Crime & Justice

The forgotten victims of Ayotzinapa

By Ines Amarelo

Tixtla, Mexico, Sep 24 (EFE).- Bertha Nava has spent the last eight years pursuing justice for her son, one of the victims of the assault on students from Ayotzinapa Normal School, a teacher’s college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

But while the plight of the 43 students abducted – and presumably murdered – remains a scandal in Mexico and beyond, the stories of Julio Cesar Ramirez Nava and the five other people killed outright on the night of Sept. 26, 2014, have received little attention.

“What good does it do me to know where my son is buried? Is he going to come out of that tomb and tell me, ‘mama, I’m here, stop crying, I am with you,'” Bertha says in an interview with Efe at the home in Tixtla, Guerrero, she shares with her daughter and granddaughter.

With remarkable stoicism, she talks about her memories of that fateful night eight years ago.

“As parents we can’t forget, because we are missing them in our homes, at our tables, in our lives,” she says, sitting in the garden next to a poster with the faces of Julio Cesar and two of his classmates. “My other three children are my children, but I’m missing that little piece of my heart that they took from me.”

Bertha’s last conversation with Julio Cesar took place at 11:45 pm on Sept. 26, when he called to tell her that he was in the town of Iguala as part of a group of Ayotzinapa students who commandeered buses to travel to Mexico City for a protest – a traditional practice at a school with a history of leftist activism.

Fred Sabino de la Cruz Santana, a student who survived the attack, told Efe that a police car cut off one of the buses and the driver fled.

“We got off to try to push the car to be able to continue, but we didn’t notice that more police were coming,” he said.

The police started shooting, wounding Aldo Gutierrez Solano, who remains in a coma, and puncturing one of the bus’ tires, Sabino said.

Within minutes, Sabino said, two gunmen in a pick-up truck fatally shot Julio Cesar Ramirez Nava and Daniel Solis Gallardo. The mutilated body of their friend and classmate Cesar Mondragon Fontes appeared later on a street in Iguala.

Sabino and the other students ran from the scene, finding shelter under vehicles and people’s homes.

Another survivor of that night is Francisco Echeverria de Jesus, who was shot in the leg. His brother, Gabriel Echeverria de Jesus, was killed by police in December 2012 during a protest on a highway leading to the resort city of Acapulco.

Francisco remembers a conversation between Gabriel and their mother a few days before his death.

“He told her, “mama, you know that I don’t know what can happen. I might return or I might not. But if I don’t return, we will see each other in the other world,” Francisco recounts.

Nobody has been convicted for the Ayotzinapa massacre, but the Mexican government announced last week that three military officers, including army Gen. Jose Rodriguez Perez, were detained in connection with the crime.

Those arrests followed the Aug. 18 release of a truth commission report that deemed the mass abduction and murder a “state crime” involving local, state and federal officials.

Mexico’s president, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, appointed that commission.

He also had rejected the findings of predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, which in 2015 blamed the disappearances on a local drug gang, Iguala municipal cops and that city’s corrupt mayor and said the missing students’ bodies had been incinerated at a dump in the nearby town of Cocula, an account discredited by a team of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

EFE ia/dr

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