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After Years, A Netflix Documentary Is Digging Into The True Story Behind The Disappearance Of The Ayotzinapa Students

In September 2014, a group of progressive students organized to attend an annual protest of a student massacre that occurred decades before. On their way there, half a dozen municipal police forces were seemingly organized and attacked the buses with four hours of gunfire. Half the students survived. Forty-three went missing.

In the days and weeks after, nobody could have imagined the absolute worst-case scenario could happen: that the Mexican government was responsible and wouldn’t deliver any kind of investigation or closure for the parents of “The 43.” Netflix’s docu-series “The 43” does what nobody else has to uncover the tragic mystery. Here’s our synopsis.

On September 26, 2014, a group of 100 students boarded buses to Mexico City to demand justice for the Tlatelolco massacre.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

For decades, students have organized to arrive in Mexico City in time for the annual October 2nd protest. Every year, the state attempts to block students from arriving in Mexico City. So, every year, the students describe a tradition of “hijacking” buses to make it to Mexico City. Bus drivers expect it. Towns expect it. It’s much more like they’re hitchhiking en masse. Half the students make it onto one bus and the others make it on another. One bus driver said he’d take them to Mexico City after he dropped off his passengers in Iguala.

It was a normal day until one bus driver locked the students inside.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

Instead of dropping them outside the station, he went into the bus station and locked them inside the bus. The students trapped inside called their friends in the other bus and told them they were locked up. Worried for their friends, the students had the second bus driver be diverted to Iguala. 

Enrique García tells us what happened next.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

The students arrive in Iguala to rescue their friends from the locked bus. Reunited, they split up into five smaller groups to get on buses headed to Mexico City. By this time, authorities arrive at the bus station and enter into a confrontation. The students rush onto the buses and all the drivers drive away. Three buses head off unscathed. Another two buses had different outcomes.

Juan’s bus was blocked by a patrol car just outside the city.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

So the students got out of the bus and started pushing the patrol car out of the way. Then, they heard gunshots and saw their friend Aldo get shot in the head. The students rushed back into the bus to take coverage from the gunfire, shouting, “No tenemos armas!” We don’t have any weapons!

Patrol cars had surrounded Juan’s bus and refused to let an ambulance get to Aldo.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

Aldo laid there with a bullet in his head for 45 minutes before an ambulance was permitted to bring him to the hospital. It wasn’t until a group of brave students decided to risk their lives to carry Aldo out past the patrol cars to the ambulance. The rest of the students on that bus go missing.

Meanwhile, the other bus is also facing gunfire.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

One student is shot in the face and bleeding profusely. The students are able to escape and scatter among different homes.

At midnight, they decide to call some journalists in fear the State would cover up their crimes by morning.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

Most journalists wouldn’t show up because “the government said it was too dangerous.” This journalist did show up and had to hide from gunfire. He suspects that assault rifles were used, given the size of the bullets on the ground. Other students found refuge in a gracious man’s house, who said that the “official” truck they escaped from was a “pirate truck.” It allegedly picks up people. 

The students who escaped authorities fled to a hospital which then called the authorities on them.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

One of the students, Edgar, was bleeding badly from a bullet wound to his face. A few minutes after speaking with hospital staff, the police arrived and started beating the students. Then, as if the commander received an order, he apologized to the students. He said they received notice of an armed home invasion and, “how were they supposed to know they aren’t criminals?”

In that same neighborhood, a soccer team was traveling by bus when police stopped them and killed a 14-year-old boy.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

This survivor walked outside the bus after the driver was shot and drove off the road. His assistant told police that they were just soccer players. He was shot twice—one bullet going through his liver.  Then, they heard one officer say, “Commander, we f***ed up. They’re just a soccer team.”

By the morning, six had been confirmed dead and 57 were missing.

Funerals were planned and attended, with 57 boys still missing. One boy saw 20 students put into a police van and never seen again. Many believe that the attack was organized by the mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his wife.

The students allegedly planned to interrupt the mayor’s wife political campaign event, and it angered José Luis Abarca Velázquez.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

It’s suspected that he unilaterally ordered police forces from several different surrounding cities to fire at the students for four hours straight. The mayor then requested a 30-day leave from office and entirely disappeared.

That planned October 2nd protest then became a protest demanding the students be returned alive.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

The mothers of the children were interviewed and reportedly had “sentidos malos” about what happened. The government was saying that the boys were just afraid and in hiding and that they’d all return home eventually. They put the blame on the boys for going up against authorities.

Three days later, two pits were found with 28 bodies, suspected to be the students.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

The following day, the governor speedily announced that the bodies don’t belong to the students. Within days, two more pits were found, bringing the body count up to 43. By October 18, the governor announced the arrest of Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, the alleged leader of a gang named Guerreros Unidos.

The ultimate plot twist is that the students accidentally hijacked a bus that was shipping millions of dollars of heroin by a drug lord.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

After investigative journalists discovered that police records didn’t include the names of the children but focused entirely on the license plate numbers, they wondered why? What’s so important about these two buses out of the six that the students ultimately commandeered? 

A drug lord ordered the mayor to make sure he got his product back “by any means necessary.” 

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

At the end of the day, the state was complicit in the cover-up of their own corruption with the drug cartel. The police killed those 43 students and dumped their bodies in one of the many pits that were eventually uncovered around the city. Systemic corruption and cartel-state issued murders were uncovered as the result of one of the most horrific crimes in Mexican history.

Only two bodies have been confirmed recovered.

Credit: The 43 / Netflix

The families continue to grieve the fate of their sons. At least 80 suspects have been arrested, more than half of whom were police officers. The official version of the story by the state of Guerrero directly contradicts the survivors’ testimony. It’s been four years.

READ: International Figures Are Questioning The Interviews Conducted By Mexican Officials In The Ayotzinapa Missing 43 Case

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