Fall of Gualberto Ramírez Indicates Leadership of Peña Nieto Government in ‘Ayotzinapa Case’

Photo SFC. Painting Gustavo Chavez.

Sources close to the investigation indicate that Ramírez and his close associates are exploring the possibility of turning collaborating witness. With Murillo detained and Zerón in waiting, the investigators await information from higher ranking former officials

The fall of Gualberto Ramírez, an old investigator of the Ayotzinapa case, which has been expected for years, gives hope to the current administration of the Prosecutor’s Office. Also to the families of the 43 missing students. Third in the hierarchy of the old Attorney General’s Office, the ministerial police arrested him this weekend in Tecamac, in Mexico State, near Hidalgo, land of his family, while he was out walking with his girlfriend. Wanted for years, Ramírez fought his capture by appealing to the courts. In the end, he was caught. The Attorney General’s Office (FGR) scores a point here, now waiting to see the the detainee´s next move.

His testimony would be of great value to shedding light on the Ayotzinapa case. Investigators will have to convince him to speak, a task of uncertain difficulty, given Ramírez’s ability to cover up these years, which suggests a certain level of communication with his old FGR colleagues. However, his capture indicates a certain block in his communication channels with his former colleagues. A source close to the investigation points out that Ramírez “confided” when he won an appeal in court. The former official was unaware that the FGR was handling other processes against him and that it had already obtained arrest warrants from the judge.

This same source indicates that Ramírez is seeking to collaborate. “It seems that he wants to take advantage of a criterion of opportunity”, he says, referring to the program of protected witnesses of the Prosecutor’s Office. This program is designed for collaborators to provide information on possible crimes committed by hierarchical superiors. The most obvious cases would be Tomás Zerón, operational chief of the investigations of the Ayotzinapa case during the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), and his immediate superior, the former Attorney General of the Republic, Jesús Murillo Karam.

The same source points out that the cases against Murillo, accused of forced disappearance and torture in two different processes, are “well tied up”. With Zeron, things are different. The former director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, accused of torture and forced disappearance among other crimes, fled Mexico years ago and is hiding in Israel. Mexico asked the Government of that country for his extradition and awaits the decision of the Israeli justice system, hindered by diplomatic efforts of the Mexican Government these years. In any case, the cases against Zerón seem equally strong, according to the decisions that the judges have made with Murillo.

Ramírez’s position thus appears as a new window on possible corruption by high-ranking officials of the previous government in the framework of the Ayotzinapa case, beyond the usual suspects, Zerón, Murillo and the rest of the high-ranking officials of the old Prosecutor’s Office. Another source, familiar with the development of the investigations since the attack against the student teachers in September 2014, points out to the Peña Nieto Ministry of the Interior, with its head, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, and the undersecretary, Luis Miranda Nava, at the top. The first source prefers not to give names. “Above Ramírez there were many people,” he says.

The second source abounds in the importance of Ramírez, who this Saturday appears before a judge, to decide if he is prosecuted for crimes of torture and forced disappearance. The former official also faces other accusations inside and outside the Ayotzinapa case. The second source indicates that Ramírez could give details of how the old Prosecutor’s Office tried to falsely close the case, with the the Cocula garbage dump version of events. This version holds that the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, in collusion with local police officers, disappeared the students, killed them in the garbage dump in the municipality of Cocula, near Iguala, the site of the attack, and dumped their remains into the San Juan River.

Head of the anti-kidnapping unit of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO), Ramírez participated in the investigations of the Ayotzinapa case in the first months, after the attack against the student teachers, on September 26th and 27th, 2014, in Iguala, in the State of Guerrero. The current investigators accuse him of torture and temporary forced disappearance of one of the alleged attackers, Felipe Rodríguez, alias El Cepillo, in addition to other crimes outside of Ayotzinapa. Ramírez was present at interrogations in which investigators allegedly tortured El Cepillo, in January 2015.

The Special Investigation and Litigation Unit of the Ayotzinapa case (UEILCA) of the FGR assumes that Ramírez worked closely with his bosses, Tomás Zerón and Jesús Murillo, in the construction of the historical truth. According to this version, released by Murillo and Zerón between October 2014 and January 2015, the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, to which El Cepillo supposedly belonged, attacked students in Iguala and disappeared 43, who they later killed, all in collusion with municipal police. The criminal network would have killed those who disappeared in the dump and then thrown their remains into the river.

For the UEILCA, the historical truth was a montage orchestrated by Murillo, with the aim of stopping the massive protests against the Government in the first weeks after the attack and the disappearance of the 43. “The field investigation was carried out by the Secretary of the Navy and the Criminal Investigation Agency, which was headed by Zerón”, explains a source who knows the case well, “but simultaneously this had to be given a legal form, request permits, open investigations, certify the detainees, link them to previous investigations, etc. which Gualberto coordinated. It is a very relevant detention ”, he adds.

