Mexico: official Ayotzinapa claims disputed

The nonprofit Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) released a report on Feb. 7 citing a number of irregularities in the Mexican federal government's investigation of the disappearance of 43 teachers' college students in Iguala de la Independencia in the southwestern state of Guerrero the night of Sept. 26-27. The Argentine experts have researched deaths and disappearances in about 30 countries, including those that occurred in their own country during the 1976-1983 "Dirty War" against suspected leftists and in Guatemala during that country's 1960-1996 civil war. The Argentines were brought into the investigation by the parents of the missing students, who had attended the traditionally leftist Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa.

The Mexican government has concluded that all the students were killed and that their bodies were incinerated in a dump in the Guerrero municipality of Cocula and thrown into the San Juan river. The Argentines found several problems that they said made it impossible for them to confirm the official version. For example, the government had agreed to keep the independent experts involved in all phases of the investigation but didn't in fact include them on some occasions—notably, at the time when the supposed remains of the students were found. The Argentines also said the Cocula dump wasn't guarded during part of the period of the investigation, so that evidence could have been altered. Journalists and researchers have questioned other aspects of the official account, including the government's contention that only municipal police and a local gang were involved in the violence and the claim that the bodies could be thoroughly incinerated in an open-air fire. (La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 8)

Teachers in Guerrero have regularly joined with students in demonstrations over the Ayotzinapa disappearances, but on Feb. 6 they had an additional reason to protest. Members of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) and the Only Union of Guerrero State Public Servants (Suspeg) blocked the Miguel Alemán coastal highway in Acapulco for nearly three hours to protest the state's failure to pay their salary. According to the national SNTE, some 12,000 Guerrero teachers didn't get valid paychecks. The unions indicated that both the state and the federal governments were responsible for the shortfall in funds. (LJ, Feb. 7)

Forced disappearances by the police are not limited to Guerrero. According to Denise García Bosque, an attorney for families in the northeastern state of Coahuila, the nonprofit Families United has documented 150 disappearance cases in the past 18 months in just one area, the small city of Piedras Negras and the region known as Cinco Manantiales. García said that in at least 60 of these cases there is evidence of participation by special police groups, principally a state unit created in 2009, the Special Arms and Tactics Group (GATE). A total of 51 of the victims have been found alive but are all in prison; they charge that they were tortured into making false confessions that they were members of criminal groups. Special police units are proliferating throughout Mexico, the national daily Excélsior wrote last November; they "sometimes receive special training by US, Colombian or Israeli elite groups," the paper said. (LJ, Feb. 7; TeleSUR English, Feb. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, February 8.