Mexico’s most notorious cold case, involving the disappearance of 43 college students in 2014, has revealed extensive government collusion with a drug cartel, according to a trove of unpublished text messages, witness testimony, and investigative files obtained by The New York Times.
The evidence suggests that various branches of the government in southern Mexico had been secretly working for the criminal group, enabling the mass abduction and subsequent disappearance of the students. The text messages reveal that police commanders received direct orders from the cartel, with some officers even providing weapons to cartel members and assisting in covering up their involvement in the crime. The military, which monitored the abduction but failed to intervene, was also found to have received bribes from the cartel.
The text messages shed light on the motive behind the collusion, indicating that the cartel mistook the students for rival intruders due to their paranoia and ongoing territorial disputes. Despite the passage of nine years, no one has been convicted in connection with the crime. However, under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the authorities have ordered the arrest of 20 Mexican soldiers, including more than a dozen in June, in relation to the kidnappings.
The unpublished wiretaps have played a crucial role in building the case against the cartel. The text messages were initially intercepted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2014 during an investigation into the cartel’s drug trafficking activities. The messages, totaling around 23,000, were handed over to Mexican authorities last year. While the text messages do not cover the night of the students’ disappearance, they provide significant insight into the collusion between the government and the cartel.
The case remains a symbol of a broken system that has failed to bring justice to one of Mexico’s most brazen acts of brutality.