By Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a decree on Monday to set up a commission tasked with determining what happened to 43 missing and presumed killed trainee teachers kidnapped in 2014, a crime that continues to loom large in the country.
“This is a matter of state,” Lopez Obrador said at an event with parents of the missing on his first weekday in office, following his inauguration on Saturday. He also offered protection to witnesses so they could safely tell their stories.
“We are not going to wash our hands of this,” he said, promising that no obstacles will prevent the truth from being revealed.
Lopez Obrador said even the army could be investigated by the commission, which has been a key demand of family members and experts who believe that members of the military have information about the case that has yet to see the light of day.
“The investigation has to include all of the government, anyone involved,” said Lopez Obrador, including any “members of the military that might have been involved.”
In the past, supporters of the army have said it should not be subject to the same transparency as other parts of the government, a posture critics say helps hide the truth.
Lopez Obrador’s foreign ministry has also invited international organizations to take part in the commission, including the United Nations, which will observe the process, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which will be responsible for managing a group of independent investigators.
According to the previous government’s assessment, the students, who were studying at a teachers’ training college in Ayotzinapa in the violent southwestern state of Guerrero, were rounded up by corrupt police who handed them over to a gang that murdered them and burned their remains in a nearby dump.
But in a report released in 2015, international experts flagged deep flaws in the official investigation and rejected its central claim that the victims were incinerated in a garbage dump in Cocula, a city in the Pacific state of Jalisco.
Lopez Obrador has placed an early focus on trying to pacify Mexico, which has suffered some 200,000 murders and numerous rights violations in a war on drug cartels that began a dozen years ago.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Jonathan Oatis)