Missing Mexican Film Students Dissolved in Acid
After Mexico marked its deadliest year in modern history with 25,300 homicides, news broke that three Mexican film students in March were kidnapped and killed near Guadalajara, a city located in the western state of Jalisco.
On Monday, police officials announced they had found the remains of the threes students which were dissolved in acid. Following the grim news, protests broke out across the country.
The kidnapping of three aspiring filmmakers, 25-year old Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, and 20-year olds Marco Garcia Francisco Ávalos and Jesús Daniel Díaz, sparked outrage and disbelief. Many Mexicans were horrified to hear of a case that highlighted an ongoing nationwide epidemic: the rising number of disappeared youth amid the two decade-long drug war.
“They murdered the film students and dissolved their bodies in acid for doing homework. For doing homework,” one person tweeted in Spanish. “This country is hell.”
The three students were from the University of Audiovisual Media in Guadalajara. They had travelled to a home in Tonala, a city outside of Guadalajara, to work on a film project during their spring break.
One of the students had believed that the home belonged to his aunt, only for the Mexican attorney general’s office to later find out that it belonged to the Nuevo Plaza cartel. The gang, headed by a leader known as El Cholo, had been using the home as a safe house.
Although members of the Nuevo Plaza cartel were not present inside the home while the students were filming, it is known that its rival gang, Cartel Jalisco New Generation, had recently been keeping watch on the home.
The Jalisco attorney general’s office presumes that the young men’s presence on the property led to suspicion and confusion about the students’ identity.
According to Jalisco state prosecutors, the three students had also been there with a fourth classmate and three other young people. On the trip back, one of their cars broke down. In this moment, two pickup trucks pulled up, where six armed men dressed as police officers detained Gastélum, Ávalos, and Díaz.
This was the last time that the three students were seen.
“Subsequently their bodies were dissolved in acid so that no trace of them remained,” the state prosecutor's office said.
The Washington Post reported that “investigators found 46 barrels of sulfuric acid at the site, and believe that other bodies may have been disposed there. Cartels in Mexico are known to dissolve, burn, or dismember bodies as a way to eliminate evidence of crimes.”
The remains of the bodies are subsequently often dumped in clandestine graves.
Human rights monitors believe that the case highlights a problem that Mexican governments have yet to crack down on the disappearance of Mexico’s youth, with most cases going unsolved or partially solved.
According to Juan Martinez Perez, director of the non-government organization called Rights to Childhood, the “disappearance of children, teens and young adults is attributable to factors including organized crime, lack of protection by the government, corruption and authorities' complicity with criminal groups in many places.”