León authorities, as well as with the DFS.

On April 18, 1975, was the last time he was seen alive and his whereabouts are known, since the only thing known is that he was detained by the Federal Security Directorate, with no further information about him since then. Initially, the DFS denied having detained Ibarra. However, thanks to the mobilizations led by his mother, Rosario Ibarra, demanding the presentation of her son alive and in favor of all the disappeared in the country, and after confrontations with Luis Echeverría and Nazar Haro, it was confirmed that the DFS had detained Jesús. This was registered in a report of the directorate created in April 1975 in which it is mentioned “Jesús Piedra Ibarra (a) ‘Rafael’, who was apprehended yesterday”.

From the beginning of her son's disappearance, Rosario Ibarra began a process of search, mobilization, and resistance. As time went by, she realized that her son's case was not unique, but that there were hundreds of disappeared people. Thus, she managed to bring together several mothers and relatives of the disappeared, and in 1977 she founded the Comité Pro Defensa de Desaparecidos, Presos, Perseguidos y Exiliados Políticos de México, which would later be known as Comité Eureka. This organization is a pioneer in the fight against disappearances.

“Said organization undertook a hunger strike in the Metropolitan Cathedral since August 28, 1978.” Under the slogan “Alive they were taken, alive we want them” they demanded the presentation of the disappeared and the creation of a general amnesty for political prisoners. This action led José López Portillo to announce an amnesty law a few months later, which was immediately approved. The application of the law freed more than 1,000 political prisoners and allowed the return of exiles to the country.

Although the amnesty benefited numerous people, it unfortunately did not prove to be the definitive solution to a structural problem, as the case of the disappeared continued to receive neither due attention nor interest from the authorities. In addition, the management of information on the actions of the various police agencies, such as the DFS, remained classified, which hindered any progress in the investigations.

Over the years, the Jesús Piedra Ibarra case has represented not only the struggle of a mother desperate to find her son, but also the struggle of an entire country against impunity and injustice. Through the activism of Rosario Ibarra de Piedra and the work of the Eureka Committee, the serious difficulty of forced disappearances in Mexico during the Dirty War was made visible.

Photograph presented by the DFS of Jesús Piedra Ibarra.
Photograph presented by the DFS of Jesús Piedra Ibarra. Credit: AGN

Access to the DFS documents is a significant step forward in the clarification of these cases, as these archives contain vital information that could be the key to unraveling the mystery behind numerous disappearances. These documents not only represent historical archives, but also a testimony of the constant struggle for justice and the memory of those who have been unjustly taken away. Their opening represents a significant step forward in the fight against impunity and on the road to reparations.

Source: Archivo General de la Nación. “La desaparición de Jesús Piedra Ibarra.”, Accessed 5 June 2024.