The True “Historical Truth” of
the Crime of Iguala:
Yes, It Was the State. Now What?
One of the victims of the massacre in Iguala, Guerrero, 26 September 2014.
Much has been written about the fateful Night of Iguala of September 26, when the police of that municipality kidnapped 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Teachers College and murdered in cold blood: three students, an adolescent of a football team, the driver of the bus in which the sports team was traveling and a woman in a taxi. The face of one of the students, Julio César Mondragón, was skinned in a grotesque “message” from the murderers. DNA tests on some of the charred human remains supposedly found in the San Juan River were identified as those of Alexander Mora Venancio, a 21-year-old student from the town of Tecoanapa. Of the remaining 42 there is not a trace.
Accounts of the events from the authorities, on the other hand, abound. Almost immediately, the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, were almost immediately singled out as those immediately responsible for the horrifying events. It was leaked to the press that the “imperial couple” gave instructions to the police to “get rid of” the students because they supposedly feared that the normalistas (teachers college students) were out to disturb the celebration of the administration of the Department of Integral Family Development (DIF) by the city’s first lady. Connections between her and the drug trafficking cartel Guerreros Unidos were quickly indicated. The police supposedly turned the students over to sicarios (hit men) of that gang to finish up the dirty work.
So the story fits in with the now traditional narrative of a “war” between the Mexican government and various groups of drug traffickers. The conclusion would be that it’s necessary to increase the presence of the Federal Police, the newly minted National Gendarmerie. And the Army. However, the relation between the different armed bodies of the federal government and the cartels is rather one of fluctuating alliances and conflicts, while historically the federal armed forces represent the greatest threat to the workers, peasants and indigenous peoples of the state (see box, “In Guerrero, the Dirty War Never Stopped”).
Then came the search for mass graves, of which there are many in this long-suffering state beset by drug trafficking and military violence. On October 5, five graves were found with 28 corpses in the Pueblo Viejo area of Iguala. A week later, the federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam announced that none of the bodies were those of the Ayotzinapa students. (Who were they then?) That same day, another four graves were found in Cerro La Parota, also near Iguala. These also turned out not to be the teachers college students. Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office began arresting Iguala police officers, and then officers of the neighboring municipality of Cocula, all supposedly involved with the Guerreros Unidos cartel and accused of forced disappearance.
By the beginning of November, the federal attorney general’s office (Procuraduria General de la República, or PGR) had settled on what would be the story: that Iguala municipal police turned the students over to Cocula police, who then turned them over to hit men of Guerreros Unidos, who killed them, burned the bodies, ground up the charred remains in the Cocula municipal garbage dump, placed the ashes in plastic bags and finally emptied them in the nearby San Juan River. The proofs would be the confessions of a trio of narcos, the first ones arrested, who amiably admitted having received and executed the normalistas. The attractiveness for the government of this version, in addition to exonerating the state of the assassination itself, is that it didn’t require any physical evidence. How convenient!
The parents rejected the allegation of the attorney general who declared their children dead without having any conclusive scientific proof. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators also refused to let themselves be hoodwinked. Soon the words uttered by Murillo Karam to put an end to his press conference of November 7, “Ya me cansé” (I’m tired of it) were turned into a battle cry on social media. In a matter of days, experts questioned the story in every detail. If it takes between two and five hours to cremate a body in a crematorium where temperatures in the furnace reach 600 to 900 degrees centigrade, keeping a fire going at such high temperatures (of up to 1,600 degrees centigrade, according to the PGR) for many hours to burn 43 bodies would be difficult in the extreme.
Over time, specialists put Murillo’s hypothesis to the test, and by mid-January Dr. Jorge Antonio Montemayor Aldrete of the Institute of Physics of the National University gave a conference in which he categorically declared that the possibility that the bodies of the 42 students had been cremated in the Cocula garbage dump was “zero” (La Jornada, 14 January). In order to accomplish that it would have taken 995 tires or 33 tons of firewood and an area of 540 square meters, ten times larger than the indicates area. If the fuel had been tires, it would have left a great quantity of steel wire. And due to the damage inflicted by such an intense bonfire, there couldn’t have been nearly so much vegetation as can be seen in subsequent aerial photos.
Then, after Murillo Karam announced his “historical truth,” the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (EAAF), which has been acting as independent investigators, issued a document (7 February) with severe criticisms of the PGR investigation. They noted that the EAAF was not present when the bag containing the only identifiable remains of a student was opened; that the attorney general’s office made mistakes in almost half the genetic profiles of family members; that the area being investigated had been used for fires on earlier occasions; that human remains other than those of the students had been discovered there; that the garbage dump was not cordoned off for weeks, etc. Therefore, the PGR’s conclusion was only a “partial reading” and “the Ayotzinapa investigation cannot be closed down.”
Even more basic is the question of the participation of state and federal agencies in the bloodbath, which the government categorically denies. The magazine Proceso (14 December 2014) published an article, written by Anabel Hernández and Steve Fischer, “The Non-Official Story,” with the support of the Investigative Reporting Program of the University of California at Berkeley. The article cites documents from the state investigation which establish the fact that the Center of Control, Command, Communications and Computation (C4) in the state capital of Chilpancingo informed the State Investigative Police, the Federal Police and the Army of what was happening with the students from the moment they left Ayotzinapa until arriving in Iguala, and of the shooting assault by the municipal police, all in real time.
Moreover, directly contradicting the statement by Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos to Congress, who claimed that the 27th Infantry Battalion (located five minutes from of the sites where a bus carrying the students was met with a hail of bullets) only knew of the attack two hours later, Proceso confirmed that military officials confronted the students face-to-face (in a private hospital), demanding to know their real names and (as the American author related in a radio interview) confiscating their cellphones. In addition, based on 12 cellphone videos taken by the teachers college students, they report that the students say they were attacked not only by municipal police but also by the Federal Police and Army.
In a follow-up article (Proceso, 21 December 2014), the authors report that the Army prevented a complete search of the facilities of the 27th Battalion ordered by the state attorney general’s office. Finally, in Proceso (1 February) the same authors prove, based on reports by the PGR’s own forensic experts, that “at least ten of those arrested show signs of torture, according to the investigative files themselves,” and that “practically all” of the police “show signs of beatings” and some “blacked out due to electrical shocks.” Several of the drug traffickers were also tortured, among them at least one of the three supposed killers and the “logistical operator” of the cartel, the only witness who implicated Iguala mayor Abarca.
The government brags that 99 people have been detained in the case. But it is quite possible, and even probable, that after some years of trials and appeals, in the end the accused go free because the only evidence against them (their self-incriminating confessions) was obtained by torture. This has been the case with so many previous cases, in which sentences are nullified due to fabrication of evidence, due process errors and other irregularities, that it must be intentional on the part of the authorities. Just recall the 36 people arrested for the Acteal massacre in 1997 who later, between 2009 and 2012, obtained restraining orders and were freed because of falsification of the evidence presented by the federal attorney general’s office, with the result that today none of the killers is behind bars.
And the “imperial couple”? So far, José Luis Abarca and María de los Ángeles Pineda have not been formally accused of anythingconcerning the massacre of the students. He will be tried on charges of organized criminal activity, she for money laundering. If the authorities are later pressured into adding some other charge concerning the kidnapping, it will be so that some judge subsequently throws it out for lack of proof. Meanwhile, Attorney General Murillo has declared that the Ayotzinapa students “are no ladies of charity” and showed videotaped excerpts from the statements by the hit men in which in a relaxed manner they recount how they murdered the students because they “were tied in with Los Rojos (the Reds)” – interpreted as referring to a rival drug gang – and in which they accuse the director of the Teachers College of having ties to Los Rojos. And then the PGR “invites” the director to come in an offer testimony concerning these monstrous accusations!
Another minutely detailed report on the events, “La noche más triste [The saddest night]” (Nexos, January 2015), written by Esteban Illades, which largely spells out the official story with a patina of objectivity” (and Google maps) based on leaks from the PGR files. Nexos is the magazine of the writer Héctor Aguilar Camín, a great friend of ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and a frequent defender of whatever Mexican government is in office at the time. The same magazine published a disgusting article (Nexos, January 2010) by the former Salvadoran guerrilla commander, murderer of the leftist poet Roque Dalton and now counterinsurgency advisor Joaquín Villalobos justifying Felipe Calderón’s “war on drugs.” Even so, the article about Iguala has some useful information.
The Nexos account confirms that the students “arrived late” for the celebration of María de los Ángeles Pineda (in fact, an hour after her report was finished). It gives more details about the run-in at the hospital with officers of the 27th Battalion who sneeringly referred to the “Ayotzinapos,” and threatened to turn them over to the municipal police. There are implausible details from the interrogation of the students by the assassins. But perhaps the most important thing in the long article is that it notes how in the days leading up to the killings, and earlier that same day, September 26, there were a series of clashes between the Teachers College students and the police over their rounding up of buses to take the students to Mexico City for October 2.1
Thus the “historical truth” by the Federal Attorney General, claiming that “it was the drug traffickers” who were responsible for the Iguala massacre, is refuted. There is overwhelming evidence that state and Federal Police were informed in real time of the events, and that the Army participated in the persecution of the students. That drug traffickers may have been the trigger men would not be surprising, given the multiple connections between them and government authorities. Nevertheless, it is established that, from the beginning, “it was the Mexican state,” from the municipal to the state and federal levels, that unleashed the assault against the students of the Rural Teachers College “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.
But confirming the undeniable is only the beginning of wisdom. One must establish what is the state. It is not just the government< of the day, which can be replaced – and has been replaced – by another, with greater or lesser political changes, or none at all. The state, on the other hand, as Friedrich Engels explained in his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1885), and V.I. Lenin elaborated in his pamphlet State and Revolution (1917), consists of “special bodies of armed men (the police and standing army)” who defend the interests and embodied the rule of one class over the others.
The persistence of massacres in Mexico, under rulers of all the bourgeois parties, underscores that it is not due to the government, but instead it is the capitalist state >itself, the repressive apparatus of the capitalist system, which has planted bodies all over the territory of Mexico, and has done so for a long time. And behind it is the bloody hand of imperialism with its interminable wars against the exploited and oppressed (see “Ayotzinapa and the Imperialist Assault on Public Education”).
That being the case, one must ask, how can justice be
obtained for the fallen comrades of Ayotzinapa? Asking the
state to investigate itself is an idiocy of the first order.
Hope that imperialist “human rights” agencies come out
against the rulers administering what Yankee imperialism
considers its “back yard”? Also doomed to failure. A “truth
commission” which years later confirms a sanitized version
of what is already evident is not the least be interesting.
In the face of a powerful and implacable enemy, our only
recourse is to call for revolutionary mobilization of the
working class. This is the true “historical truth” of the
crime of Iguala. ■
- 1.The anniversary of the 1968 Tlaltelolco Massacre of hundreds of students by the Mexican army and police.