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It has been over seven years since 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, Mexico, were taken by armed men in the middle of the night. They were never seen again. Their disappearance sparked mass protests, as the 43 became symbols of Mexico’s unchecked human rights abuses. In recent decades, tens of thousands of people have gone missing in Mexico, and almost no one has been held accountable. The culture of impunity is so ingrained that families often don’t go to police for help, believing they’re either corrupt or too afraid to investigate.

In a three-part investigation of the Ayotzinapa case, Reveal’s Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Kate Doyle from the National Security Archive take us inside the investigation into the attack on the students. They have help from Omar Gómez Trejo—the man the Mexican president tapped to prosecute the crime. For more than a year, he kept audio diaries and had regular conversations with Diaz-Cortes and Doyle, giving them insight into a massive coverup by the previous Mexican administration and efforts by current investigators to piece together the details of the attack and bring to justice those responsible.

Listen to the three-part series, After Ayotzinapa.

Watch cellphone footage from the attack by police on Mexican students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College. It was taken by one of the survivors on the buses after the initial shots were fired on September 26, 2014.

Explore the documents:

  • On November 25, 2014, 14 U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern for the 43 missing students in Mexico. Read the PDF.
  • A report from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team on their examination of the Cocula garbage dump from October 27 to November 6, 2014. Their search for the remains of the 43 students was requested after parents of the disappeared began to doubt the official government narrative of events. Read the PDF.
  • A declassified top-secret Defense Intelligence Digest, dated November 25, 2014. It was produced at the request of Defense Intelligence Agency Acting Director David Shedd for information about Mexico’s response to protests and the political and security implications. Read the PDF.
  • A declassified report on Mexico from U.S. Northern Command —the joint military command that oversees U.S. military relations with Mexico— produced by the Office of Defense Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in December 2015. Read the PDF.

Credits

Lead producer: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes | Reporters: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Kate Doyle | Editor: Taki Telonidis | Production assistance: David Rodriguez and Bruce Gil | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Fact checker: Ariana Rosas | Episode illustrations: Dante Aguilera | Audience strategist: Kassandra Navarro | Membership manager: Missa Perron | Original score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Claire Mullen, Kathryn Styer Martínez and Steven Rascón | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson

Special thanks: Megan DeTura, Claire Dorfman and Tom Blanton from the National Security Archive; Santiago Aguirre and Maria Luisa Aguilar from Centro Prodh; Maureen Meyer from the Washington Office on Latin America; John Gibler, Laura Starecheski and Lisa Pollak

This episode would not have been possible without the reporting of John Gibler. For more about the night of the attack from the survivors, read his book, “I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us.”

Featured image by Dante Aguilera/Reveal. 

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