Ghosts Of Iguala Mexico: Government’s Case In Disappearance of 43 Students Unravels

“The police are disguised within the narco-traffickers … They are one.”

By Ryan Devereaux   
The Intercept (5/4/15)

FOUR BUSES PULL up to the base of the Mexican Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

It is January 12, a bright, clear afternoon in the southern state of Guerrero, nearly four months since 43 college students disappeared, most in the backs of municipal police vehicles, during a night of shooting and murder in the city of Iguala.

The majority of the students were seized at an intersection less than two miles from the army base. Hundreds of their family members and classmates, from a teacher-training college known as Ayotzinapa, have come to protest. They want answers. Not only that, they want inside.

“Today, we come to demand that they deliver our children to us,” one of the fathers yells. “They know where they have them.”

Another parent shouts, “Return our sons!”

A truck plows into the front gate of the base. Parents pull at the barbed wire surrounding the installation, and young people with their faces wrapped in T-shirts and bandanas stream inside. Hundreds of soldiers and police are waiting.

Stones fly through the air. Volleys of glass bottles rain down. Tear gas fills the area, and a military helicopter circles above.

The parents repeat a chant that has become their rallying cry.

“¡Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos!”

They were taken alive, we want them alive.

FROM THE MOMENT the students disappeared, their parents have demanded their return. Though it seems unlikely they are alive, their parents have drawn attention to inconsistencies in the official account of what happened, highlighting the government’s reluctance to tell the public everything it knows.

The Intercept has conducted a six-month investigation into the government’s case, based on a review of a portion of sealed files prepared by the office of Mexico’s attorney general — Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) — which includes statements by police officers and gang members allegedly involved in the events that night. The Intercept has also examined communication records from security forces in the area, conducted dozens of interviews, including with students who survived the night’s violence, and analyzed months of reporting by Mexican investigative journalists.

The investigation has revealed the federal government’s concerted effort to place blame squarely on municipal actors, despite ample evidence of a broader circle of responsibility. Senior officials in Mexico City have presented a narrowly tailored scenario of a mass kidnapping committed by local officials ending in murder carried out by gangsters in the Iguala area. But evidence buried in the state’s own files points to a case of enforced disappearance, which, unlike kidnapping, includes the involvement — either active or passive — of state actors, and can constitute a crime against humanity under international law.

Government coercion and torture

Throughout the case, the Mexican government has leaned heavily on the statements of detained suspects rather than physical evidence. The approach has drawn skepticism in a country with a well-documented history of authorities using coercion or torture to extract false confessions. Statements in the federal file suggest the government has presented a skewed selection of evidence in its account of what happened — information that supports its narrative has been publicly presented, while details that contradict the official version have been downplayed.

The Intercept provided an extensive list of questions to the PGR and the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. Despite repeated requests, neither the PGR nor the Embassy provided answers on the record to any of the questions, or made officials available to respond on the record.

Though there is still little clarity on the questions of why the students were disappeared, or where they were taken, statements in the federal investigation map out a criminal takeover of the region, exposing the corruption that has swallowed many of Guerrero’s governing structures. Coordinates provided by one detained gang member, for example, led authorities to a fetid swamp called La Laguna, where the rotting corpse of a former Iguala police chief was recovered. The suspect also described a ranch known as Los Naranjos — The Oranges — a patch of property where gangsters dumped bodies. Another burial site, described by two suspects, stood out early in the case. There, the men said, they had buried some of the students from Ayotzinapa. When investigators examined the site they indeed found bodies — 28 of them in mass graves — but none were the students.

As more and more unidentified corpses were exhumed last fall, while the international community looked on in horror, certain truths about the Mexican state were unearthed. Far from an isolated incident, the disappearance of 43 young men in one evening of violence was unique mainly in the attention it received. Their story is emblematic of the country’s crisis of unsolved disappearances, secret graves and the integration of organized crime into law enforcement and politics. As the mother of one of the disappeared students put it, “The police are disguised within the narco-traffickers … They are one.” … Read the Rest

  • “The Army Knew”: New Investigation Unravels Mexican Govt. Account of How 43 Students Disappeared - An explosive new investigation published today by The Intercept reveals the untold story of how 43 students disappeared in Mexico on the night of September 26, 2014. It is based on more than two dozen interviews with survivors of the attacks and family members of the disappeared, as well as Mexican historians, human rights activists and journalists. The Intercept also reviewed official Mexican state and federal records including communication logs by security forces and sealed testimony from municipal police officers and gang members. The evidence shows repeated inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account of what happened when the students went missing. We speak with Ryan Devereaux, staff reporter at The Intercept and author of the two-part investigation, “Ghosts of Iguala.” Link to Story and 11-Minute Video


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