BUITRAGO: THEY PURSUE US BECAUSE WORK ON THE IGUALA CASE IS UNCOMFORTABLE
By: Sanjuana Martínez, Special to La Jornada
To former prosecutors Angela Buitrago y Claudia Paz y Paz, members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, the group’s initials in Spanish) designated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the Ayotzinapa case, the campaign to damage their reputation that they currently suffer is related to their work and to the State’s apparently “untouchable” power groups, who are affected by the truth about the whereabouts of the 43 teachers college students.
“In the measure in which we get closer to the truth, to what really happened on September 26 and 27 (of 2014) in Iguala, there are people that can feel fear along with the perpetrators,” the former attorney general of Guatemala, Claudia Paz y Paz, advises in and interview with La Jornada.
In a separate interview, Angela Buitrago agrees: “It’s a persecution that we are experiencing and that is happening at the times in which we are taking inconvenient positions or making uncomfortable decisions. Nevertheless, neither defamations nor injuries are the proper way to try to clarify the facts of Iguala.”
Groups sympathetic to the Mexican Army, the ultra-right and conservative sectors have started a campaign against them. They vaguely accuse Paz y Paz of “violating human rights” in Guatemala, where she incarcerated, among others, the former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. They accuse Buitrago, of “unjustly” incarcerating former Colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega, recently released in a spurious process.
Both have confronted the military estates of their respective countries in the search for justice and reparations for the victims, something that, they say, has disturbed some groups related to the “perpetrators,” just as in Mexico, where General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the head of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) still refuses to receive the IACHR’s experts with the argument that they are “foreigners,” and refuses to let them interview the soldiers involved in the Ayotzinapa case.
The dirty campaign, they point out, is directed at the group’s work, but also has a “gender component.” The attacks are directed directly at the GIEI’s two women, at the two prosecutors that have denounced corrupt soldiers and functionaries complicit for committing genocide and grave crimes in Guatemala as well as Colombia.
“We are experiencing moral killings,” Buitrago says without restriction. She adds: “they seek to morally finish off Claudia Paz and me, but when one has a clear conscience and knows that what they are saying is completely false, it makes no sense.”
–Has this defamation campaign affected the GIEI’s work?
–It’s very uncomfortable, it’s absolutely unsupportable that we are receiving these kinds of insults, but we have decided to continue the work permanently, without any obstacle, despite the fact that they want to treat us this way. Anyhow, that spreads a media aura, but we’re trying to continue our work with the same effort, because what interests us is looking for the Ayotzinapa students and find the means to do that.”
Lacking the Army
The GIEI’s latest investigations lead to the Army, an aspect of the investigation that the Sedena has not permitted; it has refused to accept the experts’ presence in the interrogations of the soldiers involved in the case.
Claudia Paz y Paz explains that from the beginning they attempted to interview members of the Army, something that has repeatedly been denied them: “Since the first month we have asked for a direct interview with the soldiers that were on duty that night, because in the case record are all their statements where it’s clear that they had witnessed the capture and detention of the youths that are now disappeared; at another time they had guarded the crime scenes and had visited the police command center.
“It’s fundamental for us to obtain these interviews, not only for the information, but also for the search for the disappeared students,” she adds.
The Attorney General of the Republic (PGR, its initials in Spanish) delivered the interrogations in writing, something that has not dispelled the experts’ doubts: “Many blanks still remain. On the one hand, the questions and answers are not found; on the other hand, there are contradictions with second statements, which instead of clarifying, are even more ambiguous,” the former Guatemalan prosecutor points out.
Their latest attempt has been to ask President Enrique Peña Nieto to “reconsider” the possibility of permitting us to interview the soldiers: “And we still have no answer. The reason is not clear to me. We have been interviewing directly the members of the Federal Police that were on duty those days. We have been present when the PGR has interviewed them; we are in agreement that the prosecutors ask the questions, but the only thing we ask is to be present at that time, as we have done in several ministerial interrogations.”
