On Sept. 26—one year anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero—thousands of protesters filled the streets of Mexico City. The march, led by parents of the missing students, made its way from Los Pinos, the presidential residence, to the Zócalo, the capital's massive central square. Protests were also held in Iguala, Guerrero, where the 43 students from a teachers' college in nearby Ayotzinapa were abducted one year ago. Many carried mass-produced placards that read "Ni un desaparecido más, Ni un muerto más—¡¡Fuera Peña Nieto!!"—"Not one more disappearance, not one more death—Out with Peña Nieto!!" The administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is under growing pressure in the case. There have now been 110 arrests of members of the Guerreros Unidos narco-gang, named by the government as responsible in the mass abduction. But there have been no convictions. The government says the students were massacred by the drug gang, and claims two sets of remains have been identified. But survivors, activists and rights observers say the official story doesn't hold water.
Mexico's Prosecutor General Arely Gómez González announced Sept. 16 that forensic experts have identified the remains of a second victim in the case of the 43 missing students. Human remains found in plastic bags dredged from the Río San Juan in Guerrero state are said to be those of missing student Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. The identification was made by Austrian forensic experts from Innsbruck Medical University, who had earlier identified one other student based on a bone fragment. But the announcement came amid new controversy, as an Argentine forensic team working on the case called the identification of the second set of remains "weak and not definitive." The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) made the announcement after meeting with the parents of Jhosivani Guerrero two days after the Prosecutor General's announcement.
The Mexican interior ministry, known as Gobernación, was on Sept. 15 accused by a senate committee of covering up evidence pointing to official complicity in the July escape of drug kingpin Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—for more than 10 years the country's most-wanted fugitive. Sen. Alejandro Encinas of the left-opposition PRD, who heads the Senate National Security Committee, said that Gobernación had denied him access to video footage from Guzmán's cell—which is now revealed to incude "drilling sounds" in the background, incdicating that prison authorities ignored construction work on the tunnel through which Chapo escaped. "The video exists and it is crucial in order to identify the extent of complicity in Chapo’s escape," Encinas told the EFE news agency. "Just the fact that the sound of a drill can be heard [on the recording] implies complicity on several levels."
A group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has just issued a new report on the Mexican government's own investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state nearly one year ago—and finds that the official conclusions are improbable. The Sept. 5 presentation of the IACHR findings drew such a huge audeince that organizers had to set up a TV screen for the overflow crowd on the patio of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission offices. Back in January, Mexico's then-Prosecutor General Jesús Murillo Karam announced the results of his investigation: all the students had been killed by members of a narco-gang called the Guerreros Unidos, who incinerated the bodies in a trash dump at the bottom of a canyon, then shoveled what remained into plastic bags and threw them in a river. That theory was largely based on confessions from detainees—who have since claimed to have "confessed" under torture. IACHR investigators who visited the dump site concluded that the incineration of that many bodies would have required an inordinate amount of fuel, and caused a massive forest fire.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, a leading activist in Mexico's violence-torn state of Guerrero and a vocal advocate for the families of the 43 students who went missing there in September 2014, was himself found dead on Aug. 10. His body was discovered riddled with bullets and slumped over the wheel of the taxi he owned in the pueblo of Xaltianguis, just outside Acapulco. He had led search parties after the disappearance of the students, who are now believed to have been turned over to a murderous narco-gang after being detained by police. Only one body of this missing students has yet been found. As it became increasingly clear the students had been killed, he helped organize a group called The Other Disappeared—mostly women, who meet every Sunday to search the hills for the remains of their loved ones. Since the group began work, it has unearthed 129 bodies, which were handed over to the authorities for identification. As he began to organize around the issue, Jiménez Blanco said some 300 families came forward saying they also had missing relatives. He said in a BBC interview earlier this year: "We have been saying from the start that this area is a cemetery."
The US Department of Commerce on Aug. 14 agreed to allow limited crude oil trading with Mexico, easing a ban on crude exports that has been in place for 40 years. Members of the US Congress were informed by the Department of Commerce that it plans to approve an application by Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico's state-run oil company, to trade heavy oil pumped in Mexico for light crude pumped in the US. Despite applications from some dozen other countries, which were denied, Canada is the only other nation currently exempt from the ban. Unlike in the agreement with Mexico, Canada is not required to export similar crude quantities to the US. An end to the ban has been called for by both members of Congress and oil producers, including Exxon Mobil Corp.
Another bloody incident in the ongoing crackdown on anti-narco citizen self-defense militias is reported from Mexico's conflicted west-central state of Michoacán. On July 19, a detachment of army and marine troops was mobilized to the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, an outlying hamlet of Ixtapilla puebla in Aquila municipality. Villagers mobilized upon the troops' advance, blocking the road into Ostula. In the ensuing fracas, soldiers fired on the villagers, leaving a youth dead and four other community members injured. The troops then carried out their mission: to arrest Semeí Verdía Zepeda, leader of the Aquila self-defense group. He was charged with illegal possession of two rifles, including an AK-47. (Informador.mx, La Jornada, Sopitas, July 19)
Mexico's independent Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center (or Centro Pro) on July 2 released new evidence that high-ranking military officers gave soldiers orders to kill prior to an army mass slaying of more than 20 supposed narco-gang members in June 2014. The facts of the bloody incident at Tlatlaya, México state, have been disputed for over a year now. Purported documents from the 102nd Infantry Battalion released by the Centro Pro read like extermination orders. "Troops must operate at night, in massive form, reducing daytime activity, to kill criminals in hours of darkness," one document says. This casts further doubt on the official version that the casualties died in a gun battle that began when suspects fired on soldiers in a warehouse raid. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has already determined that between 12 and 15 of the victims were killed unarmed or after surrendering. Yet the defense secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, continues to stand by the official story, charging that "people and groups who perhaps don't like what the army is doing have already convicted the soldiers."