Five months after the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, 12 parents have gathered to seek support for their cause in the U.S. The three-part, 30-stop Ayotzinapa Caravan made it’s first appearance on March 16, at a panel in San Antonio and rallied to the Mexican Consulate in Austin.
Over 160 groups throughout the nation including Alabama, Michigan and New York are preparing to to welcome the parents and their advocates to help inform and demand that investigations continue until justice is served. Felipe de la Cruz, one of the tour organizers and father of one of the missing students, announced they expect to meet with representatives of human rights groups and politicians.
For six years, Mexico has been desperately trying to uncover the truth behind Mexico’s Missing 43. After a botched initial government response, a corrupt follow-up investigation and years of agony, the current administration has committed itself to laying out the truth for the victim’s families.
Thanks to a new investigation, the Attorney General has announced several new arrest warrants for suspects related to the case and announced that they have one key suspect already in custody.
Now, families of the missing students have a glimmer of hope as authorities say that justice for their missing loved ones is closer than ever before.
Mexico’s Attorney General has requested 46 arrest warrants related to the 43 missing students.
Mexico’s Attorney General, Alejandro Gertz Manero, issued a statement saying that his team of prosecutors have requested 46 warrants for the arrest of municipal officials in Guerrero state, in connection with the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 teaching students in September 2014.
Gertz said in a video message that the officials are sought for the crimes of forced disappearance and organized crime in relation to the kidnapping of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students.
In his statement, he also singled out the previous presidential administration for dropping the ball on the investigation.
“It’s necessary to make it very clear that these crimes weren’t even investigated” let alone prosecuted by the former government’s prosecutors, he said.
Mexico’s Missing 43 disappeared after attending a protest in the nearby town of Iguala. As they were travelling back from Iguala to Ayotzinapa, they were confronted by municipal police who opened fire on the buses they were travelling in. An official government report published during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto said the students had been seized by the municipal police officers who handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos drugs gang.
The new arrest warrants come after the government also announced warrants for officials from the previous presidential administration related to the case.
The attorney general said the 46 new arrest warrants sought are in addition to warrants obtained in March against former Attorney General’s Office officials, including the ex-head of the Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomás Zerón, who has reportedly fled Mexico.
Gertz said that an Interpol red notice had been issued against Zerón, who is wanted on charges of torturing people detained in connection with the students’ disappearance, forced disappearance, evidence tampering and altering a crime scene.
The attorney general said the location of Zerón is known but didn’t disclose it. It is believed he might be in Canada but authorities are also searching for him in the United States, Guatemala, Belize and Europe.
Prosecutors also announced that they had a prime suspect in custody.
In addition to the new arrest warrants, authorities also announced that they had a prime suspect already in custody. Police arrested Ángel Casarrubias, who has extensive connections with the Guerreros Unidos cartel – his brother is its leader.
Casarrubia’s brother was detained shortly after the students went missing and allegedly confessed to the crimes, saying that his cartel had killed the students and burned their bodies.
However, he later said his confession had been extracted under torture and filed an official complaint. A judge dismissed the charges brought against him over the disappearance of the missing students arguing that his confession had been extracted under duress. But he remains in prison on separate charges of links to organised crime.
Ángel Casarrubias had eluded police until last week. He was finally captured on Wednesday in Mexico state but his detention was only made public on Monday.
Families are cautiously optimistic that there could soon one day be justice for their missing loved ones.
For more than six years, families of the missing students have mourned the uncertain loss of their loved ones. Their story has been the subject of countless documentaries and art projects, including one by famed Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.
Although these are major developments in the case, Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the parents of the missing students, said he and the other parents would “wait and see” if Ángel Casarrubias could contribute fresh information about what happened to their children.
He added that what the parents would like to see is the arrest of Tomás Zerón, the former head of investigations for the Prosecutor-General’s office who led the probe into the students’ disappearance.
It’s been five years since 43 students from a teachers’ college in the town of Ayotzinapa suddenly disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014. Their stories and faces have become emblematic of a country where violence and death rates have only risen since. While some have forgotten or given up on finding answers, their families and Mexicans across the country have stood determined to uncover the truth.
This past week marked the 5th anniversary of this national tragedy but it also marked the latest turn in the case as new information has surfaced. According to the Washington Post, there are new details in the case that have led Mexican authorities to begin working at a new garbage dump where they hope some of the students’ bodies may be.
The latest lead in the case brings hope that the bodies of the 43 students will finally be found after 5 years.
The latest lead in the case has led authorities to a dump outside the town of Iguala, Guerrero where former Colombian prosecutor Ángela Buitrago of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights group, said is “is in the epicenter of the action.”
“We’re waiting for information that they could have obtained in that place because there are various (leads) that have not been investigated,” Felipe de la Cruz, spokesman for the students’ families, told The Washington Post.
While the search at the dump began more than a week ago, the results have been mixed. According to the AP, investigators at the site have been able to uncover close to 200 clandestine burial sites and recovered 184 bodies but none of them the students. The found bodies are believed to be victims of drug gangs or kidnappers but so far only 44 have been identified.
Officials say they aren’t done looking at the dump and are still considering it a major location of the case.
“We will make a comprehensive rethinking of the investigation, correcting the omissions, contradictions, and the lack of evidence that led to the so-called ‘historical truth’,” Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s undersecretary of human rights who is overseeing the commission looking into the case, told Al-Jezeera. “And those authorities that incurred in omission or illegal practices, as has been proven … such as torture on some of the people detained, will be held responsible.”
The latest developments in the case come as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who reopened the case after he was elected last year, said they are looking at new leads in hopes of finally bringing justice.
President Lopez Obrador has made the case one of his highest priorities since taking office last year. On the five-year anniversary, he held a press conference with the students’ families and updated them on the new investigation development. Many spoke at the event and demanded justice for the 43 students who many say the Mexican government had forgotten about.
“I do feel things are progressing, slowly, but progressing,” Omar Garcia Velasquez, a former a spokesman for the 43 missing students’ movement, told Al-Jezeera. “I understand it’s very complicated to start from scratch, and I know the narrative has changed towards the victims and their families. But nevertheless, we will continue with our movement until the case is solved.”
While there are still many questions to be answered on the case, there has been some progress. That includes the creation of new commissions for the case and money rewards for key information that may lead to arrests.
The country hasn’t been able to move on from the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college. The story behind the case has yet to be conclusively established as many accounts have had various endings and perpetrators behind the kidnappings. Authorities said that the 43 students were detained by corrupt police on the night of September 26, 2014, and were then allegedly handed over to gang members who massacred them by burning their bodies.
The original investigation done by the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto has been criticized for it’s ineffectiveness and failure to provide any due process. To this point, no one has ever been convicted in connection to the disappearance of the 43 students. Of the more than 140 people that were originally detained in connection to the case, 77 were released after a judge dismissed many of the cases due to insufficient evidence or reports that some of those detained were tortured to get answers.
Mexican Senator Emilio Alvarez Icaza was the former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the same when an independent expert group, called GIEI, was founded to collaborate with the Mexican government to look into the case. The GIEI found that there were various contradictions and irregularities in how the previous case was ran. The group also found that a new case should be opened in a completely new direction than the previous.
“It’s important that the president sends out a clear message that the army will be investigated. Because without it and the increasing militarisation we’re seeing in the country, the message will be that the army is untouchable,” Icaza told Al Jazeera. “This is a case where the credibility and trust of Lopez Obrador’s government are at stake. If this story also ends up in impunity, the public’s outcry will be enormous.”