“Brother, we will be here as long as necessary, as long as you need; You know we are here to help you. Do not be afraid, soon you will be fine.”
- Ulises Gutiérrez Solano
Aldo Gutiérrez Solano is described by his brother Ulises as a happy and outgoing person; “He likes football, is an athlete, he rides horses, he likes music; He is a talented young man. He was a farmer, he worked with my dad, he helped his uncles and neighbors.”
Aldo was born in Ayutla de los Libres, in the Costa Chica region of the state of Guerrero, where his family grows corn, hibiscus, and sesame. The tenth of fourteen children of Gloria Solano Vázquez and Leonel Gutierrez, he is only the second sibling in his family to have access to a college education. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, he applied to the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa and scored among the top 30 of four hundred candidates.
On the night of September 26, 2014, Aldo was a passenger in the first of three buses taking the route through Juan N. Álvarez street out of the city of Iguala as gunshots rang out from both sides of the buses. As the busses approached Periférico Norte a municipal Police pickup truck blocked the street, with at least three more from the rear. Police personnel abandoned the truck and five students from the first bus attempted to push the vehicle out of the way so that the buses could pass. Local Iguala police, state police, armed men in civilian clothing, and undercover military were all present as the trapped students were fired upon. Aldo was shot in the temple and fell to the ground, the first casualty of the attacks. His classmates were unable to carry him inside the bus through the gunfire, and he lay on the ground for over an hour before the police responded to the student’s pleas to call an ambulance.
The projectile that entered Aldo's frontal region and exited on the right side destroyed 65% of his brain. Medical negligence damaged him even more. He spent 10 hours without medical attention at the General Hospital of Iguala and then a month without being transferred to the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, in Mexico City.
Every week for four years, two members of the Gutiérrez Solano family, and even their neighbors, would take turns traveling from Guerrero to the capital, so that someone would be at Aldo’s hospital bedside at all times. They traveled 6 hours each way, and rented a small room nearby where they rested and bathed between shifts. The family would tell Aldo everything that was happening in their town, play his favorite music, and televise soccer games for him. He reacts to these with blinks and other movements but is unable to communicate or control his movements.
In October 2016, after multiple requests from Aldo’s family for second opinions from the international community of experts, the Executive Commission for Victim Care (CEAV) reported that doctors Francisco Calixto Machado Curbelo, a neurologist at the Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery of Cuba, and Mauricio Chinchilla, a neurologist from Costa Rica, would be responsible for assessing Aldo’s health.
Although the doctor’s confirmed Aldo’s vegetative state, there has been positive improvement since he has been in the experts’ care. Aldo breathes on his own, opens his eyes, and has cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Although he is unable to interact with family members or the environment, rehabilitation programs have managed to regularize his nutrition and he is no longer fed intravenously. Aldo can also sit in a wheelchair, go out in the sun, and he receives several physical therapies every day.
At the request of the family and on the instructions of the medical team and psychosocial support, as well as the GIEI, it was recommended that Aldo be transferred to a family environment, in order to guarantee the permanent medical attention he requires. In October of 2018, Aldo left the National Institute of Rehabilitation in Mexico City and was taken by helicopter to Tultepec, in Ayutla de los Libres, in Guerrero, where he is constantly among relatives and cared for in a new government-built clinic in the neighborhood of Barrio Nuevo de Ayutla.
Although the doctors caution that the recovery rate for patients in Aldo’s condition is minimal, his parents and his siblings stand firm that one day he will regain consciousness: “We encourage each other and tell each other that he will soon regain strength," says Ulises. "We are going to keep waiting.”
Two weeks before Aldo was transferred home, and on the fourth anniversary of the attacks against the students from Ayotzinapa, his brother Leonel Gutiérrez Solano was in a courtroom in Stuttgart Germany to denounce the consequences of the illegal export of G36 assault rifles, which the German company Heckler & Koch sent to four Mexican states without having a legal permit to do so. Although Leonel was denied an application to testify as a co-plaintiff, he and lawyer Sofía de Robina Castro, member of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, which gives legal support to the Ayotzinapa victims, were present at the trial of five former employees and the company itself, for alleged corruption, having established, together with the Secretariat of SEDENA, the Mexican defense ministry, a method to circumvent the ban on arms sales whose final destination was the states of Guerrero, Jalisco, Chihuahua and Chiapas. Due to the situation of violence and violation of human rights in these states, they are listed as prohibited destinations for arms sales by the German government. Over the years, however, it was discovered that the veto on the sale of German weapons to those states was not adhered to, and in fact, of the 10 thousand assault rifles that Heckler & Koch sold to Mexico, 49% were sent precisely to the four banned states.
As stated in official documentation, of those 4,900 rifles that were handed over to prohibited Mexican states, two thousand arrived in Guerrero, and a hundred of them ended up in the hands of the Cocula, Iguala and Huitzuco police, controlled by organized crime.
Of the one hundred Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles that Cocula, Iguala and Huitzuco police had in 2014, at least seven were fired at the students on the night of September 26 of that year - three of which were fired at Juan N. Álvarez, where Aldo was seriously injured. Although after the attack, police cleaned up the crime scenes, removing all the bullet shells they could find, and despite the fact that the Prosecutor's Office of Guerrero did not take any further action to preserve the evidence in the area, it was determined that, among other weapons, at least seven Heckler & Koch G36 rifles were used in the attacks. In the area of Juan N. Álvarez shells were discovered from three of these machine guns, capable of firing 750 rounds per minute in fully automatic mode.
It is also very likely that more than seven of the German weapons were used against the students. In June 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that at least 16 Heckler & Koch war rifles in the possession of the Iguala Police were destroyed by the Mexican Army after the attack on the students, thus preventing the IACHR from analyzing them to determine if they were used in the attacks.
There is also evidence that firearms legally imported from the United States were used in the attacks against the Ayotzinapa students. Documents from the Mexican defense ministry’s arms registry include the weapons possessed by municipal police in Iguala, who carried out the initial attacks. Among the arms listed: 20 AR6530 assault rifles, a lightweight variant of the AR-15, produced by Colt’s Manufacturing, headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut. Colt sold the Mexican government those rifles, which arrived in Guerrero in 2013.
Whether through direct arms sales, or under the framework of the Mérida Initiative, which provides funding and equipment to the Mexican Military, there is strong evidence that such U.S. military transfers contribute significantly to violence, instability, and the denial of human rights in Mexico.
In the four attacks in Iguala on September 26-27, 2014, three students and three local citizens were murdered. At least forty people, including 10 students, received gunshot wounds. Forty-three normalistas were forcibly disappeared. All of the victims were unarmed.