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  • Parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared last year began a 43-hour hunger strike on Wednesday, a day before meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto ahead of the case's anniversary. (AAP)Source: AAP
A year after 43 students went missing in Mexico, their parents, friends and international human rights' groups are still searching for answers. What really happened? An exclusive report of SBS Spanish Radio.
By
Carlos Colina

26 Sep 2015 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 26 Sep 2015 - 4:21 PM
Listen to the report in Spanish

When 43 students disappeared in the state of Guerrero, in southern Mexico, it made international headlines. A year on, there are more questions than answers.

An independent study released earlier this month questioned key elements of the Mexican Attorney General's version of what happened on September 26, 2014.

Initially, authorities said the aspiring teachers vanished after gang-linked police attacked their buses in the city of Iguala, allegedly under orders from the mayor and his wife in a night of terror that left six other people dead.

The police then delivered the 43 young men to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who told investigators they took them in two trucks to a landfill, killed them, burned their bodies and dumped them in a river.

But in a 550-page report, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IMCI) - designated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) - said there was no evidence that a fire of this magnitude has occurred, or that students have been incinerated in a garbage dump.

One of those independent experts is Peruvian Jose Torero, who works at Queensland University.

"The hypothesis is that 43 bodies were incinerated in the rubbish dump of Cocula. That hypothesis needs to be verified, based on the material evidence found which involves a series of bones that have no organic content", he said.

"To be able to incinerate bones to that level of deterioration, the fire needed is of such magnitude that would have consequences in the surrounding area, like changes in the colour of trees’ trunks, or burnt plastic. The material evidence needed to confirm that hypothesis does not exist."

"The hypothesis is that 43 bodies were incinerated in the rubbish dump of Cocula (...) he material evidence needed to confirm that hypothesis does not exist", Jose Torero.

Parents and relatives of the 43 missing students this week met with the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and international experts.

Relatives of of the 43 missing students from the Isidro Burgos rural teacher's college, hold up their fists during a press conference after a meeting with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, in the Zocalo, Sept. 24, 2015

Relatives of of the 43 missing students at a press conference after a meeting with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto on September 24, 2015.

Cristina Bautista's son Benjamin Ascencio is one of the missing. She wants to know what happened to him.

"The government hasn’t supported us at all", she said. "It’s been very difficult these last 11 months for us as mothers and fathers of families. The only support we’ve received so far is from the civil society, with five pesos, ten pesos, they are supporting us, giving us clothes, food."

Most families are farmers who haven’t earned a living this past year because they won’t leave the town until they have a credible answer.

Omar Garcia is one of the survivors of September 26. Many survivors have received death threats but they say they have the “responsibility of telling the world what happened that night”.

"The Inter American Human Rights commission put in place protection measures for the parents of the disappeared, but not for the students, so we are vulnerable", he said. "In fact, there have been repeated threats against the students’ leaders. We need to stop this because otherwise they are going to kill us. We’ve repeatedly witnessed this".

"There have been repeated threats against the students’ leaders. We need to stop this because otherwise they are going to kill us. We’ve repeatedly witnessed this", Omar Garcia.

"However, none of the risks really matter to us. I think any parent, any student, any of the friends would do whatever is needed to find a mate, especially if you saw when they were taking them, and that the authorities were the perpetrators. We need to fight, we need to fight for the transformation of this country, but we have to contribute for the change to happen."

"We need to fight, we need to fight for the transformation of this country, but we have to contribute for the change to happen", Omar Garcia.

Parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared last year began a 43-hour hunger strike on Wednesday, a day before meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto ahead of the case's anniversary.

Parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared last year began a 43-hour hunger strike on Wednesday, a day before meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto ahead of the case's anniversary.

According to the official figures, five students died, 43 are missing and 22 were injured in the attacks.

However, researchers said there are 180 "direct victims of various human rights violations" in the various attacks of the night of September 26. The vast majority of them were young and many of them minors.

There is also evidence that one of the buses was stopped by the federal police. Experts from the independent commission requested access to members of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Secretariat of National Defense - the military group assigned to the Iguala region and its surroundings. The Mexican government did not grant access.

John Ackerman, a researcher at the Institute of Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that the facts simply reaffirm the collapse of the legitimacy of institutions in Mexico.

"We’ve all known from the beginning and this study ratifies that the federal authorities, the military forces, the federal police and Enrique Pena Nieto the ones who are directly involved in this," he said. "And it’s not just about the crime against 43 youngsters but this is a political attack against the Mexican people. Because these students were activists, carrying out actions of civil pacific disobedience… they were killed while they were giving a press conference. These are repressive actions of an intolerant and authoritarian state."

"These are repressive actions of an intolerant and authoritarian state", John Ackerman.

Mexicans were not surprised by independent report and hope that international experts will help them find the truth.

"We’ve never believed the Mexican state because it has just tried lied to us from the beginning," Mr Garcia said. "It’s true that they made up a theatre play, a version of the facts that they called 'historical truth' and they made it public through TV and other media, but it was only that: a media and political answer. The problem is not solved."