As Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) opens an investigation into the recent events in Tanhuato, Michoacan, where 42 people were apparently executed, new witnesses' accounts surface suggesting that once again federal authorities have lied manipulating official information.
“By how the bodies were laid out, some of them undressed, this appeared to be more of a masscre than a police operation,” the Mayor of Tanhuato, Jose Ignacio Cuevas, told Mexican news outlet Animal Politico.
The local official also said that the ranch El Sol (The Sun) were the events took place had been abandoned for years, but that about 18 months ago activity could be observed within the property, adding that tractors were again operating, corn and alfalfa were being cultivated and packaged for trade.
Cuevas accounts suggest there were no illegal activities going on at the ranch and that the people working there were executed and not killed during a shootout as federal police had reported.
However, the National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido rejected that police executed the 42 people and said that the names of the 41 federal police that first entered the ranch have been handed over to the CNDH so that they can be questioned regarding their participation in the Tanhuato case.
In the meantime, the CNDH said it would send investigators to the ranch and that it has called on officials to render detailed accounts as to what happened May 22, when 42 people and one police officer died.
As part of their investigation, the CNDH said photographic evidence and witnesses' accounts have been collected to be evaluated along with official reports.
“The investigation has been opened because it is necessary that all Mexicans act within the law and with respect to human dignity,” the CNDH said.
The human rights organization also called on the government to carry out their own investigation into this case and the Jan. 16 case where federal police have been charged for executing 16 people in Apatzingan, also in Michoacan. Witnesses told investigative journalist Laura Castellanos that police stormed a peaceful demonstration by self-defense forces yelling “kill them like dogs.”
In this case, federal authorities had also initially reported that federal police had been attacked by members of the self-defense forces and that they then engaged in a shootout with them.
In June of 2014, in Tlataya, in the central State of Mexico, the military had also reported a shootout with alleged kidnappers, but it was later revealed that they had executed 22 people. Various military personnel were charged with the crime.
In Tanhuato, all evidence suggests that this is yet another case of federal forces committing a massacre, and not a shootout of drug members against police as the government has reported.
“I saw everything and I saw how police finished everyone off firing from a helicopter. People on the ground had no chance of defending themselves,” said a local farming official who was not identified by Animal Politico.
The official rejected the official version that police had been ambushed before the shootout began.
“Everyone know that hundreds of federal police surrounded the ranch very early in the morning and that most of the shooting was done from the helicopter. It is a lie that the people in the ranch attacked police or even attempted to ambush them,” various unnamed witnesses told Animal Politico.
And questions remained unanswered as federal police assure that people in the ranch belonged to the New Generation Jalisco drug cartel and that they operated in the ranch during the night.
What did they operate? And, why no drugs were seized? So, then what if anything illegal, were the alleged criminals doing at the ranch, if not just cultivating alfalfa as the mayor said?
Another witness who again demanded to remain unidentified as he feared reprisals by police, said his son worked at the ranch.
“The people there were peaceful people. The owner of the ranch lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and she rented the ranch to some friends of mine,” he said, suggestign that they were not criminals.
Families of the victims recently declared that the bodies of their loved ones were beaten beyond recognition, assuring they were not drug gang members.