Mexico marks one year since 43 students vanished

Relatives of some of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa College Raul Isidro Burgos carry their belongings after completing a hunger strike of 48 hours, ahead of the first anniversary of the disappearance, at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City o
Relatives of some of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa College Raul Isidro Burgos carry their belongings after completing a hunger strike of 48 hours, ahead of the first anniversary of the disappearance, at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City on Sept 25, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Mexico marked one year on Saturday (Sept 26) since 43 college students disappeared after an attack by corrupt police, with their parents set to lead a march over a case haunting President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The demonstration in Mexico City will be the latest show of discontent over the government's handling of a tragedy that has battered Pena Nieto's approval rating and tarnished his international image.

Mr Felipe de la Cruz, the spokesman for the families, said the "march of national indignation" will start near the Los Pinos presidential residence and culminate at the Zocalo historic square.

"We will march with energy. We can't rest in our search" for the students, he told AFP.

The parents travelled from the violence-wracked southern state of Guerrero earlier this week and completed a 43-hour fast in honor of their sons on the eve of the protest.

Pena Nieto met with the frustrated parents for only the second time since last year on Thursday, insisting that his government had not closed the investigation.

"We are on the same side," Pena Nieto told the parents. "We are searching for the truth together."

The president also ordered the creation of a special prosecutor's office to investigate the more than 20,000 disappearances in the country.

But the parents, who handed the president a list of demands, voiced disappointment and vowed to continue pressuring the government.

One of their demands was for a special unit within the attorney general's office to focus solely on the case, under international supervision.

The conclusions of the case have been disputed by the parents.

Scores of students from the Ayotzinapa rural teacher college in Guerrero travelled to the city of Iguala on Sept 26 last year to hijack buses to join a commemoration in Mexico City.

Prosecutors say local police shot at their buses, killing three students and three bystanders.

The officers then delivered 43 young men to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies after confusing them with rivals, according to prosecutors.

One student was positively identified among 17 charred remains sent to an Austrian lab while authorities said there was a possible DNA match for a second one.

Officials said on Friday forensic investigators were sifting through some 60,000 more charred bone fragments to see if any can be tested.

The new forensic review came after independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights questioned the official investigation, saying there was no evidence of a funeral pyre at the landfill.

The experts also urged authorities to investigate whether the students were attacked because one of the buses they seized may have contained drugs.

"We are in a situation without exit because there won't be a version of the events that will be accepted by everybody," Jose Antonio Crespo, political professor at the Economics Research and Teaching Center, told AFP.

"This will be the negative stamp on the government until the end (of Pena Nieto's six-year term in 2018), like 1968 was for the government of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz," Crespo said, referring to the massacre of students during a 1968 Mexico City protest.

Pena Niet will be travelling the day of the anniversary as he flies to New York to join the United Nations General Assembly.