Ayotzinapa – The Truth is No Longer Out There
The government must wish it had never allowed a group of international experts to solve the mystery of the disappearance and probable murder of 43 student teachers one tragic, violent night in 2014. Something Mexican investigators have been unable to do convincingly.
Locked in its version that the students were murdered that night by cartel thugs, it was hoping an outside investigation would give its conclusions the credibility they lacked.
It was the latest in a series of unfortunate mistakes that began with the government’s initial response that this was a local affair and not its business. This made it President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Hurricane Katrina; he was absent when he should have been present.
The consequences included delays in getting federal investigators to the scene, leading to sloppy and unusable forensic evidence; and a sense the government was trying to cover up a massacre.
It made the deaths the fault of the president, when in all likelihood they were just his responsibility.
And so again this week criticism rained down on the government. This time from an invited panel which had initially been given access to all the files. Unsurprisingly they uncovered torture of witnesses, faulty procedures and hints of possible military involvement.
A government in cover-up mode would not have opened its books like that, but officials failed to see the obvious consequences. The torture, especially, was always going to come to light.
After all the drama of the past week, including a scathing article in the New York Times, the problem remains that there is no truth out there. So this column will take a stab at some best guess answers to the following three fundamental questions as an antidote to some of the more fantastical theorizing around what has become a fully politicized international drama.
- Were the students killed?
Yes – or we would have heard from them by now. It is hard to come up with a reasonable theory as to why they would still be in hiding and too many people have confessed to participating in their abduction and murder.
- Why were they killed?
Fundamentally because the state of Guerrero is impoverished, backward and violent. Here the state and municipal authorities collude with the cartels, for motives of greed and fear, hampering efforts to drag the population out of its misery. The local mayor of Igualá was known locally to have family ties to organized crime and yet he was easily elected. The students were seen as a threat to the local hegemony that night, and brutal and brutalized men killed them on the orders of modern day barbarians.
Witness statements indicate some of the students were thought to be in league with a rival cartel and using the buses to infiltrate the town in a carefully planned raid. There is no concrete evidence that this is true but it is the most rational explanation presented so far.
- Were the army or the federal police complicit in the killings?
There is no convincing evidence that there was any direct involvement by federal security forces, although some local elements may have aided in the capture according to witness statements.
At night it is hard to tell who is a federal policeman, a soldier or a cartel gunman as they all dress in the same tactical gear and some witnesses may have confused one with the other.
It is likely they knew something was happening although in the fog of war in the middle of the night, they probably did not realize what was really happening until it was too late. Even if they intercepted communications, they could have sounded like a battle in the countryside between rival cartels not an attack on innocent civilians.
It is all probably, probably, probably. At this point it is unlikely we will ever know the truth. The incident has become so politicized and dramatized that even if someone comes out and tells the truth, it is unlikely they will be believed.