Detail from the crime scene at Tlatlaya

Mexico's Attorney General's Office is seeking to bring new charges against soldiers implicated in the June 2014 massacre of almost two dozen people after a judge recently released the remaining three suspects in the case due to lack of evidence. 

In a May 14 press release, the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República - PGR) said it "will provide evidence" against the freed soldiers "so that they will be re-apprehended and formally processed." The PGR announced late last week that a judge from a civilian court in Mexico State had ordered the soldiers' release because of insufficient evidence against them. 

The soldiers were charged with homicide and tampering with the crime scene in relation to the June 2014 killing of 22 people in a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya, in a remote area west of Mexico City.

The army initially said the deaths were the result of a shootout after gang suspects opened fire on soldiers. But Associated Press reporter Mark Stevenson went to the scene and published a story that contrasted sharply with the official version of events. In October 2014, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission determined the soldiers had summarily executed up to 15 of the victims.

16-05-16TlatlayaGraphicDA

InSight Crime Analysis

If the promised push to revitalize the case produces similar results as previous efforts, prosecutors will walk away empty-handed from what many believe is one of the most flagrant examples of human rights abuses by Mexico's military in recent years. Three soldiers and a lieutenant were already absolved of their involvement in the massacre in October 2015, also due to a ruling of lack of evidence. A military tribunal acquitted all seven soldiers earlier this year, although a commanding officer served a one-year prison term for disobeying orders.

The ruling is yet another blow to the credibility of judicial authorities in Mexico, which have been harshly criticized for fumbling and even obstructing the investigation into 43 students who went missing in the Pacific state of Guerrero in 2014. The disappearances quickly drew international attention, but following lengthy investigations by first the PGR and then by international experts, the case remains shrouded in uncertainty.  

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Widespread impunity for crimes -- especially those committed by military officials -- is nothing new in Mexico. Some observers, however, question whether these high-profile cases involve a more sinister element than just prosecutorial clumsiness.

"Given the well documented evidence that soldiers executed civilians in Tlatlaya, the fact that no one has been held responsible for those crimes suggests the same kind of gross incompetence, or even coverup, that has been shown in the case of the (43 students who went missing from) Ayotzinapa on the part of judicial authorities," Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch in Latin America, told the AFP.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...