“Where are?”. The question has remained unanswered since September 26, 2014 and resonated once again with thousands of people marching alongside Ayotzinapa’s mothers and fathers in the center of the Mexican capital this Sunday (26).
In the framework of the seven years since 43 students from the Escola Normal Rural “Raul Isidro” in Ayotzinapa, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, were attacked by state forces and disappeared, movements and family members denounce the little progress of the investigation under the central government. left by Andréz Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
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One of the demands is for the investigation of the Mexican army’s involvement in the case. And, as it could be read in one of the tracks of the act, movements and family members will not rest “hasta find them”.
Although more than 100 people have already been arrested for alleged involvement in the case, there is still no clear explanation of the whereabouts of the normalists or those responsible for the event. The findings raise suspicions of the participation of different state bodies, such as police corporations, members of the executive and the Mexican Army.
“The previous government carried out an investigation aimed at hiding the truth and ending the Ayotzinapa affair,” he told the Brazil in fact the family’s lawyer, Vidulfo Rosales, referring to the mandate of the rightist Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), who headed the Mexican presidency between 2012 and 2018.
Upon taking office in 2018, with a speech to differentiate himself from his predecessor, López Obrador created a commission to deal with the Ayotzinapa case and established periodic meetings with the families. At the Public Ministry, Omar Gómez was appointed as the prosecutor in charge of the case.
Gómez is considered close to the members of the GIEI (Interdisciplinary Group of Expertos y Expertas Independientes), a group of independent researchers appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
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Considering that there have been some advances since López Obrador assumed the presidency of Mexico, Vidulfo stresses that the actions have been “insufficient to make the truth known”: “There are institutions within the current government that hinder investigations and even have a level of participation in the facts”.
When mentioning the recent death of two of the parents of the victims of Ayotzinapa (Saúl Bruno García and Bernardo Campos), the lawyer warns of a vertiginous deterioration in the health of the family members, who, however, continue relentlessly in demanding explanations.
“It was the State that disappeared with the 43 and murdered three students, and it is the State that must give answers about where our children are,” he told the Let’s not know Cristina Salvador, mother of Benjamín Bautista, during a protest for a road blockage held days before the seven-year anniversary of the case.
Three identified students and few questions answered
So far, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has identified three of the 43 students who disappeared on the night of September 26, 2014 in the city of Iguala.
These were the remains of Alexander Mora, found in an unclear way in the San Juan River and in the Cocula land in 2014; and those of Christian Rodríguez and Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, discovered in 2020 and 2021 respectively, both in a ravine called La Carnicería.
The site is about 1km from Cocula, an area that appears in the version that the Peña Nieto government tried to enact, which became known as the “historical truth” because the prosecutor at the time, Murillo Karam, literally used the term.
According to them – based on confessions of members of the Guerreros Unidos faction who were arrested – the students had been handed over by police to this faction who, mistaking them for members of a rival group, had executed them, incinerated their bodies in the Cocula dump. and dumped his remains in the Rio San Juan.
Questioned by family members and scientifically disproved by GIEI’s independent experts, the version lost what little support it had when, in 2018, the UN High Commission for Human Rights published a report denouncing that at least 34 detainees in investigations had made confessions under torture. At the time, the head of the investigation was Tomáz Zerón, now in Israel, a fugitive from justice.
In an interview with El Universal, Don Emiliano Navarrete, José Ángel’s father, expresses dissatisfaction when saying that the identification of two young people during the AMLO government has not yet brought concrete explanations.
“How did these little fragments end up there? When? Is this an advance? Not for me. For me, it’s knowing who really threw those fragments there, who took their lives, how did it happen,” he says. “There is no difference from the previous government to the current government and it is hopeless for us”, summed up Navarrete to Let’s not know.
Involvement of the Mexican army in the Ayotzinapa case
Among the many demands that have been dragging on for seven years on the part of Ayotzinapa’s mothers and fathers, is that investigations should focus on the involvement of the military in the attack on the normalists – notably those of the 27th Infantry Battalion in the city of Iguala.
GIEI surveys, testimonies of surviving students and witnesses attest to the presence of members of this Army Battalion in the events of September 26, 2014 – on patrols, in person in different places where the attacks took place, in the hospital where they interrogated normalists and took photos and videos.
In November 2020, the only detention of a member of the corporation was made: Captain José Martínez Crespo, responsible for heading the 27th Infantry Battalion at the time. He answers for the charges of “organized delinquency for the purpose of committing crimes against health”, “murder” and “enforced disappearance”.
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Anabel Hernández is a Mexican investigative journalist and has followed the Ayotzinapa case closely from the beginning. Of the vast material she collected, including videos that prove the presence of military personnel that night, a portion was given to her by a key eyewitness, fellow journalist Pablo Morrugares. Director of PM Notícias, Morrugares was murdered in August of last year.
In Hernández’s opinion, expressed in his column in Countercurrents, despite the arrest of Captain Crespo, there are three factors that put at risk the possibility that answers to the Ayotzinapa case are reached – explanations that, for her, involve elucidating the involvement of the Armed Forces in the disappearances.
The first factor highlighted by the journalist is the fact that Crespo’s judicial process is taking place in the Mexican Military Justice.
The second is that, in the Armed Forces’ chain of command, one of the high-ranking soldiers who, according to the journalist, gave orders the night the students disappeared, was now General Alejandro Saavedra. Since the beginning of López Obrador’s government, Saavedra has held the position of director of the Social Security Institute for the Mexican Armed Forces.
For Hernández, the third factor is the fact that, on the night of the attacks on the students, who occupied the position of top commander of the Army, as secretary of National Defense, was Salvador Cienfuegos.
The pivot of a diplomatic rift between Mexico and the United States, Cienfuegos was detained in Los Angeles in October 2020 by the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency), accused of links to drug trafficking. After negotiating with the then Trump government, López Obrador managed to deport Cienfuegos to Mexico.
In January of this year, the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Mexico stated that the US charges against General Cienfuegos had not been prosecuted. President López Obrador, in turn, declared that he “supports, endorses and supports” the decision.
“Cienfuegos lied to the Mexican Congress in October 2014 when he assured that no military man – not a single one – had been aware of the events that took place in Iguala and had not even participated,” recalls Hernández in his column. “He even stated that the 27th Infantry Battalion was empty because they would be out of town doing other activities”, he denounces.
Asked how he sees the investigative line centered on the involvement of the military, Don Emiliano Navarrete responds that he is surprised by “the superiority that this security body has over the federal government”. In his view, “they are almost untouchable”.
remember the case
The attack against Ayotzinapa’s normalists took place between September 26 and 27, 2014, in the state of Guerrero. That night, the students left the rural area where the school is located and went to the city of Iguala in order to get hold of regular buses with which they intended to travel to Mexico City. They wanted to participate in the annual demonstration that takes place there on October 2, in memory of the Tlateloco massacre, when police murdered hundreds of protesters in 1968.
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Preparing to participate in a protest against state violence would become the most brutal recent emblem of the permanence of this problem in Mexico. The five student buses were intercepted and shot by police. That night, three students and three passersby were shot dead. Dozens of normalists were filmed being forced into police cars. The 43 abducted students never showed up again.
“It’s been seven years of resistance demanding the Mexican state to solve and find our students,” said the collective of Mothers and Fathers of Ayotzinapa in a public statement this Sunday (26). “We haven’t made any progress, but we won’t stop demanding that they tell us the whereabouts of our children”, ending with a cry of order that has become a classic. “If alive took them, alive we want them!”
Edition: Arturo Hartmann