Mexico: without justice and truth for the Ayotzinapa 43, the struggle must go on

We are approaching the eighth anniversary of that tragic night in Iguala, where students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teaching Training School, in Oaxaca, Mexico, were attacked by the armed forces of the state and organised crime. Six people were killed (three of them students), one student was left in a coma, and 43 went missing.

Under the administration of the then-president Peña Nieto, the truth was concealed and a version of events known as "the historical truth" was concocted, which stated that the students had travelled to Iguala to protest something that the mayor's wife had done, and that they were detained by the police and handed over to a group of drug traffickers, who killed them, incinerated them in the Cocula landfill and put their remains in black bags to be thrown into the San Juan River.

Read the original in Spanish here |

This version of events was designed to conceal the truth, to deflect attention, to whitewash the state institutions and officials involved. It was concocted with testimonies obtained through means of torture and fabrication of evidence, methods that are not uncommon for Tomás Zerón de Lucio (Director of la Agencia de Investigación Criminal, Agency for Criminal Investigations, during the events of the 43), who is now a fugitive in Israel.

The Ayotzinapa case sparked one of the most spirited and inspiring mass movements we have ever seen in the country. Everyone united under the same banner. State institutions and mass media were left discredited. The idea of the need for a profound, revolutionary transformation of society was born in the minds of the masses. That mass struggle, and the dignity with which the parents of the missing students carried themselves throughout all this time, are what keep the cry for justice and the pursuit of truth alive.

The CoVAJ report

AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico's president] promised truth and justice for Ayotzinapa. He has acknowledged that it is one promise that he has failed to keep. Recently, the chair of the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Case (CoVAJ) released a report. The bourgeois media will insist that the contents of this report are the same as those of the Historical Truth, something patently untrue. The version given by CoVAJ is clearly different. The most important point is that there is an official recognition that Ayotzinapa "constitutes a Crime of the State" (CoVAJ Report, p.93).

AMLO Image Presidencia de la RepúblicaMexico's president, AMLO, has admitted that he is yet to fulfill his promise of achieving justice and truth for the Ayotzinapa 43 / Image: Presidencia de la República

This report, in contrast to the Historical Truth, acknowledges the existence of a fifth bus that contained (unbeknownst to the students) money or drugs. The students were dislodged from said bus so that it could leave Guerrero without passengers and head for the state of Morelos. After this, the bus managed to head on its route, as Luis Hernandez Navarro says, "without being stopped, bypassing 16 checkpoints on the perimeter of Iguala at all its exits. Who, if not the Army, could have facilitated an operation of that magnitude?" (La Jornada – “Ayotzinapa, al filo del abismo”).

These same outlets also claim that the new report does not bring anything new to the table. Certainly, it does not come out of the blue, being the result of the collaboration with national and international human rights organisations, with contributions from journalistic inquiries, the intervention of social organisations, statements by survivors, etc. But, by having more sources of information (it is said that 41,168 documents were used, including conversations, videos, chat captures, DEA and army interventions, interviews with those involved, etc.), it does provide new data and opens new lines of investigation.

However, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which is looked upon with high regard, has itself criticised the fact that it has not been given access to all the sources. The parents, while not dismissing this new report a priori, ask that it be scientifically checked and verified by the GIEI.

We quote:

“After the report of the Presidency of the Commision for Truth and the Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa case was presented on the 18th of August of this year, as members of the Group of Independent Experts, we state:

  1. “We only know of the contents of this report because of its release on the 18th of August of 2022, when it was presented to the parents, representatives, and other members of the commission, with the presence of the president of Mexico and the high authorities of the State. The full text was sent to us at 9pm of the 18th of August, 2022.
  2. “Despite the fact that we commend the fact that there have been new revelations brought to light through the efforts of CoVAJ, which has expanded all of its interest and efforts investigation of the case, we must still insist that all of the information must be made available, after it is made available to the parents, of course.
  3. “As the GIEI, many of the methods of verification which we mentioned in our report in March of 2022 have been recovered with the CoVAJ.
  4. “Despite the fact that we have had access to all of the information and results obtained by the Presidential Commision, we lack knowledge of, and we don’t have direct access to, the sources of the screenshots mentioned in page 38 of the report. We also have not yet been able to access the expert’s findings which were applied to the former.
  5. “From the moment of the presentation, we have requested access not only to that which was included in the report, but also all that which has been redacted and all of the sources of that information.”

(Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, Mexico City, August 21st 2022)

According to CoVAJ, after the students left the bus station and got on the buses, they were never reunited. This shows the joint action of different armed state and organised crime forces (something already known), which attacked the students at different times. They held the students at different points to later receive the order to execute and disappear them ("take them by machete").

CoVAJ identifies one of the army infiltrators in the Normalist School at Ayotzinapa, Julio Cesar Lopez Patolzin, who provided regular intelligence to the army about the Normalistas. This young man is one of the 43 disappeared and his high command did nothing (as army protocols indicate) to rescue him.

Furthermore, the report ratifies what the GIEI and a whole series of journalists had already said, that "the federal, state and municipal authorities (Sedena, CISEN, Federal Preventive Police, Guerrero government, State Police, among others), were aware of and following up on the actions of the students during the mobilisations of the Normal de Ayotzinapa and the FECSUM in the lead up to October 2 in Mexico City" (CoVAJ Report, pp. 31 and 32). Far from protecting the students, they were complicit in their repression and disappearance, and subsequently fabricated a false version of the facts in order to cover up for themselves.

The report notes that for five days a group of kidnapped students were kept alive and the army did nothing to rescue them either.

The students were then held up in different groups in different places, they were allegedly killed and their bodies had different fates. According to the report, searches have been carried out where investigations have indicated that the students may be, and DNA was recovered from some of the thousand or so pieces of human remains, with some of the DNA corresponding to two missing students: Joshvani Guerrero de la Cruz and Christian Alfonso Rodriguez Telumbre. Previously, the remains (suspected to have been planted) of Alexander Mora, another of the 43, were found in Cocula. Of the 40 other students, there is not a single trace of scientific evidence of their death.

No truth about the 43

The current students of Ayotzinapa are promoting a full day of struggle, demanding to know where their comrades are. The parents of the normalistas readied themselves for their march, on the 95th month anniversary of the tragic night of Iguala (7 years and 11 months), as they do each 26th day of the month. In this struggle, these poor families have had to struggle in their demand for justice, costing them their health, with some of the parents having passed away without knowing the whereabouts of their children. Now the government says that their children may be dead, but they do not give them their bodies to mourn and bury them.

In Mexico City, they testified on the CoVAJ report:

"The recognition that the events of September 26 are a Crime of the State is significant because it is evidence that various state entities participated in the disappearance of our children and must be investigated and punished.

"Authorities from at least four municipalities surrounding Iguala, as well as federal police and elements of the 27th and 48th infantry battalions, as well as the 35th military zone, all participated. The events in Ayotzinapa were highly elaborate.

"They [the events] unfolded in several locations so it truly constituted an act of aggression of great magnitude and involved the participation of various state corporations and criminal groups that allowed for the control and direction of the criminal and cowardly aggression against our children.

"The whereabouts and fate of our children is not clear, there is preliminary technical evidence that must be studied and analysed under the highest scientific rigour so that it is consolidated and can support the government's assertion. As parents, we need unquestionable scientific proof of the fate of our children. We cannot go home with preliminary indications that do not fully clarify where they are and what happened to them.”  (“Entre el dolor y la esperanza: 8 años de lucha por la verdad” – Tlachinollan | Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña).

Julio Cesar Mondragon – one of the students killed on the night of September 26-27, 2014 – was also flayed. The report refers to the moment in which he was subdued, and subsequent messages between hired killers who allegedly committed the act and were aware of his alias. It also says that only three students caught the attention of the Guerreros Unidos (the organised crime group that aided in the attacks), including Julio Cesar Mondragon.

The family of Julio Cesar Mondragon notes that Encinas' report does not fully clarify who were the culprits in his murder. In a statement they say: "We demand that the Commission's report delve deeper into how it is [that] the killers knew the nickname Julio César Mondragón, and how and why he had been singled out as a priority target for those who killed him." According to family members, the report on Ayotzinapa does not shed light on the case of Julio César Mondragón (Desinformémonos,

Will there be justice?

