Nearly one year after the horrific Ayotzinapa tragedy, the wounds left by the forced disappearance of forty-three students in Guerrero, Mexico, continue to fester.
On September 26, 2014, dozens of young men from a radical teacher training college disappeared following a clash with local police. The investigation by federal authorities claimed that the officers abducted the students and handed them over to drug cartel members who later incinerated their remains at a nearby rubbish dump.
Yet as the anniversary of the atrocity nears, a long-awaited report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released Sunday questions the version of events as laid out by the country’s attorney general.
Investigators from the commission reported that it was scientifically implausible for the bodies to have been destroyed in the manner described by authorities and pointed to enormous deficiencies in the official investigation.
“We maintain the conviction that the students were not incinerated at the rubbish dump,” announced Francisco Cox, one of the authors of the report, at a press conference.
A key question also highlighted in the report is why the students were attacked in the first place. The forty-three victims – known as Normalistas – belonged to a highly politicized teachers union, the Coordinating Committee of Education Workers for the State of Guerrero (CETEG).
The night they went missing they had been attempting to hijack private buses to drive their colleagues to an annual protest march in Mexico City.
Yet commandeering transport was a common ritual for the Normalistas, and they had rarely met with such aggression from law enforcement before.
The IACHR report suggests that the students may have mistakenly commandeered a bus carrying a heroin shipment belonging to the drug cartel known as Los Guerreros Unidos who authorities claim also participated in the attack.
Various other theories have emerged over the past year from the possibility that one of the senior students belonged to a rival gang known as Los Rojos to evidence presented by one Mexican journalist that the military carried out the disappearance.
Esteban Illades, a Mexican magazine editor who has published a book-length investigation into the atrocity, believes that the findings of the report are significant, but far from conclusive.
“The flaws are huge,”
“It has definitely caused shockwaves,” he told Latin Correspondent. “Most importantly because it highlights the lack of rigor from the attorney general. This is the biggest investigation the federal government has undertaken in years, and the flaws are huge.”
“(However) it’s interesting to see what the experts from the IACHR mentioned in their press conference and what the report actually says,” he added.
“The report says that it cannot conclude whether the bodies could be burned or not given the evidence presented.”
Coinciding as it does with the first anniversary of Ayotzinapa, the new evidence will undoubtedly reignite the protests that rose up in the initial wake of the tragedy.
Last autumn, tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand justice for the students.
“The government’s farce has collapsed, and the question is where are our children,” said one parent who attended the press conference. “We demand that they are returned alive.”