Things That Matter

Authorities Violated Mexico’s Constitution Gathering Evidence In Case Of Missing 43 Students

On September 26, 2014, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. Reports from that night say local police clashed with the students, brought them into custody, and then handed them over to a local gang, Guerreros United. In the investigation that followed, several horrific details surrounding the incident were uncovered by investigators, details that could bring a case against those involved, and bring closure to the families affected. However, an unreleased internal report from Mexico’s government reveals that officials relied on illegal tactics and arrests during the course of the investigation, a fact that could threaten, according to the New York Times, “legal foundations” for any case brought to court.

An unreleased internal review shows that Mexico’s authorities violated the law when gathering evidence for this case.

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CREDIT: VICE NEWS / YOUTUBE

According to the New York Times, the Mexican Constitution voids any evidence gathered as a result of illegal arrests. The now-buried internal review revealed that the police arrested suspects with little legal authority, and as a result, much of the evidence would probably not hold up in a court of law. In an apparent attempt to cover-up the damning results of the internal investigation, the 177-page document was never approved, leaving families and justice to live in limbo for the foreseeable future. The attorney general’s office claims, however, that the report hasn’t been released due to legal formalities, and that the case is still under review.


[H/T] Mexican Report Says Investigators Botched Search for 43 Students


READ: Mass Graves Discovered in Mexico, Families of 43 Ayotzinapa Students Want Answers

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Investigators May Have Found Remains Of The 43 Mexican Students Who Have Been Missing For 5 Years

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Investigators May Have Found Remains Of The 43 Mexican Students Who Have Been Missing For 5 Years

Omar Torres / Getty

In 2014, 43 students from a teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa went missing. Now, investigators have found human remains that may clue them in on what exactly happened to the missing college students. 

The Mexican government had initially concluded that local corrupt police officers were in the pocket of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel mistakenly believed the students were a part of a rival gang. The officers were said to have turned the students over to the cartel who killed them and dumped them in a landfill. 

The students’ parents did not accept this version of events and led various protests to demand answers from the state. They were vindicated when an independent investigation using forensic analysis discovered the government’s findings were impossible. When President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 he vowed to solve this mystery. 

Investigators found human remains that may uncover what really happened.

A lawyer for some of the victims’ parents, Vidulfo Rosales told Mexico News Daily, that remains discovered by the National Search Commission surrounding Iguala, where the students went missing, will be analyzed by the government and foreign third parties. 

“The new hypothesis is that there was a situation in municipalities that neighbor Iguala that was not known before,” Rosales said. 

While the government’s initial theory was that the students were burned in a Cocula garbage dump, the new theory suggests that the students may have been separated and spread across municipalities. The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts believes that the 43 young men unwittingly took a cartel bus filled with heroin that was supposed to go to the United States. 

There were five buses transporting students from the college to a protest, but the bus with the missing 43 was the only one stopped by federal police.

The previous administration may have been covering up what really happened.

Following the incident, all traces of the official case file disappeared. Later on, an independent investigation found that authorities had used torture tactics to coerce confessions from suspects. 

The case hasn’t been able to make any progress because the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts’ efforts were thwarted by the previous government that refused to renew their mandate in 2016. AMLO promised to open an investigation after taking office, but 2019 saw little progress. 

Last September, 21 municipal police officers that were arrested in connection with the missing students were released from prison. 

“The judge ordered the officers’ release on the grounds that statements they made to prosecutors in the previous government were obtained by illegal means, including torture,” according to Mexico News Daily

However, human rights undersecretary Alejandro Encinas believed the move was a miscarriage of justice. Encinas believes the judge failed to follow a legal precedent which decrees that when evidence was obtained through torture a new investigation must occur rather than the automatic acquittal of the defendant. Encinas also noted that the judge set free those who were tortured but made no effort to hold those who did the alleged torturing accountable. The same judge had previously released a suspect in the case two weeks before. 

“The judge interpreted the law with a lot of laxity . . . He didn’t impart justice and caused serious damage to the search for truth,” Encinas said.

In total, 77 out of 142 suspects have been released after judges found the convicting evidence was obtained unlawfully. 

