At the end of September 2014, a group of 43 male students from the Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, commandeered several buses in order to travel to Mexico City for a protest to mark the 46th anniversary of the Tlatelolco student massacre.
The students never made it to the protest, and outside of a few bones, their bodies were never found.
For years, Mexico’s government theorized that the “students’ bodies had been burned in a trash dump on the outskirts of Iguala,” The Daily Beast reported.
New evidence, however, suggests the police conspired with a drug cartel to kill the students. The new evidence includes text messages between a deputy police chief and a crime boss coordinating the kidnapping and murder at least 38 of the 43 student teachers. Apparently, the busses the students took over “were part of a drug-running operation that would carry a huge cargo of heroin across the U.S. border—and the students had accidentally stolen the load,” the Beast reported. From the Beast:
Gildardo López Astudillo was the local leader of the Guerreros Unidos cartel at that time. He was in charge of the area around the town of Iguala, in southwestern Mexico, where the students were last seen. Francisco Salgado Valladares was the deputy chief of the municipal police force in the town.
On Sept. 26, 2014, Salgado texted López to report that his officers had arrested two groups of students for having taken the busses. Salgado then wrote that 21 of the students were being held on a bus. López responded by arranging a transfer point on a rural road near the town, saying he “had beds to terrorize” the students in, likely referencing his plans to torture and bury them in clandestine grave sites.
Police chief Salgado next wrote that he had 17 more students being held “in the cave,” to which López replied that he “wants them all.” The two then made plans for their underlings to meet at a place called Wolf’s Gap, and Salgado reminded López to be sure to send enough men to handle the job.
Salgado texted López later that night to say “all the packaged have been delivered,” an apparent reference to the heroin inside the bus that had been stolen by the students.
Mike Vigil, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, told the Beast that the new evidence “provides irrefutable proof” that the police and an organized crime syndicate worked together to murder the students.
“The story of the massacre of the students in Ayotzinapa is like a Hollywood movie, but the events are real. They involve collusion between the police, army, organized crime, and a massive coverup by the Mexican government,” Vigil told the outlet.
The youngest student killed in the massacre was Jose Angel Navarrete, who was 18 years old.
Salgado, the deputy police chief, was already arrested for the massacre, the Beast reported. López, the former crime boss, was arrested but released for alleged due process failures, and is currently free.
The text messages do not specifically mention the military, but many still believe the Mexican army was involved in executing some of the students. It was the military who intercepted the text messages but took seven years to release them. La Reforma, a Mexican newspaper, published leaked testimony that suggested local army officers assisted the drug cartel in collecting the students and others on the night the students vanished.
“The army hides information because it’s in their best interest to do so,” a high-ranking Mexican police commander told the Beast under the condition of anonymity. “The whole world knows that the army controls the drug trade [in that part of Mexico.]”
“Mexico continues to wonder why violence persists unabated. They don’t understand that no consequence for criminal actions translates to more impunity,” the commander added.
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