The Prosecutor’s Office in Mexico approved 16 arrest warrants against the military officers involved in the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa teaching students.
The Second District Judge in Federal Criminal Proceedings residing in Toluca, State of Mexico, Raquel Ivette Duarte Cedillo, approved the orders for the crimes of organized crime and forced disappearance.
The former commander of the 41st Infantry Battalion, Colonel Rafael Hernández Nieto, as well as soldiers from the 27th and 41st Infantry Battalions are included in the orders.
On September 26, 2014, forty-three male students disappeared from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College after being forcibly abducted in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. They were allegedly taken into custody by local police officers from Iguala and Cocula in collusion with organized crime. The mass kidnapping has caused continued international protests and social unrest, leading to the resignation of Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero in the face of statewide protests on October 23, 2014.
The students had annually commandeered several buses to travel to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre; police attempted to intercept several of the buses by using roadblocks and firing weapons. Details remain unclear on what happened during and after the roadblock, but the government investigation concluded that 43 of the students were taken into custody and were handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) drug cartel and probably killed. This official version from the Mexican government is disputed. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) assembled a panel of experts who conducted a six-month investigation in 2015. They stated that the government’s claim that the students were killed in a garbage dump because they were mistaken for members of a drug gang was “scientifically impossible”.
Mexican authorities also claimed that José Luis Abarca Velázquez, the mayor of Iguala and a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), masterminded the abduction with his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, as they wanted to prevent them from disrupting campaign events held in the city, although neither of them was put on trial for the student’s disappearance. Both fled after the incident, and were arrested about a month later in Mexico City for the murder of activist Arturo Hernández Cardona. Iguala’s police chief, Felipe Flores Velásquez, was also arrested in Iguala on October 21, 2016.
On November 7, 2014, Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam gave a press conference in which he announced that several plastic bags had been found by a river in Cocula containing human remains, possibly those of the missing students. At least 80 suspects have been arrested in the case, 44 of whom were police officers. Two students have been confirmed dead after their remains were identified by the Austria-based University of Innsbruck. Other sources have alleged a cover-up, stating that the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army was directly involved in the kidnapping and murder. This is the case made by investigative journalist Anabel Hernández, claiming that two of the buses were secretly transporting heroin, without the student’s knowledge. She stated that a drug lord ordered the battalion’s colonel to intercept the drugs; the students, witnesses of the attack, were killed as collateral damage. There are also reports linking federal forces to the case, some stating that military personnel in the area deliberately refrained from helping the students in distress.
On December 3, 2018, newly elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the creation of a truth commission, to lead new investigations into the events. In June 2020, José Ángel Casarrubias Salgado, known as “El Mochomo”, leader of the United Warriors cartel, was arrested on suspicion of being responsible for the abductions and murders. In September 2020, the government announced it was seeking the arrest in Israel and extradition of former official Tomas Zeron, one of the authors of the official “historical truth”, which has been widely rejected by families of the students. In August 2022, Jesús Murillo Karam was arrested over multiple charges (torture, forced disappearances, and offenses against the administration of justice) during his tenure as attorney general. Later that month, the Truth Commission alleged that six of the students were held alive before being turned over to a local army commander, who ordered them to be killed.