Mexico armed forces knew fate of 43 disappeared students from day one | Mexico City

Mexico’s armed forces knew that 43 student teachers who disappeared in 2014 were being kidnapped by criminals, then hid evidence that could have helped locate them, according to a report released on Monday by a special investigation.

A former Colombian prosecutor, Angela Buitrago, said the group of independent experts found evidence that authorities withheld or falsified evidence from the start of the search.

“It was falsified from the first day to the last day,” said Buitrago, who is part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights group supporting the investigation.

Buitrago said investigators, prosecutors and military personnel altered crime scenes and records. A government drone video obtained by the experts showed marines and police climbing around the area where the students were allegedly killed with little control.

The students from a radical teachers’ college were abducted by local police in southern Guerrero state who presumably killed them and burned their bodies.

But the students were under surveillance because their college, which has strong ties to leftwing social movements in Mexico, was viewed as a hotbed of subversion, the experts.

“Security authorities had two intelligence processes under way, one to follow the actions of organized crime in the area and the other to track the students,” the investigators said in the report, which was based on declassified documents.

After the abduction, investigators sought to quickly resolve the crime through illegal searches, detentions and torture of suspects.

Mexico has asked the Israeli government to extradite a former top security official, Tomás Zerón, who was the head of the federal investigation agency at the time of the abduction. He is being sought on charges of torture and covering up those disappearances.

Zerón, who fled to Israel in August 2019, oversaw the criminal investigation agency of the attorney general’s office and also its forensic work in the 2014 case. Most of the students’ bodies have never been found, though burned bone fragments have been matched to three students.

The investigation had long been criticized by the families of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014 after they were detained by local police in Iguala, in Guerrero. They were allegedly handed over to a drug gang and slain, and have not been heard from since.

Zerón was at the center of the government’s widely criticized investigation, which has failed to definitively determine what happened to the students. Two independent teams of experts have cast doubt on the insistence of Mexican officials that the students’ bodies were incinerated in a huge fire at a trash dump.

Many of the suspects arrested in the case were later released, and many claimed they had been tortured by police or the military.

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