Washington, DC—The resignation of Tomás Zerón from his position as Chief Director at Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency (Agencia de Investigación Criminal, AIC) within the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) could represent an opening to move forward with the investigation into the enforced disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. While at the AIC, Zerón was implicated in obstructing the investigation and manipulating evidence in the Ayotzinapa case. However, despite these serious accusations, President Peña Nieto has named Zerón as Technical Secretary of Mexico’s National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional).
“Zerón’s appointment to the National Security Council sends a disturbing message that senior officials implicated in serious wrongdoing will not be punished, but rather promoted. While Zerón’s departure from the PGR is important, the Mexican government should not be let off the hook from investigating him and other officials involved in the obstruction of justice in the case,” affirms Maureen Meyer, WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico. “Zerón did not act on his own; he formed part of a broader effort within the Mexican government to invent a ‘historic truth’ about what happened to the students that has been proven again and again to be false.”
The international Group of Experts—appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide technical assistance to the Mexican government in the Ayotzinapa case—revealed grave irregularities in Zerón’s role in the investigation, including the possible manipulation of evidence. In a video presented by the Group of Experts and included below, Zerón is seen at Río San Juan where plastic bags containing burned remains were discovered and where a bone fragment from one of the students was identified—the only positive identification in the case. Official government records show that the bags were discovered by Marine divers on October 29; however, this video shows Zerón at the river with the plastic bags and a key suspect that had been taken out of custody on October 28—a day before the evidence was officially recorded as being found. “The government’s failure to investigate and sanction Zerón’s actions and those of other officials who allegedly tampered with evidence and tortured suspects makes it clear that the government is protecting its own and that there will be no consequences for those involved in the cover-up,” said Meyer.
Nearly two years after the Ayotzinapa students were attacked and disappeared, the case remains unresolved and there have been zero convictions. Moving into the second anniversary of the students’ tragic disappearance on September 26 and 27, the Mexican government has the opportunity to demonstrate to the students’ families, the Mexican population, and the international community that Zerón’s departure will mean pursuing the lines of investigation proposed by the Group of Experts, full cooperation with the Inter-American Commission’s follow-up mechanism, renewing searches for the disappeared students, and investigating and sanctioning authorities that obstructed justice, tortured suspects, and tampered with evidence. The failure to do so will show the Mexican government’s unwillingness to uncover the truth and achieve justice.