Experts slam Mexican missing students case

Parents of the missing students at the unveiling of the independent report which poured scorn on the official version of events. Picture: Getty
Parents of the missing students at the unveiling of the independent report which poured scorn on the official version of events. Picture: Getty
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AN INDEPENDENT report has dismantled the Mexican government’s investigation into the disappearance of 43 teachers’ college students, saying the prosecutor’s contention that they were incinerated in a giant pyre never happened and fuelling the anger of parents who nearly a year later still do not know what happened to their sons.

Attorney General Arely Gomez, who was not in office during the initial investigation, said that in light of the report she would call for a new forensic review of the municipal garbage dump where the initial probe concluded the 43 were burned to ash beyond identification.

And parents of the students demanded a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose reputation and popularity has been undermined by the case.

“We will not accept another lie from the government,” said Blanca Nava Velez, mother of student Jorge Alvarez Nava.

The government said the 26 September attack was a case of mistaken identity. But the group of experts assembled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded in its report that it was violent and co-ordinated reaction to the students, who were hijacking buses for transportation to a demonstration and may have unknowingly interfered with a drug shipment on one of the buses. Iguala, the city in southern Guerrero state where that attacks took place, is known as a transport hub for heroin going to the United States, the report said.

“The business that moves the city of Iguala could explain such an extreme and violent reaction and the character of the massive attack,” the experts said in the report delivered to the government and the students’ families during a public presentation, where some chanted “It was the state!”

The report means that nearly a year after the disappearance, the fate of 42 of the students remains a mystery, given the errors, omissions and false conclusions outlined in more than 400 pages. Only a charred bone fragment of one of the 43 has been identified and it wasn’t burned at the high temperature of an incineration, contrary to Mexican investigators’ claims.

“We have no evidence to support where the disappeared are,” said Carlos Beristain, a Spanish medical doctor on the team.

The report recommends that authorities rethink their assumptions and lines of investigation, as well as continue the search for the students and investigate the possible use of public or private ovens to cremate the bodies. It also recommends investigating the possible drug angle and who co-ordinated and gave the orders for the attacks – all unknowns nearly a year later.

Experts said they had the full co-operation of the Mexican government, and only a request to interview the military personnel involved was denied.

Pena Nieto said via his Twitter that he has given instructions for investigators to take into account the findings of the report, which dealt another blow to the Mexican government in a case that has already brought international outrage and protests.

Gomez said in a statement that the report would be “fundamental to the investigation” and its findings analysed. But she answered no questions, including about the involvement of federal forces in the attacks.

She was named in March to replace former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who led the initial investigation and concluded the students were incinerated. The attack and disappearance of the 43 became a pivotal moment in Pena Nieto’s administration.