"The government knows the truth about all this, and has since the very beginning" - Fr. Alejandro Solalinde
Well known Mexican priest and human rights advocate Alejandro Solalinde Guerra will tell federal investigators for the nation's attorney general later today that 43 college students kidnapped by local police in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26, and turned over to sicarios belonging to the violent Guerrero Unidos drug cartel, were burned alive by their executioners after being placed upon a wooden pyre.
The story is in accord with prevalent rumors since the students vanished more than three weeks ago.
Interviewed by Mexico's Radio Fórmula, Solalinde, a 69 year old Carmelite Order priest, said he had been invited by Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam to give a formal statement this afternoon. He promised to do so, accompanied by his attorney.
The students were "carried to their place of execution, all still alive. The wood was piled up, and quite simply they were burned until there was nothing left of them," said Fr. Solalinde, who did not identify his sources during the interview. "I have various ones, including an eyewitness, and they all agree on what happened," Solalinde added, while noting that he does not know where the students' remains are located. He did not offer a motive for the alleged murders.
Last week Karam announced that none of the 28 incinerated bodies unearthed Oct. 4 from a freshly turned grave on the outskirts of Iguala matched DNA samples taken from the 43 students' families. But those same families said today they have no confidence in the government's testing protocols, and complained that an Argentine mortuary team which they hired had been unfairly restricted as it attempted to participate in the gruesome identification process.
Solalinde, who purportedly was dissuaded as a young man from joining the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) because it was "too progressive" in its social views, has made a name for himself in this country due to outspoken political views, and above all by his public ministry on behalf of Central American migrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States. He has been recognized by the Mexican government and by other organizations for his advocacy.
Much of Solalinde's ministry has been carried out in Oaxaca, a desperately poor and overwhelmingly indigenous state just below Guerrero. Both have experienced extreme domestic insecurity in recent years, as drug cartels, corrupt police forces, legitimate authorities and frustrated community militias jockey for control of areas beyond anyone's absolute dominion.
"The government knows the truth about all this and has since the very beginning," Solalinde added. "If they think I'm lying, let them call me a liar, and then prove the contrary."
Today the Attorney General's office offered a reward of 1.5 million Mexican pesos ($111,000 USD) per student, for any information leading to them.
HRW weighs in
In an exclusive interview with Mexico City's El Universal today, Human Rights Watch Americas director José Miguel Vivanco said that Mexico is undergoing its worst crisis since the infamous Tlatelolco massacre of Oct. 2, 1968.
"The crisis that has continued sweeping across Mexico since the administration of Felipe Calderón Hinjosa (2006-2012) is the worst since the events of 1968, especially now with the disappearance of the 43 students. I can think of no comparable event in Latin America in the last 30 years, and even though there have been many disappearances in Mexico, I don't know of anything of this magnitude," added Vivanco.
Oct. 23 - Mexican A.G.: "Mary of the Angels," husband, were "brains" behind Iguala executions
Oct. 11 - Guerrero's Gov. Aguirre says 43 missing students "may yet turn up alive"
Nov. 16, 2013 - Mass grave by Jalisco's Lake Chapala held 74 remains
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