Monday, December 8, 2014

Argentine forensic experts offer guarded prognosis for identification of remaining 42 Iguala students

*Updated Jan. 20, 2015 (below)*
Guadalajara -
Grief mixed with resignation was the prevailing mood in much of Mexico yesterday, as Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam confirmed that a bone fragment examined by experts at the University of Innsbruck, Austria returned a positive DNA match to family members of 20 year old Alexander Mora Venancio, a student at the Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa teachers' college.

Mora and 42 companions from the same school disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26. On Nov. 7 Karam told a news conference that the students were executed and their remains incinerated at a trash dump in Cocula, less than a half hour drive from Iguala. His conclusion was based upon the testimony of several members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, who told federal prosecutors they were hired to burn the bodies and pulverize the bones and teeth of the victims, placing them in plastic bags afterwards.

The ashes and other minute remains were later tossed into the San Juan river, according to the men. Federal investigators, aided by scuba divers from the Mexican Federal Police, retrieved plastic bags from the river and the Cocula trash dump six weeks ago. The contents were then sent to Austria for analysis, leading to Mora's identification on Dec. 4.

But both the Innsbruck investigators and a spokesman for the Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), a forensic team which has been assisting Mexican authorities for weeks, tried to dampen speculation over the weekend that the other 42 Ayotzinapa students would be quickly ID'd.

"Mora was identified because (in Austria) they were able to extract a type of DNA material which is highly effective in making comparisons, and because the bone sample was in good condition" said EEAF, which was privately hired by families of the students. The families have repeatedly said they don't trust Mexican investigators.

In the case of Mora, the bone fragment was delivered to EAAF from an open bag in the custody of Mexican officials. The Argentine forensic team spokesman said yesterday he doesn't know where the remains in that bag were collected, and that apart from the statements of the Guerreros Unidos members, who are now in federal custody, there is no evidence that the bags retrieved from the river contained the remains of the students incinerated at the trash dump. The entire state of Guerrero is littered with so-called narcofosas where drug cartel victims are unceremoniously dumped, often after every effort has been made to prevent their identification. Remains of Ugandan priest found in one of Guerrero's many organized crime burial sites.

"At this time there is no forensic or other physical proof that the bags recovered from the San Juan held was left of the bodies burned at the Cocula trash dump," EAAF said in a statement to the press. "The evidence linking the two sites is purely testimonial."

Yesterday Karam said the bag containing Mora's bone fragment was indeed removed from the river by divers, and that ashes, bone particles and "residuals" found in the bag "correspond to" remains found at the trash dump. But EAAF's implied charge of lack of forensic precision and failure to follow routine evidence preservation and chain of custody protocols by Mexican law enforcement authorities will undoubtedly lend further controversy to a case already jam-packed with it.

The attorney general also announced on Sunday that federal authorities have issued arrest warrants for 16 former police officers in Iguala and Cocula, and 11 sicarios - hired executioners - who were on the payroll of Guerreros Unidos. The government claims that Iguala's former mayor ordered officers to detain the 43 students, who were then turned over to the sicarios. José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, are in federal custody facing murder, conspiracy and organized crime participation charges. They were "key operators" of Guerreros Unidos, according to Karam, who said that more than 100 people were involved in the mass execution. Eighty have been arrested to date.

Jan. 20, 2015 - Iguala student remains unlikely ever to be identified

Dec. 6 - Leftist leader says PDR continues to harbor some of those responsible for Iguala massacre
Nov. 9 - Not just in Guerrero: La Barca, Jalisco, at one year
Nov. 7 - All hope fades for families of 43 missing students, as A.G. Karam delivers devastating news
June 2 - Only 7 Mexican states are well prepared to carry out criminal investigations, analysts report

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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