The case that has rocked the nation has revealed the Mexican army’s suspected ties to organized crime, its involvement in concealing the truth, and its complicity in the abduction of 43 Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College.
In August 2022, the government’s Truth Commission designated the occurrence as a “state crime.”
Few now believe the government’s initial claim that a local drug gang and affiliated local officials were solely to blame for seizing and killing the Ayotzinapa students on July 26, 2014, then burning their bodies — the majority of which have never been found. Three members of the military and a former federal attorney general have recently been arrested in the case.
How events unfolded on July 26, 2014
Alejandro Encinas, the head of the Truth Commission, claims that the official, false version that was made public at the time by Attorney General Jess Murillo Karam “was designed at the highest levels of the federal government” following discussions in the presidency, which was then in Enrique Pea Nieto’s hands.
In accordance with that account, Iguala officials believed the Ayotzinapa students would interfere with a regional political gathering. It claims that after being apprehended by the police, the students were given over to a local drug gang, who slaughtered them, burned their bodies at a landfill, and dumped the remains into a river.
Although all the students were ultimately killed, it has now been established that they were transported in groups to other locations. Evidently, some were kept alive for days.
It was evident since the very beginning of investigations that the army knew what had happened that night, since troops were present in crucial areas, including at a police coordination centre, as the atrocity played out. Clearly, they had access to real-time information about what was happening in Iguala.
The Complicity of the Mexican Army in the Ayotzinapa Massacre
Furthermore, according to the Truth Commission investigation, at least one undercover soldier had been deployed undercover to spy on the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College, and one of the parents’ attorneys has claimed there was a second.
Separately, the family of Julio Cesar Mondragon, who was one of six students killed after surviving the initial attack and being tortured, has called for an investigation into two other students who are now politicians and were the protesters’ leaders. It was these two who decided to send the group to Iguala despite threats the college had received.
Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, the then-Army chief, claimed that the army had no involvement in the events, either by deeds or omissions, in 2015. However, communications gathered by the Truth Commission refute that claim. They imply that at crucial points, military personnel were in communication with the organized crime killers.
The longstanding ties between the Mexican Army and Organized Crime
The Mexican army was frequently accused of violating human rights during the “dirty war” in the 1970s and 1980s. In the underdeveloped, opium poppy-growing state of Guerrero, they were particularly brutal. Some abuses have persisted, and there have been claims that some officers are still connected to drug gangs.
Three generals have been accused of collaborating with drug traffickers and organized crime in Mexico over the past 25 years. Only one has been found guilty.
Cienfuegos, the defence secretary at the time of the kidnappings, was detained in the United States in 2020 and charged with having ties to drug gangs. However, the allegations against him were later withdrawn as a result of pressure from the Mexican government. He was then sent back to Mexico, where he was freed.
The Wheels of Justice turn very slowly
The Ayotzinapa atrocity has been split into 28 criminal cases from seven different jurisdictions. Eight years after the event, nobody has been found guilty.
About 50 people are being held in prison while awaiting trial, according to Santiago Aguirre, a human rights lawyer for the victims’ families. The Attorney General’s Office issued 80 fresh warrants in August. However, according to Aguirre, the judicial process is still mainly focused on people who were arrested prior to that.
Tomás Zerón, who oversaw the initial inquiry into the kidnappings and is currently in Israel, is still wanted. His extradition is being sought by Mexico.
Numerous defendants have been exonerated of various accusations as a result of the torture of witnesses and other irregularities. Many of them are still incarcerated, though, on different offenses.
Recent development in the Ayotzinapa case
Capt. José Martnez Crespo, a fourth service member, was detained in 2020. According to the testimony of a criminal suspect currently in jail, Capt. Crespo, accepted money from the head of the neighbourhood drug gang Guerreros Unidos to facilitate the transportation of firearms. The witness claimed that “He used his vehicles so he could move freely through the region.”
A further three military personnel were detained this month. These included José Rodrguez Pérez, a colonel who oversaw the Iguala army post at the time the students vanished. According to the Truth Commission investigation, he allegedly gave the order to execute six students who had survived the initial attack. General Rodrguez Pérez later received a promotion. He’s retired now, but he still faces charges.
However, documents obtained by the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Saturday revealed that the Attorney General’s Office had sought a judge to revoke arrest warrants for 16 further military personnel. When contacted for comment, the office did not respond.
The most politically significant arrest occurred last month. The former attorney general Murillo Karam faces accusations of forced disappearance, failing to disclose suspects who had been tortured, and official malfeasance. He’s accused of calling an account of the happenings the fateful July “the historical truth,” while knowing that the story had been completely fabricated.
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