Ayotzinapa, Mexico, Sep 25 (EFE).- The government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had acknowledged for the first time that the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa was a “state crime” and, in recent weeks, authorities have arrested former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who stands accused of torture, and four military officers in connection with the case.
On Aug. 18, the deputy secretary for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, at a press conference presented the latest report on the case prepared by the Committee for Truth and Access to Justice, in which – aside from admitting that the disappearance of the students was a state crime – the committee provides details showing that government and military officials at all levels were involved in the matter.
In addition, the report confirmed that a soldier, Julio Cesar Lopez Patolzin, was infiltrated into the Ayotzinapa school and allegedly helped locate the students, although he ended up disappearing with 42 others.
“It’s very relevant that the state acknowledges, on the one hand, that there was state responsibility in the disappearances, which involved not only a group of local police in collusion with a small organized criminal group,” Maria Luis Aguilar, with the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh), told EFE in an interview.
She said that the report acknowledges the collusion of the three levels of state authority – namely, “the state (level), the federal (level) and including military personnel.”
Another matter dealt with in the report but “not so visible,” she said, are the obstacles that have been erected by the armed forces to hide the truth, given that it took three years to provide information related to the case to the investigation despite the fact that Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, had signed a decree ordering all institutions to turn over the documents.
In the days following the publication of the report, she said that more than 80 arrest warrants had been issued, including 20 for soldiers serving in units in the city of Iguala, where the students disappeared. However, to date only four officers have been arrested.
This, both for the relatives of the victims as well as for civil society and student organizations, has given rise to a situation of uncertainty and hope, given that, although these groups feel that it’s a positive step for the state to acknowledge the involvement of the military in the tragic case, they say they don’t understand why the arrests are going so slowly.
“We can’t say we’re celebrating, rather we are concerned (over the pace),” Vidulfo Rosales, an attorney for the families of the 43 missing students, told EFE in an interview.
“They made public the arrest warrants on Aug. 28 and 29, and at the same time they made public that they notified the National Defense Secretariat of these warrants. Starting with this, the secretariat had the duty to bring those people before the bodies that were requiring (their presence),” he added.
So far, Gen. Jose Rodriguez Perez, Capt. Jose Martinez Crespo, Sgt. Eduardo Mota Esquivel and 2nd Lt. Fabian Alejandro Pirita Ochoa have been arrested.
“In that sense, a still cautious balance sheet can be made of what’s been done so far (in terms of arrests) but there’s also concern about some things that have (only) been glimpsed,” Aguilar said.
She insisted on the importance of ensuring that the accusations of the arrested men are solid so that the case doesn’t crumble.
Meanwhile, the acceptance of the report on the participation of the armed forces in the Ayotzinapa case comes after multiple family and human rights organizations have been claiming that the military was involved.
“We knew it from the start but society didn’t want to believe us. We’re demanding that all the arrest warrants be carried out,” Blanza Luz Nava, the mother of Jorge Alvarez Nava, one of the missing students, said last week at a rally in Chilpancingo, in Guerrero state.
The fight, which has been ongoing since 2014 by fellow students and relatives to find out what happened to their colleagues and loved ones, has gathered steam against the soldiers. Last week, students in Chilpancingo and in Iguala burned two trucks at the gates of the military bases where the implicated soldiers are stationed.
“There are a lot of people who harbor a certain unease over the radical activities that have been undertaken, but these activities have a purpose, radical actions are being taken to place pressure on the government and they’re being done at the military units’ (location) because they are the ones who are involved in the disappearances,” Ayotzinapa student Alexander Salazar told EFE.
In recent weeks, debate in Mexico has revolved around the incorporation of the National Guard into the National Defense Secretariat and also the increase in involvement of the armed forces in public security duties, something that civil organizations, the political opposition and experts characterize as militarization of the country.
According to Aguilar, the increasing militarization of Mexico runs counter to the acknowledgment by the government of the participation of the military in the Ayotzinapa case, since in the eight years since the incident the armed forces have been opaque about their involvement and the Attorney General’s Office has noted that there is a lack of government control over the actions of the military.
“I believe that what we in the human rights organizations have been complaining about for many years regarding the participation of the armed forces in these security tasks doesn’t take into account that it’s a successful strategy,” Aguilar said.