MEXICO CITY – Mexican officials on Thursday called the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 a government-covered state crime, in another scathing assessment of the previous government’s actions regarding one of Mexico’s worst human rights atrocities.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to reveal what happened to the students, who disappeared in the southwestern city of Iguala in September 2014, after he dismissed the previous government version of events.
The case sparked international outrage over disappearances and impunity in Mexico, and caused lasting damage to the government of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, especially as international human rights experts criticized the official investigation for being full of errors and abuses.
Mexico’s top human rights official, Alejandro Encinas, told a news conference that the government’s involvement in the disappearance — including local, state and federal officials — constituted a “state crime.”
In the aftermath, the latter government “hidden the truth of the facts, changed crime scenes and obscured authorities’ ties to a criminal group”.
One of the students was a military informant, but authorities were not following protocol for finding missing soldiers, Encinas also noted. If they had, “the disappearance and murder of the students would have been prevented,” he said.
Despite extensive searches, the remains of only three students have been discovered and identified, Encinas said.
The students’ families have long expressed hope that their loved ones survived, putting pressure on the government in protests chanting, “We want them back alive.”
Encinas made a rare official admission that the students did not survive.
“There are no indications that the students are still alive. All the testimonies and evidence prove that they were cunningly murdered and disappeared,” he said. “It’s a sad reality.”
According to the version of events announced by the Pena Nieto administration in 2015, a local drug gang mistook the students for members of a rival group, killed them and burned their bodies in a landfill.
Under López Obrador, officials have issued dozens of arrest warrants, including for military personnel and police, and have asked Israel to extradite a former official accused of rigging the investigation.