The Missing Forty-Three: The Mexican Government Sabotages Its Own Independent Investigation

4/22/2016 The New Yorker 

AFP
AFP

The official scenario, according to the Mexican government, of what befell the forty-three students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School, in Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero state, on the night and morning of September 26 and 27, 2014, is generally referred to as the “historical truth.” Say those words anywhere in Mexico, and people know what you mean. The phrase comes from a press conference held in January, 2015, when the head of the government’s Procuraduría General de la República (P.G.R.) at the time, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, announced that the forty-three students had been incinerated at a trash dump near the town of Cocula by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug-trafficking gang, after being turned over to them by members of the Iguala municipal police. This, he declared, was the “historical truth.”

As had already been widely reported, the forty-three students were among a larger group of militantly leftist students who, that night in Iguala, had commandeered buses to transport themselves to an upcoming protest in Mexico City. They’d driven from Ayotzinapa that afternoon in two buses they’d previously taken, and then, the government said, they took two more from Iguala’s bus station. Three other people were killed in initial clashes with the police, and most likely with other forces, in Iguala that night; many more were injured. According to Murillo Karam, the “historical truth” was partly drawn from the confessions of detained police and drug-gang members, including some who admitted that they had participated in the massacre of the students at the Cocula dump, and claimed to have tended the fire and disposed of the remains afterward. Some of those remains had allegedly been deposited by gang members in a nearby creek. Nineteen severely charred bone fragments had been sent to a highly specialized lab in Innsbruck, Austria, which had yielded one positive DNA identification, of a student named Alexander Mora Venancio. That identification seemed to support the P.G.R.’s story that the students had been killed at the dump.

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