Mexican president pushes back after independent panel said armed forces ‘collaborated’ in 2014 disappearances.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has spoken out in defence of the country’s armed forces, days after an independent panel accused them of being complicit in the disappearances of dozens of students nearly a decade ago.
Speaking during a news conference on Thursday, the president – widely known as AMLO – said it was untrue that the Mexican military had hindered an investigation into the disappearances of 43 student teachers in 2014.
“It’s not true the navy and the army aren’t helping,” said the president, who took office in 2018 promising to clear up what has become one of the most notorious human rights cases in Mexico’s history, known as the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa 43.
“If progress has been made, it’s precisely because of the cooperation of the navy and the army.”
He said 115 people have been detained, including two generals and a former top prosecutor, and a “pact of silence” around the crime has been broken, shedding light on events.
“What’s most important now is the search [for the missing youths],” Lopez Obrador added.
But earlier this week, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) said authorities from Mexico’s army, navy, intelligence services and police agencies knew the location of the abducted students, refuting their previous denials.
The panel accused the Mexican security forces of withholding key information, obstructing investigative efforts and using torture to extract false testimonies.
“They all collaborated to make them [the students] disappear,” GIEI member Carlos Beristain said during a news conference on Tuesday before the group’s sixth and final fact-finding report was unveiled.
The students – all of whom attended Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College – had been travelling on buses through the city of Iguala, en route to Mexico City for an annual protest, when they disappeared.
They are all presumed dead, but the remains of only three have been recovered and formally identified.
The parents of the missing students have urged Lopez Obrador to use his power to put more pressure on the military. “The president has to order them to hand over the information,” said Mario Gonzalez, the father of one of the youths.
The Mexico office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights backed the GIEI’s findings and said in a statement it regretted the “armed forces have not provided all the information requested by the GIEI” needed to resolve the case.
Human rights groups also have repeatedly urged the Mexican authorities to ensure a credible investigation is conducted into what happened.
“The Ayotzinapa case has been emblematic of the failings of Mexico’s dysfunctional justice system, where impunity reigns,” Human Rights Watch said in October.
“If that is to change, authorities should do everything in their power to ensure there is an independent, credible investigation.”
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