Magazine article Newsweek

Mexico Murder: One Journalist's Fearless Investigation into a Massacre That Still Grips the Country; Journalist Anabel Hernandez Has Been Investigating Collusion between Government Officials and Drug Cartels, as Well as the Illicit Drug Trade and Abuse of Power, for Mexico's Biggest Publications for More Than Two Decades

Magazine article Newsweek

Mexico Murder: One Journalist's Fearless Investigation into a Massacre That Still Grips the Country; Journalist Anabel Hernandez Has Been Investigating Collusion between Government Officials and Drug Cartels, as Well as the Illicit Drug Trade and Abuse of Power, for Mexico's Biggest Publications for More Than Two Decades

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Valencia

On September 26, 2014, police in the Mexican town of Iguala intercepted a group of students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College, located in the Guerrero state, a region rife with drug-related violence. The students--also called normalistas--had been stopped for hijacking two buses to travel to Mexico City, where they intended to join the annual march that commemorates the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, a national scandal in which hundreds of students and civilians were killed by the military. In the subsequent clash, six students, all in their 20s, were killed and another 25 wounded. Forty-three simply vanished.

The government's official investigation found that authorities turned the normalistas over to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, which killed and then burned the missing students in a trash pit in Cocula. Mexicans rejected that version, and thousands demonstrated, shouting, "They took them from us alive, want them back alive" and "Fue el estado! [It was the state!]."

In March the office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights found that the so-called Ayotzinapa investigation was inadequate and "affected by cover-ups." For journalist Anabel Hernandez, it was long-sought vindication. Hernandez has been investigating collusion between government officials and drug cartels, as well as the illicit drug trade and abuse of power, for Mexico's biggest publications for over two decades. Death threats from the cartels forced her and her family to leave the country--they now live in San Francisco--but she has continued to investigate Ayotzinapa. Using video from surveillance footage, medical reports and secret government documents, she pieced together her theory in A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing Forty-Three Students, first published in Spanish in 2016.

Newsweek spoke with the author just before the book's English- language release.

The findings have been confirmed by the United Nations, a federal judge and a court in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. The majority of the people apprehended by the Mexican government for the attacks on the students had been brutally tortured and forced to confess to a crime they didn't commit. One of the tortured individuals included Felipe Rodriguez Salgado (aka "El Cepillo," or "the Brush"), who the government accused of burning the students in the alleged trash pit. There are five people who have been exonerated, and a federal judge began to issue release orders for the others [in September].

Those who committed the crimes include the mayor who ordered the police to intercept the hijacked buses, the service people from the 27th Infantry battalion, members of the federal police assigned to the Iguala headquarters, members of the office of the attorney general and state police and municipal authorities. We're talking about nearly 60 public officials.

The other culprits are those who covered the crimes up--the officials who refused to incarcerate and prosecute. The administration of [outgoing President Enrique] Pena Nieto; the defense secretary, Salvador Cienfuegos; the then-attorney general, Jesos Murillo Karam; and the then-interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. …

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