More than a month after 43 college students were led away by police and never seen again, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday met with relatives of the missing men in a bid to shore up flagging public faith in the search.
Here in the region where the students vanished after a deadly clash Sept. 26 with police in Iguala, in Guerrero state, there were few words of optimism. Many dismissed the government’s efforts as halfhearted at best.
With pressure mounting on authorities to produce the students -- or, more likely, their bodies -- and bring to justice a web of potential culprits including police and politicians, the government's investigation has shown itself sluggish, misdirected and often bungled, critics say.
Families of those detained as suspects, on whom authorities have relied for clues in the search, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that their relatives were tortured by police to extract confessions and other information.
Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam raised expectations this week that the students had been located in a trash dump outside Cocula, which is next to Iguala. Hundreds of federal investigators descended on the site, and Murillo invited journalists to observe.
Murillo said the information that led his investigators to Cocula came from detained suspects, but relatives told The Times that the suspects were tortured into making the statements. In one case, suspects were captured at a roadblock near Cocula; in others, detainees were picked up arbitrarily, the relatives said.
“He didn’t want to say he was tortured -- I saw it,” teacher and lawyer Melina Canto said, describing her brother's broken nose and bruised face.
“There is a very grave problem here -- I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes -- where the people live in fear, controlled by their terror,” said Napoleon Hernandez, a member of the group. “They listen, fall quiet and return home. In the middle of the 21st century, you cannot believe such behavior by people … a collective psychosis.”