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Leak details new horrors of Ayotzinapa massacre ahead of eighth anniversary

The leaked information appeared to shine a new light on an investigation that has been shrouded in secrecy for years, but families of the victims denounced its publication, as well as the government’s continued failure to find answers.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — Details from a leaked uncensored government report published Saturday reveal a harrowing new account of the 2014 Ayotzinapa massacre that resulted in the murders and disappearances of 43 students from a teachers’ college in rural Guerrero.

The national newspaper Reforma published information that was redacted from the official report presented by the federal Commission for the Truth and Access to Justice of the Ayotzinapa Case (CoVAJ) in August. 

Monday marks the eighth anniversary of the mass kidnapping and massacre that took place on Sept. 26-27, 2014. 

The leaked report coincides with the publicly stated conclusion of the CoVAJ investigation that the so-called “historical truth” presented by former Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam was a fabrication concocted at the highest levels of the federal government. 

Karam was arrested in August and indicted on charges of torture, enforced disappearance and crimes against the administration of justice. 

A federal judge Thursday suspended Karam’s indictment, but the action only buys him time to carry out a complementary investigation, according to security analyst David Saucedo. 

“There is no reason for him to go free,” Saucedo told Courthouse News.

FILE - Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam gives a news conference in Mexico City, Dec. 7, 2014. The Mexican Attorney General's Office reported on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, it has detained Murillo Karam, who was in charge of the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 student teachers that occurred in southern Mexico in 2014. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

The “historical truth” claimed that remains of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college were burned and therefore unidentifiable. WhatsApp and text messages from the leaked report — allegedly between between government officials, military officers and members of organized crime — reveal that the majority of the students were murdered, dismembered and their remains buried the night of the massacre.

The bodies were divided up among various groups belonging to the criminal organization Guerreros Unidos, each of which disposed of the remains whichever way they could, the report declares. 

One of the groups allegedly wanted to dissolve the remains of 10 of the students in acid, but only had enough to do so with five of them. The others were hacked to pieces with machetes and buried. 

Six of the students were still alive as the sun began to rise the following day. They were murdered on the order of General José Rodríguez Pérez, confirming the CoVAJ claim that the massacre was a crime of the state. 

A Mexican army colonel at the time of the murders, Rodríguez was arrested earlier this month, becoming the highest-ranking official of the armed forces to be detained in the case. 

The leaked report includes text messages said to be from José Luis Abarca, then mayor of Iguala, Guerrero — where the events occurred — to his contacts in the army. They state that former President Enrique Peña Nieto had requested that Abarca take a leave of absence and disappear in the wake of the massacre. 

Abarca said that Tomás Zerón, head of the now defunct Criminal Investigation Agency, came to him at the behest of Peña Nieto and offered to help him flee the country if he were to assume responsibility for the murders. 

Six-year-old Alexander Morra Figueroa Nuñez protests in army fatigues and a sign that reads, "It was the state," at the march for the victims of the Ayotzinapa massacre on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

A text allegedly from Abarca’s daughter to a friend read: “The peasants angered my dad. He told them to get the merchandise back and kill them all. I’ve never seen my dad so upset.”

Abarca was arrested on kidnapping charges on Nov. 5, 2014, but a federal judge acquitted him and 19 others allegedly involved in the case earlier this month citing lack of evidence. But he and his wife still face charges of homicide and organized crime and have not been released.

Wanted on charges of torture, enforced disappearance and crimes against the administration of justice, Zerón is currently a fugitive in Israel, a country with no extradition agreement with Mexico. 

Other chats from the leak show that on Sept. 29, 2014, members of organized crime began to disinter the remains of the students to move them to a military base in Iguala. They reportedly continued moving bodies there well into November of that year. 

Relatives of the victims denounced the leak on Saturday, saying in a statement issued by the human rights organization Centro Prodh that it “revictimizes the families” by releasing information to the public that has yet to be verified by an independent group of experts convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

Despite their rebuke of the leak’s publication, the families said that “the authorities who act irresponsibly to create confusion and pain should be investigated, not the press.”

Rather than taking their demands seriously, the current government is merely looking to get revenge on previous administrations, according to Melitón Ortega, the group’s spokesperson and uncle of one of the 43 murdered students.

Current students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers' college chant as they march during their monthly protest on Aug. 26, 2022. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

“There is clearly no intention to advance the investigation, just like in the last administration,” Ortega told Courthouse News. “They just create more uncertainty for the families. It appears that there’s no transparency in the current government. The actions it is taking are insufficient to show us that it is working to solve this. It is putting in the minimum effort, and it’s not enough.”

For his part, CoVAJ chairman Alejandro Encinas also denounced the leak on Twitter Saturday, calling it “absolutely irresponsible and disrespectful to the fathers and mothers of the disappeared students… This type of leak, far from helping the investigation, is detrimental to it and opens the door to impunity.”

Of the 83 arrest warrants issued along with the CoVAJ report, only four have been executed, and the newspaper El País reported Sunday that the federal attorney general's office cancelled 21 of those warrants.

The leak topped off a restless week in Mexico City ahead of the eighth anniversary of the massacre. A protest Thursday turned violent after current students of the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college clashed with security officials outside of the attorney general’s office, throwing explosive devices that injured over a dozen officers. A protest outside of a military base in Mexico City resulted in similar violence Friday. 

Known as normalistas, the Ayotzinapa students also demonstrated outside Israel’s embassy in Mexico City on Wednesday, claiming that the country is protecting Zerón. They broke security cameras and graffitied the façade of the embassy.

City officials expect as many as 1,500 protesters Monday afternoon, as the victims’ families and normalistas plan to lead a march to demand justice in the case. 

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