June 4, 2023

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Six of the 43 college students who “disappeared” in 2014 allegedly survived several days in a warehouse before being handed over to a local army commander, Mexican government officials leading the truth commission said Friday. The latter ordered them to be killed.

Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas made a shocking discovery that directly links the military to one of Mexico’s worst human rights scandals, and released it a week ago The matter barely made a splash when it was lengthy defended by the committee’s report.

Last week, Encinas made no mention of handing over the six students to Colonel José Rodríguez Pérez, despite declaring the kidnapping and disappearance a “state crime” and saying the military witnessed the incident without intervention.

Demonstrators take part in a march to seek justice for the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared in Mexico City on Friday, August 26, 2022.
Demonstrators take part in a march to seek justice for the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared in Mexico City on Friday, August 26, 2022.

On Friday, Encinas said authorities had been closely monitoring students from the radical teacher training college in Ayotzinapa from the time they left campus until they were kidnapped by local police in the town of Iguala that night. A soldier who infiltrated the school was one of the kidnapped students, and Encinas claimed the army did not follow its own protocol and tried to rescue him.

“There is also information confirming the emergency 089 call that 6 of the 43 missing students were allegedly held for several days, they are still alive, they call it the old warehouse and from there they were handed over to the colonel,” Encinas Say. “The six students were allegedly alive for up to four days after the incident and were killed and missing at the order of the colonel, then-Colonel Jose Rodriguez Perez.”

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations Friday.

The military’s role in the disappearance of students has long been a source of tension between families and the government. From the outset, there have been questions about the military’s knowledge of what happened and its possible involvement. For years, the students’ parents have asked for permission to search the military base in Iguala. They did not gain access with Encinas and the Truth Commission until 2019.

A woman holds a banner in Spanish "we are missing 43," Refers to the 43 Rural Teachers College students who went missing during a march in Mexico City on Thursday 26 November 2015.
A woman holds a banner reading “We are missing 43” in Spanish, referring to 43 missing students from the Rural Teachers College on Thursday, November 26, 2015.

The Commission reported that the army registered an anonymous emergency call on 30 September 2014, four days after the student was kidnapped. The caller reportedly said the students were being held in a large concrete warehouse known as “Pueblo Viejo”. The caller goes on to describe the location.

The entry is followed by several pages of redacted material, but this section of the report summarizes the following: “It can be seen that there is a clear collusion between the Mexican state agents and the Guerreros Unidos, a criminal group that tolerates, allows and participates in student violence and disappearances, as well as attempts by the government to cover up the truth.”

Later, in a summary of how the committee’s report differed from the initial findings, a colonel was mentioned.

“On September 30, the ‘Colonel’ mentioned that they would be in charge of cleaning everything up, and that they had taken care of the six surviving students,” the report said.

In a witness statement provided to federal investigators in December 2014, Capt. Jose Martínez Crespo, stationed at the Iguala base, said the base commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion at the time was Jose Rodri. Colonel Gus Perez.

In a heavy rain late Friday, the families of 43 missing students marched with hundreds of others through Mexico City, as they have done on the 26th of each month for years.

Parents held up posters with their children’s faces, and the students of the Teachers College marched in rows, shouting for justice, and counting down to 43 people. Their slogan indicates that the fight for justice continues, asserting: “This is the country.”

Clemente Rodriguez holds a poster of his missing son Christian during a march for justice for 43 missing Ayotzinapa students in Mexico City, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.
Clemente Rodriguez holds a poster of his missing son Christian during a march for justice for 43 missing Ayotzinapa students in Mexico City, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

Clemente Rodríguez marched for his son Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre, the second student identified by the burnt bone fragments.

Rodriguez said the families were informed about the medical examiner and six students last week before the report was released.

“It’s not an oversight anymore. It’s their involvement,” he said of the military. “It’s the state, with three levels of government involved.”

He said the families had not been informed that any arrest warrants for members of the armed forces announced last week had been executed.

On September 26, 2014, local police removed students from a bus they had seized in Iguala. Eight years later, the motive for the police action remains unclear. Their bodies have never been found, but charred bone fragments have been matched to three of the students.

Last week, federal agents arrested Jesus Murillo Kalam, the former attorney general who oversaw the initial investigation. On Wednesday, a judge ordered him to stand trial for enforced disappearance without reporting torture and official misconduct. Prosecutors allege that Murillo Callam fabricated a false account of what happened to the students to quickly resolve the case.

Authorities also said last week that arrest warrants had been issued for 20 soldiers and officers, five local officials, 33 local and 11 state police and 14 gang members. Neither the military nor prosecutors said how many suspects were in custody.

It was unclear whether Rodriguez Perez was among those sought.

The student’s father, Rodriguez, said Murillo Callam’s arrest was a positive step.

Murillo Callam “was the one who told us not to touch soldiers,” Rodriguez said. “It is now found out that it is the participating country.”

In a joint statement, the families said the truth commission’s confirmation that it was a “state crime” was significant after years of factors suggesting it.

However, they said the report still did not satisfactorily answer their most important question.

“Mothers and fathers need unquestionable scientific evidence about the fate of our children,” the statement said. “We cannot go home with initial indications that do not fully understand where they are and what happened to them.”

President Andres Manuel López Obrador entrusted the Mexican military with enormous responsibilities. The armed forces were not only at the heart of his security strategy, but also took over the management of the seaport and were responsible for the construction of a new airport for the capital and tourist trains on the Yucatan peninsula.

The president has often said that the Army and Navy are the least corrupt institutions, and he is confident.

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