Disappeared: Justice Denied in Mexico’s Guerrero State

Latin America Report N°55, 23 October 2015 

Horrific, unpunished human rights violations have blurred the lines between politics, government and crime in Mexico’s south-western Guerrero state. Drug gangs not only control the illegal heroin industry and prey on ordinary citizens through kidnapping and extortion, but have also penetrated, paralysed or intimidated institutions obligated to uphold democracy and rule of law. The disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teaching college in September 2014 by police allegedly acting in league with gangsters was no anomaly. To break the cycle of violence, ensure justice for the disappeared and bring rule of law to an impoverished, turbulent region, the federal government must give prosecution of unsolved disappearances and other major human rights violations in Guerrero to an independent special prosecutor backed by an international investigative commission empowered to actively participate in the proceedings.

For this report, Crisis Group interviewed dozens of victims, business people, activists, journalists and government officials in the cities of Iguala, Chilpancingo and Chilapa during eight visits to the state from October 2014 through August 2015. It also spoke with activists, analysts and federal officials in Mexico City. The focus of this study is the fight against impunity as a necessary part of security and justice reform, particularly in a state that has suffered some of the country’s most severe human rights violations.

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