Expert group warns of crisis over missing students in Mexico

A group of international experts investigating the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico warned on Monday that government efforts to speed up the findings created a “crisis” for the investigation and reduced confidence in the results. risk of being.

At a crucial stage, the special prosecutor, who has been leading the government’s investigation since 2019, resigned in September over apparent interference from the attorney general and the government replaced him with someone unfamiliar with the case. According to the interdisciplinary group of independent experts, a government Truth Commission report in August clouded the issue by offering suspicious screenshots of message exchanges as evidence.

The group was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the kidnapping and forced disappearance of students from Ayotzinapa Teachers College in Guerrero state.

“Losing the existing capacity (of the experienced prosecutor and others who have worked with him) at such a crucial time is a serious risk to the case and will have negative consequences,” the experts said in their statement.

On September 26, 2014, the local police removed the students from the buses whose commander was in Iguala, Guerrero. The reason for the police action eight years later is unclear, but investigators believe the drug trafficking was at least partly involved.

The bodies of the students were never found, although pieces of burnt bone were matched with those of three students.

The panel said forensic analysis of screenshots of messages allegedly sent among those who participated in the kidnapping and disappearance of the students could not confirm authenticity and showed several discrepancies.

However, even without these messages, the experts pointed out that there was still evidence that many military personnel were closely following the events of that night, but did not intervene to save the students – or even that one of them had even infiltrated. The school is known for its leftist activism.

The wiretaps, in connection with a drug trafficking case in Chicago, established strong ties between members of the army and the gang that would be handed over to students after their arrest by police, Guerreros Unidos.

Experts said they had again called on President Andres Manuel López Obrador to order the military to share all his relevant files on the case, including wiretaps dating back to the time of the kidnapping. He also stressed the importance of maintaining the independence of the special prosecutor.

On Sunday the government announced the arrest of Leonardo Octavio Vazquez Pérez, who was the head of security of the state of Guerrero at the time of the kidnapping of the students. A former police officer from Huitzuco, a town near Iguala, was arrested last week for his alleged involvement.

The experts’ terms would expire on Monday, but he said he proposed to officials that two members of the group remain in office for at least two months as a transition.

They said they were already sharing information with the new special prosecutor handling the case and that there was enough evidence to prosecute 21 people, including 16 military personnel, for whom the Attorney General’s office had previously filed requests. stop. he took ,

“Mexico has a system of investigation and impunity that must change,” he said, adding that it is a country that new generations will inherit.

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