Seeking to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship.
On a recent Sunday, scores of families showed up at the Catholic Church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced in a working-class neighborhood of this vibrant port city.
They came not to attend services, but for a distinct purpose: to give blood for possible DNA matches with human remains recently unearthed in a suspected dumping ground for murder victims on the northern fringes of Veracruz. Police technicians were taking the blood samples.
The Catholic priest José Alfredo López Guillén was seized from his parish residence in rural Michoacán, where he served a congregation of corn farmers and ranchers. The next day, the wreckage of his Volkswagen Jetta was discovered on the outskirts of the town of Quiroga, 71 miles (115km) from where it had been stolen.
They gather shortly after daybreak outside a mini-market, the tropical heat thickening, the dawn haze in lethargic retreat. They hug and catch up, purchase water and snacks for the upcoming ordeal. New volunteers are welcomed.
“You’re not alone,” Lucia Diaz, a leader of the group, assures a young woman on her inaugural outing. “We are all sharing in this together.”
They lug basics: shovels, machetes, hammers, a metal rod to test the earth, a portable canopy to block the broiling sun. Diaz and about 15 others head off in several pickups, passing a police guard and arriving at a mosquito-infested field where everyone sprays on repellent and dons masks and gloves for the grisly task ahead.
Their objective: human remains, long buried, now emerging from the earth, providing clues to unspeakable fates.
Investors and the government plan to spend more than one billion U.S. dollars over the next few years in the hopes of returning crime-ridden Acapulco to its former glory as an “international jet-set” resort that once attracted the likes of John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.
Today, Acapulco’s reputation and quality of life are drowning beneath a wave of crime tied to narcotics and drug trafficking.
Jesús Morones, the owner of a candy shop in El Salto, a rugged industrial area on the southeastern fringe of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, says he’s been robbed at gunpoint eight times.
“Last time they beat me and locked me and my family in here for 10 minutes while they took what they wanted. They were looking for money but they even took a box of chocolates to snack on afterwards,” he says. “My son was crying and one of the bastards even grabbed my wife’s buttocks.”
In September 2014, 43 students from the Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa were forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero in southern Mexico. In the aftermath of this event, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Mexican government, and the representatives of the victims’ families created an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its initials in Spanish) to provide technical assistance and follow-up measures to the Mexican government in the investigation. The GIEI presented its final report on April 24, 2016.
Please join the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) for a conversation with four of the experts of the GIEI to discuss the main findings of their investigation, what their work demonstrated about Mexico’s criminal justice system, and how the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students can move forward after their departure from Mexico. The Experts will be joined by a legal representative of the students’ families.
Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts
Carlos Martín Beristain (Spain)
Angela Buitrago (Colombia)
Francisco Cox Vial (Chile)
Claudia Paz y Paz (Guatemala)
Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center
Eric L. Olson
Associate Director, Latin American Program,
Senior Advisor, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center