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Families Of 43 Missing Mexican Students Embark On U.S. Tour

Image: Protest over 43 Mexican missing students
Relatives of 43 Mexican missing students hold pictures of the victims during a protest with teachers as they mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary and schoolteacher Lucio Cabanas in front of Government Palace in Chilpancingo, Mexico, 02 December 2014. LENIN OCAMPO TORRES / EPA

AUSTIN -- Relatives of the 43 students whose disappearance last year in Guerrero, Mexico triggered national outrage and accusations of government corruption are scheduled to visit the U.S. during the next three weeks as part of a tour to raise awareness about the case.

Traveling in three caravans they will visit more than a dozen cities, including Austin, Texas, March 18-20, organizers there said. The group is slated to speak at a press conference March 19 at Austin City Hall, as well as participate in a protest at the Mexican Consulate General’s office and in a community discussion at a local Catholic Church the same day.

“For the Mexican American community, these are our relations, these are our relatives that are being oppressed by the Mexican government,” said Gilbert Rivera, an Austin organizer of the caravan’s stop there. “It’s important for us to support them.”

Tour stops are also scheduled in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Dallas, among other cities, organizers said.

In a statement, a representative of the families, Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval, said it was important that both U.S. citizens and government officials of other countries "...are aware of the injustices in Mexico, and the international community see what is the globalization of repression."

The students are known as the Ayotzinapa 43, after the name of the teacher training college they were attending in Guerrero. The group went missing Sept. 26, 2014, at the hands of local police who turned them over to be killed by a drug gang who later burned the bodies, according to the federal government. An attack on the students left six other classmates dead and many others wounded.

The case has rocked Mexico and led to widespread claims of government corruption and cooperation with organized crime and drug cartels. Critics say the government has been inept in its investigation.

Last November, federal authorities arrested the mayor of the city of Iguala and his wife for allegedly ordering the attack. They alleged the couple ran the city in tandem with a local drug cartel.

Though DNA searches have only identified one of the missing students, the Mexican government said there was enough evidence and testimonies from those arrested to declare them dead. But family members have disputed this, saying they are waiting for direct proof as to what happened to their relatives.

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