Published by proceso.com.mx. Read the Spanish version here.
Buitrago: Now we must investigate those who hid the truth of Ayotzinapa
Former member of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, Colombian lawyer Ángela María Buitrago shows her optimism for the appointment of Omar Gómez Trejo as head of the Special Unit of the Attorney General for the Ayotzinapa case. "He has a lot of sensitivity and knows the case; He is not going to be taken aback," she says in an interview with Proceso. And she adds: Peña Nieto government officials who hid or destroyed fundamental evidence must be investigated, but also the military, because they have information they do not want to divulge.
BOGOTÁ.- The former member of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) Ángela María Buitrago applauds the creation of the Special Unit of the Attorney General for the Ayotzinapa Case and the appointment of Omar Gómez Trejo as its head, and talks about the priorities that the new body should consider.
According to the former Colombian prosecutor, in order to clarify what happened to the 43 normalistas of Ayotzinapa on the night of September 26, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero, it is necessary to investigate the government officials of Enrique Peña Nieto who led "to concealment, destruction or modification of fundamental evidence in the investigation."
She states: It is important to know who they were protecting and why they did it, because that means moving forward in the path that "leads to the truth."
In an interview with Proceso, Buitrago believes that Gómez Trejo will find a "crooked" investigation that must be "straightened out".
And among those who should be investigated, says the Doctor of law, are the authors of the "historical truth," from the former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam to the former Director of the Agency of Criminal Investigation (AIC) Tomás Zerón. Also, she indicates, to the different holders and ministerial agents of the Deputy Attorney General's Office in Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO) that took the investigations of the Ayotzinapa case the previous sexennium.
"They would have to tell where the orders came from not to follow certain lines and why they did irregular procedures in which there were tortures," she says.
She adds: "The first thing to look at is who obstructed and manipulated the investigation."
In the same file of the case, she indicates, "There are hard facts that are very revealing, such as the statements of expert witnesses, public security, ministerials, who say one thing and then there is evidence that something else happened."
The former member of the GIEI argues that in the current Office of the Attorney General of the Nation (FGN) there are officials who come from the former Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) and that they "can tell what happened there" with the handling of the Ayotzinapa case.
But she believes that, for that, Gómez Trejo and the Attorney General, Alejandro Gertz, would have to start "by sweeping the house."
- Sweeping the house, meaning going against the culprits of the obstruction that are still inside? - Proceso asks Buitrago.
- I think so, and the good people that are there can contribute a lot. If they are given security guarantees, those people will speak. I'm sure of that. It is people committed to justice who can say who gave the orders. They know many of the things that happened.
Although this, she clarifies, "does not mean that all those who investigated the case are guilty; nor that all officials to investigate are responsible for crimes."
- Do you think that high levels of the government and the PGR tried to protect someone in particular?
- I think so. It is my perception as an investigator. When they tell you: So-and-so was here and I do not even ask where so-and-so lives; and when I know that so-and-so saw everything, and I did not even ask him: "Hey, what did you see?" ... As an investigator, one asks: Why? So it is important to know who was being protected.
The revealing video
For Buitrago, who has been invited by the Mexican government, together with other ex-members of the GIEI, to help in the new investigation that the Special Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case will carry out, the official file on the disappearance of the 43 normalistas is plagued "of things that are not true, because they were obtained under torture."
And in this new stage it will also be important to "deepen all the lines of research that are outlined in the files and in which no progress was made because many authorities did not want to do so."
Among those lines, Buitrago mentions that the students of the Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos were transferred by their attackers to Huitzuco, east of Iguala, and in the opposite direction of the dump of Cocula, which is to the west and where, according to the "historical truth" defended by the government of Peña Nieto, the bodies of the 43 normalistas were incinerated.
"That line," explains the criminal lawyer, "we could never finalize because when we began looking into Huitzuco and Pololcingo the GIEI mandate had terminated (which was from March 2015 to April 2016)."
She says that upon completing their assignment in Mexico, they left a recommendation to follow 17 lines of research that were ignored by the PGR.
"We recommend expanding the research radius beyond the area of Iguala, towards Mezcala (located south of Iguala), Santa Teresa, Huitzuco and Pololcingo," she recalls.
The line of Mezcala became valid the week before, when a video was released in which Carlos Canto Salgado, El Pato, is tortured by agents of the PGR, among them Carlos Gómez Arrieta, who at the time of the disappearance of the 43 normalistas was the chief of the Federal Ministerial Police in Guerrero, who was accountable to the then Director of the AIC, Tomás Zerón.
For Buitrago, that video, in which Canto Salgado says under torture that between 12 and 13 students were taken to Mezcala aboard three patrols of the Ministerial Police, indicates that since October 2014, when that interrogation occurred, the SEIDO and the PGR knew that the normalistas could have been taken to Mezcala "to houses of Los Peques (a group of gunmen of Guerreros Unidos)" by Ministerial Police.
Canto Salgado also says that the students were handed over to the ministerials in the Tomatal sector, where the exits to Mezcala and Huitzuco are.
