The investigators viewed drone videos of Mexican marines at the trash dump the day the “historic truth” was announced. The videos showed trash bags getting moved around and a fire started. The Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam later arrives at the scene.
The investigators also found evidence that Tomás Zerón, the head of México’s Criminal Investigation Agency in 2014, played a role in staging false evidence, including supervising torture. The investigators, in short, had uncovered proof that people at the highest levels of government had lied and obstructed justice. Omar’s office issued 83 arrest warrants for drug smugglers and military personnel.
So why did Omar Gomez end up resigning from the National Prosecutor’s Office?
Omar’s unit sat within the National Prosecutor’s Office headed by Alejandro Gertz. In August 2022, Gertz pressured Omar to press charges against Murillo Karam, the former attorney general. Omar had been building a case against Karam, but he told Gertz he needed time to make the case air-tight. Gertz then interfered and had another prosecutor request an arrest warrant, jeopardizing the odds of a conviction. Gertz also canceled the arrest of 21 of the 83 people Omar’s team had just pressed charges against, including 16 members of the military. It became clear to Omar that his investigation would be blocked.
As for Tomás Zerón, the former top Mexican government investigator, he’s now living in Israel, and Israeli officials have so far failed to honor México’s extradition request.
Is stopping the impunity we see in the Ayotzinapa case possible?
The criminal justice system needs major improvements. México has historically had an “inquisitorial” justice system that had judges responsible for analyzing written evidence presented by the prosecution and defense, including confessions often obtained through torture, and then making a decision. Since 2008, México has been transitioning to an “adversarial” system based on oral trials in public courtrooms, as we have in the US.
The new reforms have been important, but not fully implemented. Of the cases that have gone to trial, only 2 percent have resulted in convictions. AMLO seems more interested in expanding the role of the military than in investing in the rule of law and the country’s justice system.
So has there been any real progress in the Ayotzinapa case?
In spite of the steps backward, yes, we have seen progress, but all the students have not been found. Omar’s unit has made important arrests, both of individuals linked to the Ayotzinapa students’ disappearance and of government officials involved in the cover-up. His team’s continuing search for the disappeared students has identified the remains of two additional students. The Presidential Commission report from this past August also names the Ayotzinapa case as a state crime, a huge admission.
The work of the expert group and Omar’s unit have dismantled the government’s original “historic truth.” They have successfully demonstrated how we can carry out an investigation involving drug traffickers operating in collusion with government agents.