A journalistic investigation casts serious doubts on the official version of the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, alleging that federal police participated in the attacks and that suspects were tortured before confessing.
According to an investigation conducted by Mexican magazine Proceso, which was based on official documents, videos, and witness testimonies, the September attacks on the students in Guerrero, Mexico were carried out by the federal police with either the complicity or collaboration of the army.
An unedited report compiled by the government of Guerrero revealed that federal and state security forces were monitoring the students from the moment they left their teacher's college, reported Proceso. The report also showed that the shootings targeting the students were reported to Mexico's Center of Control, Command, Communications and Computation (C4), which both the federal police and the military have access to.
Videos taken by students from the teacher's college (see below) provide additional context about what may have happened that night. In one video, a student says, "The police are leaving…the federal police are staying and they are going to want to hassle us."
The documents obtained by Proceso also provide evidence that the witnesses whose accounts of the attacks led to the official version of events were tortured prior to giving their testimony. According to the lead reporter in the investigation, the documents list physical signs that the witnesses had been beaten and abused, and indicate that in at least five cases, testimonies were obtained using torture.
InSight Crime Analysis
The findings of Proceso's investigation undermine the official version of the attacks presented by President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration. According to the Mexican government's account, local police following orders from the mayor of Iguala attacked the students and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos criminal group, who killed them and burned their bodies.
Evidence that the testimony supporting this account was obtained using torture detracts from the credibility of this version of events. Given the federal police's alleged participation in the attacks, it is possible that they coerced witnesses into giving an account of the disappearances that did not involve federal security forces.
This certainly wouldn't be the first time Mexican police and military have been accused of torture. According to Amnesty International, 1,505 cases of torture or abuse perpetrated by security forces were reported in 2013, up nearly 600 percent from 2003. Similarly, military deployments to fight crime in Mexico have coincided with increases in reports of human rights violations.
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In addition to casting doubts on the official version of events, Proceso's investigation also raises the disturbing possibility that what initially appeared to be a welcome degree of openness about the investigation on the part of Mexican authorities might have actually been part of an elaborate cover-up.
The full degree of federal complicity in the disappearance of the students has yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain: if the federal police were involved in the attacks, Peña Nieto's new police reform proposals will not be enough to improve Mexico's security.
Click through the timeline below to review all the major developments in the disappearance of the 43 Guerrero students, and the resulting fallout.