Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Today's Headlines: The final word on Iguala . . for now

Yesterday the Attorney General’s Office released the long-awaited findings of its investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala last September. President Enrique Peña Nieto chimed in with a speech on the subject. All five major Mexico City dailies lead with these twin developments.
    Excelsior’s across-the-top head is succinct in delivering the take-home message: “Officially dead.” Reforma, not as prone to banner heads as the other dailies, goes big and bold this time with the same thought: “Case closed: the 43 are dead.”
    That word “closed,” standing alone before the colon (the noun “case” is understood but not actually in the headline; translator’s prerogative) reflects the federal government’s hoped-for outcome in releasing the report. Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam’s presentation to the press (a transcript in Spanish is available here) was peppered with phrases like “legal certainty” “historical truth” and “scientific evidence.” The intent is to put an end to four months of uncertainty, of persistent counter-explanations, of accusations of army involvement and of an insistence that the students are still alive.
    Citing mainly 39 confessions (out of 99 so far in custody), 386 declarations, 487 analysis-based expert opinions and 153 inspections by investigators, the official conclusion is consistent with what we’ve been told in dribs and drabs over the last few months: Students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers college in the town of Ayotzinapa were in Iguala to commandeer passenger buses when they were attacked by local police who killed three of them and three bystanders. Then 43 of them were taken prisoner and delivered to the Guerreros Unidos drug-trafficking gang, who killed them, burned the bodies, put the remains in bags and threw them in a nearby river, never to be seen again save for 17 pieces.
    The Attorney General’s Office released a documentary-style video that takes the viewer through the events from beginning to end, using graphic illustrations, footage of the locations and, most chillingly, detailed reenactments of the crimes by the killers themselves.

El Universal chooses to lead with Peña Nieto’s speech, under the banner “Peña: We cannot stay trapped in Ayotzinapa.” As the head indicates, the address, delivered at the presidential residence of Los Pinos during a forum on higher education, was mostly about the perceived need to get on with the nation’s business now that “the unprecedented effort to investigate the disappearance of the 43 teacher trainees” has yielded final results.
    The president said the case “marked and hurt us” and that “justice must be served.” But, he said, “It is important for us not to stand still, or to remain paralyzed, but always to be ready to move forward in the quest for what we desire for the good of this society and future generations.”
    This is a reasonable, maybe even necessary, message for a president to deliver. The problem is that when any administration official talks about “moving on” or “not getting trapped” a sizable part of the population hears only a euphemism for blowing off the tragedy, an excuse for not trying to get to the bottom of the case.
    An administration press release in English that includes excerpts from the speech can be seen here.

Predictably, the official investigation results were rejected by the victims’ families and supporters. Less predictable was the accusation highlighted in La Jornada’s sub-head quoting the parents’ reaction: “Official ‘haste’ to conclude the investigation.” So after four months of being accused of dragging their feet, federal investigators are now seen as acting too quickly.
    To be fair, it’s not impossible for an agency to stall a meaningful inquiry and then toss out a quick and dirty finding to get things over with. That’s certainly what the parents think happened. We’ll probably get an idea sooner rather than later about how much of the nation sees things their way.
    The parents have a trump card in their rejection of the attorney general’s conclusion that the students are dead. “There’s no scientific evidence for it,” Jornada quoted the families’ legal representative as saying. His point is that save for one of the 43, no remains have been identified.
    The parents also got support from Human Rights Watch, which called the official report “not very serious,” according to Reforma. The bottom line, I’m sorry to report, is that readers who are hoping yesterday's release will cut down the Iguala case’s dominance of Today’s Headlines —  this page’s author among them— will probably have to hold on for a while more.


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