Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Investigators Identify the Remains of One More of the 43 Missing Students

"MX" for Borderland Beat
Mexican authorities confirmed yesterday that the University of Innsbruck in Austria identified the remains of one of the 43 students who disappeared in Guerrero in September 2014. The remains were found in November 2019 and were subject to DNA analysis this year in Austria.

University investigators confirmed that the bone fragments pertained to student Christian Alfonso Rodriguez Telumbre. This conclusion was also confirmed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), which has been advising Mexico's Attorney General's Office (FGR).

Rodriguez Telumbre is the third student who has been identified since the 43 students went missing. The two other students are Alexander Mora Venancio and Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. However, Rodriguez Telumbre's case is drastically different because his remains showed no signs of incineration, which contradicts the government's version of the story: that the 43 students were kidnapped and burned in a large fire in Guerrero.

The new discovery "breaks away from the narrative of a lie" by the former government that was meant to foreclose further investigation, said Omar Gómez Trejo, the special prosecutor assigned to the case.

It has long been assumed that the students were kidnapped and killed, and that various public officials were implicated. But as of mid-2020 no one has faced trial for this crime. The motives behind this traumatizing case also remain a mystery. 
Maria Telumbre, center, holding a poster with the image of her missing son, Christian Alfonso Rodriguez, in Mexico City in 2014. (Credit: AP)
"For [Rodriguez Telumbre's] family this is devastating news, and for the rest of the families it is the materialization of their worst fears that this might have been all of the students' destiny," said Santiago Aguirre, director of Centro Prodh, a human rights organization that represents the families. They expect it to be "the beginning of a new and serious investigation that once and for all clarifies what happened to every single one of the students," he said.

This new development marks a fresh sign of progress for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who had promised to make this investigation one of the focal points of his administration. AMLO is in desperate need of a political boost amid a plummeting economy, rising gang violence and the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to worsen nationwide. The announcement came on the eve of AMLO's presidential meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, a trip that was widely criticized at home.

Mass disappearance case
According to Mexican government's version of the story, referred by the former FGR chief as the Verdad Historica (English: Historical Truth), Guerreros Unidos gang members kidnapped and killed the students in September 2014 after they mistook them for rival gangsters.

The incident started when the students hijacked several buses in the area before a protest, a tradition that had long been practiced by the school and tolerated by the bus companies. As they traveled back from Iguala to Ayotzinapa, where the school is based, they were intercepted by the police. Some of the surviving students claim that the bus drivers had agreed to give them a lift.

The incident quickly devolved into a chaotic night that involved law enforcement and gangsters. After a long standoff with the police, several students were arrested and reportedly handed over to Guerreros Unidos.

Clemente Rodriguez, father of Christian Alfonso Rodriguez, searching the outskirt of Iguala, Mexico, with relatives and classmates
By dawn the next morning, 6 students were confirmed dead in Iguala, dozens more were wounded. But 43 more had vanished. The government alleges that the students were killed and their bodies were then disposed in a garbage dump and burned in a large fire.

However, several independent investigations have cast doubts on the official report's findings. Independent investigators said that the investigation was "deeply flawed", starting by the fact that many of the detainees were confirmed to have been tortured to confess.

In addition, they claimed to have satellite images on the day of the students' disappearance that showed there had been no fire that night. Critics say that the remains of the first two students identified were found at the rubbish dump in question or planted there by authorities.

Rodriguez Telumbre's body was found in late November 2019 after investigators received an anonymous call that said that several remains were in a specific spot about a 1 mile (1.6 km) from the garbage dump. It is likely that more remains are found in this location.

Recent events
Borderland Beat reported last week that FGR chief Alejandro Gertz Manero confirmed that the Mexican government had issued 46 arrest warrants to municipal officials in Guerrero who are linked to the missing students' case.

There is still an international search for Tomas Zeron de Lucio, former chief of the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) who was heading the case. Investigators say he fled Mexico and may be hiding in Belize, Spain or the U.S. He is wanted on torture and force disappearance charges.

Sources: Milenio; La Jornada; InfobaeNYT; Borderland Beat archives


  1. Ck out the posts from me and Pepe back at the ttime it happened. I could not get any of the journalists I knew to become interested at first. search IGUALA in search bar.

    I don't trust the discovery. and it was only a part of a lower leg bone. it is to distract from the real truth. they even exposed themselves saying "this will put to rest rumors of military involvement"

    I began communicating with a survivor. one who tried to get help for his buddy who was shot in the head.


    1. Trust the discovery as in the dna results? Sorry. My brain is rolling words around pretty bad this month.

  2. Probably the most heinous government complicit massacre ever carried out in Mexico's history.
    I recall independent investigators who simply gave up due to the uncooperativnes of government officials.

  3. 2:31 the independent investigators' every move was blocked and impeded by the EPN régime and bits partisanos, they did not "give up", there is a world of diference there...

  4. Well, they ain't stuck in a parallel universe.


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