Mexico’s Disappeared: Final Ayotzinapa Report

43 MissingBy Emir Olivares Alonso and José Antonio Román

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for the Ayotzinapa case did not find “one single piece of evidence” for assuring that the 43 students of that rural teachers college, disappeared since September 2014, were executed and incinerated in the Cocula, Guerrero garbage dump. To the contrary, a year and a half of work confirmed their conclusion –which the group reached seven months ago– that the incineration of these bodies did not take place in that garbage dump.

Upon presenting its 608-page final report on the case yesterday, the experts assured that the authorities have not followed key lines of investigation, evidence has been manipulated, obstructed and investigative work rejected, officials that would have participated in the disappearance protected, and alleged suspects tortured to obtain confessions that support the government’s version. They emphasized that the Mexican justice system only investigates and punishes the material authors of the crime, but is remiss with the intellectual authors. “Investigation into the chain of command does not exist.”

With this report, the experts close their work in Mexico (their work concludes April 30), after the federal government refused to prolong their mandate. They lamented that the principal objective of the GIEI –the location of the students– had not been achieved.

A key element to the investigations, they said, was to obtain direct testimony from the military personnel that were present at several of the scenes of the violent acts in Iguala, which the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto repeatedly rejected.

The soldiers –they pointed out– even had knowledge of the beating and detention of the normalistas, “but took no measures to protect them.” Another fact to emphasize is that relatives of the Los Avispones soccer players directly requested help from the 27th infantry battalion, where they answered that they could not offer aid because “it’s not our jurisdiction.”

The experts concluded that certainty exists that normalistas there was “perfect coordination” in the attack on the students for more than 10 hours between different police corporations and alleged organized crime members, for the purpose of creating “a circle of control” that embraced up to 80 kilometers, to avoid the exit of the buses (taken over by the students) from Iguala.

In contrast, different police, among them the federal police, would have let the so-called fifth bus pass (which according to the GIEI’s hypothesis is key to the investigation, since it could be related to the shipment of narcotics from Iguala to Chicago). This unit, they added, wasn’t even incorporated into initial case record.

Angela Buitrago emphasized: “We’re dealing with a massive and indiscriminate attack on the civilian population, about which no explanation from the PGR exists as of the moment. The fifth bus is an investigative hypothesis that could justify an attack of that intensity. That line is not and cannot be closed.”

In the midst of great expectation to know the content of the report titled: Informe Ayotzinapa II: avances y nuevas conclusiones sobre la investigación, búsqueda y atención a las víctimas, [1] dozens of people, among them relatives of the victims, human rights defenders, the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, James Cavallaro, politicians and intellectuals, were invited to the principal patio of the University Cloister of Sor Juana.

Official absences

The places remained empty that were destined for the assistant secretaries of Human Rights in the Secretariat of Governance, Roberto Campa; of Multilateral Issues and Human Rights of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations, Miguel Ruiz, and the assistant prosecutor for Human Rights in the Attorney General of the Republic’s office, Eber Betanzos, despite being invited. The argument for that absence was that they were hoping to know the report before its presentation, but it was finished at 10 PM on Saturday, and therefore it was impossible to get it to them.

Down with the “historic truth!”

In a long presentation and a press conference afterwards, which lasted almost four hours, the experts described some elements to throw down, once again, the so-called “historic truth.”

The GIEI found a registry of the activity of the mobile phones from at least seven of the now disappeared students, several hours and even days after September 26 and 27. For example, one of them made a call at 1:26 AM on the 27th, registered on the Huitzuco-Tenango highway. In the official version, the students would already have been murdered and their cell phones destroyed at that time.

One more element that was not investigated despite a request from the relatives and from the GIEI, is that a text message was sent from Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza’s cell phone to his mother asking her “to give his balance; that telephone remained active even months after” the Iguala events.

The GIEI’s report shows that an alleged member of the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization, identified as El Caminante, and that as of now the authorities don’t know who he is, talked about the “critical hours” with at least seven municipal police located at key places, like Cocula and Iguala. One circumstance that is included in the PGR’s case record is that Jonhatan Osorio, one of the detainees blamed for the alleged incineration of the bodies, made a call from his telephone from the Cocula garbage dump, where–according to the experts– there is no signal.

Different testimonies obtained by the GIEI throw out the hypothesis that the 43 students would have been separated and led to different places. Various witnesses affirmed that between 10 and 14 of them were seen on the patio of the Iguala municipal police command post, where they would have spent the night of September 26 and 27. Others indicate that another group was taken to Huitzuco. “They fucked up a compañero and are taking them to Huitzuco, and the boss there will decide what to do with them,” one police agent would have said to the other.

The experts sent by the IACHR accredited acts of torture to at least 17 of the detainees because of the case, among them the five alleged members Guerreros Unidos that gave statements around the incineration of the 43 bodies in the Cocula garbage dump. Of the complaints presented to (Mexico’s) National Human Rights Commission for torture, 15 are from the 17 pointed out by the GIEI.

They condemned the media disqualifying –with which the federal government was complacent– of its work and they added that since January the PGR unnecessarily delayed or rejected the investigative work the group proposed. The report makes a series of recommendations that hoped would be complied with by the Mexican State.

For these facts, they added, there were 180 direct victims and 700 indirect victims. While they are leaving tranquil with the work carried out, Francisco Cox recognized: “We leave with the worst taste” because of not having fulfilled el principal objective: the location of the disappeared normalistas.

[1] Ayotzinapa Report II: advances and new conclusions about the investigation, search and attention to the victims.

Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Monday, April 25, 2016
Translation  by