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Sun Sep 23, 2018, 06:23 PM

Chasing the Murderers of Ayotzinapa's Forty-Three


Examining the disappearance of forty-three students in southern Mexico four years ago can lead to only one conclusion: culpability lies with the Mexican state.

Family of forty-three missing students from Ayotzinapa normal school lead a protest, September 26, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. Brett Gundlock / Getty

Review of Anabel Hernández, A Massacre in Mexico (Verso, 2018).

This month marks four years since the brutal attack on the students from the Aytozinapa rural normal school, a teacher training college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, in which six people were killed and forty-three students were forcibly disappeared. After all this time, and after multiple investigations, there is still no definitive explanation of what happened that night in 2014 in the small city of Iguala: Who took the students? Where were they taken? What happened to them? More than one hundred people have been arrested in connection with the Ayotzinapa attack, but despite this, students’ families still lack answers to these most basic questions.

The families are joined in their struggle for answers by human rights groups, international legal experts, and fearless journalists, perhaps most prominent among them Anabel Hernández, whose book about the Ayotzinapa disappearances, A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing 43 Students (Verso), is out in English this fall. While there are few new revelations in the book (it was published in Spanish in 2017 and is based on reporting Hernández has undertaken since the attack) it is the most comprehensive account of what is known about the attack — and about the astonishingly corrupt government investigation that followed.

That investigation is the real subject of the book. The families’ frustrations derive not just from not knowing what happened to their sons, four years on, but also from the fact that they must undertake their struggle for truth against their own government, which has, at every turn, stymied their search for the truth.

Hernández shows why, in painstaking detail. A Massacre in Mexico presents an overwhelming case that federal government investigators working for the administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto created a false narrative of local culpability and sought to close the case before an investigation could reveal the involvement of federal officials.


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