A team of Argentine forensic experts arrived in Iguala in Guerrero state in Mexico on Oct. 7 to help federal and state authorities identify the remains of bodies found in clandestine, mass graves. It is unclear how many of the bodies uncovered in the mass grave are connected to the disappearance of 43 students following protests in Iguala on Sept. 26.This week's issue of SourceMex lays out the array of unclear reports regarding what actually transpired on Sept 26, when students at a teacher's college organized a protest against plans to cut funding to their university.
The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense, or EAAF), was founded in the mid-1980s when a team was formed to investigate the remains of disappeared families in Argentina. Since that project, EAAF has expanded its work to over 30 countries and helped form the Association of Latin American Forensic Anthropology (ALAF). The two organizations have worked jointly in Guatemala, Bolivia, Spain, Colombia, Mexico and other countries. The joint work of EAAF and ALAF in Mexico dates back to the early 2000s, when the EAAF was asked to participate in an international seminar titled "Truth Commissions: Torture, Reparations, and Prevention." Recently, EAAF was asked to assist a new Special Prosecutor investigating cases of people disappeared for political reasons during the 1960's and 1970's. Over the past several years, EAAF members worked in the state of Chihuahua on a project to exhume, analyze, and attempt to identify the remains of over a hundred individuals associated with the investigation of murdered and disappeared women in Ciudad Juárez.
The EAAF's mission statement explicitly states that the objectives of the team are to cater to the wishes of relatives of victims and their communities, and that the team's track record in international tribunals displays a deep and sincere dedication to truth and "the historical reconstruction of the recent past, often distorted or hidden by the parties or government institutions which are themselves implicated in the crimes under investigation."
Even though President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration requested the intervention of the EAAF, family members of the victims are relying on the Argentine experts for truth and justice because of deep distrust of police and government authorities. Meliton Ortega, a relative of one of the missing students, has publicly expressed his distrust of state involvement in the investigation, representing a general attitude among his community members that the police and the government are the last people they want in charge of investigating this site.
So will the Argentine team succeed in helping relatives of the students arrive at the truth? The task might be difficult. A slew of reports in the last week have revealed that the Argentine forensic team has had difficulty accessing the grave site, where state and federal authorities are tightly securing the area.
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The Latin America Data Base (LADB) is one of the longest running premier news and educational services on Latin America. Established in 1986 as a unit of the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico (UNM), LADB has had an internet presence since 1996. LADB features three weekly electronic publications: NotiCen, NotiSur, and SourceMex, and a fully searchable archive of over 28,000 articles that provide timely information and historical perspective on a variety of Latin American issues. LADB is a subscription service made available at no cost to the UNM community. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Image: Photograph of protest. Reprinted Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike © from Flickr user Realidad Expuesta.
--Posted October 20, 2014. Reprinted from LADB blog post, "Argentine Forensic Team Working in Guerrero," written by Jacob Sandler on Monday, October 20, 2014.