One year later, disappearance of 43 students haunts Mexico

On September 26, 2014, 43 students disappeared from a Mexican city called Iguala. A full year later, protesters marched in Mexico, demanding the answers about the crime that they still have not received.

The students all came from a teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa, a small town in the Mexican state of Guerrero. They were among a larger group that was ambushed by armed men during a protest in Iguala. When the ensuing shootout was over, at least six people were dead and 43 people were missing.

Ever since then, the case has lingered as a symbol of corruption and impunity in Mexico, where at least 25,000 people have been disappeared since 2007 alone. The phrase “Fue el estado”—”It was the state”—has become commonplace across the country, a reflection of the universal belief that government officials were involved in the disappearance.

Graffiti in Mexico City.Photo: Jack Mirkinson

Graffiti in Mexico City.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s handling of the investigation has been widely maligned. The Mexican government initially concluded that the students had been the victims of a mass execution by a drug gang, which then burned the bodies. The government also said that local police had collaborated with the gangs to target the students. Later, the mayor of Iguala, who was known to have links to drug cartels, was arrested in connection with the case.

Earlier this month, however, a panel of international experts flatly rejected the government’s account. The experts concluded that the physical evidence contradicted the official story of how the students’ bodies were burned, and that federal police were also complicit in the attack. That report echoes earlier accounts which also alleged a wider federal participation in the crime and claimed that authorities had extracted confessions using torture.

A year later, there are still no clear answers for why the students were targeted. Anger at Peña Nieto remains. On Saturday, thousands took to the streets of Mexico to register their continued outrage.