Despite the fact that time is running and their second investigations period will end next April, the State’s answer has been negative, something that evidently raises suspicions.
The PGR has only acceded to conduct a third interrogation at this time, but repeated the same scheme, something that does not contribute precise data to the investigations into the whereabouts of the 43 students: “It’s important for us to be present, to suggest questions, because there are themes that are not clear to us. It’s the third time that some of them are giving statement. It would be very important for them, and for everyone, that the diligence would be as exhaustive as possible, to not leave any space unclear.”
Angela Buitrago, known in Colombia as “The Iron Prosecutor” for having faced the powerful and untouchable military estates and investigating 20 years later crimes of disappearance, torture and extrajudicial executions, with historic and exemplary sentences, has been attacked in Mexico by groups that sympathize with the Army.
Among the defamers are: the National Observatory of the Armed Forces, directed by Rafael Herrera Piedra; the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, headed by José A. Ortega Sánchez; and the Roundtable for Judgment and Peace and White Movement, coordinated by Ramón Hernández Flores.
The latest action of these ultra-conservative and pro-military groups was to organize, last January 12 in the Law School of La Salle University, the conference titled “The truth in the Ayotzinapa investigation,” specifically in charge of recently released Colombian Colonel Luis Alfonso Plaza Vega, incarcerated by former Attorney General Buitrago for enforced disappearance and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but absolved five years later in an irregular process.
The presence of the Colombian military man talking about Ayotzinapa is inscribed inside of this defamation campaign: “It’s a way of trying to question the activities that the group does, which has no relation to my activity. One thing is that I was able to have lived facing a permanent persecution and distortion through attacks on me as a functionary of instruction in Colombia; another is what it’s doing to the GIEI in Mexico, from which they have to distance themselves perfectly,” Buitrago indicated.
Quoting the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the former Attorney General clarifies that these defamations cannot attack the impeccable work of the group of experts, because they decide to center it on her: “The objective is to attack the work of the GIEI through things that are already more than clarified in Colombia and shown to have never happened. They are generating that dirty war because we are inconvenient at the moment in which we are doing the investigation.”
Among the accusations of the conservative groups is having rejecting “evidence” from the UNAM and from the University of Innsbruck about the Ayotzinapa case.
“I have not disqualified Innsbruck or UNAM; to the contrary, the latest report as a group we specifically based on evidence that the latter (UNAM) pointed out to say that there was no evidence to consider that the Cocula garbage dump would have been the place of the incineration.
We specifically utilized the documents that repose in the investigation to argue and maintain all the assertions that we make.”
–Is there a gender component in this dirty war against the two women members of the GIEI?
–Yes, the attack has been directed for reasons of gender, because of the position that we occupy and the investigations that we carry out, which touch certain sectors that are untouchable in certain parts of the world and for that reason the sentences against the politicians are firm, and other State functionaries that were convicted for corruption are firm. It is a persecution without any valid justification, but rather to simply create an atmosphere, to bring forth an idea that would remain in the collective imaginary and to disparage us. When they have no serious arguments to debate and discuss to the contrary, what they opt for is to attack personally in order to end its ethical and moral concept moral, and also to bring down and cause obstruction in the investigations.
–They attack two strong women, two ex prosecutors that have confronted untouchable estates, like the Army, in their respective countries…
–Yes, because of the discrimination that exists in some conceptions and especially in individuals about the woman, something that leads to attacking this sector to achieve greater adherence to that class of disqualifications when discrimination is taken advantage of as an essential element. The bottom line is trying to delegitimize the group’s work and the GIEI at the same time. When deceit, lies, infamy and insults are used, it is not a good future that awaits us.”
Claudia Paz y Paz clarified the government leaks to the effect that the experts threatened to leave: “We’re not going to leave; rather, we hope to have conditions that will make our work on Ayotzinapa possible.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee