Witness testimony given to Mexico’s human rights agency has implicated federal police in the 2014 disappearance of 43 student protestors from Iguala, opening a new line of inquiry in a landmark case that has yielded few clear answers.
In an April 14 press release (pdf), Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos – CNDH) announced the possible participation of two federal police officers in the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Iguala, in the southwestern state of Guerrero.
The information comes from testimony the CNDH received from a protected witness about events at the Chipote Bridge the night the students disappeared.
According to the testimony, Iguala municipal police stopped the number 1531 Estrella de Oro bus — one of three buses carrying student protestors — under the bridge, forced the 15 to 20 students onboard to disembark, and handcuffed them. (See video below) One officer commented the students would not all fit in the police cruisers, but was told not to worry, “Those from Huitzuco are coming,” the witness said.
The police had allegedly called for backup from the neighboring municipality of Huitzuco de los Figueroa, and three additional police patrols soon arrived.
As the detained students were being loaded into police vehicles, the witness told CNDH that two federal police officers arrived on the scene and asked what was going on.
“They [the students] were fucking with a partner back there,” a municipal officer explained. “They’ll be taken to Huitzuco where El Patrón [the boss] will decide what to do with them.”
The federal police allegedly made no attempt to intervene, and the students were subsequently driven away, never to be seen alive again.
The head of the CNDH’s Iguala investigation, José Larrieta Carrasco, told the media the new evidence suggests federal police allowed the abduction to happen and may have even been active participants. It also indicates they were aware of criminal activities by Iguala and Huitzuco municipal police and knew the individual identified as El Patrón, Larrieta affirmed.
In light of this new witness testimony, the CNDH has called for renewed investigations into events at the bridge, including into where the students were taken and why the presence of federal police was not previously divulged.
InSight Crime Analysis
Nonetheless, the witness testimony suggests the Guerreros Unidos — the local criminal group held responsible for the students’ disappearance — had a stronger presence than previously thought, and an influence with officials that went beyond the Iguala and Cocula municipal police — whose role in detaining and handing over the students to the Guerreros Unidos has previously been reported.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Guerreros Unidos
For the time-being, however, the CNDH’s findings are likely to stoke the anger of a Mexican public frustrated over the government’s perceived incompetence or willful lack of effort in handling the case. It also strikes another blow to the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval rating recently fell to 30 percent, a record low.