By Daina Beth Solomon and Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A panel of experts on Thursday accused Mexico’s government of blocking prosecutions in the 2014 disappearances of 43 student teachers, dealing a blow to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who vowed to clear up the case.
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) said elements of the government had interfered with the troubled probe into one of Mexico’s most notorious human rights scandals.
“The concrete facts, categorically, are that there have been efforts to hold up the investigations,” Angela Buitrago, one of the four GIEI members, told a news conference.
After taking office in 2018, Lopez Obrador created a truth commission to examine the suspected abduction and massacre of the 43 students in the southwestern city of Iguala. He appointed a special prosecutor and renewed the mandate of the GIEI, which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights formed in 2014.
His government’s latest report, presented last month, called the disappearances a “state crime.” The findings led to the first charges against a former high-ranking official, ex-Attorney General Jesus Murillo, and more than 80 arrest orders for military, police and government officials as well as others.
Yet in subsequent weeks, 21 arrest warrants were withdrawn, the GIEI said, and the special prosecutor for the case resigned over what Lopez Obrador called disagreements on procedure.
The Mexican Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the GIEI’s criticisms.
GIEI member Francisco Cox said arrest orders were canceled by officials unfamiliar with the case who did not inform the special prosecutor, creating the impression that the reason was “unrelated to the investigation.”
Cox also flagged concern over the arguments presented against Murillo, saying investigators had failed to include evidence that pointed toward his guilt. “There is a risk a conviction will not be reached,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Lopez Obrador restated his commitment to uncovering the truth and punishing those responsible, saying officials would prosecute “as long as they have evidence.”
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)