“They’ll never find them, we turned them into dust and threw them into the water.”
According to federal authorities, that was a cell phone message referring to the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014, and was sent by Gildardo “El Gil” López Astudillo, a suspected plaza chief for the Guerreros Unidos gang, to his superior, Sidronio “El Chino” Casarrubias Salgado, days after the young men went missing.
The incriminating text is congruent with the past government’s “historical truth.” In that version of events, the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were intercepted on September 26, 2014 by municipal police and handed over to gang members, who killed them, burned their bodies in a municipal dump and scattered their ashes in a nearby river.
The message, one of several pieces of damning evidence discovered by authorities on López Astudillo’s mobile telephone after his arrest in 2015, clearly implicates the alleged gangster in the disappearance and presumed death of the students, who were allegedly mistaken for members of a rival gang.
Yet a federal judge ordered the release of the key suspect on September 2, ruling that much of the evidence presented against López Astudillo by prosecutors of the former government was obtained illegally.
A report published on Tuesday by the newspaper Milenio said that authorities also found photos on López Astudillo’s phone that show victims of both torture – including people with serious wounds whose limbs had been amputated – and murder.
Other images show weapons, burned-out vehicles and crime scenes where Guerreros Unidos members clashed with gangsters from criminal organizations such as Los Rojos and La Familia Michoacana.
Among other incriminating evidence found on the phone were messages he sent to a contact identified only as Tintán.
On October 5, 2014 – nine days after the mass kidnapping – “El Gil” asked Tintán to send him his personal telephone number. The latter responded that he didn’t have one.
López Astudillo subsequently sent Tintán an extract of a newspaper article that said that authorities in Guerrero had discovered hidden graves that they believed contained the remains of the missing students.
“What do you think about this pedo [problem]?” the alleged gangster asked.
The evidence – as damning as it is – couldn’t be used to keep López Astudillo in prison, a Tamaulipas-based judge ruled, because it, or other proof, was obtained illegally, most likely through the use of torture.
The United Nations said in a 2018 report that 34 people were tortured in connection with the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students, while a video showing the torture of a suspect was published on YouTube in June.
Human rights undersecretary Alejandro Encinas said last week that the acquittal and release of López Astudillo set “a very grave precedent” that could be used to release more than 50 other people who are in custody as a result of their alleged involvement in the students’ disappearance.
Several suspected Guerreros Unidos members, including the recipient of the “we turned them into dust” message, Sidronio Casarrubias, as well as Felipe Rodríguez Salgado and Erick Sandoval Rodríguez have already been released from prison after they were acquitted of involvement in the students’ disappearance.
The “historical truth” presented by the government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto was widely questioned both within Mexico and internationally and authorities were heavily criticized for their handling of the case. Many people suspect that the army played a role in the students’ disappearance and presumed deaths.
Two days after he was sworn in as president, López Obrador signed a decree to create a super commission to conduct a new investigation into the Ayotzinapa case but to date no new findings have been publicly disclosed.
Source: Milenio (sp)