Forty-three chairs have remained vacant since 2014 at the Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa. Forty-three families have been anxiously awaiting news of their sons, and the entire country has been yearning for justice.

On September 26th, 2014, forty-three students in teacher training went missing when they had commandeered buses to travel to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. Paradoxically, both Ayotzinapa and Tlatelolco represent two of Mexico’s worst human rights atrocities.

Neither former President Enrique Peña Nieto nor current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has shed light on the case during these nine years. Despite this, the latter has promised complete access to information related to the case.

In 2022, Alejandro Encinas, the Undersecretary of Human Rights, declared that the case of the 43 students ‘constituted a state crime in which members of the criminal group Guerreros Unidos and agents from various institutions of the Mexican state were involved.’

Relatives of the Ayotzinapa victims hold posters during a march to mark the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teaching training school, in Mexico City on September 26, 2023. (Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

An independent commission, established through an agreement between Mexico and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has released its sixth and final report on the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. The investigation notes that the state was responsible for concealing essential information in the case. The report states, ‘Not only did it allow the attacks to happen, but it also later covered up and did not provide truthful information about what occurred.’

On the ninth anniversary, accountability just includes Jesus Murillo Karam, the architect of the ‘historical truth’ version of the events, who was arrested last year on charges of forced disappearance, torture, and obstruction of justice. Last June, eight soldiers were detained for forced disappearance. Up to this point, the identities of just three victims have been confirmed through the examination of their remains.

As is the case every year, thousands of protestors and the victims’ parents gather in the Zócalo to remind the Mexican state that ‘We want to come to know the truth about where our children are, where the government took them because it is they who have taken away our young people from us,’ as Emiliano Navarrete, the father of José Ángel Navarrete González, said.