U.S. Sends Mexico Information For Probe Into 2014 Disappearances

On 24 May, the United States sent files to Mexico’s government in relation to the investigation of the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping, and massacre of 43 students training to be teachers. Trainees from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were kidnapped by police suspected of corruption and working with a drug gang. While the human rights commission in charge of investigating the case furthers their analysis, they requested that the U.S. government provide files containing relevant information about the kidnapping.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris for help, expressing “I want to take this opportunity to thank her because she has already sent me part of the file … and they are about to send us the rest this week.” On 26 September, in the rural southern Mexico city of Iguala, students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College commandeered some buses to participate in a demonstration. However, 43 of them went missing along the way, presumably abducted and killed by corrupt local police officials with ties to drug gangs. To date, only the remains of two students have been definitively identified, and sitting President Lopez Obrador has pledged to advance the case in an effort to crack down on local corruption.

The official version of the course of events reports that the Mexican government, army, and federal police were not a part of the planned kidnapping, and were only notified a few hours afterwards. However, after four years of investigative research, Mexican investigative journalist, Anabel Hernandez refutes the official statements and uncovers another version of the truth. Hernandez asserts that not only were the Army and Federal Police notified, there are also reports of the army and federal police chasing after the students hours before the attack. When the students arrived at the bus station to go to the protest, only two of the five buses were targeted. These two buses, in particular, were carrying two million dollars’ worth of heroin, but the students didn’t know it. As Hernandez puts it, they were victims of circumstance. 

Someone who witnessed the disappearance also testified to the soldiers’ involvement. The witness, known as “Juan,” claims that they detained and questioned the students before handing them to a drug gang. According to the Reforma, Juan said members of the Guerreros Unidos gang cut up some students with machetes and took their remains to a crematorium that they controlled, and dissolved others in acid. 

Seven years later, the case has not been resolved. Despite the ambiguity in the course of actions, it remains clear that this tragedy is connected to Mexico’s ineffective and corrupt democratic institutions. As Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. puts it: “Iguala is just one example of the level of decay in state and municipal security institutions.” Cooperation between the U.S and Mexico indicates the former’s support for meaningful changes, including immediate nationwide police, drug trafficking, and justice reform.