By: Cortney Knox
On October 21, 2016, more than two years after a mass kidnapping that shook the world, Mexican authorities apprehended a key suspect, former Iguala Police Chief Felipe Flores Velázquez. Velázquez has been on the run since the September 2014 incident and is the latest of more than 128 suspects detained in relation to this case. This arrest comes just weeks after the lead case investigator resigned amid much controversy.
September 26, 2014, marks the date that a large group of undergraduate students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa made plans to travel the more than 300 kilometers to Mexico City. This trip was part of an annual tradition that served to commemorate a student massacre which occurred in 1968. Part of this excursion involved the stealing of buses in order to facilitate transport, a process tolerated by local authorities and bus companies in years past. However, in 2014, the students never made it to Mexico City. There is dispute over exactly what events transpired, but it is clear that the students were separated into two groups and that the authorities erected roadblocks to stop them. One group came under fire from authorities and several students were wounded with at least one reported casualty. The other group fared slightly better when authorities used tear gas to subdue the students before having them taken away and presumably arrested. Yet students were never heard from again after the incident.
In late October 2014, the Mexican government began combing the banks of the San Juan River, where they was believed they might find remains of the 43 students. Forensic analyses from ashes found along the river were only able to provide one positive match to a student, but this was enough for then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam to declare the rest of the students deceased.
The arrest of Velázquez will hopefully shed some light on the events that took place, particularly in a case such as this where there are countless theories. The lack of answers has sparked outrage, leading not only to protests, but also to an investigation commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR panel began investigating in March 2015 and produced a report criticizing Mexico’s official version of events. The panel continued its investigation and produced a second, far more disturbing, report that included evidence of bribery and torture among some of the detained suspects. The report goes on to reveal that the panel felt obstructed by local authorities in its attempt to unveil the truth of the students’ disappearances.
Theories concerning the events in September 2014 and the current whereabouts of the missing students are as unclear and varied as they were two years ago. The most popular theories include accusations against corrupt police officers for turning the students over to drug cartels, and of the mayor of Iguala and his wife for being directly involved. Whatever occurred, one thing remains clear: the families of the 43 students, as well as the entire country of Mexico all want answers. Hopefully the investigation, now under a new Attorney General and coupled with the increased scrutiny brought on by the IAHRC reports, will lead to answers. Velázquez is arguably the suspect with the clearest understanding of what transpired that September night and his arrest may bring a close to this case and peace to the students’ families.