9 years later, families of 43 missing Mexican students march to demand answers in emblematic case

Sep 26, 2023, 7:18 PM

Demonstrators start a fire at the foot of the barrier protecting the National Palace during a march...

Demonstrators start a fire at the foot of the barrier protecting the National Palace during a march to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the disappearance of 43 missing Ayotzinapa university students, in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. The graffiti on the barrier reads "Military Narcostate" in Spanish. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Chanting from one to 43, relatives of students abducted nine years ago counted out the number of the missing youths as they marched through Mexico City Tuesday to demand answers to one of Mexico’s most infamous human rights cases.

With President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s term ending next year, family members face not only the prospect of a ninth year of not knowing what happened to their sons but fears that the next administration will start the error-plagued investigation over from scratch yet again.

In 2014, a group of students were attacked by municipal police in the southern city of Iguala, Guerrero, who handed them over to a local drug gang that apparently killed them and burned their bodies. Since the Sept. 26 attack, only three of their remains have been identified.

After an initial coverup, last year a government truth commission concluded that local, state and federal authorities colluded with the gang to murder the students in what it called a “state crime.”

Ulises Gutierrez Solano joined the march in honor of his brother, Aldo, a student who survived the initial kidnapping but was left in a “vegetative state” since 2014 after police shot him in the head while the others students were being abducted.

“This is an atrocity to humanity, to society,” said Solano. “How could they do so much harm to so many people?”

López Obrador had pledged to solve the case and recent years have seen a painstakingly slow release of documents from the abduction, as well as a slew of arrests. But activists and human rights organizations say the government has not done enough to atone for the murders, investigate exactly what happened, and punish the culprits.

Tensions rose just hours before the march, when the families and their lawyers rejected a series of documents the Mexican government offered to make public, claiming the specific military files they requested months ago were not included. The army said it didn’t have those files.

“Since August the families have been asking, but they just gave us part of the information” said Nicholas Mendéz, leading a group of students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “That’s worrying because we’re changing government next year.”

López Obrador’s six-year term ends in September 2024 and, Mendéz feared, petitioning a new president for information could mean starting from scratch.

“We can’t have another six years of nothing,” Mendéz said.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Mexico’s president insisted all of the relevant documents had been released.

“We have principles; we have ideals, and we speak the truth,” López Obrador said, promising also to publish government social media messages about the case.

The students from a radical teachers’ college had travelled to Iguala to hijack buses to get to a protest in Mexico City, but were intercepted by corrupt police linked to the Guerreros Unidos gang. Iguala officials thought the students were going to disrupt a local political event, and one of the hijacked buses may have carried a drug shipment.

Recent years have seen a run of government and army officials from the time arrested, but no more remains have been found.

Then-Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, and the head of his anti-kidnapping unit have been arrested for their initial, botched investigation following the abductions. Almost a dozen military personnel, including the commander of the area where the students were abducted, have also been arrested.

After evidence used to assemble an expert report in August was undermined, the case’s chief prosecutor, Omar Gómez Trejo, resigned. Just this year a party from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission which has been investigating the incident since 2015 also withdrew from Mexico.

As families marched through the city, they passed barricades erected to protect monuments. The march was peaceful, notwithstanding isolated incidents of violence when demonstrators attacked and damaged some stores, according to local media.

At one traffic circle, activists had plastered posters in remembrance not just of the 43 students, but of all Mexico’s missing.

The Ayotzinapa atrocity has taken on symbolic significance for a country with more than 110,000 missing people.

Pablo Hector Gonzalez has traveled from Guerrero every year to join the march.

“After nine years, in force, we will insist until the truth appears and until all the guilty are punished,” he said.


Associated Press

Israel orders mass evacuations as it widens offensive; Palestinians are running out of places to go

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military on Monday renewed its calls for mass evacuations from the southern town of Khan Younis, where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in recent weeks, as it widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip. The expanded offensive, following the […]

2 hours ago

File - The OpenAI logo appears on a mobile phone in front of a screen showing part of the company w...

Associated Press

Europe’s world-leading artificial intelligence rules are facing a do-or-die moment

LONDON (AP) — Hailed as a world first, European Union artificial intelligence rules are facing a make-or-break moment as negotiators try to hammer out the final details this week — talks complicated by the sudden rise of generative AI that produces human-like work. First suggested in 2019, the EU’s AI Act was expected to be […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace gestures as he makes an election campaign speech for his wife...

Associated Press

The next Republican debate is in Alabama, the state that gave the GOP a road map to Donald Trump

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican presidential candidates will debate Wednesday within walking distance of where George Wallace staged his “stand in the schoolhouse door” to oppose the enrollment of Black students at the University of Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. The state that propelled Wallace, a Democrat and four-term governor, into national politics is now […]

5 hours ago

Ngwiza Khumbulani Moyo, a vintage collector holds an old radio set outside his home in Bulawayo, We...

Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: 2023 was marked by coups and a Moroccan earthquake on the African continent

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Reports of gunfire in the capital, followed by a television announcement that the president has been deposed by mutinous soldiers. The increasingly familiar storyline unfolded again this year in Africa — first in Niger and then in Gabon. The resurgence of military coups renewed concerns about democracy backsliding on the continent […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Former US ambassador arrested in Florida, accused of serving as an agent of Cuba, AP source says

MIAMI (AP) — A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s government, The Associated Press has learned. Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a criminal complaint and more details about […]

10 hours ago

Two women hug as Muslim and Jewish women gather at an interfaith workshop on the Israeli-Palestinia...

Associated Press

In US, some Muslim-Jewish interfaith initiatives are strained by Israel-Hamas war

Shireen Quaizar was wracked with doubt. For years, the school psychologist has been active in Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue, but the Israel-Hamas war left her reeling. “What are we doing with talking to each other?” she recalled thinking, frustrated by a conversation about the exact number of Palestinians killed in an Israeli airstrike. “This doesn’t work.” […]

20 hours ago

9 years later, families of 43 missing Mexican students march to demand answers in emblematic case