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Weekend Read: Archive Interview With Expert Whose Findings Disputed Mexican Government’s “Historical Truth” in Ayotzinapa Case

February 4, 2022
Credit: Illustration by Dante Aguilera

The final episode of “After Ayotzinapa”, a collaboration between the National Security Archive and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting, aired Saturday, January 29, 2022. The series is the outcome of a three year investigation by National Security Archive senior analyst Kate Doyle and Reveal News senior reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes into the 2014 mass disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College in Mexico. The final episode, Chapter 3: All Souls, follows the reopened investigation under the new special prosecutor, Omar Gómez Trejo. In the previous episode, Chapter 2: The Cover Up, released on January 22, 2022, Doyle and Diaz-Cortes focus on the botched initial investigation into, and the government’s obstruction of, the Ayotzinapa case, and speak to the fire expert José Torero Cullen, whose findings proved the government’s official line was impossible. The Archive published the full interview José Torero Cullen on January 28, 2022.

Doyle and Diaz-Cortes interviewed José Torero Cullen, the head of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at University College London, prior to the release of Episode 2. The interview focused on his experience working with the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, an acronym from its initials in Spanish) on the case of the 43 disappeared students. During the initial investigation into the disappearance, the Mexican government stated the students were burned in a trash dump, a statement they called the “historical truth”. At the GIEI’s request, José flew to Mexico in July 2015 from where he was then teaching, at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. 

José’s core finding – that a fire of the magnitude proposed by the government investigation could not have happened – ignited a scandal in the Mexican media, and proved the government’s “historical truth” impossible. News organizations questioned his brief visit to the dump itself, and tried to discredit his conclusions without examining the analysis that led to them. In addition to sharing how he came to his conclusions, Cullen also shares with Doyle and Diaz-Cortes his commitment to the truth, saying: “…my job was purely to reveal what was the scientific basis behind a proper interpretation of what had happened in that dump. And if the conclusion had been that a fire of that nature could have happened in that place and it could have incinerated the people, that’s exactly what I would have said. But the conclusion said completely the opposite.” Read the interview in full here

All three episodes of “After Ayotzinapa” are available below to listen or read a transcript, and are also available on your podcast app of choice: 

Chapter 1: The Missing 43 

Chapter 2: The Cover Up

Chapter 3: All Souls

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