Things That Matter

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.

Credit: @nbclatino / Twitter

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. 

Credit: @guardianworld / Twitter 

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.”

READ: ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Wants To Give Back His Giant Drug Fortune To Indigenous Mexicans

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Culture

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Jon G. Fuller / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

Things That Matter

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com