9 Years Later, Families of 43 Missing Mexican Students March to Demand Answers in Emblematic Case

Chanting from one to 43, relatives of students abducted nine years ago counted out the number of the missing youths as they marched through Mexico City Tuesday to demand answers to one of Mexico’s most infamous human rights cases.

With President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s term ending next year, family members face not only the prospect of a ninth year of not knowing what happened to their sons but fears that the next administration will start the error-plagued investigation over from scratch yet again.

In 2014, a group of students were attacked by municipal police in the southern city of Iguala, Guerrero, who handed them over to a local drug gang that apparently killed them and burned their bodies. Since the Sept. 26 attack, only three of their remains have been identified.

After an initial coverup, last year a government truth commission concluded that local, state and federal authorities colluded with the gang to murder the students in what it called a “state crime.”

Ulises Gutierrez Solano joined the march in honor of his brother, Aldo, a student who survived the initial kidnapping but was left in a “vegetative state” since 2014 after police shot him in the head while the others students were being abducted.

“This is an atrocity to humanity, to society,” said Solano. “How could they do so much harm to so many people?”

López Obrador had pledged to solve the case and recent years have seen a painstakingly slow release of documents from the abduction, as well as a slew of arrests. But activists and human rights organizations say the government has not done enough to atone for the murders, investigate exactly what happened, and punish the culprits.

Tensions rose just hours before the march, when the families and their lawyers rejected a series of documents the Mexican government offered to make public, claiming the specific military files they requested months ago were not included. The army said it didn’t have those files.

“Since August the families have been asking, but they just gave us part of the information” said Nicholas Mendéz, leading a group of students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “That’s worrying because we’re changing government next year.”

López Obrador’s six-year term ends in September 2024 and, Mendéz feared, petitioning a new president for information could mean starting from scratch.

“We can’t have another six years of nothing,” Mendéz said.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Mexico’s president insisted all of the relevant documents had been released.

“We have principles; we have ideals, and we speak the truth,” López Obrador said, promising also to publish government social media messages about the case.

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