One eyewitness to the Sept. 26 abduction of 43 students in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero has recounted that at least some of the youths were burned alive, a prominent priest and human rights activist said Friday.
The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, known for his advocacy on behalf of undocumented Central American migrants, cited concerns for the witness’ safety in declining to provide any details about his source.
On the night of Sept. 26, police in the town of Iguala fired shots at a group of students from Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a nearby teacher-training facility.
Six people were killed and 25 others wounded, while 43 students remain missing.
Several people arrested for the 26 incident told investigators Iguala deputy police chief Francisco Salgado Valladares had his men intercept the Ayotzinapa students and that while a boss from the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel identified only as “Chucky” ordered the young people seized and killed.
Solalinde said at a press conference that he had the opportunity to talk to several people who “directly” witnessed the events in Iguala and that one of them told him that Ayotzinapa students were burned.
Asked whether the witness was referring to all 43 students, the priest replied, “the information is fragmented.”
“The person who told me that is very shaken and afraid,” Solalinde said.
“If the Ayotzinapa Normal students were alive, do you think they would let this entire problem go on and grow, knowing the national and international reaction we have,” the priest said to reporters. “That is the best evidence that they are no longer living.”
Criticizing the government’s “poor handling” of the tragedy, Solalinde that Mexico needs to be re-founded in the face of violence extending “from border to border and from coast to coast.”
“Bodies turn up everywhere,” the priest said.
Conflict among rival drug cartels and between the criminals and security forces has claimed more than 130,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon decided to militarize the struggle against the drug trade.