Mexico City, Jan 20 (EFE).- Mexico’s army chief pledged Wednesday to cooperate with authorities after new leaks of testimony by a protected witness alleging military involvement in the notorious Ayotzinapa mass abduction, a 2014 incident in which 43 students at a rural teachers college in the southern state of Guerrero went missing in a night of violence.
“In all that pertains to what’s coming to light about Ayotzinapa, we’re providing information. We have the obligation to do so,” Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said.
The general made his remarks after leaks of testimony by “Juan,” a protected witness and suspected leader of the Guerreros Unidos cartel who participated in the disappearance of the 43 trainee teachers on Sept. 26, 2014, in the southern city of Iguala.
The witness said soldiers took part in a joint operation with police and Guerreros Unidos hitmen to detain the students and 30 other people at the 27th Infantry Battalion in Iguala and later handed them over to cartel members.
They were never seen again and are presumed dead.
The leaked document that contained the witness testimony and was in the possession of the federal Attorney General’s Office was published in the Reforma newspaper.
The information was similar to revelations published last July by Proceso magazine, which cited witness testimony in asserting that corrupt members of the security forces, including army soldiers, actively participated in the disappearance of the trainee teachers.
After acknowledging the leak, the Government Secretariat (interior ministry) announced the filing of a criminal complaint with the AG’s office’s specialized unit for the investigation of crimes committed by public servants.
“These types of leaks aim to discredit the work carried out to investigate the Ayotzinapa case, the credibility of the institutions taking part in the probe and put at risk (efforts to ascertain) the truth about what happened,” said the secretariat, which is overseeing an Ayotzinapa truth commission.
On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural, all-male teacher training college known for its leftist activism, were attacked in Iguala after they had commandeered buses to travel to Mexico City for a protest.
Six people – including three students – were killed, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and are presumed dead.
The administration of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto concluded in early 2015 that the students had been killed by Guerreros Unidos members after being abducted by municipal cops acting on the orders of Iguala’s corrupt mayor, and that their bodies were incinerated at a waste dump in the nearby town of Cocula.
Peña Nieto insisted that the federal security forces were not involved in the crime.
But the parents of the missing students rejected the official account from the start and a group of international experts who examined the case pointed to numerous problems with authorities’ version of events.
The testimony of this latest protected witness marks a key development in the case because it directly implicates soldiers in the crimes.
The army chief acknowledged that allegations have been made against members of that military branch but said the armed forces do not investigate these types of crimes because they fall outside military jurisdiction.
“The relevant authorities for these types of crimes are the ones who investigate, and we are the ones” who facilitate their work, Sandoval said.
Last week, Mexico’s AG’s office exonerated Salvador Cienfuegos, defense secretary during the 2012-2018 tenure of former President Enrique Peña Nieto, of the drug trafficking charges leveled against him by authorities in the United States.
Cienfuegos was arrested on Oct. 15 in Los Angeles but was repatriated to Mexico a month later following complaints by the Mexican government.
The AG’s action angered activists and family members of the Ayotzinapa victims, who have called for Cienfuegos to be investigated over the mass abduction given that he headed up the armed forces at the time that crime occurred.