Disappeared students in Mexico: The unbearable uncertainty continues

Status: 09/26/2022 11:20 a.m

Eight years ago today, 43 student teachers in Mexico disappeared and were allegedly murdered. The case caused horror around the world. The background is still unclear.

By Markus Plate, ARD Studio Mexico City

Tempers are running high as the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students approaches. Masked people threw stones and explosive devices in front of the prosecutor’s office in Mexico City. Previously, students from the rural technical college in Ayotzinapa and parents of the disappeared had demonstrated peacefully there for clarification. Even after eight years, they still don’t know what happened to their children.

A banner shows the portraits of the 43 student teachers abducted in Mexico.

Image: AFP

There has been progress in recent months: the truth commission, which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador set up at the beginning of his government, presented its report. For Sergio Aguayo, international relations and human rights expert at the Colegio de México, the results are a big step:

The clarity and starkness with which Secretary of State for the Interior Alejandro Encinas described the events of 2014 is absolutely remarkable. What is new is that it is a state crime. That’s a very strong statement in the Mexican context. He even pointed his finger at the army, at a colonel commanding a battalion there at the time. This is remarkable because the army has always been left out.

This refutes the “historical truth” proclaimed by the government under ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto. It said the students were arrested by corrupt local police officers, handed over to members of the Guerreros Unidos criminal gang and burned in a rubbish dump.

“They put stones in our way”

Arrest warrants have now been issued for more than 80 suspects, including senior members of the military. Charges were also brought against the Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, who was responsible for that “historical truth” at the time – for making people disappear and for torture.

But many arrest warrants have not been executed at all, and 120 other defendants have even been released by court order in recent weeks. And ex-Attorney General Karam could be released in just a few days. For the lawyer for the 43 students’ families, Vidulfo Rosales, all of this is political maneuvering, as he explains:

It is now clear that Murillo Karam’s arrest was politically motivated to buy time. Why doesn’t the public prosecutor’s office execute the arrest warrants? They put obstacles in our way so that we don’t reach our goal.

Most recently, an unredacted version of the truth commission report handed over to the federal prosecutor in August suddenly circulated. Both Encinas, who is also chairman of the Truth Commission, and the relatives of the 43 students have condemned the piercing of the report, as it makes further criminal investigation and prosecution more difficult. The work of investigators and the public prosecutor’s office is also increasingly being criticized.

The suffering of the relatives has no end

It’s all hard for the family to bear, just before the anniversary of the disappearance of the 43. It’s been exactly eight years since Clemente Rodriguez Moreno last saw his son Christian Alfonso. For him, the fact that a fragment of his son’s foot was found is neither proof of Christian’s death nor of his whereabouts: “Where are the complete remains? We don’t know,” he states. “In other words, the demand will remain the same, despite what the government has said. They took her alive, and we want her back alive.”

The Truth Commission’s report had fueled hopes that what actually happened on the night of September 26, 2014 would finally be clarified, that the unbearable uncertainty for the students’ parents could soon come to an end, and that those actually responsible for the crime would be held accountable would be drawn. Now it shows once again: The struggle and the suffering of Clemente Rodriguez Moreno and the other relatives will continue.

With information from Anne Demmer, ARD studio Mexico City.

Mexico: The disappearance of 43 students marks the eighth year and the relatives are still in the dark

Markus Plate, ARD Mexico, September 26, 2022 10:20 a.m

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