GIEI ends Ayotzinapa investigation
July 26, 2023
The international panel of experts investigating one of Mexico’s most emblematic human rights violations — the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa — said it will end its work, after persistent stonewalling from the country’s armed forces. Members of the panel of legal and medical experts named by the Inter-American Commission On Human Rights in 2015, voiced their frustration at the armed forces’ unwillingness to cooperate.
“It is not possible to continue,” Carlos Beristain, one of the international experts, said. “The hiding of things and the obvious insistence on denying things have prevented getting to the truth.” (Associated Press)
Their final report, presented yesterday in Mexico City, raised further questions about the Mexican military’s role in the disappearances: members of the Mexican military misrepresented their whereabouts during the crime, denied access to key documents and withheld details about their involvement in the disappearance and its subsequent cover-up, reports the New York Times.
“It hurts to see how a case that could have been solved in the first few weeks ended up entangled in lies, falsehoods and diversions of the investigation,” the report said.
“The evidence demonstrates that several authorities knew what was happening or had important information that has not been provided, perhaps because they thought it could expose their personnel who might have been involved.”
The independent panel’s latest findings include a new technical analysis of cellphone data and documents revealing that Mexican soldiers not only knew about but most likely witnessed the shootings, the detentions and the violence “second by second,” Ángela Buitrago, a Colombian lawyer and another panel investigator, said during the news conference.
The GIEI said the motive behind the disappearances remains unclear. (Reuters)
Earlier this year the National Security Archive reported that confidential military records revealed “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 investigators’ departure means the case may never be solved — though President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised when he took office in 2018 to find answers and get justice for the victims and their families. Only three of the students’ remains have been identified and no one has been convicted of a crime in relation to the disappearances.
In recent weeks, authorities have arrested 10 members of the army in connection with the disappearances. López Obrador said they would not have impunity. But he indicated that the men might have been rogue actors, reports the Washington Post.
The international panel, known by its Spanish acronym GIEI, was an unprecedented mechanism in México, where the team had faculties to carry out a criminal investigation, and clashed with the military from the start of its mandate eight years ago, reports La Jornada.
The GIEI’s work has been key in understanding the network of authorities and criminals that attacked the Ayotzinapa students nearly nine years ago, and has revealed different degrees of institutionalized crime, reports El País.
“Without the GIEI, the indirect victims lose fundamental support and a hopeful presence and the possibilities of finding the whereabouts of the students and doing justice for one of the greatest atrocities perpetrated in contemporary Mexico are narrowed,” argues La Jornada in an editorial.
Ecuador declares penitentiary state of emergency
At least 31 people were killed in a weekend riot in Ecuador’s Penitenciaria del Litoral, one of the country’s most violent prisons.
Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso declared a 60-day state of emergency throughout the country’s prisons yesterday and authorized the armed forces to retake control of jails. aA least 2,700 heavily equipped soldiers and police officers entered the Penitenciaria del Litoral prison regaining control of three cellblocks with controlled detonations, reports Reuters.
Some 120 prison officers had been freed after being held hostage in six jails around the country, the government said. There was no official information about hunger strikes allegedly taking place at some prisons.
Yesterday’s declaration follows an earlier state of emergency Lasso announced Monday, in the provinces of Manabi and Los Rios and in the city of Duran, after the mayor of the city of Manta, Agustin Intriago, was shot dead on Sunday. That declaration suspends people’s rights to assembly and move freely. (See yesterday’s post.)
The emergency declaration seemed to set off violence in the city of Esmeraldas, where 15 prison guards and two other staffers were being held hostage at a local jail.
Economic sanctions are one of the most used tools in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal, but “when not employed well, they can ultimately undermine American efforts to promote peace, human rights and democratic norms across the globe,” argues a New York Times editorial that points to Venezuela and Cuba sanctions as examples of failure.
A U.S. federal judge struck down the Biden administration’s temporary restrictions on migrants seeking asylum. He ruledthat the government’s plan to reduce illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border violated federal law, but delayed his ruling from taking effect for 14 days to give the government time to appeal. (Washington Post)
The collapse of coca prices in Colombia — possibly related to the fentanyl crisis in the U.S. — has provoked “collective impoverishment and an acute social crisis for a good number of the 400,000 coca-growing families and people connected to the business in border departments such as Nariño, Putumayo and Norte de Santander, among others,” reports El País.
President Gustavo Petro will name Omar Andres Camacho as the country's new minister of mines and energy, reports Reuters.
Critics of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula’s administration say many of the government’s signature policies — from “an industrial strategy focused on subsidies and propping up manufacturing to a foreign policy that has loudly reasserted Brazil’s non-aligned credentials” — echo a bygone era, reports the Financial Times.
Dozens of newborns imprisoned with their mothers under El Salvador’s state of exception lack access to basic medical care. El Faro reports that 30 babies were isolated in one jail due to an outbreak of scabies — due to lack of medical supplies, the mothers bathed them with bleach and powder detergent in an effort to control the disease provoked by damp and dirt.
Hair discrimination — a legacy of slavery continues to manifest in workplace and school settings, where afro-hair is often deemed unacceptable — is common in the Caribbean. But a growing wave of activism is pushing back, reports the Guardian.
Mexico’s heriloom colored corn is having a moment — Associated Press