Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador denied Tuesday that his government had concealed information about the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 – one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies.
He was speaking a day after a commission of independent experts accused Mexican authorities of withholding important information about the case that shocked the country and drew international condemnation.
“All the information is being handed over. It has been handed over. The files have been opened like never before and absolutely nothing is being hidden,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) accused unnamed state bodies of seeking to give the impression of complying with Lopez Obrador’s order to help its inquiry, while failing to share information including intelligence reports.
It accused naval personnel of manipulating evidence during investigations, notably at a garbage dump where human remains were found, including those of the only three students identified so far.
Lopez Obrador said that the navy chiefs who participated in that operation were under investigation and had testified before prosecutors.
The commission was created in 2014 under an agreement between Mexico and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to clarify the disappearance of the teaching students in the southern state of Guerrero.
The students had commandeered buses to travel to a demonstration before they went missing.
According to an official report presented in 2015 by the government of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto, they were arrested by corrupt police and handed over to a drug cartel.
The cartel mistook the students for members of a rival gang and killed them before incinerating and dumping their remains, the report said.
Those conclusions were rejected by relatives as well as the GIEI and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The missing students are among more than 97,000 people who have disappeared since the mid-1960s in Mexico, which has been plagued by gang-related bloodshed since 2006, when the government deployed the military in the war on drugs.
Amnesty International on Tuesday voiced alarm that in 2021 alone nearly 7,700 cases of missing and disappeared persons were registered in the country.
“Impunity largely prevailed on this issue, with just 35 convictions for the crime of enforced disappearance,” it said in its annual report on the state of the world’s human rights.