Identification of Missing Student’s Remains Doesn’t Help Mexico Govt

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Forensic experts have identified the remains of another missing student among the 43 who disappeared in Iguala, Mexico in 2014, but this development does little to support the government’s version of what happened.

A team at an Austrian university has identified the remains of 21-year-old Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, according to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (known in Spanish as the PGR). 

His remains were reportedly collected by a PGR forensic team near a trash dump in Guerrero state, where, according to the Mexican government, criminal group the Guerreros Unidos executed the 43 missing students, burned the remains, and dumped the ashes in a nearby river. 

However, a recent report backed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asserted that there was not enough evidence that this actually happened. 

In a press release, the Austrian forensic team said that they’d received 17 “severely burned samples” from the Mexican government in November 2014. They identified one of these samples as belonging to the body of 21-year-old Alejandro Mora Venancio in December of that year. Until now, none of the other samples have yet been identified, although the Austrians have determined that some do not contain human DNA, the press statement said. 

The students disappeared after police attacked a group of protesting students in Iguala, Guerrero. The government’s handling of the investigation into the disappearance — as well as subsequent revelations about the amount of corruption among local officials — became a major scandal for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Under ordinary circumstances, the identification of Guerrero de la Cruz’s remains would back up the government’s version of events. However, some have questioned whether the samples sent to the Austrians for analysis were actually recovered in the trash dump in the first place, as the government has said.

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As the Associated Press reports, a team of Argentine forensic experts have told families of the missing students that they cannot confirm whether the identified remains actually came from this site. Additionally, Mexico previously faced criticism that there were no foreign forensic teams present when the PGR team recovered the 17 samples that were sent to Austria.

Giving the gaping holes and inconsistencies in the official Iguala investigation, the government’s credibility problem has only grown worse. The PGR has said they will follow advice included in the IACHR report, and form a new forensic team to re-examine the case. Arguably, this is not going far enough if this team does nothing more than a hasty investigation that backs up the government’s original theory.

The government needs to follow the IACHR’s recommendations that they open up new lines of investigation, and explore other theories for what may have happened to the students. Per the report’s suggestions, this should include addressing rumors that instead of being burned at the trash dump — where there is no evidence that a fire hot enough to eliminate the bodies took place — the students were burned elsewhere in the area, such as at a crematorium controlled by the military

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