There’s no evidence to support the official hypothesis that the bodies of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Mexico were burned in a landfill near the town of Cocula, Guerrero state, according to Argentine forensic experts, who announced the findings Tuesday after months of investigation into the students’ disappearance..
“The multidisciplinary probe of biological and nonbiological evidence recovered in the Cocula landfill and the additional information gathered do not back up the hypothesis that there was a fire on the morning of September 27, 2014, of the required magnitude and duration that would’ve resulted in the massive incineration of the 43 missing students,” the forensic team said in its report.
The finding contradicts the Mexican authorities’ version. Jesús Murillo Karam, who was the attorney general when the students disappeared, said in November 2014 that the young men were abducted on orders of a local mayor, turned over to a gang that killed them, burned their bodies in a landfill and tossed the remains into a nearby river.
The 43 students went missing in the city of Iguala the night of September 26 when they were on their way to raise money for their activities. They were all students at a rural teachers’ college in the town of Ayotzinapa, also in Guerrero state.
Mexican authorities, witnesses and surviving students have said the students were attacked and abducted by corrupt police officers. But their whereabouts remain unknown nearly 17 months after their disappearance.
Forensic experts have been able to identify the remains of only one student, Alexander Mora Venancio, who was 19 at the time of his death. He was identified using a bone fragment found inside a trash bag in a river near the landfill where Mexican officials say the other students’ bodies were incinerated.
Mario González, father of one of the missing students, said he’s not surprised about the forensic experts’ findings.
“The report reiterates what we [the parents of the missing] have always said, what we already knew. Many people called us fools and crazy. But some of my fellow parents had already gone to the landfill and said that it wasn’t possible, that there was never a fire [at the landfill],” González said.
Mexican officials have talked about the possibility of reopening the case and conducting what would be a third forensic investigation at the landfill.
Melitón Ortega, whose son is one of the missing, said the group of parents see no need for another forensic investigation at the landfill.
“It’s just another attempt to create a distraction,” Ortega said. “The government is again trying to deceive the people and the parents of the missing. They have been staging this deception campaign, a campaign of lies, a campaign that has made us parents suffer a lot.”
Another group of forensic experts reached similar conclusions in September. The experts commissioned by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission also concluded that there is no evidence to support the Mexican government’s claim that 43 students who went missing last year were burned at a landfill.
After the new report’s release, Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez said Sunday that Mexico would launch a new investigation at the landfill site.
“We will request a new investigation led by a group composed of forensic investigators of the highest prestige,” she said, adding that the report was conducted at the request of Mexican officials seeking help on the case.
But she also pointed out that another key aspect of the Mexican government’s investigation was confirmed by the independent report: the involvement of corrupt local police and the mayor in the students’ disappearance.
The parents have said from the beginning that they do not trust the Mexican government. They have staged protests and marches. They have also blocked roads to demand a transparent investigation.
Most parents of the missing believe their children are alive. “They took them alive and we want them alive,” they often chant at protests.