The second source indicates that Ramírez would also have been key in the documentary construction of historical truth. That is, to record in the file the instructions given by Zerón and Murillo regarding the version that they were going to share with public opinion, the historical truth. Thus, for example, Ramírez would be an accomplice of his bosses in the discovery of the remains of one of the 43, on October 29th, 2014, in the San Juan River. For the UEILCA, the discovery of the bones there was a setup, orchestrated by Zerón, with Ramírez as an accomplice, who ordered it to be recorded in the file.

The irregularities from the very opening of the file are overwhelming. On paper, the proceedings of the old Prosecutor’s Office in the Ayotzinapa case began on October 25th, 2014, 20 days after the office took the case from the Guerrero Prosecutor’s Office. That day, the SEIDO allegedly received an anonymous call, in which the complainant accused police officers from Iguala and Cocula of being behind the attack, as well as El Cepillo and several of his men. That call triggers what would come next.

The UEILCA doubts the existence of this call, as well as the following steps. According to the file, responsibility of Ramírez, that same day, two police officers from the Prosecutor’s Office arrived in Cocula to investigate the content of the call and, by great coincidence, they found an elderly woman, in a store, who on her own initiative gave them all the information on structure of Guerreros Unidos, in addition to its network of complicities. With the call and the report from the police about the lady in the store, Ramírez´s people asked for the arrest of the police and criminals. The UEILCA also believes that this police report does not correspond to any investigation in Cocula.

What they believe, instead, is that Zerón and his team, together with the Secretary of the Navy, acted as they pleased during the first weeks, outside their remit, until the arrest of several presumed members of Guerreros Unidos, on the 25th and 26th of October 2014. Zerón and his team would have tortured the detainees, among them, for example, Agustín García, alias El Chereje, key to propping up the story of the discovery of the bones in the San Juan river. The investigators believe that the authorities in charge of the investigation tortured the detainees to make them agree to a previously established version, not to make them confess the facts.

Arrested Soldiers

These are days of a lot of information for the Ayotzinapa case. The arrest of Ramírez culminates days of great activity by the FGR, which days before obtained the arrest of eight soldiers linked to the case. This weekend, the judge ordered the prosecution of the eight for forced disappearance. They are all in the military prison in Mexico City, along with the other four previously detained, including General José Rodríguez, commander at the time of one of the two military garrisons in Iguala, the 27th Infantry Battalion.

The eight new ones are Gustavo N, Omar N, Juan Andrés N, Ramiro N, Roberto N, Eloy N, Uri Yashiel N and Juan N. The UEILCA states that the military knew what was happening in Iguala on September 26th and 27th, 2014, they were in and around various scenes of the attack and, by allowing the criminal network to attack the students, they avoided the tragic end with their disappearance. The accusation against them is linked to others that the UEILCA has made about the links between the military and Guerreros Unidos. The omission of the soldiers would respond to the proximity of criminals and elements of the Army.

Right now, the UEILCA has General Rodríguez himself in prison, accused precisely of organized crime, for collaborating with Guerreros Unidos, and Captain José Martínez Crespo, accused of the same, in addition to the forced disappearance of the students. The unit awaits the arrest of eight other soldiers for whom arrest warrants are already pending, among them the commander at the time of the 41st Infantry Battalion, Rafael Hernández, also for organized crime.

The surprising thing about all this activity is its suddenness. In August, the UEILCA already requested the arrest of 83 people, including 20 soldiers, some for organized crime, others for forced disappearance and a few more for both. Weeks later, the FGR, in full conflict with the unit, then commanded by Omar Gómez Trejo, asked to cancel 21 of those 83 orders, 16 of which were against the military. Now, suddenly, the UEILCA, already with another director, Rosendo Gómez, activated them again.

The FGR has not said anything about the reasons for the cancellation last year, nor the reasons for reactivating them now. In meetings with the families, the new prosecutor has criticized that the work of his predecessor had been bad, hence the request to cancel them. In these months they would have dedicated themselves to improving the accusations, hence the reactivation. Gómez Piedra has not explained what this improvement has consisted of.

Original article by Pablo Ferri at https://elpais.com/mexico/2023-06-28/la-caida-de-gualberto-ramirez-apunta-a-la-cupula-del-gobierno-de-pena-nieto-en-el-caso-ayotzinapa.html?fbclid=IwAR2iPSsjAQkHjNF_ibFzrqQ09KfXzYCoNbkhHoqo_CUNlxAhsxuY9rvVWyU

Translated by Schools for Chiapas. 

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