Probe into student massacre suspects drug traffickers

A report published last week by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, or GIEI, on the killing and disappearance of dozens of students in Iguala, Mexico, suggests a clash with drug traffickers over the use of buses on narcotics routes may have led to the attack.

The authors of the GIEI report state at the outset that, following six months of investigation, amid a climate of fear and threats, they regret not being able to provide final answers as to the disappearance of 43 student teachers from the Raúl Isidro Burgos College, Ayotzinapa, on the night of 26 September 2014. However, given the importance of the case, they have published their findings to date.

The report begins by detailing the scale of the attack over various locations. On the night of the demonstration, six students were found executed, including one with clear signs of torture, and over 40 were wounded. Over 100, including student teachers from Ayotzinapa and their supporters, had their lives threatened, and a further 43 were detained from different buses and disappeared.

The report considers and rejects various motives for the attack including: the reputation of Ayotzinapa as a hotbed for political radicals; possible confusion over the identity of the students; or ‘punishment’ due to previous student confrontations with the Iguala mayor at that time, José Luis Abarca Velázquez. The authors contend however that none of these hypotheses can explain the level of violence that night.

On the other hand, further to the official hypothesis that the student demonstration somehow became mixed up with drug traffickers, the report argues that Iguala is a well-known narcotics trading area and drug route, especially for heroin towards the US, that sometimes buses are employed in this trafficking, and that this could explain the severity of the attack.

In particular, due to ‘serious contradictions’ between witnesses over a ‘fifth Estrella Roja bus’ and its possible route, the authors contend that this bus could be a key element in explaining the events. On the night of the attack students were seeking to take control of buses in order to obtain transport, but the report suggests that they may have crossed with traffickers moving drugs or money, specifically on that bus.

Regarding the official view that the 43 bodies were cremated in the municipal rubbish tip at Cocula on 27 September 2014, Dr José Torero, mechanical engineer at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and an independent expert, argues that there is no evidence that supports this hypothesis.

Among the report’s recommendations is that possible drug routes be investigated, and that this should be done by cross-checking information with legal and governmental authorities at international level. In particular, the bus line Estrella Roja should be investigated in this regard.

It also proposes that all possible places where cremations may have taken place in Iguala and Cocula, as well as other possible locations, should be examined. Maps of graves should be updated, and LIDAR laser technology and satellite photography employed to identify where earth has been moved in the surrounding area.

The back cover of the report concludes with a relative’s words: “What I can say now is that wherever my brother is, that he remains strong and has hope that we will soon find him. If he returns alive, I will be very happy and thank God and those who have supported us […] If he has lost his life I will thank everyone the same. But I must be positive while there is no proof. I must […] fight to find them.”