IRP fellows investigate Mexican federal police’s role in disappearance of 43 students

December 19, 2014

Steve Fisher (’14) and Anabel Hernandez collaborated to produce a groundbreaking investigation revealing that Mexico’s federal police played a central role in the disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Mexican President Enrique Pe̱a Nieto has claimed that the federal government had nothing to do with the incident. The story was published in the Mexican magazine Proceso last week, and it has sent shockwaves through Mexico and beyond.

The report finds that federal police were involved in shooting the 43 missing students. That directly contradicts the government’s official story, which maintains that local police and the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel were the only ones involved in the attack. Fisher and Hernandez’s investigation also suggests that the Mexican government has been covering up the Federales’ role in the incident.

In order to reconstruct what happened on that tragic night in September, Fisher and Hernandez obtained documents and cellphone videos shot by students during the attack. The two reporters traveled to Iguala to conduct several interviews.

“What we found through thousands of pages of documents that we went through was that the federal police were the ones who followed the students for hours and then took part in the attack,” Fisher said.

Fisher and Hernandez are both postgraduate fellows at the Investigative Reporting Program. Prior to joining the IRP, Hernandez, a Mexico native, wrote several books about drug cartels, Mexican politics and corruption. Fisher, a recent J-School graduate, has focused on border issues and the environment, and he recently produced a documentary about one of the most contaminated rivers in Mexico.

“This is just the beginning,” Fisher said. “We’re just 4 months into the fellowship. Investigative reporting is hard to do these days, and this fellowship is a godsend for any reporter who wants to do these kinds of stories and do them well.”

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