5 Years After They Went Missing, The Case Of The 43 Missing Ayotzinapa Students Is Nowhere Near Answered
There is new information out of Mexico pertaining to the kidnapping of 43 teachers college students who disappeared in Southern Mexico in 2014. According to the AP, Gilberto López Astudillo, one of the main suspects in the case has been acquitted leaving many wondering if justice will ever be served for the families of lost ones.
Santiago Aguirre, the lawyer for victims’ relatives, said the judge acquitted López Astudillo due to “insufficient evidence.” He was then released from custody Saturday with no other charges pending against him. López Astudillo, also known as “El Gil”, was one of the main perpetrators that prosecutors had targeted behind the kidnapping and suspected massacre of the 43 students.
The case has haunted many on the country where homicide rates and kidnappings have reached record highs in the last five years.
Mexico hasn’t been able to move on from the disappearance of the 43 men from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the southern state of Guerrero. 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.
López Astudillo quickly became the focus of the kidnapping and the main suspect in the case. He was identified as a member of the Guerreros Unidos, an organized crime group. Prosecutors charged him with giving orders to kill the students, allegedly mistaking them for members of another rival gang. The case quickly became a stain on the Enrique Peña Nieto government (2012-2018) who many accused of fumbling the investigation from the start.
Lopez Astudillo becomes the highest-profile suspect from the case to be released. According to prosecutors, the five-year investigation has been stained by allegations of official incompetence or even corruption. As of now, more than 40 suspects have been released because of procedural mistakes by investigators which includes the use of torture to get confessions.
Aguirre told the AP that there has been “sleaziness, human rights violations and irregularities in the investigation.” He says even though there is a new administration leading the investigation, nothing much has changed from previous leadership. During the trial, there were more than 100 elements of evidence in López Astudillo’s case, according to Aguirre. But much of that evidence became useless as 62 of them were ruled inadmissible due to the way they were obtained.
With this latest turn in the case, many now are looking for answers and are questioning if the Mexico government might know something we don’t.
With news of one of the main suspects in the case being released, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a news conference that he will investigate the potentially botched case vowing to shed light on the crime. López Obrador created a truth and justice commission to investigate the case back in January, shortly after taking office. The commission has not yet uncovered any further information about what happened to the students or the people behind it.
“It’s a very serious justice issue and because of that we’re going to formally file a complaint with the attorney general’s office and the judiciary in this case,” López Obrador said.
With so many inconsistencies in the case and now the main suspect being released, families of the victims are now looking for answers and pointing blame on the government for botching the investigation. Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesman for the families of the kidnapped students, echoed this sentiment when he told a local news outlet that López Astudillo was released because of malpractice.
“It is regrettable that people have to go free because of negligence,” de la Cruz told Milenio TV.
“What we have now are a series of trials, which are falling apart,” said María Luisa Aguilar, an international affairs director for the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre, which has worked with the students’ families, told The Guardian. “The impression the families have is that the investigators tried to shelve the investigation,” she added. “They didn’t do a proper investigation into what happened or the students’ whereabouts – which is what the families care about most.”