Editor’s Note: Frontera NorteSur still has a few more stories to go before ceasing publication. In today’s story, we report news that crucial evidence in the mass disappearance of the Ayotzinapa college students in Mexico last year was lost, hidden or destroyed.
Reminiscent of the Ciudad Juarez women’s murders and disappearances, evidence related to a bloody police attack on Mexican college students has been lost, destroyed or withheld from relatives.
The revelations were made by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) reviewing the killings of six people and the mass kidnappings of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college in Iguala, Guerrero, at the hands of local police and alleged drug cartel gunmen last September 26 and 27.
In a Mexico City press conference held to report on the progress of its probe, the GIEI disclosed that clothing found on buses transporting the students who were attacked was gathered by the Office of the Federal Attorney General (PGR) but not made known or available to relatives of the students and their lawyers.
“There was no specific recording or processing of it,” the GIEI said. “In the opinion of the group, this a grave fact from the point of view of the investigation as well as the importance it has for family members.”
The GIEI, which was established by the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ensure an independent probe into the Ayotzinapa atrocity, further revealed that video footage depicting the detention of the students was possibly destroyed.
“According to testimonies given to the (GIEI), such videos existed and were sent to the presidency of the (legal) Tribunal,” the GIEI said. “Nonetheless, it seems that such videotaped records were destroyed. If this is confirmed, (videos) could be lost for the investigation of the facts. This matter should be immediately investigated by the PGR.”
The GIEI is made up of prominent international legal, forensic and human rights specialists, including former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. The GIEI’s current investigative mandate expires by early September, but proposals are in the air to keep the group functioning for a longer period of time.
Additionally, the GIEI criticized the Mexican federal government for not allowing it to conduct face-to-face interviews with more than two dozen Mexican soldiers who were on the scene during the violent events of the so-called Night of Iguala. The Pena Nieto administration offered to forward written questions to the soldiers, but the GIEI said it rejected the offer on the grounds that such a format would not permit rigorous questioning.
Felipe de la Cruz, spokesman for the Ayotzinapa relatives, reacted to news of the GIEI’s findings by saying they only sow more “doubts and lack of confidence” about the official version of the Iguala violence against the students, which holds that the 43 missing students were all murdered and then burned to ashes shortly after their abductions.
“With the proof we have available we don’t have evidence that the (students) are alive, just as we don’t have evidence about their fate…,” said GIEI member Carlos Beristain, who is a doctor from Spain.
In separate comments, de la Cruz insisted that members of the army’s 27th battalion stationed in Iguala must be investigated for their possible participation in the attacks against the students last fall.
Dialogue, however, is underway among the Pena Nieto administration, Ayotzinapa parents and the GIEI to involve independent experts such as the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in performing a second autopsy on murdered student Julio Cesar Mondragon Fuentes, and in examining the clothing recovered from the buses that carried the forcibly disappeared students.
At a meeting last week between Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chon and Ayotzinapa parents, the Mexican federal government pledged to redouble the search for the students, according to de la Cruz.
Meantime, Ayotzianapa relatives and their supporters plan to rekindle their justice movement with major protests set for August 26 and September 26, the first anniversary of the attack on the students. The first protest will follow a 48-hour national teachers’ strike called for August 24, at the very beginning of the new school, which is likely to raise the cause of Ayotzinapa as among the educators’ primary grievances.
Gaining momentum, rolling teacher protests already underway in the state of Oaxaca have been answered by the state and federal governments with the deployment of thousands of police and soldiers.
Sources: El Sur, August 18, 2015. Article by Lourdes Chavez. La Jornada (Guerrero edition), August 18, 2015. Articles by Sergio Ocampo and Luciano Tapia. Proceso/Apro, August 17, 2015. Articles by Gloria Leticia Diaz and Ezequiel Flores Contreras. La Jornada, August 15, 16 and 18, 2015. Articles by Jorge A. Perez and other correspondents, Jose Antonio Roman and Luis Hernandez Navarro.