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.
MEXICO CITY — A federal judge in Mexico has ordered that a once-fugitive police chief be held on charges of kidnapping in the disappearance of 43 students.
The Attorney General’s Office announced the judge’s order in a brief statement late Tuesday.
National Security Commissioner Renato Sales said earlier Tuesday in an interview with Imagen Radio that former Iguala police chief Felipe Flores hasn’t provided any information about the students’ location.
Latin America’s top regional human rights body has approved further measures to track the Mexican government’s progress in its ongoing investigation of an emblematic mass disappearance case, but the latest move is unlikely to produce the answers the victims’ families have long hoped for.
In a document (pdf) published on July 29, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced that it will name at least two special advisors to monitor the investigation into the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the town of Iguala in Guerrero state.
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
Thousands of protesters gathered in Mexico City on Tuesday, angered by the government’s handling of an investigation into 43 students who apparently were massacred in 2014 and the government’s alleged treatment of international experts who have cast doubt on the official account.
The case of the 43 trainee teachers, who were abducted in September 2014 in the violent southwestern state of Guerrero, has tarnished the reputation of President Enrique Pena Nieto and highlighted the scale of human rights abuses in Mexico.
The parents and relatives of the abducted students led what appeared to be more than 2,000 protesters along the main thoroughfare of the Mexican capital, Paseo de la Reforma, carrying small torches along with large black and white photographs of the missing students.
Blanca Luz, the mother of one of the 43, said she wants to meet with Pena Nieto to discuss the investigation, a request frequently echoed by the parents.
“My heart can’t take anymore,” she said, standing near the main building of Mexico’s attorney general’s office. “I want my son back by my side.”
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday it is troubled by a group of international experts’ complaints of obstacles to their investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico.
Spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement that the office is “concerned about the many challenges and obstacles reported by the experts,” including the ability to examine other lines of investigation such as military and other officials’ possible roles in the case.
He called on the Mexican government to “take into serious consideration” the recommendations of the group of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The group’s report from Sunday criticized the government’s investigation of the 2014 disappearances. It said suspects were apparently tortured and key pieces of evidence were not investigated or handled properly.
Government investigators have said the students were taken by local police in the city of Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero, and handed over to drug gang members who killed them and burned the bodies at a trash dump.
The group of experts, known by the acronym IGIE, and a separate body made up of Argentine investigators say there is no evidence at the dump of a fire large enough to incinerate that many corpses.
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.
Authorities issued arrest warrants for five security agents in connection with the torture of a young woman that was caught on video, Mexican federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The Attorney General’s Office said the warrants target three Federal Police officers, two of whom were taken into custody the same day, and two soldiers who were to be served at a military prison where they were already being held. The third police officer had not yet been detained.
The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that the five are suspected of torture committed against the woman after she was detained Feb. 4, 2015, in Ajuchitlan del Progreso, in the troubled southern state of Guerrero.
The warrants came from a civil court judge in the city of Iguala.
The video circulated on social and traditional media in recent days and prompted both widespread condemnation and apologies from Mexico’s defense minister and national security commissioner.
A loved one vanishes. One moment a son, a brother, a husband, walks out the door, just as they do every morning. But one day, night falls and they’re not home. The sun rises, beds remain empty. Slowly, you realize something is wrong. Days and nights turn into a blur and nothing is known, except for the hurt, fear and longing that hang over your house.
This is the reality that Yael Martínez and the family of his wife, Lucero, have been living since 2013, when two of his brothers-in-law, Ignacio and David, disappeared in Iguala, Mexico. If the town sounds familiar, it’s because disappearances are what made it infamous. Iguala is where 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were kidnapped in 2014, never to be found since. If the loss of these two was not enough, the family’s heartbreak was compounded when a third brother, Beto, died in jail while awaiting trial on drug charges. The police said he hanged himself. The family — which saw signs of violence on his corpse — suspected otherwise.
Now, 18 months on, Mexicans are little wiser as to what happened that night. But one thing that is certain is the involvement of corrupt police in their disappearance.
Fast-forward just a few months from those events in Iguala, and President Enrique Pena Nieto was caught up in a scandal of his own. Dubbed the “White House scandal“, questions were raised about how the private house of the president and his wife was acquired.
And just a few weeks ago it was revealed that one member of Mexico’s public function ministry, charged with government oversight and accountability, had a dinner of champagne and caviar at London department store Harrods as part of the daily travel allowance last year.
In September 2014, a group of 43 students from a teachers college disappeared in the southern Mexican city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero. Their disappearance left Mexicans horrified and outraged, shocked the international community, and led to nationwide protests.
Through an agreement with the Mexican government and the families of the disappeared students, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights appointed a group of international experts to provide technical assistance to the Mexican government in its investigation of this case. In September 2015, the results of the six-month investigation became known to the public. The results have been controversial as some experts agreed with the investigation’s findings of major holes in the government’s case, while others criticized it for its shortcomings. The Mexican government responded to the report by stating that they would carry out a new investigation and a second opinion from other renowned experts to determine what happened the night the students were presumably killed.
Please join us for an event following up on the investigations of the disappearance and a discussion on the implications for U.S. cooperation with Mexico.
Under Secretary Roberto Campa
Under Secretary for Human Rights, Ministry of the Interior
Deputy Attorney General Eber Betanzos
Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights, Office of the Attorney General of the Republic
Under Secretary Miguel Ruiz Cabañas
Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Director, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center