Mexico: Prosecutor investigating missing students case resigns

Rights group representing families of 43 disappeared students says resignation ‘extremely concerning’ for pursuit of justice.

The special prosecutor leading Mexico’s investigation into the 2014 disappearances of dozens of students has resigned, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, a day after the students’ families marched to demand justice for their loved ones.

Omar Gomez Trejo was appointed to head the probe into the disappearances of the 43 Ayotzinapa College student teachers in 2019, not long after Lopez Obrador came to power.

Gomez Trejo appeared to have gained the trust of the families, but the Attorney General’s Office has come under fire for cancelling arrest orders for several suspects without explanation and for sensitive portions of a Truth Commission report being leaked to the press.

“He’s going to leave his post … because he disagreed with the procedures that were followed,” Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday during a news conference following media reports about the prosecutor’s departure, without elaborating.

The Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, a nongovernmental organisation representing the students’ families, said in a statement on Tuesday that the resignation signalled unjustified interference by superiors in the Attorney General’s Office, including “rushed accusations and cancelled arrest orders”.

The 2014 disappearances have set off mass protests and calls for justice [Luis Cortes/Reuters]

They expressed confidence in Gomez Trejo and his team’s work and called the developments “extremely concerning” for the pursuit of justice in the case.

Carrying photographs of the missing students, relatives and former classmates marched through Mexico City on Monday alongside thousands of supporters to demand answers on the eight-year anniversary of the disappearances.

Many of the parents have said they had a glimmer of hope last month when Mexico’s former top prosecutor was arrested in relation to the case.

But after Murillo, who remains imprisoned, was granted a temporary suspension of his trial, and after almost two dozen arrest warrants for other suspects were cancelled, the students’ parents said they feel like they are being played with.

“Truthfully, it feels like they’re just mocking us,” Blanca Nava, mother of one of the missing students, said on Monday. “Mr President, we want the truth.”

“There are a lot of contradictory things,” added Clemente Rodriguez, the father of one of the students. “Sometimes, they give us information, ‘yes, we’re going to act,’ but then we slip along the same way.”

People march to mark eight-year anniversary of Mexican students' disappearances
The Attorney General’s Office has been criticised for cancelling arrest orders [Luis Cortes/Reuters]

Late last month, the Truth Commission faulted military personnel for the disappearance of the students, who were on their way to Mexico City from the Pacific state of Guerrero when they disappeared.

The Mexican government official leading the commission said at that time that six of the 43 students who disappeared were allegedly kept alive in a warehouse for days and then turned over to the local army commander who ordered them killed.

In mid-September, the authorities detained a retired army colonel and two other military officials for their alleged involvement.

The 2014 disappearances have spurred mass protests and international condemnation of the government of then-President Enrique Pena Nieto, and in 2019, Lopez Obrador’s administration reopened the probe into the disappearances.

Last week, an unredacted version of the Truth Commission’s August report was published in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, naming alleged officials involved and saying the bodies of the kidnapped students were taken to a military base.

Since then, protesters have taken a harsher tone and some recently broke down the entrance to a military base in Mexico City before throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers.

“It’s a way of putting pressure on them, telling them we’re tired of getting the run-around,” said Alexander Salazar, a student and protest leader at Ayotzinapa.

A man waves a flag reading, '43 are missing' during a march in Mexico City
A man waves a flag reading, ’43 are missing’ during the march in Mexico City, September 26 [Toya Sarno Jordan/Reuters]

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