After the presentation of the report, former Attorney General Murillo Karam, the most public face of the defence of the Historical Truth, was imprisoned and put on trial. A total of 83 arrest warrants have been issued, including for a score of military personnel. But just as Karam was entering jail, Rosario Robles, a former official of the Peña Nieto administration who was allegedly implicated in one of the largest acts of corruption in the history of the country, was leaving jail. During this six-year term, we have seen an endless parade of ex-officials and corrupt businessmen being imprisoned, only to see them released without having served sentences for the crimes they have committed.

The CoVAJ report provides a relevant fact: 26 key witnesses have died during the process, many of them killed. It also shows how the judicial system has acted against justice, even within the limits defined by the bourgeois state. This case was dispatched throughout seven entities of the country, and the judges have been operating at their discretion, interpreting the evidence at their own will, at the expense of justice. For example, those with possible ties to the case have been released without the Public Prosecutor's Office being notified, having refused to provide evidence, or alleging a lack of competence in dealing with the case, etc.

The lawyer for the parents of the 43, Vidulfo Rosales, has pointed out that it is not enough to simply provide them with information for this information to become evidence, and that the army has information that it does not want to ratify in order to protect its legitimacy in the judicial process.

The entire legal apparatus operates against justice and upholds the impunity of criminals; it cannot operate differently, as this modus operandi is in line with the State's self-protection. 

The CoVAJ report states:

"The establishment of the 'Historical Truth' was a deliberate action of the organized machinery of power at the highest level of government, which concealed the truth of the facts. It altered the crime scenes, concealed the links between the authorities and the criminal group as well as the participation of state agents, security forces and officials responsible for the pursuit of justice in the disappearance of the students" (p. 96).

Despite this, no investigation is being considered (as AMLO already said in a morning conference) against former President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) or Salvador Cienfuegos, who was in charge of the Secretariat of National Security (Sedena). This general was briefly detained in the United States for drug trafficking crimes but was released due to negotiations at the highest level between the current Mexican government and the U.S. government.

AMLO's government has been acting differently from Peña Nieto's government, the problem lies in the fact that the army is directly involved in this crime and the current government, so far, has shown no willingness to seriously confront it. Its actions show that it is willing to advance only to the point of not clashing with the military and, it should be added, without attacking the high-level government officials involved, starting with former President EPN. This, in the course of these years, has been noticed by the parents of the 43, in addition to the fact that time goes by without any concrete results for justice. This has led to a growing scepticism and distrust of the current government on the part of the parents of the missing students.

It was (and is) the state’s fault

What is the state? It is an instrument created, ultimately, to protect the interests of the ruling class. The bodies of armed men and the whole legal framework act in favour of big capital and the big state bureaucracy, not in favour of the workers, or to give justice to the thousands of women attacked annually, nor to find those who have disappeared, etc.

AMLO's government is not aiming to build a new state, organised and controlled by the workers, but to reform the old bourgeois state apparatus. Structures like the CoVAJ act as foreign bodies in an organism that fights against them, because they are contrary to its nature.

The CoVAJ Report, moreover, shows how the state (the army in particular) infiltrated the students to counter their struggle. These are counterinsurgent actions that should not be allowed in a public school. Guerrero is a state with a great tradition of struggle and with a history of repression, where the army has been an instrument for the worst crimes, including assassinations of leaders such as Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas; as well as massacres of populations, torture, death flights, rape and much more besides.

State institutions act according to their own logic, and this has not ceased just because the current government is trying to tame them. When AMLO formed another commission, for Access to Truth, Historical Clarification and the Promotion of Justice, for serious human rights violations committed from 1965 to 1990; the leader of the armed forces, Luis Crecencio Sandoval, said:

"Likewise, I am proud to inform you that the President himself has authorized the engraving of the names of military personnel who died in the past on the Monument to the Fallen of the Armed Forces, which is located in the Plaza del Servicio a la Patria, as a tribute and a heartfelt homage to the soldiers who fulfilled their duty even at the cost of their lives."

