Mexico: Ayotzinapa student’s enforced disappearance – Timeline

On 26 September 2014, 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa were subjected to enforced disappearance in Iguala, state of Guerrero. The burned remains of one of them were found weeks later. The other 42 are still missing.

Here’s a timeline of some of the key events that led of one of Mexico’s most alarming cases of human rights violations in recent history.

September 2014

26 – Around 100 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, travel to the City of Iguala (120 km away). They aim to raise money and borrow buses to attend a demonstration in Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the 2 October 1968 Tlatelolco massacre of unarmed students.

The students were travelling in two buses and “borrow” three more from the bus station to continue the journey.

At around 9pm that night, municipal police violently confront the students at different events throughout Iguala town. The authorities open fire against them. State and federal police, as well as the military, witness the attacks without protecting the students; it is not yet clear if they had a more active participation.

The events lead to the extrajudicial execution of three students and three by-standers that night. 25 people are injured. 43 students are forcibly disappeared.

27 – The body of 22-year-old student Julio Cesar Mondragon Fontes is found with flayed face and eyes removed. The relatives of the 43 students declare them disappeared.

Guerrero State’s Attorney General opens an investigation into the events.

28 – Local authorities blame members of the drug cartel Guerreros Unidos for the crimes and arrest 22 Iguala police officers.


1 – Iguala’s Mayor José Luis Abarca goes into hiding.

5 – Mexico’s Federal Attorney General opens another investigation into the students’ disappearance, in parallel to the investigation led by Guerrero State authorities.

At the request of the victims’ families, the Argentinean Forensic Anthropology Team starts its participation in the forensic investigation, alongside the Federal Attorney General’s investigation.

6 – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto addresses the students’ disappearance in a televised speech for the first time. He says: “Mexican society, and the families of the young students who are sadly missing, rightly demand clarification of the facts and that justice is done.”

8 – Thousands of people march across Mexico City to demand the students are found.

10 – Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam reports the detention of four people over the disappearance of the students and the finding of four more mass graves in Iguala, Guerrero.

14 – Officials from Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office say that 28 of the bodies found in the first mass grave do not belong to the students.

15 – Iguala police find six more mass graves in the area.

16 – Enrique Peña Nieto says solving the case is a “priority” for the Mexican state.

17 – Mexico’s Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, announces the arrest of the alleged leader of the drug gang Guerreros Unidos, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, in connection to the disappearance of the students.

He also reports that 36 municipal police officers from the towns of Iguala and Cocula, in the state of Guerrero, have been arrested so far, alongside 17 members of criminal gangs and that three more mass graves were found in Iguala.

22 – Murillo Karam says that Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca and his wife ordered the attack against the students.

23 – The governor of the state of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre, resigns.

29 – The families of the missing students meet President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City for the first time.

November4 – Iguala Major José Luis Abarca and his wife, María de los Angeles de Pineda are arrested in Mexico City. Abarca is sent to a maximum security prison.

7 – The Mexican government claims that the students were killed by members of local drug cartel Guerreros Unidos and that their bodies were incinerated in a local dumpster.

11 – Argentinean forensic experts state that none of the remains found in Cocula, Iguala and La Parota have been identified.

12 – Representatives of the Mexican government and the relatives of the students sign an agreement for a group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to assist in the investigations.

18 – The head of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Ariel Dulitzky, says “There’s no analysis capacity or useful intelligence, this shows the state’s lack of will in the case, or if it is really willing, is incapable to investigate, judge and sanctions cases of forced disappearance”.

24 – Relatives of other people who had disappeared in Iguala in earlier events find eight mass graves in the area.

Argentinean forensic experts report that three of the 30 bodies found in mass graves in Pueblo Viejo, in the municipality of Iguala, do not belong to the students.

27 – President Peña Nieto announces a 10-step plan to reform the police and judiciary. He proposes the creation of 32 state-level police forces and eliminates more than 1,800 municipal police teams that, he says, might be infiltrated by organized crime.


6 – The Argentinean Forensic Anthropology team confirms that a bone fragment found in a mass grave belongs to 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio, one of the students.

7 – Murillo Karam confirms the identification of Alexander Mora. He says former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca and his wife are being investigated for enforced disappearance.

Argentinean forensic experts claim that there is not enough evidence to support the theory that the remains found in the Cocula River were burned in the local dumpster.

January 201514 – Iguala mayor is formally accused as the intellectual author of the enforced disappearance of the 43 students. Tomas Zerón, director of the investigation carried out by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office says all lines of investigation have been closed.

27 – Jesús Murillo Karam says all the students were killed and burnt to ashes in a Cocula dumpster.

February1 – Several police officers and members of criminal gangs detained claim they were tortured to confess to their involvement in the disappearance of the students.

7 – The Argentinian forensic experts challenge the official theory since its conclusions were premature and based on a biased understanding of the available evidence. The experts explain that while there is not forensic evidence to link the disappeared students to the human remains found in the Cocula rubbish dump, there is clear evidence that at least some of the remains belong to victims not related to this case.

27 – Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam is replaced by Arely Gómez, a senator of the ruling party, PRI.

April8 – The testimony of two bus drivers is received for the first time, following a recommendation of the independent experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission assessing the investigation.

15 – The group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights informs the Federal Attorney General’s Office of the existence of a fifth bus not included thus far in the investigation.

July29-30 – Clothes found on the scene are finally analyzed after a recommendation of the independent experts assessing the investigation.

September6 – A new report by the group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the investigation of the student’s disappearance rebukes the theory that their bodies could have been incinerated in a dumpster, as claimed by the authorities; and highlights serious failures in the investigation of the case, including gross mistakes in the handling of evidence.

President Peña Nieto says they investigation is still open.

16 – Authorities inform the media of a potential new identification of one of the remains as belonging to Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz.

17 – The experts of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF) clarified that the genetic coincidence found during the DNA tests is not high enough for it to be considered a positive identification of Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz.