April 22, 2019
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Mexico enlists UN guidance in Ayotzinapa case

Zoilo Carrillo

Mexico City, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will provide guidance and technical assistance in the Ayotzinapa case under an agreement signed Monday with the Mexican government.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the accord he signed with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is symbolic and the latest step by the recently inaugurated government to construct a new "regime" in which there is no place for disappearances.

The idea is to offer more tools to the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice, which was formed to get to the bottom of the Ayotzinapa case - an infamous series of events in the southern state of Guerrero that occurred more than four years ago.

On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural all-male teacher training college known for its leftist activism, were attacked in the city of Iguala after they had commandeered buses to travel to Mexico City for a protest.

Six people - including three students - were killed, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and are presumed dead.

The administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto concluded that the students were killed by a local drug gang after being abducted by municipal cops acting on the orders of Iguala's corrupt mayor, and that their bodies were incinerated at a waste dump in the nearby town of Cocula.

Almost every element of the official account has been shredded.

Mexican and international experts concluded that the bodies could not have been disposed of in that way, while leaked reports from the Attorney General's Office established the involvement of federal police and military personnel in the Iguala violence.

"We're seeking truth and justice, (not just) in this case but in all the cases (of) all of the missing men and women," Ebrard said at Monday's signing ceremony.

Official figures list more than 40,000 people missing in Mexico, which experienced a sharp rise in drug-related violence after then-President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico's cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.

A total of 26,000 unidentified bodies have passed through morgues in Mexico in recent years and more than 1,300 clandestine graves have been discovered since 2007.

Ebrard said the violence and numbers of missing people have had a profound impact on Mexican public life and that this tragic chapter must be brought to a close.

Bachelet, who was Chile's president from 2006 to 2010 and from 2014 to 2018, pledged for her part that her office would be an ally that would closely follow developments in the case.

"According to international standards, truth, justice, reparations, including guarantees of non-repetition, are obligations that the Mexican State must fulfill," she said in a statement at the signing ceremony.

"This is an opportunity to implement structural changes in the justice system to make justice happen for victims of grave human rights violations, and to settle a historical debt with victims of violence."

Bachelet also vowed to ensure accountability on the part of the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office last December after being elected on an anti-corruption platform.

"In this new stage, my office, through its representation in Mexico, will be an ally that will not hesitate to contribute to progress in investigations. We will acknowledge when authorities fulfill the commitments with the families of the victims, and we will also point out any lack of progress in the case," she said.

Mexico's government secretary (interior secretary), Olga Sanchez Cordero, said that under Lopez Obrador's administration her portfolio carries more weight than ever before and that the top priority is "human rights protections and guarantees."

"And within this framework of protections and guarantees, there is the truth and justice commission for the young people from Ayotzinapa," she added.

That commission began its work on Jan. 15 with the promise of finally ensuring justice for the parents of the 43 missing trainee teachers in the briefest possible timeframe.

Those relatives appear to have more trust in Lopez Obrador's administration than in Peña Nieto's.

One of the mothers, Maria Martinez, told EFE that the agreement with the UN is a very important development, although she acknowledged that she had been expecting the commission to make faster progress.

"But we've been seeing that the team is taking shape to start the search" for the missing, she said, adding that that has been very gratifying to see.

Martinez also slammed the previous administration, saying that Peña Nieto's government had offered nothing but "deceit and lies."

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