"If you, as a Public Prosecutor, had a statement of that nature, the logical question is: why did you never investigate Mezcala and the ministerials?", says Buitrago.
The ex-member of the GIEI says she is convinced that Canto Salgado refers to Federal Ministerial Police officers because she heard this in a video and because during her stay in Mexico the group of experts never found evidence that the State Ministerial Police had participated in the attack on the normalistas.
On the other hand, the GIEI discovered that federal ministerial police officers did attend at least one of the student attack sites, Avenida Juan N. Álvarez de Iguala, on the night of September 26, 2014.
The agents of the State Ministerial Police interrogated by the GIEI -among them Andrés Barrera, Carolina Segura, Miguel Martínez and Cándido Salado- agreed that their involvement that night was limited to protecting the facilities of the Municipal Police of Iguala and to retain the agents of that corporation to be investigated for the disappearance of students.
In its first report, delivered in September 2015, the GIEI published the actions of the agents of the Federal Ministerial Police Romeo Ortiz and Jose Manuel Dirzo in which both give account of their presence in a street in Iguala where there were "excesses by alleged students" (sic).
Buitrago says there is multiple evidence and documentary evidence that Federal Ministerial Police "were acting in Iguala" on the night of the disappearance of the students.
"And we have proof," she adds, "that all the federal police officers moved by an order issued by the PGR when the attacks against the students begin to be reported. At that moment. The Federal Ministerial Police was accountable to Tomás Zerón."
The GIEI discovered that a procedure carried out on October 28, 2014 by Zerón on the San Juan river, near the Cocula dump, was not recorded in the Ayotzinapa case file. The next day a bag with bone remains of Alexander Mora, one of the missing students, appeared in the river as part of the alleged construction of "historical truth."
- The video of Canto Salgado's torture is evidence of obstruction? - Proceso asks Buitrago.
- To me, what I find very strange is that the SEIDO and the PGR, having a line of investigation given by a person that they consider that they heard what they heard and saw what they saw, did not do any research on the ministerials, on Mezcala and about torture.
In addition, "It seemed very strange to us that in the reports that the Federal Ministerial Police made about the events of Iguala, they called the students 'pseudo-students', with that contemptuous connotation."
For the former member of the GIEI, the "most interesting" element of the video of the torture of Canto Salgado, a high school teacher who lived in a bar on his property with members of Guerreros Unidos, "is that it reveals to us the fact that the SEIDO and the PGR did not follow the lines that stood out in the interrogation."
Therefore, she adds, once again "one wonders what they were protecting and who they were protecting ...".
Buitrago says that if they were State Ministerial Police or Federal Ministerial Police that Canto Salgado referred to, "it is finally the least, because they did not investigate either one or the other."
According to the lawyer, the revelation of the torture video of El Pato is "a radical confirmation of the way in which some procedures were undertaken in the Ayotzinapa case".
The untouchable patron
Ángela Buitrago, who is a respected criminal and academic lawyer from the Externado de Colombia University, has a good opinion of Gómez Trejo, the prosecutor in charge of the Special Unit of the FGR for the Ayotzinapa case.
She says that Gómez Trejo, who was technical secretary of the GIEI, knows the world of human rights, has worked in cases of great connotation and sensitivity and is informed about the case, so "they cannot give him a cat instead of a hare."
"I think he's going to do a good job as long as he knows how to choose who to work with. It is a very appropriate appointment and I think he can do good things. "
On the creation of the new Special Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case, which was presented on Thursday, 27, Buitrago maintains that the GIEI had asked for it since they began their work in Mexico in 2015, but that the administration of Peña Nieto was never interested.
"We asked for it because we believe that the case required an independent unit and independent officials. The SEIDO, which never really released the case, did not give any guarantee of impartiality, which is what this investigation needs."
Among the important elements that the new Unit should investigate, Buitrago mentions the identity of the Patron of Huitzuco, who is mentioned in several statements "as someone who had to decide what was done with the boys."
- There were indications to presume that El Patrón was someone from the Figueroa family?
- In this case what we said is that there were elements to relate to those investigations, but it was not done, and it is something that can now be done. I know that there is a Patrón, that he acted, that he was very involved, that he was from Huitzuco, that they took the boys to him, and I know that El Patrón defined what was done with them. At that time, El Patrón was untouchable.
- That is, was there a deliberate operation to avoid reaching the boss?
- There were many things that led to obstruction when certain lines and certain characters were mentioned, and one of them was El Patrón de Huitzuco, of course. In my opinion and in that of the GIEI, that was a fundamental issue; If El Patrón acted in everything and was the one who decided, how can it not be important!
- The members of the GIEI knew that some of the orders to obstruct the investigations came from an office in Los Pinos. Is that something that should be investigated?
- As long as you do not have proof it is very difficult to launch an affirmation of that category. But I can tell you that there are cases in which one can see that there are elements to follow that line of investigation. That can be one of those cases.
This interview was published on June 30, 2019 in the 2226 edition of Proceso magazine