Hundreds of civilians have disappeared in Mexico by organized crime and drug cartels. Eduardo Verdugo/AP Images

Mexico reopens five-year-old investigation

Alleged police corruption in disappearance case

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced authorities have reopened a criminal investigation involving the disappearance of 43 student teachers from police custody in September 2014.

After he was sworn into office in December, Obrador swore to reopen the investigation due to allegations of police corruption and violence. According to a 2018 UN Human Rights Council report, dozens of suspects were tortured during the original investigation. 

“We will make a comprehensive rethinking of the investigation, correcting the omissions, contradictions and the lack of evidence that led to the so-called ‘historical truth,’” Deputy Interior Secretary Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez said at a press conference, according to Al Jazeera. “And those authorities that incurred in omission or illegal practices, as has been proven…such as torture on some of the people detained, will be held responsible.”

The original investigation was closed when authorities claimed the 43 students were kidnapped by a violent gang. Authorities reported the students were incinerated the same day they were kidnapped. TeleSUR reported only one of the 43 remains were ever recovered and positively identified, according to official reports made by Mexican authorities.

A later independent investigation performed by Argentine forensic experts, however, did not “back up the hypothesis that there was a fire on the morning of Sept. 27, 2014, of the required magnitude and duration that would’ve resulted in the massive incineration of the 43 missing students,” according to CNN.

Mexican officials are now searching the area surrounding the city of Iguala—where the students disappeared five years ago—for the students or their remains. Public Radio International reported one place of investigation is a garbage lot in Tepecoacuilco, a small town south of Iguala. 

“The poorly named ‘historic truth’ was built with a foundation of cover-up, fabrication of evidence and torture to the benefit of the perpetrators and against the victims’ rights,” Encinas continued at the press conference. “The historic truth collides with reality.”

CNN reported authorities detained over 140 suspects during the original case, but 77 were released by judges or the court system due to a lack of evidence or claims stating the detained were tortured by officials during the investigation. Among those released was alleged gang leader Gildardo López Astudillo, who authorities in the original investigation claimed had ordered the disappearance of the 43 student teachers. 

“Unfortunately, it has been five years of feeding lies; we practically prefer to start from scratch because at first everything was done so badly,” Felipe de la Cruz, a father of one of the missing student teachers, told Reuters

According to The New York Times, the case of the 43 missing students has come to represent Mexico’s tens of thousands of missing persons. “We ask the rest of the country to put themselves in our shoes for just one day, for them to feel what it is to have a loved one missing,” María Martínez, mother of one of the missing students told The New York Times. “It’s not only our 43. There are thousands of other families suffering.”