Ayotzinapa: Evidence of Army involvement in students’ disappearance

9 months ago, a group of Ayotzinapa teacher students were attacked by local police in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, and 43 were disappeared against their will. Now, new evidence has now come to light proving the involvement of the Mexican Army in the events of September 26, 2014.

From the very beginning, the movement organised by parents of the disappeared and their comrades had one slogan: “Fue El Estado” (“the State did it”). As time goes by, more and more details are revealed about how right they have been all along.

A local judge who was in charge on the night of September 26 has now declared that the students were never held in the jail of the local police, a statement which has been backed by the regional Human Rights Commission. It is also known that the regional C4 surveillance team (linking up different police forces) was monitoring the whereabouts and movements of the students on the night. Furthermore, the Defence Ministry has revealed that one of the disappeared students was in fact an active duty soldier, which would mean that the students had been infiltrated.

Already in January, the government provided what they described as the “historical truth” of what happened and declared the investigation closed. According to this official version the students were taken by the local police of Iguala, with the help of the police of nearby Cocula. The motive would have been the fear of the local Mayor Abarca that the students wanted to disrupt a political meeting for his wife. The 43 students, according the government, would then have been handed over to a criminal gang of narcotraffickers  (Guerreros Unidos), which has links with the mayor’s wife’s family as well as the local police and then killed. Their bodies would have been incinerated in a local rubbish dump and any remains thrown into a nearby river.

This version of events has been completely refuted by three different expert teams. An Argentine forensic investigation team acting on behalf of the relatives declared that they were not present when the bags with the alleged remains were found by the police. Even so, the authorities have only been able to find a DNA link to one of the 43 students in the forensic remains. Another team from the UNAM university concluded that it was physically impossible for a fire to burn the student bodies, within the parametres of time and space given in the official version.

In January we already wrote an article explaining most of these details. Since then, an independent team appointed by the Organisation of American States Inter American Commission on Human Rights has backed up many of the points made by these independent teams and the investigations carried out by the Proceso magazine. They issued a detailed criticism of the whole investigation which included the violation of due process. They mentioned that they had found instances in the government investigation of  “of torture, attempted murder, cover-up, obstruction of justice, and threats against the normal-school students and survivors, all of which needed, they said, to be investigated” (see the excellent and detail account given by Francisco Goldman in the New Yorker).

The question of Army involvement had been hinted at from the very beginning. On several occasions the relatives’ campaign attempted to break into the barracks 27th Battalion of the army, based in Iguala, to conduct a search. There was a suspicion that the bodies of the students could have been cremated in the Battalion’s furnaces.

Now, stronger evidence of the Army’s involvement has emerged in the statement of judge Ulises Bernabé García, who on the night of the attack on the students, was in charge of administrative procedures at the Iguala Municipal Police. Speaking to journalists Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, of the weekly Proceso magazine in early June, the judge said that the students, contrary to the official version, were never held in the Municipal Police premises.

He declared that around the time in which the State Prosecutor, in the official version, says that the students were taken to the Municipal Police, a detachment from the Army arrived and conducted a thorough search of the premises. The unit was led by Captain Martinez Crespo from the 27 Battalion of the Army.

He is the same army officer whom the students identify as having gone to the Hospital Cristina where some of the students were hiding after the attack. According to them, he told them to give him their real names “otherwise you will never be found”. Finally, after making a number of threats, the soldiers left without taking the students, perhaps because there were too many witnesses in the hospital.

The statement by judge Bernabé García, who has sought asylum in the US as he fears for his life, is that after the Army left, the Under Prosecutor General for the state of Guerrero, Victor León Maldonado, together with the head of the local police Felipe Flores, took over the installations of the Municipal Police until the next morning at 8 am. When they took over there were only 6 detainees, who were all drunks. This version of events is backed up by the logs in the Municipal Police.

In the official version, the fact that the 43 students were taken to the Municipal Police is crucial in shifting the whole responsibility away from federal and state government levels and onto the municipal one.

Judge Bernabé García says he explained all of this to the State Prosecutor’s Office when he was called to be interrogated on November 21 last year. He gave them copies of the log books for the Municipal Police for that night showing entries only for the 6 drunks.

A few days after the publication of the Proceso investigation the Guerrero State Commission of Human Rights, which is an official body, confirmed the version of events given by the judge. They say that personnel from the commission went to Iguala on the night of the attack to ascertain what had happened. They went to the Municipal Police and talked to the judge in charge. They conducted a thorough search of the premises but they could find no evidence that the students had ever been there. Nothing which could be used for DNA identification, no messages on the walls of the cells, etc. They then went to the 27 Battalion of the Army but were denied entry.

Then, responding to an official request by Proceso journalists, the Secretary of National Defence (ministry of defence), admitted that amongst the list of names of the 43 disappeared students, there was one who was an active duty Army soldier.

This is important as it would give further proof of the fact that the activities of the Ayotzinapa students were being closely monitored by the authorities at a federal level. The Ayotzinapa students have a long tradition of militancy and revolutionary struggle and clearly the Army had decided to infiltrate them.

The logs of the C4 joint forces monitoring centre have now also been released, though heavily redacted. They prove that the Army and federal police were aware of the students’ movements from the point in which they arrived in Iguala and commandeered 2 coaches in the local bus station. That is, before the attack against them took place.

This blows yet another hole in the official version which categorically states that the Army had nothing to do with the events on that night, that it was not aware of what was happening and that no Army units left their premises in the 27th Battalion.

The relentless struggle of the disappeared students’ relatives, comrades and their supporters is the only things which has allowed for this new evidence to come to light. From the very beginning the government has tried to cover up the whole affair. Then they looked for some scapegoats. Finally they declared the case “closed” in the hope that the campaign for justice would just go away. But it didn’t.

This case, which is by no means unique, has acted like the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back, bringing to light the links between the state, the political parties and capitalist businessmen with organised crime. It provides a glimpse into the particularly acute rottenness of the bourgeois state in Mexico. Only the joint struggle of workers, peasants and youth can overthrow it and create a new society free from the horrors of exploitation and violence. A society where young teacher students are considered an asset, not a threat.

The struggle for justice continues.

Fue El Estado! (The State Did It)

Vivos los llevaron vivos los queremos! (They took them alive, alive we want them back).