Families of the disappeared keep the pressure on in Mexico City

8 abril, 2022

Family members of rural students who were disappeared in 2014 gathered to thank the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for information uncovered in their third report and to denounce government interference. They’re also fighting for judicial testimony from former president Enrique Peña Nieto on the case.

Text and photos by Isabel Briseño, originally published March 30, 2022.

Translated by Elysse DaVega for Pie de Página in English.

MEXICO CITY—On Tuesday, March 29, family members of the 43 disappeared students from the Isidro Burgos Rural School gathered to acknowledge and express gratitude for the third report from the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI).

The GIEI’s report showed through video evidence that officials from the Secretary of the Navy manipulated evidence at the Cocula landfill in Guerrero.At the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Center of Human Rights (Centro PRODH), family members also expressed their disgust at the manipulation of information surrounding the disappearance of their 43 children on the night of September 26, 2014.

«Our hope is that we can continue investigations during this presidential term. It would be really difficult to bring this into another term.»

Vidulfo Rosales, lawyer and representative of the family members

The mothers and fathers know the GIEI won’t be there forever, and that it’s not their responsibility to investigate the case. This is why they’re requesting a meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who they haven’t seen since last September, to resume their direct dialogue, locate their children, and punish those responsible.

They’ve also asked the federal government to explore potential legal paths to obtaining testimony from former president Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as investigating any role he might have had in the students’ disappearance.

The investigations that experts are carrying out into the disappearance of the 43 students are underway because of the fight led by their mothers and fathers.

Hilda Hernández, mother of César Manuel, expressed the anger and helplessness she felt when she found out that the authorities put all of their energy and resources into manipulating the truth instead of looking for her child.

«They were already building their lie. They thought we would be fine with that, but no.»

Ms. Hilda recognized the company that she’s had in these seven years of fighting for her son; organizations like the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Serapaz, the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Center of Human Rights (Centro PRODH), and the Fundar Center for Analysis and Investigation have been major allies both legally and personally. She emphasized the affectionate bond she’s built with them over time:

«They’ve done a great job with us,» Ms. Hernández says, her eyes shining and full of gratitude.

«The special prosecutions office is extremely neglected,» say family members of the disappeared in Mexico City.

The push for the removal of CDMX District Attorney May Gómez

On March 24, collectives and family members of disappeared persons in Mexico City met with Attorney General of Justice Ernestina Godoy to demand the removal of May Gómez Jiménez, who heads the Office of Investigation and Prosecution of Crimes in Forced Disappearance (FIPEDE).

A government official informs family members that head of government Claudia Sheinbaum will not receive them.

After being refused an audience by the Attorney General, the families decided to go to the capital’s government buildings and request an audience with México City’s head of government Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo. Their intention was to make her aware of their accusations against the Attorney General: ineptitude, omission, loss of evidence, not investigating, and revictimization. 

«The head of government has to know what victims like us are going through,» they said.

One of the mothers talks to a young girl; they are both searching for their disappeared family members.

Juana Garrido, sister of Viviana Elizabeth Garrido Ibarra, who has been missing since November 30, 2018, mentioned that Godoy Ramos told the families that they were demanding May Gómez’s resignation out of emotion alone.

«That response discredits our request. We’ve clearly pointed out [Gómez’s] omissions and our revictimization.»

There’s a big problem when families aren’t attended to because they come alone. Whether as an individual or a member of a collective, family members demand the same attention.

The Secretary of Mexico City’s government, Martí Batres, visits families of the disappeared.

After the mothers and fathers protested on Avenida 20 de Noviembre, Mexico City’s Secretary of Government Martí Batres arrived to meet with them. Batres listened to mother Pamela Guadarrama Gallardo Volante’s complaint regarding the lack of attention: «We came for May’s resignation.»

When questioned about his disposition regarding the government’s removal of the FIPEDE’s top official, he remained silent and later went inside his office and spoke with a few mothers.

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