Mexican authorities announced Tuesday they can say with "legal certainty" that all 43 missing Ayotzinapa students were murdered and incinerated in a municipal landfill in Cocula, Guerrero.
The announcement by Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency and the Attorney General’s Office is based on testimony from incarcerated hitman Felipe "The Brush" or “The Stubborn” Salgado, who heads a murderous unit of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.
Tomas Zeron, director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, explained at a press conference Tuesday in Mexico City that Salgado confessed to giving the order to execute and burn the students on Sept. 26. The hitman apparently thought he was killing members of a rival gang known as Los Rojos, according to his testimony.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Salgado's confession corroborates the earlier version of events; the students, he said, “died in the circumstances described” by his office last November.
Watch subtitled clips of the new confessions:
This announcement comes a week after DNA lab tests by Austria’s Innsbruck University were unable to produce definitive results on the identities of victims' remains. So far, the lab has been able to identify the remains of only one victim. The university is now in the process of performing a second round of cutting-edge DNA tests known as "massively parallel sequencing."
The lack of conclusive DNA results has led to a variety of rumors, theories and doubts about what really happened. An investigation by Processo Magazine last December alleged the involvement of Federal Police — an allegation denied by the government, federal police and army.
The students still mistrust the government. One Ayotzinapa student who spoke to Fusion Tuesday on the condition of anonymity said, “The hypothesis generated by other organizations conducting parallel investigations makes us weary of everything the Attorney General says.” He claims the gang Los Rojos is unknown in the area, and suspects the municipal government of Iguala invented them. He believes the federal government is using this and a coerced testimony to support their previous version of the crime.
Family members of the victims held a press conference Tuesday night to dismiss the government's claims and vowed to continue searching for the missing students.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto meanwhile said Mexico cannot "remain trapped" in the Ayotzinapa tragedy. Peña Nieto tweeted, "Ayotzinapa forces us to change. The shared pain should inspire us to work towards a Mexico of freedom and justice."
Video edited by Leslie-Anne Frye