Gavin MacFadyen Memorial Fellow Launches Investigative Platform

    The whereabouts of at least 42 out of 43 Mexican students are still unknown.

    Ayotzinapa Case: A Cartography Of Violence

    Three years ago, public officials in collusion with presumed members of organised crime networks, attacked and then disappeared the students. Any attempt to give an explanation as to why they did so, has to be finished with a question mark until this day. The case becomes even more intricate because the official investigation has dozens of mistakes and false narratives, from the disruption of evidence to testimonies that were very likely obtained under torture.

    In this context, Forensic Architecture, a London based investigative agency specialised on human rights and conflicts, was commissioned by Centro Pro (the victims’ legal team) and EAAF (who worked in the analysis of human remains), to conduct a one year investigation on this case. Irving Huerta joined the team in February this year, appointed as the Inaugural Gavin MacFadyen Investigative Fellow with the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ).

    Irving has been based in London since September 2016, when he started a PhD program at Goldsmiths University, with a project on investigative journalism and its impact on policy making. Huerta met Matt Kennard, CIJ’s former director, at a memorial service for CIJ founder Gavin MacFadyen, a few weeks after his death. Some months later, Kennard got back in touch with “an interesting” project to work on. That project was the Ayotzinapa case, conducted by Forensic Architecture, run by Eyal Weizman.

    At that time, the team had been working for months already, lead by architect Stefan Laxness, other professionals were advancing in the creation of 3D models — like architect Nadia Méndez — and in the data-mining process — like journalist Theo Resnikoff. Huerta's role as the Gavin MacFadyen Fellow was to support the datamining process, to provide some expertise as a journalist who had dealt with the Mexican governmental apparatus, and to verify the information to be published.

    The mission was to create an interactive cartographic platform to map out and examine the different narratives of this event, as a reconstruction for the surviving victims and their families, but also for civil society and researchers to further the investigations. At the end of the one year investigation, up to 12 architects, filmmakers and journalists worked hand in hand to produce — for the first time — a comprehensive representation of the events that took place that night in and around Iguala, providing a powerful forensic tool.

    For the past three years, the Ayotzinapa case has been so full of discrepancies, and the official investigation has so many flaws, that it is hard to tell if it is due to incompetence from the Mexican officials or to collusion with the perpetrators. Independent investigations on the story — like the one by the International Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), as well as journalistic revelations — have provided an incredible, valuable information to understand this difficult case.

    That’s why the products being launched today are as a means to encourage and support journalists, academics and civil groups to further the investigations. Being presented are not only an almost minute by minute account of the events of that night, locations and hierarchical schemes for the Mexican security forces apparatus, but also a conceptual framework for the process of enforced disappearance, comprised of violence against people and violence against evidence.

    The ulimate aim is to encourage and facilitate the work for investigators interested on this case. But, most importantly, the project hoped to create a reliable time-space reconstruction of the events of 2014, for the victims, their families and for the Mexican society. Only by understanding and making sense of the action of disappearance, and the nebulous collusion between organised crime and state agents maintaining that status, Mexican society will be able to solve its painful history of blatant insecurity and deep-rooted impunity.

    Let´s tell those stories, let’s do investigative journalism.
    Irving Huerta

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