The Truth About The Mexico City 1968 Olympics Shooting

Mexico has come a long way in building a democratic society, but it's no secret that the country struggles with crime. Per BBC, 2020 data ranks the country 19th across the globe in murder rates. Although this is significantly lower than countries like El Salvador — which currently tops the list — homicides in Mexico have been steadily increasing since 2014.

The 1968 Olympics shooting was the bloody culmination of student protests and put a spotlight on Mexico's authoritarian government at the time, NPR reported. Just 10 days before the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, the country's military opened fire on a crowd of unarmed student protestors who were taking a stand against the violence and repression they saw gripping the country.

The incident took place on October 2, 1968, at the Three Cultures Square in the Tlatelolco Plaza housing complex, and the exact details of the massacre remain a mystery to this day. While the original government report claims that four people were killed and 20 were wounded, eyewitness accounts paint a much more brutal picture involving hundreds of student bodies.

The authoritarian government made the truth difficult to find

At the time of the shooting, Mexico's president was Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, whose government faced criticism and opposition for its authoritarian rule. As noted by NPR, the government did not make a formal investigation into the incident. Over the years, renewed interest in uncovering the truth brought the documented death toll to 40. Still, by some accounts, the death toll reaches as high as 3,000.

The disturbing truth behind the event surfaced after official documents revealed that the Presidential Guard crafted a plan to provide Mexican military troops with reason to open fire on students. According to the documents, the presidential branch of the military posted snipers in the buildings around Tlatelolco Plaza. These snipers were allegedly part of a plot to attack the troops and give them the impression that they were under attack from the students, prompting them to return fire.