On the night of September 26, 2014, about a hundred students were traveling on buses in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, when police began to fire at them. The young men on the bus were students from Raúl Isidro Burgos Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa. Burgos is full of murals honoring leftist icons such as Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Lucio Cabañas. The students were traveling by Iguala to protest against a speech made by the mayor’s wife. Neri de la Cruz, a student who had survived the attack, said, “When I heard the shots, the first thing I did was look back to make sure my fellow students were doing OK. I saw one of them was shot in the head. He turned his face and fell to the ground. At that moment, we panicked.” The survivors ran and hid for hours and days. According to Mexican authorities, the students had been attacked by police and were then handed over to the United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos), a local drug gang. Police officers were said to have been working with the United Warriors and stated that the drug gang mistook the students as a rival gang after hearing a rumor this rival gang would be present. At a news press conference that took place on Sept. 27, Jesús Murillo Karam, a Mexican Attorney General, stated that there was “legal certainty” that the forty-three missing students were murdered and that ninety-nine suspects have been detained so far. “These and other elements we found during the investigation allowed us to carry out an analysis about the local causes, and, without a doubt, we can conclude that the students at the teachers’ college were abducted, killed, burned, and thrown into the San Juan River, in that order,” Murillo Karam stated.
Police even said that least three drug traffickers confessed to murdering the students, but due to the lack of evidence, parents rejected the whole story and made several accusations that this is a cover-up. A report by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) would also express doubt against the government’s version. After a six-month investigation, exports claim there is no evidence to support that forty-three students were cremated. The report said “flames would’ve reached seven meters and the smoke column would have risen three hundred meters.” Commission investigator, Francisco Cox states, “The flame, the seven-meter flame, would’ve had to tilt toward the dump, igniting all of the plastic that’s still there. It is a rather dry dump, and, therefore, this would’ve caused a wildfire that would’ve burned all that area.” Gang members confessed to being close to the fire so add more fuel, but Cox states that anyone near the giant flame would have incinerated. Hours after the report was released, Attorney General Arely Gómez González said that they would launch a new investigation. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, says “The Ayotzinapa tragedy is one of the worst human tragedies in Mexico’s recent history. It has exposed how anyone can forcibly disappear into thin air in the country with those in power focused on covering up the traces. Unless President Peña Nieto takes real action now, he will continue to be seen around the world as an enabler of horrors.” After news came of the students’ disappearance, the local mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife went on the run and were later found in an abandoned home. The couple was arrested; it is unknown as to why they were, but many believe them to be the “masterminds” behind the students’ disappearance.
At the site where the students were allegedly dumped, the cremated body of Alexander Mora, one of the students who had gone missing, was found. Then on Sept. 30, a bone fragment was found at the same dump site, which was identified as Jhosivani Guerrero, another student who had gone missing on the night of the attack. Yet all the other students still remain unfound. A reward of one million pesos (seventy-four thousand U.S. dollars) for any information about the missing students has been offered. Violent protests have broken out in the Centre of Mexico City; the protests include citizens marching through the streets as they chant, “alive they were taken, alive we want them returned.” The protests continued to escalate to the point where Mexican police officers began to shoot at the protesters with rubber bullets, but they wouldn’t back down. The protesters threw rocks and sticks at them, along with shooting fireworks at police. The protestors have broken windows and set fire to a government building. All the protestors want is that the students return home safely. Parents of the students have received donations from sympathetic people; they have not given up hope and still believe their sons are still alive. Some parents continue to conduct their own personal searches for their lost children. As one parent, Emiliano Navarrete, says “Believe me, I will bring him back. He will come back one day.”