Saturday, January 24, 2015

Today's Headlines: Not for the queasy

The top headlines this morning are all Iguala and all unpleasant, so if you’ve been thinking of skipping a dose of TH, this is a good day for it. If you choose to soldier on (you have tomorrow off anyway), you’ll find a good object lesson in a basic law of newspaper consumption — the information you get out of it is input, not the final word.
    Milenio, for example, uses as its lead headline a quote from Felipe Rodríguez Salgado, the recently captured high-ranking member of the Guerrero/Morelos drug gang Guerreros Unidos: “I received 15 students alive and I killed them.” This is the kind of screamer you expect to see in the afternoon exploitation tabloids, but it’s supposedly verbatim out of a leaked Attorney General’s Office (PGR) document. Apparently Milenio got the exclusive.
    Rodríguez, aka El Cepillo, also said the other 28 teachers college students delivered that night (September 26/27, 2014) by the Iguala and neighboring Cocula police were already dead from asphyxiation when he and his men proceeded to shoot the rest, burn their bodies and systematically dispose of the remains.
    We know that El Cepillo’s story supports the PGR’s explanation of the tragic events. What we don’t know is whether he was telling the truth, whether the document is legitimate, how reliable the leaker was, what the motive may have been for leaking it, how consistent the account is with other, unleaked testimony, and why no other news source had the story.

El Universal also got itself an exclusive, the result of an interview with the lab chief at the University of Innsbruck’s Forensic Medicine Institute, which has been analyzing the 17 bits of remains investigators were able to find at the Cocula killing fields. The interview didn’t yield much new, and the resulting main EL U headline could have run days earlier: “Little possibility of identifying remains.”
    The lab had already informed the PGR that the DNA in the remains was insufficient to make any positive ID through traditional testing (save for the one that was announced in December). Furthermore, the method of last resort — massive parallel sequencing — is a long shot at best.

The above reminds us that there’s probably never going to be anything meaningful in the way of corpus delicti in this case, which in turn implies that the victims’ parents are never going to stop insisting that the 42 are alive.  Hence their anger at the situation summed up in La Jornada’s No. 2 headline: “Not one suspect held is accused of forced disappearance.” They’re all being held on kidnapping and homicide charges. To the parents and their supporters, the case is about disappearance, not homicide.
    This might be a good time to point out that their intransigence on this issue is not merely naive wishful thinking from aggrieved relatives. There’s a political strategy at work, based on the conviction of lifelong radicals that what happened in Iguala was a crime of state. Putting some cops and narcos behind bars, in their view, is a distraction from the true crime — a corrupt and violent state apparatus intent on eliminating dissent.
    Another Mexico City march is planned for Monday, the four-month anniversary of the Iguala massacre.


La Jornada’s top page one head may be the weirdest in today’s uncomfortably weird line-up: “Family members have found 39 corpses in Iguala mass graves in two months.” Add the 28 that the PGR found earlier, and you have this grotesque development: After the September events, authorities, relatives and concerned citizens went out in search of 43 bodies. They found 67 others instead.
    It’s been an under-covered story from the beginning. Eliminate the 43 from the picture and think of what you’ve got — scores of unidentified bodies strewn about the outskirts of a single town. Who are they? Who put them there? Why was nobody looking for them before? How many others are there? And in how many towns could similar discoveries be made?

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