Nov 11, 2014

Argentine Forensics Team Says First Remains Are Not of Ayotzinapa Students

Laura Carlsen, Americas Program

Finally, the Argentine forensics team called in as an independent analyst by human rights groups and parents of the missing students of Aytozinapa, has weighed in. The Team announced today that it analyzed 24 of the 30 remains discovered in Cerro Viejo in six graves outside Iguala, Guerrero and none are of the missing students.
"El EEAF has obtained genetic results from the laboratory The Bode Technology Group in the United States on 24 of the 30 remains recovered in Cierro Viejo. None of those showed probability of biological parentage with the 43 students of the rural college. Work continues on the six additional remains and results are expected soon."
This result concurs with the findings of the Federal Attorney General's office announced on Oct. 14 that the remains were not of the students.

The Argentine team states in its comuniqué that it has participated in the exhumation of 2 of the 30 bodies found at Cierro Viejo, 1 of the 9 found at La Parota and in recovery of remains at the dump in Cocula.

The process-of-elimination method of identification now leaves the Parota bodies and the Cocula bodies--and any others that might turn up as the search continues in a region that has come to be known as a narco-cemetery. AG Jesus Murillo Karam announced on Nov. 7 that detailed testimony from criminals led to the Cocula dump, where --again, according to the criminals--the students were killed, their bodies incinerated, bagged and tossed in a nearby river and other sites.

Murillo Karam stated that those remains have been sent to a lab in Innsbruck. It is not clear why they were sent to a different lab, if the Argentine team is testing remains from that site separately or how long this identification will take.

Although the announcement that 24 of the first remains found are not the students provides the first scientific certainty to the case, it still leaves far more questions than answers.

First, the AG office found the Cierro Viejo remains on the basis of testimony by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel arrested after the crime who said they had driven the students there and murdered them. So the federal government investigators were either duped by the criminals or arranged the exhumations of the wrong bodies as a distraction or a feint, as many of the Ayotzinapa students and families claim. Parents had long been skeptical of the first claims, stating what we now know--that some of the remains were female and that the age ranges were wrong.

Suspicions are now deepened. If criminal testimony proved false the first time, how reliable can it be now that three new cartel members are claiming with graphic detail that they killed the students at the Cocula dump?

The parents have already stated firmly and angrily that they will not accept criminal testimony as a resolution of the case. They maintain that their sons are alive until there is irrefutable scientific proof that the remains are of their loved ones. So far, no matches have been made.

The communiqué of Nov.11 concludes:
"In synthesis, up to now there have been no identifications between the remains found in the 3 locations mentioned and the 43 students. The EEAF continues to work on efforts to identify the recovered remains, alongside official investigations. The institutional policy of the EAAF is to inform results first to the the families of the victims, and to the authorities in charge of the investigations."
 The last statement could be a concern. Does the team have to have the OK from the authorities to announce its findings, or just chronologically inform them first before going public?

The problem with the process of elimination method of identification in Guerrero is that the state seems to be capable of producing an untold number of cadavers to eliminate. The task of connecting these to other disappeared people will be complicated, to say the least. Record-keeping is poor and DNA testing extremely limited.

A persistent accusation dogging the AG in recent weeks is that the government and his office in particular is "managing the crisis" rather than resolving it. That is to say, that it has failed to reveal what it knows and is in the throes not of a real search but of a political dilemma regarding whether it's best to keep the students alive in the public eye or produce evidence of death. The latter prolongs the situation of uncertainty that is feeding demonstrations and actions across the country; the former s admission of a massacre and could ignite even greater public indignation and rage.

Notably, the message from the Argentine team does not indicate that the Cocula remains might be too deteriorated to be analyzed. The government has hinted at the possiblity--the latest version of the criminals' testimony indicates they went to great lengths to assure the bodies not be identified.

It will be vitally important to identify the rest of the remains quickly and reliably. The Aytozinapa families need that, and so do the thousands of families of other disappeared persons whose bodies anonymously in clandestine graves. Like the ones of Cierro Viejo.

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