For the first time since investigations into the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers in Iguala, Mexico began, the country’s attorney general has confirmed the fears of many, voicing his certainty that the students were all murdered, burned and then thrown into a river in the southern state of Guerrero.
While investigators have, thus far, only successfully identified the DNA of one student, attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam told reporters that there is “no doubt” that all victims were murdered.
According to Murillo Karam, investigators have established that the students’ bodies were incinerated at a rubbish tip by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel; the gang reportedly believed the students to be involved with the rival Los Rojos group, which was attempting to take over their territory.
“The evidence allows us to determine that the students were kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river,” Murillo told reporters yesterday. “This is the historical truth of what happened.”
“This and many other elements provided during the investigation enabled investigators to perform a logical analysis and reach a conclusion that the student teachers were deprived of liberty, burned and thrown into the San Juan River.”
The attorney general also denied allegations made by a number of the victims’ family members that the Mexican authorities were involved in the massacre.
His statement was supported by confessions from local police and gang personnel. Chief of the Criminal Investigation Agency PGR Thomas Zeron Lucio released excerpts from the confession of infamous gang member Felibe Rodriguez Salgado, who is known in the region as ‘Brush’ or ‘The Stubborn’ and is believed to have ordered the students’ murders.
Lucio stated that, according to the confessions of police officials and gang members, the students were the victims of mistaken identity owing to the fact that they had shaven heads, apparently a characteristic of the Los Rojos gang; consequently, they were “targeted by criminals to join the antagonistic group of organised crime in the region”.
The 43 students disappeared in Iguala on 26th September, after the buses on which they were travelling were attacked by municipal police. The consequent investigation has revealled that the police kidnapped the group of students and handed them over to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, who transported them to a rubbish tip near the town of Cocula. Those who arrived alive were then killed; all of the bodies were incinerated on a diesel-soaked pile of tyres in a fire that raged for 12 hours.
Scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria successfully matched DNA taken from one of the bone fragments found at the rubbish tip with samples taken from one of the missing students. The Innsbruck laboratory stated, however, that matching further samples would be “impossible” owing to the “exessive heat” of the inferno, which has destroyed all other DNA in the remains.
Scepticism and disbelief lingers among the family and friends of the victims, many of whom insist that the Mexican government is attempting to close the case without fully exploring the possibilty that their loved ones are still alive.
“What the government wants to do is close the case,” Epifanio Alvarez, the father of one of the missing students, commented to reporters yesterday. “We cannot accept any of what was said because we do not have enough evidence…The government has stamped on our dignity and destroyed us.”
Attorney general Murillo continues to insist that there is “unquestionable evidence” that the remains found in the river came from the tip, also adding that scientists’ investigations revealled that rocks, teeth and pieces of tyre found at the scene were subjected to temperatures of up to 15,000 centigrade.
“It is completely clear,” Murillo added. “Except to those who don’t want to believe it.”
Got an opinion? Contact the Editor via email@example.com.