"This isn't the first time they tell me he's dead," said Margarito Guerrero, father of the second young man identified from remains found after the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico. "I know he is not."
His voice breaking, Guerrero spoke to VICE News by phone minutes after Mexican attorney general Arely Gomez revealed on Wednesday that forensics investigators in Austria have identified a bone fragment belonging to his missing son, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, 20.
The government's announcement comes nearly a full year after 43 young men from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in southern Guerrero state were forcibly disappeared by police and a drug gang in the city of Iguala, in a case that shook the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexico's government claims the students were taken to a garbage dump in a neighboring town and incinerated beyond recognition in a fire that lasted half a day. Doubts were promptly raised about the theory, and earlier this month, an independent panel concluded that such a mass burning of bodies would be scientifically impossible.
Guerrero de la Cruz, who like the other missing men belonged to a rural family and sought to build a career at the Ayotzinapa Normal School, is the second student formally identified by Mexico since the December 2014 identification of Alexander Mora Venancio, who was 19. Authorities sent 17 fragments found in trash bags dumped in a river near the town of Cocula to experts at the University of Innsbruck, in Austria, in the hopes that some victims could be identified.
Mora's death was confirmed by a group of Argentine forensics experts also investigating the case, but the group said it could not confirm how or where the student's killing occurred. Former Mexican attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam — who lost his job in the aftermath of the case — called the garbage dump scenario the "historical truth" in what happened to the 43 students.
Parents of the missing have led months of street protests. (Photo by Daniel Hernandez/VICE News)
Guerrero de la Cruz's father Margarito is a campesino from the community of Omeapa, near the Ayotzinapa Normal School. After the attacks last September 26 and 27, local officials asked him to view a body at a morgue, because some witnesses thought his missing son Jhosivani was among three students found dead that first night.
He rejected the confirmation of his son's death. "Until I see his body, he is not dead," Guerrero told me.
Current attorney general Gomez, pictured above, told reporters that the Innsbruck scientists used three methods to cross-reference samples of mitochondrial DNA found in the 17 pieces of remains.
"The attorney general's office will not rest until identifying all those involved and responsible and delivering them to justice," Gomez said, without taking questions.
It was unclear why the second student's identification from the Austrian forensics team took ten months longer than the first. Relatives of the missing have led months of street protests to demand that officials investigate a possible connection in the disappearances to a military battalion base in Iguala.
This week, in response to the damning IACHR report, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances at the United Nations implored Mexico to follow-up comprehensively to the conclusions that debunked the government's position.
Ariel Dulitzky, a member of the working group, said in a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday that a shift is evident "in recent weeks" in Mexico's attitude toward outside help in the case.
"We don't want just rhetoric, but concrete steps," Dulitzky reportedly said.
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