Missing students' parents reject official account
28 January 2015, 11:44
Mexico City - Parents of 43 college
students missing since last year angrily rejected the Mexican attorney
general's declaration that investigators are certain the youths were killed and
incinerated after being seized by police in the southern state of Guerrero.
In an emotional news conference on Tuesday
night, the parents accused the government of seeking to wrap up the
investigation even as they still have many unanswered questions - and hold out
hope of finding their children alive.
"We don't believe anything of what
they say," said Carmen Cruz, mother of 19-year-old Jorge Cruz, one of the
disappeared students. "We are not going to allow this case to be
Lawyer Vidulfo Rosales, who is representing
the families of the students from a rural teachers college, presented a
10-point argument explaining why they believe the investigation must continue,
including a lack of conclusive forensic results.
DNA tests were only able to positively
identify the remains of one of the students, and an Austrian laboratory
assisting in the case has said it appears impossible to identify the others.
Rosales noted that a number of key suspects
remain at large. If detained, their testimony could shed new light on the
official version, which asserts that on the night of 26 September, police
handed over the students to drug gang members who killed them, burned the
bodies at a garbage dump, bagged the remains and tossed them into a river.
Rosales also said the families will bring a
formal complaint on 3 February before the Committee on Enforced Disappearances
at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Mexican government "will have to
respond for these events," he said.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General Jesus
Murillo Karam said definitively for the first time that all the students were
dead, citing confessions and forensic evidence that showed that the fire blazed
for hours at a temperature sufficient to turn 43 bodies into ashes. The remains
in bags found in the river had traces of the dump where the fire occurred.
The conclusion was based on the testimony
of a suspect arrested two weeks ago who said he was called to get rid of the
students, as well as 39 confessions, 386 declarations, 487 forensic tests, 16
raids and two reconstructions. So far 99 people have been detained in
connection with the crime, including the former mayor of the city of Iguala,
Jose Luis Abarca.
Murillo also denied that the army
participated in or allowed the killings to happen, as victims' relatives have
The case has sparked widespread protests in
the four months since the students disappeared and forced the government to
turn its attention from touting economic and education reforms to dealing with
crime and insecurity.
Murillo Karam's explanation on Tuesday was
unlikely to quell the controversy.
"They pretty much gave the same story
as they had given two months ago. There are not many additional details,"
said analyst Alejandro Hope. "They are searching for closure but I'm not
sure they're going to get it."
As for motive, the attorney general said
members of a local gang known as the Guerreros Unidos believed the students
were rival gang members when they hijacked public transit buses in Iguala for
transport to a demonstration in the Mexican capital. But many of the suspects
testified to knowing they were students.
Fire experts have doubted whether the
bodies could have been incinerated beyond identification under the scenario
outlined by authorities. And family members questioned the testimony of
detained suspects, especially given Mexican authorities' track record of
coercing confessions including through torture.
"A criminal's word cannot be worth
more than ours," Cruz said.
Hope said the protests will likely continue
while there is no unimpeachable evidence that the remains belong to the
students. Also unclear are questions such as why the gang members would think
the students were rivals, and why they would have killed them even after
learning that wasn't the case.
"We know the who, the what, the when and
the where. We don't know the why," Hope said. "They have yet to tell
a compelling story of why this happened. It doesn't matter how many people they
detain - unless they answer that question, the whole thing will remain under a
halo of mystery."