The relatives of the 43 students who disappeared and were killed in the state Guerrero on 26 September 2014 are threatening to pull out of all talks with the Mexican government.
A representative of the parents, Felipe de la Cruz told journalists in mid-March 2016: “we cannot continue to be passive and tolerant when faced with a strategy aimed at letting time go by and for this to be forgotten.”
De la Cruz said that no positive results had come out of their prolonged meetings with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR): “we always get the same replies, and we are stuck in the same place.”
De la Cruz and other relatives of the 43 missing teacher training students also denounced what they called a ‘smear campaign’ against the foreign experts in the Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes (GIEI) or Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, set up by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
The GIEI has constantly challenged the government’s version of events, in particular that the bodies of the students were all burnt on a rubbish dump in the nearby town of Cocula.
Forensic examinations of the site have not discovered convincing evidence from bones or other remains.
The PGR now says that the results of a third expert examination of the site will be made public at the end of March 2016.
The official version
The international experts have also spoken of the PGR’s attempts to stonewall the investigation, and their refusal to allow them to interview members of the 27th army battalion, accused of handing over the students to members of the Guerreros Unidos drugs gangs.
So far, the Mexican authorities have stuck to the version that the students were stopped by the police because they had hijacked several buses to take to a demonstration in Mexico City.
The students were intercepted, they say, by members of the drugs cartel, possibly because there was a shipment of drugs on one of the buses.
The narcos, according to the official version, then killed all the students and had their bodies incinerated in nearby Cocula.
The GIEI’s mandate to investigate is due to run out on 30 April 2016, but the relatives of the disappeared students are calling for this to be extended for a further six months.
Vidulfo Rosales, a lawyer for the relatives, complained that the foreign experts “are not being allowed to question any of the people detained, or state officials, and are being subjected to a growing campaign of defamation.”
Rosales himself was forced to leave Mexico in May 2012 after receiving death threats at his office in Chilpancingo, and only returned in 2014.
In October 2015 he reported that, rather than launching a fresh investigation into the alleged massacre, the PRI (Party of the Institutionalised Revolution)-dominated National Assembly wanted a “campaign against vandalism” aimed specifically at states such as Guerrero “with the worst poverty, lack of access to education, social insecurity and conflict.”
“The government has de-legitimised itself in the application of the law, [its failure] to imprison, and its tendency to persecute and repress protests (including those against killings and disappearances)”, he said.
Missing CCTV footage
The relatives have also denounced the fact that the CCTV footage from cameras in and around the Palace of Justice in Iguala for the 26 and 27 September 2014, when the atrocity occurred, has now apparently gone missing.
The violence against students from the Ayotzinapa college began in January 2012, when two students died from police bullets during a demonstration on the Autopista del Sur, outside Iguala.
It was renewed by the disappearance and apparent massacre of 43 students from the same college in September 2014, in which the local mayor, his wife and the Guerrero state governor, the municipal police and local armed forces units are all implicated.
Filmed images have gradually surfaced showing a police hold-up; the abduction of the students; shots fired, leading to at least six immediate deaths, including three bystanders.
The tortured body of one of the students, Julio César Mondragón, was found in a nearby street the following day. The fate of the other 42 students remains a mystery.
In January 2016, in a report entitled Mexico: Gross incompetence and inertia fuel disappearances epidemic, the Americas Director of the human rights group Amnesty International, Erika Guevara-Rosas claimed:
“The state’s response to disappearances in Mexico reveals how the deep failings in the inquiy into the enforced disappearance of 143 students in the southern state of Guerrero are mirrored…across the country and the utterly reckless way in which the investigation into the forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students is handled show the Mexican authorities’ total disregard for human rights and dignity.
“It is a matter of indolence. Tragically, disappearances have become such a common occurrence across Mexico that they have almost become part of ordinary life.
“On rare occasions when investigations actually take place, they are little but a mere formality to give the appearance that something is being done.”