This is an insult to all those fighters tortured, imprisoned, disappeared and murdered at the hands of the army. There can be no reconciliation without justice, victims and perpetrators cannot be put on the same level.

Journalist Paula Mónaco Felipe, author of the book Ayotzinapa, horas eternas (‘Ayotzinapa, eternal hours’), has said about the current report: "What left a bad taste in my mouth is the very superficial, very insufficiently detailed coverage of the participation of the armed forces".

The fact that there are 20 arrest warrants against the army guarantees nothing. For the top commanders, these soldiers can be sacrificed; they can fall in battle, as was the case for the soldier who disappeared among the 43.

AMLO's government has sought to have the armed forces carry out other tasks, such as attending to health emergencies or building large public works. This is one of the pillars with which AMLO has governed. Although he has not had the policy of using it to repress, it remains intact and not even minimally purged. 

The entire state apparatus has been created for the defence of the current system: its ruling class (capitalists), the high bureaucracy and the military leadership. AMLO has not shown any desire to confront the army, but on the contrary, he positions them as owners of the Tren Maya railway, of the Felipe Angeles airport and wants to incorporate another enormous armed body, the National Guard, under their control. AMLO will leave behind a strengthened state and army, even though their class nature remains unchanged.

It is not 43, it is more than 104,000

If the army had carried out atrocities in Guerrero in the past, now let's add the presence of organised crime. These groups infiltrate political parties, install municipal presidents or subjugate them. They are rooted in the structures of the state, and this is explained in the actions of the night of Iguala. Drug trafficking groups have municipal presidents, deputies, officials and even governors in their pocket. Sectors of the armed forces and, in general, of the state act in their benefit. The cartels intimidate society; a recent case in point is the one in which a monopoly on the sale of chicken was established in cities such as Chilpancingo, imposing high prices in order to obtain more resources. The general population is trapped within the struggle between organised crime groups.

This reactionary environment is in stark contrast to the strong traditions of struggle in Guerrero. Since the mid-1990s the communities established communal policing and achieved its legal recognition, but organised crime (under the vacuum provided by the state) often attacks them. In places where the movement is not so strong, social activists are intimidated and threatened. Not only that, but peasant, community and teacher leaders continue to be assassinated.

In 2014, the rise of the Ayotzinapa movement unified the proletariat (headed by the teachers), with the communal police entrenched in the communities, and the student body of Ayotzinapa. In Tixtla, where the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College is located, the population took control of the municipality, and it was not the only place where we saw this sort of thing. In the midst of the barbarism to which capitalism is leading us, a new society was beginning to be born.

There are now more than 104,500 missing persons in the country. We know that this atmosphere of violence did not begin in this six-year term, it exploded during the government of Felipe Calderón. While under Vicente Fox (2000-2006) there were more than 60,000 intentional homicides, during the six-year term of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) the figure doubled to more than 120,000. Under Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), there were more than 156,000 intentional homicides. But this government, although it may have good intentions, has not stopped this barbarism and in this period it has already surpassed the number of homicides that occurred under Calderon's bloody government.

The state and the system are the problem

The night of Iguala showed us two faces. We saw the putrefaction, the rottenness, and the barbarism to which the capitalist system is leading us. It showed us the ugly face of a criminal state, linked to organised crime. But it also showed us the dignity of the youth and workers of the countryside and the city, the inspiring struggle that acquired a revolutionary colour, and showed embryonically the birth of a future society. 

It is only when the workers of the countryside and the city take power, create a state (in which community policing is rooted in community control, a future state controlled by the workers in embryo) and destroy this rotten system, that we will prevent new Igualas and new disappearances from occurring in Mexico. 

The current government makes reforms, and gives small nods towards justice that, in some way, inspire hope, but it does not change the structures of the state - the same one that disappeared the 43 and continues to hold back justice. Nor does it radically transform the system that keeps society in misery, that decomposes the social fabric and creates the filth upon which organised crime feeds. 

We cannot cure a terminally ill person with an aspirin; we will not save the system by seeking to reform it.

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