LAWGEF Supports Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team Report Refuting Cocula Trash Dump Theory in Ayotzinapa Case

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Banner reading: “We are missing 43. It was the State. They took them alive, we want them alive!” in honor of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students as documented by Emma Buckhout on a January 2016 trip to Mexico City, Mexico.

On February 9, 2016, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF by its Spanish acronym) that has been accompanying the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students released its findings on the forensic investigation they have carried out at the Cocula trash dump since October 2014. The team that carried out this work is made up of 26 international and interdisciplinary experts.

The executive summary of EAAF’s report was released at a time when the Interdisciplinary Group of Experts (GIEI) accompanying the case has been the subject of an escalating defamation campaign in the Mexican media with the intent to discredit their findings and expertise. One of the GIEI’s main findings in their September 2015 report was that there was no scientific evidence to prove that the students had been incinerated at the Cocula trash dump, disputing the Mexican government’s main theory, or “verdad historica,” behind the disappearance of the 43 students.

Today at the press conference where representatives from the EAAF, family members of the disappeared students and other advocates were present, the Cocula trash dump theory was once again refuted. The EAAF stated that according to the remains analyzed, there is overwhelming evidence to disprove that the perpetrators burned the remains of the 43 disappeared students at the Cocula trash dump, including discrepancies between physical and testimonial evidence.

EAAF’s report presented today highlighted the following findings:

  • Inconsistencies between statements made by the alleged perpetrators on the placement of the students’ remains and the physical evidence found, including non-human remains and even a set of artificial dentures that did not correspond with any of the students’ health histories or their access to health services available in their communities. 
  • Various types of vegetation that did not display any signs of fires of the intensity that would have had to occur to match the government’s theory of the incineration of the disappeared students. 
  • Documentation of multiple fires at the Cocula trash dump going as far back as 2010 from satellite images and analyses of the soil, making it impossible to link evidence from the ground to a single fire.
  • 132 bullet shells, shot by at least 39 weapons of different ammunitions, mostly from long barreled weapons were found throughout various locations of the trash dump, contradicting statements made by the alleged perpetrators that they only utilized firearms in one specific area and that they were only handguns. 
  • Several irregularities in the management of the firearms initially found at the site, including a lack of access by the EAAF to the site where the firearms were supposedly collected by the Federal Attorney General’s office, leaving the EAAF to suggest that the weapons may have even been placed there and not shot from an actual gun.
  • To date, the only positive identification of the remains of the 43 disappeared students comes from a sample that the Federal Attorney General’s team identified from the San Juan River. EAAF maintains that there is no evidence to link these remains with the ones obtained on the Cocula trash dump.
  • Discrepancies surrounding the origins of the bag supposedly found by the government’s forensic team at the site of the Cocula River containing remains of one of the students, Alexander Mora Venacio, collected in the absence of the EAAF.

The families of the disappeared students ended the press conference affirming the need to pursue new lines of investigation in the Ayotzinapa case and to cease following those connected to the Cocula trash dump theory, given the now overwhelming evidence disproving it. They urged the Mexican government to support the findings of the GIEI and EAAF and to implement their recommendations immediately and for the remainder of the investigation. LAWGEF strongly supports these demands and continues to stand with the findings of the GIEI and EAAF in the Ayotzinapa case.

Executive Summary of EAAF Report, press release and infographics in Spanish here.