Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto placed himself directly in the line of fire on Thursday by agreeing to meet for the first time angry family members of the 43 teaching students who were reportedly massacred one year ago following a protest in Iguala, Guerrero state.
The families, who had made the journey to Mexico City from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero, where the students attended a rural teaching college, demanded that the government appoint a special investigative unit with international monitors so that the fate of the 43 youngsters who disappeared on September 26, 2014 can finally be determined.
Together we will search for the truth because we are on the same side” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
“We are not going to shelve this, the case is still open,” Peña Nieto told the families. “Together we will search for the truth because we are on the same side.”
The Mexican government has come under fire after the Attorney General’s Office (PRG) concluded in January that the students were arrested by corrupt police officers in Iguala and handed over to a drug cartel hit man who later admitted that he had them executed at a trash dump and burnt their remains.
A team of international forensic experts has only been able to identify two of the victims from the remains that the arrested hit man said were dumped into a nearby river.
The families and some human rights activists believe that the Mexican military, which has a strong presence in Guerrero state, was involved in the death of the students. Adding to the mystery, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a recent report that concluded that the bus in which the students were traveling from Ayotzinapa to Iguala, a town around 250 miles away, may have contained a hidden heroin shipment of which they were unaware.
The students’ final destination was Mexico City where they had planned on taking part in an event to commemorate the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre.
Peña Nieto did not commit himself to creating a special investigative unit, but said all recommendations that the families have submitted would be examined carefully. He did offer to bring in a group of international experts to review the findings in order to try to assure the families that he was on their side.
“No father, mother, son or brother should suffer the way you have suffered,” Peña Nieto told them during the three-hour meeting at Los Pinos Presidential Palace.
Later, the families gathered in Mexico City’s main Zócolo square where they vowed to continue the search for their children and put more pressure on the government.
No commitment, not a single solution was given to us” Father of one missing student
“No commitment, not a single solution was given to us,” said one father. “They didn’t even admit to their mistakes.”
Meanwhile, as the one-year anniversary of the tragedy approaches on Saturday, security forces are on high alert in Guerrero. Over the past few days, several clashes have taken place between students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College and riot police.
For many in Guerrero, the case is far from being resolved.
English version by Martin Delfín.