MEXICO CITY (AP) — Six of the 43 college students who “disappeared” in 2014 were reportedly kept alive for several days in a warehouse, then handed over to a local army commander, who ordered them to be killed. Ordered, a Mexican government official leading a truth commission.
Under Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Encinas made the shocking revelation that directly ties the military into one of Mexico’s worst human rights scandals, and it came with little fanfare as he long defended the commission’s report released a week ago.
Last week, despite declaring the kidnapping and disappearance a “state crime” and saying the military observed it without interference, Encinas made no mention of the six students being handed over to Colonel Jose Rodriguez Pérez.
On Friday, Encinas said officers had been closely monitoring students of the radical teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa from the time they left their campus through kidnapping by local police in the city of Iguala that night. A soldier who had infiltrated the school was among the kidnapped students, and Encinas said the military did not follow its own protocol and tried to save him.
Encinas said, “The information is also corroborated with the emergency 089 telephone calls, where six of the 43 students who allegedly disappeared were kept over several days and were alive in the old warehouse and from there handed over to the colonel. were given.” “Allegedly six students were alive for four days after the events and were killed and disappeared on the orders of the colonel, reportedly the then-Colonel José Rodriguez Pérez.”
The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday about the allegations.
The military’s role in the disappearance of students has long been a source of tension between families and the government. From the very beginning, questions were being raised about the army’s knowledge and its possible involvement. The students’ parents demanded for years that they be allowed to search the army base in Iguala. It wasn’t until 2019 that he was given access, along with Encinas and the Truth Commission.
The commission’s report said that on September 30, 2014, four days after the students were abducted, the military recorded an anonymous emergency call. The caller reportedly said that the students were being held in a large concrete warehouse described as “Pueblo Viejo”. The caller told about the location.
That entry was followed by several pages of revised material, but that section of the report concluded with the following: “As can be seen, there existed clear collusion among the agents of the Mexican state with the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, which tolerated, permitted and participated in the government’s efforts to hide the truth about the incidents as well as incidents of violence and disappearance of students.”
Later, a colonel is mentioned in a summary of how the commission’s report differed from the findings of the original investigation.
“On 30 September the ‘Colonel’ mentioned that he would take care of cleaning everything up and that he had already taken charge of the six students who had survived,” the report said.
In a witness statement given to federal investigators in December 2014, Captain José Martínez Crespo, who was stationed at the base in Iguala, stated that the base commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion at the time was Colonel José Rodriguez Pérez.
Through a driving rain later on Friday, the families of 43 missing students marched in Mexico City along with a few hundred others, as they have on the 26th of every month.
Parents carried posters of their children’s faces and queues of current students marched from the teachers’ college, shouting for justice and counting to 43. His signs declared that the fight for justice was on and emphasized: “It was the state.”
Clemente Rodriguez marched for his son Christian Alfonso Rodriguez Tellumbre, the second student to be identified by a small charred bone fragment.
Rodriguez said the families were told last week before the report about the coronal and the six students was released.
“It is no longer by omission. It is that they participated,” he said of the military. “It was the state, three levels of government participated.”
He said the families had not been told that any arrest orders announced last week for members of the armed forces had yet been fulfilled.
On September 26, 2014, the local police removed the students from the buses they commanded in Iguala. The motive of the police action remains unclear even after eight years. Their bodies have never been found, although fragments of burnt bone have been matched to those of three students.
Last week, federal agents arrested former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who oversaw the original investigation. On Wednesday, a judge ordered that he stand trial for torture and forced disappearance, while not reporting official misconduct. Prosecutors allege that Murillo Karam made up a false story about what happened to the students in order to solve the case quickly.
Officials also said last week that arrest warrants had been issued for 20 soldiers and officers, five local officers, 33 local police officers and 11 state police officers, as well as 14 members of the gang. Neither the military nor prosecutors have said how many of those suspects are in custody.
It was also not immediately clear whether Rodriguez Perez was among those people.
The student’s father, Rodriguez, said the arrest of Murillo Karam was a positive step.
“Murillo Karam told us that the soldiers can’t be touched,” Rodriguez said. “And now it turns out that it was the state that participated.”
In a joint statement, the families said the Truth Commission’s confirmation that it was a “state crime” was significant after elements suggested.
However, he said the report still did not give a satisfactory answer to his most important question.
“Mothers and fathers need indisputable scientific evidence about the fate of our children,” the statement said. “We can’t go home with early signs that don’t fully explain where they are and what happened to them.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given heavy responsibility to the Mexican military. The armed forces are not only at the heart of its security strategy, but they have also taken over the administration of ports and the construction of a new airport for the capital and a tourist train on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The President has often said that the Army and Navy are the least corrupt institutions and he believes in them.