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Mexican army faces questions over fate of 43 missing students

January 21, 2015
Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week.

Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week.

Four months on from the abduction and probable massacre of 43 students in southern Mexico, the survivors and the victims’ families have turned the focus of their relentless fight for justice on the Mexican army.

At least 97 suspects, including scores of corrupt police officers, gang members and the local mayor and his wife, have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of the students in the town of Iguala, in Guerrero state, on 26 September.

The Mexican government has questioned but not charged 36 soldiers, and repeatedly denied allegations of the army’s involvement in the disappearance of the students. Yet their families are demanding a deeper investigation as well as unrestricted access to the military bases where they suspect the 43 young men may have been held.

Omar Garcia, a 24-year-old student who was threatened by soldiers after escaping from the police gunmen that fateful night, has been a leading figure in the campaign for justice ever since.

“We have reason to believe that the army was involved in the disappearance of our companions,” Garcia said. “They were there that night. They probably covered up, facilitated, or played a leading role in the disappearances.”

On 12 January, Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face as protesters and relatives of the missing students were beaten and tear-gassed by military police upon trying to force their way into the army headquarters in Iguala. The military base lies just over a mile from where the 43 students disappeared after a series of shootings that left six civilians dead.

The students all came from poor, rural areas and were training to become teachers at Guerrero’s left-wing Ayotzinapa college. Ironically, they had travelled to Iguala to commandeer buses so that they could attend a demonstration in Mexico City commemorating the massacre of scores or even hundreds of student protesters by the Mexican army on 2 October 1968.

Upon arriving in Iguala, Garcia told The Independent that the students split into two groups. At about 8 p.m. he received a call from the others saying that the police were shooting at them. When Garcia and his companions arrived at the scene they found a group of students huddled outside the bullet-riddled buses in a moment of respite. They tried to call ambulances, lawyers and the press, only for another attack to begin…

Click here to read this feature in full at The Independent.

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