2020 might bring answers about the missing 43.

“We still don’t know what happened. We are overwhelmed, stuck,” Antonio Tizapa, father of one of the missing student’s named Jorge. “And after five years of demanding justice, five years fighting to keep the case open, it’s unreal that we still can’t find them.” 

With possible remains uncovered, the families of the victims said they would give AMLO two months (starting in November) to make progress in the case. The remains will be analyzed in Mexico, the Institute of Legal Medicine at the Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria, and experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In the past 12 years, 47,000 people have disappeared in Mexico, according to NBC News

“Politics affects us on both sides of the border,” he said. “But what happened to my son is happening to many other children in Mexico and the United States.”

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AMLO Was Recently Sworn In As Mexico’s New President And Already Delivered On A Campaign Promise

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AMLO Was Recently Sworn In As Mexico’s New President And Already Delivered On A Campaign Promise

Eneas De Troya / Flickr

Mexico has sworn in their newest president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has vowed to bring an end to corruption, chronic poverty, and extreme violence that have plagued the country. One of his first acts as president will be creating a truth commission on to re-examine the case of 43 students whose disappearance in 2014. The case has come to represent the countless Mexicans who’ve vanished in a decade-long drug war. The Mexican people have been demnading answers for years and López Obrador is promising answers.

The 2014 case of missing students has come to symbolize the violence and corruption that has been seen throughout Mexico for over a decade.

The 43 students, who were studying to be teachers, disappeared in September 2014 from the city of Iguala after local police attacked the buses they were riding on their way to a protest. Survivors say police started shooting at unarmed students. The government of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto claimed that the students were handed over to a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), which killed and burned their bodies in a garbage dump.

Yet the Mexican government didn’t provide sufficient evidence to prove their claims. An international team of forensic scientists also contradicted the government report, stating that suspects had been tortured to obtain testimonies. In total, six people were fatally shot and 43 student teachers haven’t been found. To this day the remains of only one student have been identified. The murders have become a symbol of the corruption, dangers, and widespread disappearances throughout Mexico.

One of President López Obrador campaign promises is to re-examine the 2014 incident and has vowed to stop this type of senseless violence.

At a press conference, President López Obrador posed with the parents of the missing students, who displayed photos of their young ones, and promised an end to impunity and begin a wide-ranging investigation.

“The whole government is going to help with this plan and I can assure you that there will be no impunity either in this sad and painful case or in any other,” he told reporters.

The commission will include the parents of the 43 students, their lawyers and representatives from the interior, foreign and finance ministries, along with experts for the investigation. The commission will be led by Deputy Secretary Alejandro Encinas, who is Mexico’s sub-secretary for human rights as well as migration. The commission will begin a new investigation under a special prosecutor’s and will look at all leads, including those that were ignored by the former Mexican government.

Grieving families spoke up at the news conference about how the election of President López Obrador gives hope.

The truth commission will shine new light on the 4-year-old unsolved case that has left many families looking for answers. These families say they’ve been let down by the former Mexican government by not fully investigating the case and not using all available evidence.

“We ask you [López Obrador], as a father, to help us, to pull us out of this dumpster where Peña Nieto left us, and for you to gain the trust of all Mexicans, because we don’t trust anyone anymore,” María Martínez, the mother of one of the missing students, told Mexico Daily News. “We ask the rest of the country to put themselves in our shoes for just one day, for them to feel what it is to have a loved one missing, It’s not only our 43, there are thousands of other families suffering.”

The truth commission will be one of President López Obrador’s first orders but it might also be one of his most important.

For many Mexicans, the truth commission represents part of a new chapter in Mexico, where leadership has deceived and let down many for some time. President López Obrador was elected off a wave of anger about violence and corruption and has already fulfilled one of his campaigns promises to create the commission. Whether any of these families find any answers or clues to what happened to their loved ones is another question.

“I hope that we will soon know the truth. That there’s justice and an example is set so never again human rights are violated in our country,” Pres. Lopez Obrador said at the press conference. “So that no other Mexican suffers the disappearance of their children.”

READ: Mexico’s Outgoing President Is Honoring Jared Kushner With One Of Mexico’s Highest Honors

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