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Military Surveilled Ayotzinapa School for Years Before Disappearance of 43 Students. Intelligence Reports Reveal Constant Exchange of Messages During Night of Attacks in Iguala. Mexican Military Continues to Deny Investigators Complete Access to Archives
Briefing Book #823 - Edited by Kate Doyle and Claire Dorfman - Additional research by Carlos Osorio
Washington, D.C., March 10, 2023 – Years before 43 young men from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college were attacked and forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, the Mexican military had the school under surveillance and considered its students to be subversives, according to internal communications and documents from the Mexican armed forces published today by the National Security Archive.
The military records also reveal that Mexico’s National Defense Ministry worked to shield the institution from civilian scrutiny during the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students; that military intelligence routinely lumped together dangerous drug traffickers and parents of the missing students in the same reports on “conflict” in Mexico; and that Mexico’s Defense Secretary oversaw a propaganda campaign to discredit the parents, their lawyers, and a group of experts assigned to assist in the case by a United Nations commission.
The 20 documents posted by the Archive today are among an estimated four million emails and records that were stolen from the Mexican Defense Ministry (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional—Sedena) by an anonymous collective of hackers known as “Guacamaya.” Following Guacamaya’s leak of the massive data set in late September 2022, journalists in Mexico and elsewhere have used the six terabytes of information to publish a steady stream of breaking-news stories about diverse topics, including:
As part of the National Security Archive’s long-term investigative project on the Ayotzinapa case (and the podcast we co-produced with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting), the Archive has spent months examining the data set for references to the Ayotzinapa School, the night of the attacks in Iguala, the disappearance of the students, and the investigations that followed. Today’s posting is an initial selection of documents from this data set intended to give our readers a sense of what we are learning about the Mexican military’s internal communications related to Ayotzinapa. (…)
New Podcast Explores the Pursuit of Justice for 43 Disappeared StudentsNational Security Archive partners with Reveal News to investigate 2014 mass disappearance in Mexico – and the ongoing struggle for truth and accountability in the Ayotzinapa tragedy Mexican prosecutor fights to break the “pact of silence” that prolonged cover-up of the atrocity Ayotzinapa students became collateral damage in Mexican drug wars
Washington, D.C., January 10, 2022—On Saturday, January 15, a new podcast exploring the shocking case of 43 Mexican students disappeared by security forces in 2014 will launch on radio stations around the United States and on podcast platforms. The three-part serial is the result of a two-year collaboration between the National Security Archive and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Although the stark facts of the Ayotzinapa case are known worldwide, the podcast features interviews, insights, and investigative findings that have never before been heard. They include:
Testimonies recorded weeks after the attacks with Ayotzinapa students who survived.
Eye-witness accounts of how the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto sabotaged its own investigation and, for years, deliberately obstructed justice.
Extensive interviews and audio-diaries from Omar Gómez Trejo, the special prosecutor who took office in 2019 and has been tasked with solving the case, locating the missing students, and investigating his predecessors as he and his team uncover proof of a massive cover-up.
A revealing interview with a retired DEA officer who supervised a year-long investigation into a Mexican drug trafficking ring in Chicago – and was the first to make the connection between his case and the students’ disappearance.
Never-before heard testimony from a former suspect in the Ayotzinapa case who was tortured by the military and police, forced to sign a false confession, imprisoned for five years without trial, and freed only after a videotape of his torture appeared anonymously on YouTube.
The story of one mother, two daughters, and their relentless search for their beloved son and brother, Benjamín Ascencio Bautista.
THE “NIGHT OF IGUALA”
On September 26, 2014, police attacked a group of college students as they rode on buses through the town of Iguala in southwestern Mexico; they blocked the buses from moving forward, then they opened fire. For hours, federal security forces and soldiers from a nearby base circulated in and around the chaotic scenes of violence, but never stopped to intervene. The long, harrowing night left six people dead. The police detained 43 of the students and piled them into the backs of their trucks. The young men were never seen again (…)
Washington, DC, October 7, 2015 – U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne said that “evidence of heavy-handed police tactics” was “strong and disconcerting” after a 2011 clash with student protestors from Ayotzinapa normal school left two youths and a gas station employee dead and several others wounded, according to a declassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Authorities in the Mexican state of Guerrero “reacted defensively and insensitively by blaming the victims and denying any responsibility” for their part in what the Embassy cable called a “chaotic student protest” in which “both police and protestors resorted to violent tactics.”
The newly-declassified cable was obtained by the National Security Archive under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and was the focus of an article published today by the award-winning team of investigative journalists at Mexico’s Aristegui Noticias.
The deadly 2011 incident against students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa came less than three years before 43 students from the university were disappeared and six others were killed after being detained by police forces in Iguala, Guerrero on the night of September 25-26, 2014. More than a year later, the federal government’s theory about what happened that night lies in ruins, and the families of the victims are no closer to knowing the fates of their loved ones.
Last month, a group of independent investigators invited by the Mexican government and appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States rejected the government’s version of the 2014 case, which held that a cabal of local politicians, municipal police forces and members of a drug gang had kidnapped and killed the students before burning the bodies at a garbage dump. The group of experts said the government lacked physical evidence connecting the alleged perpetrators to the case, that security forces had tortured many of the witnesses, and that a fire in which the government claims the bodies were burned could not have happened.