The Mexican Government's Mouse Trap
by Mari Gomez
This past Sunday September 6th, the Independent Group of Interdisciplinary Experts' (GIEI) of the Inter American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) released an investigation of Ayotzinapa that dismantled the official narrative. The report has presented evidence that has brought forth incriminating possibilities for the government of Mexico, this includes the possibility that buses from Iguala carried heroin to Chicago.
It’s clear that if there is one crisis the Mexican government now wishes it had averted, it would be this one. This is not only because it has significantly dropped the approval rating of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was already highly criticized and ridiculed far before that. It was not only because it brought to light what Mexicans have known forever: corruption is at every level of authority including local, state, and federal police, and not only because it confirmed that drug gangs and politicians are in cahoots, but because the story of the 43 missing students broke through the thick media wall and got through to people all over the world. It was all of these factors combined, that has made all levels of the Mexican government wish the story would vanish like the students themselves did the night of September 26th, 2014.
Since the news broke there has been all kinds of government mishandling of the matter. There is a famous quote by Mexico’s former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, where he casually stated, Ya me Canse (”I am tired”) referring to the many questions he was being asked regarding the disappearances during a press conference. His ridiculous remark was quickly adopted as the slogan and hash-tag of choice of protesters and activists. In fact, immediately after Murillo Karam pronounced those words it became the #1 trending topic on Twitter and ignited an impromptu protest of hundreds of people in the capital. Murillo Karam is no longer the Attorney General. Two weeks or so after the news of the disappeared broke and the population was in chaos, amidst protests, and one day after Carmen Aristegui revealed the First Lady’s “white house” scandal, the President and his wife continued their trip to China to attend the g20 summit. All indications that the Mexican government was trying to sweep this one under the rug, as it has done many times in its history. (1)
After the disappearances and lack of action by the federal government, militias and volunteer search parties formed in Iguala. In August of 2015, an activist who had led search parties for the 43 missing students, was shot dead in a Taxi in his hometown. (2) He had appeared in the Vice documentary on the disappeared and at that time was already receiving threats.
Last Sunday, almost a year later, the independent investigation conducted by the CIDH (Interamerican Human Rights Commission) came out and publicly denounced the official narrative as simply, wrong. The government’s story did not hold up to forensic evidence and careful examination of the facts. In addition, the panel points out discrepancies and inconsistencies in the official investigation, their handling of evidence, and their conclusions. The fire in the dumps of Cocula could not have incinerated 43 bodies. It also found that the official investigation had left out some important evidence, including the use of a fifth bus in the crime, which had not even been invstigated. (3)
The experts found that Iguala is a center of heroin transportation. This meant that heroin and money are often transported directly to Chicago, Illinois in public buses. Evidence from a case in Chicago confirms that Iguala has been used as a major point of contact for heroin and its profits. (4)
This has led people to wonder if perhaps the normalistas accidentally took a bus that was used to transport heroin and/or drug money and were therefore seen as threats to said enterprise. Testimonies of the bus drivers have brought up a mysterious allegations of an “athletic man” that seemed to have been coordinating the attack. The important detail here being that there was in fact someone coordinating the attack and that this person was in contact with police.
After the event last September, the mainstream media did its best to downplay some of the protests, but the story somehow stayed afloat, relatively. For a moment there, people of different countries were expressing solidarity with the people of Mexico, posting videos in which they held up signs that said, “We are the 43.”
The news had more impact, perhaps, because the victims were probably one of the most impoverished, marginalized groups of people in the country: sons of poor farmers and peasants that attended a school with little to no resources in hopes of becoming teachers and educators in their communities, though the schools had a tendency for political activism.
With the recent investigation, the hope is that the story will emerge again and be a catalyst for change for the Mexican people, or at the very least, see some of those involved to justice.
Let us recount the sequence of events.
A group of students from a middle of nowhere, forgotten, peasant community in are planning student protests and took hold of a few public buses. The buses were then ambushed by police and 43 students were apprehended and then disappeared, never to be heard from again. All of them were unarmed. They are not in jail, they are not in holding cells. They are nowhere. It is discovered that the mayor of the city might have called these attackers on the group of students in order that they not disturb a political event. Evidence disappears. Witnesses are detained and tortured. News comes out implicating the federal government in the case. Then, in the initial investigation of these disappearances officials find remains of dead bodies in mass graves outside of the site of the crime. Not a few bodies, 129 bodies. (5)
Only one of those remains was identified as one of those 43 missing students, which the government uses to close the investigation. This means the rest of these remains are victims of some other unnamed crimes. So suddenly there is this mass grave and an affirmation (because people of the area already knew this) that in this state there are massive disappearances happening. The mayor of the city and his wife are suspected of being involved. They flee, are found, and then taken into custody.
Every step of the way there was conflicting evidence and lack of transparency. The 43 disappeared is not an isolated incident. In 2014 Mexico recorded its highest number of disappearances. Between January and October of 2014 Mexico’s National Register of Missing and Disappeared People recorded 5,098 cases. (6) And despite this constantly rising number of missing people, especially under Peña Nieto, the Mexican government still slashed the budget for a federal search unit by 60 percent. (7) While it is possible that not all cases of disappearances are directly due to crime, it’s still a staggering number.
Another, less heard of attack against unarmed civilians happened in January 6th of 2015 in Apatzingan, Michoacan. This was reported by Aristegui News, Proceso, and Univision who conducted the investigation, interviewed witnesses and survivors. It was said that 16 civilians were killed at close range by federal police, with dozens injured. It started with a civil protest of people demanding the federal government pay them for their work. They had been contracted to help as a special police force when the project was disbanded and they were left without pay. Witnesses say police executed kneeling and unarmed civilians and also planted weapons near their dead bodies to justify the violence.
Mexico’s government is under scrutiny now by the international community. One of the preferred hash-tags surrounding the massacres is #fuelestado (it was the state) which is a chilling phrase that is being repeated like a mantra throughout Mexico. This mantra could eventually transform into a call to action. The Mexican government has cornered itself into a game of mouse trap. Their Rube Goldberg-like aversion to responsibility cannot go on forever. Responsibility could only be transferred and avoided for so long before a trap comes down. The entire country has now official proof that the government lied to them and tampered with evidence. Now there is possible evidence that drugs were involved, which ties drug trafficking to the federal government. In the wake of these new investigations, it remains to see what happens, to see Peña Nieto scurry like a scared mouse into the corners of his cabinet. Eventually one of them will be caught. A revolution is ambitious but not entirely impossible; perhaps the indignation of the people, their rage, will create a tremor, in the spineless backs of Mexican politicians and finally rid the country of some of them. The hope is this will ignite something, but what exactly, is yet to be seen.
1. Peña Nieto llega a China en media de protestas por Ayotzinapa en Mexico (2014). Animal Politco.
2.Hernandez, D. (2015) More Bloodshed in Mexico Activist Who Led Search Parties for the Missing 43 is Shot Dead. Vice News
3. Ahmed A.(2015) Report Renews Hope and Doubt on Missing Students in Mexico. New York Times
4. Ayotzinapa El quinto Autobús ignorado y ocultado por la PGR. 2015. Aristegui Noticias
5. Flores C. (2015) None of Mexico's Missing Forty Three Students are Among 129 Bodies Found in Mass Graves. Vice News
7. Govierno Federal y Disputados disminuyen en 63% los recursos para la búsqueda de desaparecidos. 2015. Animal Politico