By RICARDO CASTILLO
The investigation into the disappearance and execution of 43 rural Mexican normal school students on the night of Sept. 26, 2014, is getting more tangled up as the days go by, nearly five years after the fact.
Over the past week, judges have been releasing the confessed culprits, not because they are innocent, but because their cases were put together under illegal circumstances using inappropriate methods – this being Mexico, that means torture – to make them confess.
Just last week, a judge in the state of Tamaulipas released main culprit Gildardo López, along with 24 municipal policemen from the city of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, south of Mexico City on the road to Acapulco, again, not because he was innocent, but because the now-defunct Attorney General’s Office under former President Enrique Peña Nieto did not know how, or was not willing to, put its case together according to legal procedure.
The release of these confessed criminals – not alleged by any means – has irked Mexican society to the hilt. Needless to say, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is paying attention, and on Wednesday, Sept. 18, he spent some time with the parents of the 43 students, who have not stopped protesting the disappearance of their sons.
To sum up the happenings of Sept. 26, 2014, in Iguala, the 43 students belonging to the normal teachers’ college known as Ayotzinapa – which means Land of Turtles in the ancient Aztec language – went missing during a night of bloodthirsty savagery.
The students had been protesting against Iguala Municipal Mayor José Luis Abarca – currently in jail on murder charges – demanding more funds for their school. As pressure measures, the students were accustomed to hijacking buses to transport themselves back and forth within the municipality.
That night was no different, until they hijacked a bus that was going to leave for the border that night. The bus was laden with “black tar” heroine that headed for Chicago, and belonged to the local drug trafficking group known as the United Warriors.
The students, unaware that they had hijacked a “pregnant” bus, rode it, but were soon intercepted by Iguala municipal police, who, without warning, began shooting at them. Many of the students got off the bus to look for places to hide, but to no avail. They were all soon nabbed and delivered to the United Warriors gang leader in Iguala, none other than Gildardo López, who, according to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration phone espionage call,(the DEA was on top of the United Warriors’ movements and trafficking them) reported to his boss the next morning that the students “had been turned to dust” and would never be found, as in fact, they have not been.
Then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam began the investigation into the students’ disappearance, along with an appointed aide, Tomás Zerón, both of whom arrested over 100 people involved in “The Night of Iguala,” but apparently, they resorted to torture — and worse — for the interrogations.
Currently, both Murillo Karam and Zerón are being identified by Interior Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas as culpable for not carrying out the investigation properly and failure to put together a case that could be successfully prosecuted. Undersecretary Encinas has hinted that both Murillo Karam and Zerón are part of a cover-up scam to murky the waters in the case, as the heroin trafficking activities of the United Warriors involved many people up the government echelon scale. How many and who?
Murillo Karam came out of hiding – he is an elderly person who claims to be ill – this week, saying that it took his team nine days to take up the case because the students of Ayotzinapa were troublemakers and previously had been declared missing only to later reappear. The Attorney General’s Office under Murillo Karam finally took over the case, but could not do much about it because, as he put it in a TV interview last Wednesday, Sept. 18, “no bodies, no crime.”
In the meeting Wednesday between the parents of the students and the recently appointed Fiscal General of the Republic, Alejandro Gertz Manero, the Fiscal General announced that investigations will begin from scratch, given the myriad of “irregularities” in the former investigation procedures. The meeting, again, was attended by AMLO.
The parents requested that the investigation be based on the forensic research carried out by an international group called the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts and that former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, along with his. investigation chief, Tomás Zerón, be brought to trial.
Fiscal General Gertz Manero requested time to start again and has already named a new chief investigator, Omar Gómez Trejo, as the head of the new specialized group. The period to come up with results is now next December.
President López Obrador had previously reiterated his confidence in the independent investigation by the Fiscal General and called “upon all those who might have some information on this case to help us because this is an open wound, this has to do with justice, it has to do with humanism and the fame and prestige of Mexico.”
It must be pointed out that since “The Night of Iguala,” Peña Nieto has been evasive on the investigation, mostly because the parents of the missing students claim it was “a crime of state” and that the drug trafficking links of the United Warriors group might be higher in government than met the eye at first sight.
At one point around 2016, Peña Nieto, clearly irritated by the case, demanded that the parents “layoff” in accusing his administration of involvement in the case. However, it was clear that local police under Mayor José Luis Abarca, as well as the local Army garrison, were all suspects of being participants in the massacre, if not directly than indirectly, as it is clear that it was the United Warriors hitmen who carried out the executions. At the very least, they knew about the gang’s activities.
In the meantime, Tamaulipas Judge Manuel Trespalacios Castán released Gildardo López – the brain behind the execution – and 23 policemen who clearly participated. The judge threw out of court all the evidence against them because it had been obtained by illegal means, namely torture. Of course, the judge’s action smells of rotten fish, since most likely he’s been bribed by the now-free culprits.
Fiscal General Gertz Manero says that though some have been released, still in prison are Mayor José Luis Abarca, his wife María de los Angeles Pineda and United Warriors kingpin Sidronio Casarrubias – all of them slated to go scot-free within a matter of weeks.
Next Thursday, September 26, the parents of the missing 43 students will carry out a remembrance march from Mexico City’s Angel of Independence to the main square Zócalo in the downtown.