MEXICO CITY -- Pink and baby blue flags representing the 49 victims of the 2009 daycare fire that spread grief across Mexico were held aloft by demonstrators during a solemn protest commemorating the third anniversary of the tragedy.
Parents marched from Mexico City's main plaza, or Zocalo, to the Angel of Independence monument Sunday, led by rows of small children pushing baby carriages in honor of the dead.
The June 5, 2009, fire at the ABC daycare center in the northwestern city of Hermosillo also left more than 70 toddlers and infants with serious burns. In the three years since, outraged and still-grieving parents have held emotional protests calling for justice for their children.
Correspondent Ken Ellingwood reported in The Times in July 2009 that the "incident and its aftermath reveal much about what is wrong with Mexico," and are widely seen as a low point under President Felipe Calderon.
"Impunity. Corruption. Lack of transparency. Aloof politicians who are most nimble when ducking blame. Bureaucracies that bury you in red tape," Ellingwood wrote, describing the tell-tale traits that leave many residents disenchanted.
Three years on, the owners of the ABC center and high-level public officials in the state of Sonora -- some with reported ties to First Lady Margarita Zavala -- remain free (link in Spanish). Suspicions remain that the fire may have been intentionally set among boxes of tax records at a state government-leased warehouse next door to the daycare center.
"We are still waiting for those truly responsible for the deaths of 49 children and more than 70 injured to be put in jail and behind bars," said Abraham Fraijo, whose daughter, Emilia, died. "They are enjoying total impunity."
Here's video of the demonstration as it passed on Madero Street in downtown Mexico City:
The protest also had a political tint during the current election season. Parents have expressed outrage that the former head of Mexico's social security institute, which oversees public contracts with private daycare providers, was included in the campaign of presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, who belongs to Calderon's conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
"Instead of punishing them, they are given prizes," Fraijo said.
On Monday, Vazquez Mota told students during an appearance at Ibero-American University that she would ask the former official, Juan Molinar Horcasitas, to "distance himself" from her campaign.
ABC parents planned another protest in Hermosillo on Tuesday.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Parents of the ABC daycare center victims in Hermosillo, Sonora, along with small children, march Sunday in Mexico City to call for justice for the 49 victims of the June, 5, 2009, blaze. Credit: Daniel Hernandez / Los Angeles Times