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Thousands Protest Mexico's Investigation Into 43 Missing Students
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Thousands Protest Mexico's Investigation Into 43 Missing Students

Latin America

Thousands Protest Mexico's Investigation Into 43 Missing Students

Thousands Protest Mexico's Investigation Into 43 Missing Students
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It's been one year since 43 students in rural Mexico disappeared after being attacked by police officers. As protesters mark the anniversary, new theories have emerged about their disappearance.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One year ago, 43 teaching students from a rural town in southern Mexico were kidnapped by local police officers and presumably murdered. The case has drawn international attention to the human rights situation in Mexico. There's also national outrage over the current administration's handling of the investigation. Yesterday, marchers took the streets to mark the anniversary and demand a new investigation into the students' disappearance. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: In a light rain, thousands marched down Mexico City's grand boulevards, chanting now is the time to return the students alive and punish those responsible for this crime. It's a crime that has gripped and galvanized this country for the past year.

FRANCISCO LAURO VILLEGAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We are not here just to commemorate. We are here to demand justice," says Francisco Lauro Villegas. His brother, Magdaleno Ruben, was one of the 43 students. According to officials, the students traveling in five buses were attacked by local police, who then handed them over to a drug gang. Officials say in a case of mistaken identity for rivals, the gang murdered the 43 students and incinerated their bodies in a nearby garbage dump. Few on the streets yesterday, like marcher Selena Diaz, believe that version.

SELENA DIAZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "After one year, authorities have not been able to tell us what happened to the students," says Diaz. "This is unacceptable." Remains of only two of the 43 students have been identified. Public outrage over the handling of the case has eroded the credibility of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

KEVIN GALLEANA: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Singing, President, open your ears, we will not tolerate any more murders, university student Kevin Galleana says it's not just 43 students who've lost their lives.

GALLEANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Galleana says it's important not to forget the more than 25,000 people who have also disappeared in Mexico in the past eight years. On Thursday, President Pena Nieto announced he'll create a new special prosecutor to investigate those cases. That day, he also held a private meeting with the relatives of the 43 students, and he insured them that he would get to the bottom of their case, says his spokesman, Eduardo Sanchez.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDUARDO SANCHEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Sanchez says the case has never been closed and will not be shelved. Unfortunately, the government's investigation to date was recently discredited by a team of international experts. They condemned the use of torture on witnesses and manipulation of key evidence. They also concluded the students may have mistakenly boarded buses stuffed with heroin bound for the U.S. Marchers yesterday demanded answers.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

KAHN: Maximino Hernandez Cruz says sometime soon the government will have to tell the truth about what happened to his son, Carlos, one of the 43 disappeared students.

MAXIMINO HERNANDEZ CRUZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We are tired of all their lies," Hernandez said, as he continued down the street among the marchers, demanding to know what happened that night one year ago. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

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